A Q&A with Uprise artist Erin Lynn Welsh:
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I am originally from Doylestown, PA, a small town outside of Philadelphia. I moved to Brooklyn about nine years ago to attend Pratt Institute where I received my BFA in Photography.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
When it comes to my style of painting, I am constantly inspired by the work of Cecily Brown, Anselm Kiefer, and Joan Mitchell for their use of color and their ability to expand the possibilities of what painting can be.
I am also strongly influenced by John Singer Sargent, Peter Paul Rubens, and Edouard Manet. All three of these artists create sensuality in their work, while being bold with their subject matter. I love the way John Singer Sargent paints light, it’s breathtaking in person. I love the mythological stories in Rubens’ work, and how over-the-top Baroque they are. Edouard Manet was a rebel; I guess I am attracted to artists who are true to their art, never sacrificing their own ideas to please the public.
Since my work is heavily based on photography, I am also constantly inspired by photographers. My favorite for years has been Sally Mann; she creates deeply personal photographs of her family and Southern landscapes. Maybe because that is the way I would want to photograph my own children and family someday. I’ve never been to the deep south, but am planning to this Summer. I cannot wait to see the landscape she has captured and feel the humidity on my skin. I have always had a strong interest in Louisiana; my mother’s family is originally from there. So maybe its in my roots.
Epic (2012) Oil on Paper, 39 x 55 inches
At Pratt Institute you began as a photographer before moving over to painting. What was that transition like and how does photography inform your painting process?
The transition was completely natural. Photography and painting have always held equal weight when it comes to my personal expression. I majored in photography because I was strongly encouraged to at Pratt. I do not regret it though; I think it was the best thing I could have done. It allows my painting style to be more organic and instinctual rather than trained.
I am also a process oriented artist, I still shoot film with my Hasselblad. I work mostly in square format and will always feel truest to that format. One day a few years ago, I was tired of painting abstractly and I looked through my photos and saw an image I had taken from my hometown. The sun was setting and cast a bright light through the trees. I decided to paint it, and that is how Tree from Home came about and since then my landscape paintings are always based on my photographs. I was using mostly Polaroids up until I ran out of 600 speed film. I loved the process of having a small image in my hand and then painting it big and creating something large-scale. Now I am back to shooting with my Hasselblad on 120 film. Kodak only, I am a bit of a film snob. Similar process, but it just takes me longer to have a ready photograph to work from. I print them the same size as Polaroids.
Courage (2012) Oil on Paper, 39 x 55 inches
Often when painters work from photographs, the images lose their depth. Your works contain a vast sense of space and a deep richness of color. What do you take away from your photographic sources – composition, color, form?
For me it is two different mediums creating a balance. I want my paintings to have their own voice. And I love color, I think I have a pretty good sense of how color works with light. With painting, I’m interested in how the color and the brushstrokes create the mood of the landscape. The photographs are a reference for content and composition.
Your titles are sometimes weighted, sometimes whimsical. How do you title your paintings?
My titles are influenced by music that I listen to when I paint. Luckily I paint by myself because usually I listen to the same song over and over again. I have titled my paintings after Nina Simone, Phillip Glass, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Kills, and even Gucci Mane. The list could go on. I should have probably mentioned above that I am inspired by Kandinsky and William Kentridge as well for this reason. I think music influences my paintings just as much as my photographs do.
What is something people would be surprised to discover about you?
I share my birthday with Georgia O’Keeffe and dance around in my apartment to Beyonce.