Jeff Faerber On His Subversive Art (Second Part Interview)
All right, where’d we leave off? O yes, shunga…
Q: Despite their explicitness your shunga paintings have a more upbeat feel about them than your darker non-shunga work. Is this on purpose?
Or is this my interpretation?
JF: It is true. I am not sure why that happened. I think I wanted to offset the explicitness of the work and instead of associating sex with melancholy, I wanted it to be fun and playful. And be more normal and less taboo.
Q: In contrast to some of your other work you seem to avoid the supernatural in your shunga work which take place in realistic settings. Why is this?
JF: I decided to try to have my shunga exist in the same universe as traditional Japanese shunga (only updated so that they exist in today’s world). There are lots of precedents for Japanese woodblock prints having ghosts and demons, but usually not in their erotic works. I suppose I might have seen a few, but for some reason that does not interest me. I want the sex to exist as fun and reality based [especially the size of the genitals! 🙂 ]
Q: What aspects of shunga appeal to you? Who is your favorite shunga artist?
JF: I love the erotism and their aesthetics. They remind me of comic books (due to the color plate process) with their flat color and expressive lifework. And their faces, they mostly appear to have stoic faces as though the characters would almost prefer to be doing something else. This was also the seed for some of the humor in my pieces,… “the reluctant ejaculator.” I am embarrassed to say that I can’t really tell each shunga artist apart from each other. I view them all together as a single genre.
Q: In an interview the Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn (of the fantastic Pusher trilogy and Drive) said: “The three most dangerous of any creative process are good taste, political correctness and perfection — Art needs to be extreme”. Do you feel the same way?
JF: I love Drive. I guess I need to hunt down the Pusher trilogy. I don’t think art NEEDS to be extreme. I have done “tame” portraits that I am as proud of as anything else. However, I think art CAN be extreme when the mood calls for it. I don’t try to be limited by good taste or political correctness.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
JF: The Pusher series! Just kidding. I actually love a wide variety of movies that includes sci-fi, “high brow” and surreal. If I had to chose a favorite piece of media it would be HBO’s “The Wire.” I did LOVE the movie “Moonlight” and was shocked that it was nominated for an Oscar, yet alone actually winning it.
Q: Do you think selling ones own art will be more important in the future or do you think it is too interfering?
JF: I enjoy selling pieces. Nevertheless, I try not to dwell too much on that aspect of it, because that adds too much pressure and takes away the pleasure of painting. I figure most people will just collect it digitally!
Q: I came across an interview with you in 2008 and your answer to one of the questions intrigued me. The question was ‘What your best piece of advice would be to those who would like to rise in their level of artistry? ‘and your answer was ‘Turn your TV off and forgo personal relationships!’ It is the second part of your answer that fascinated me because it shows true commitment and self-discipline. Was this clear for you from the beginning of your career?
JF: Oh my! 2008 Jeff is much more dedicated than me. I try very hard to have self-discipline (not only with art, but diet and exercise) but I have failed by getting married and having a loving relationship with my supportive wife (who loves my shunga art). And we average 5 hours of TV a week. 🙁 With that said, the vast majority of our “free time” is spent working on artistic projects on opposite ends of the apartment. Art is more naturally infused into my daily life than when I was younger. It is more something that renews and inspires me than something I feel I need to “work at” and make sacrifices for.
Q: Do you think shunga will be a permanent component within your art?
JF: About my shunga paintings: I fell into this by accident. I enjoy referencing paintings from art history, such as Rembrandt or Klimt but doing it in my style. So I decided to make a shunga style painting of my girlfriend (now wife) and I for a gift for valentines day. She loved it and insisted on showing it to everyone. It turns out that everyone who saw it responded very enthusiastically. A curator said, “make more and I will show them” and it just picked up speed from there. The one bad thing is that my wife is a school teacher for young kids and Americans are prudish. Once the paintings got popular and spread around the internet, she asked me to remove the painting of me and her from the internet, but it is still floating around and shows up sometimes.
Q: Do you think it will be a lasting source of inspiration?
JF: I think so long as people purchase the shunga paintings I will keep making them. Or maybe when I get too old and my libido slows maybe they will not hold as much interest. But I have plenty more ideas right now.