PATAPHYSICS
(design/edited Leo Edelstein and Yanni Florence)
Pataphysics Magazine Interview with Asher Bilu
1989
from the Industrial/Grave issue

Pataphysics: What is the significance of not using traditional painting materials?

Asher Bilu: I don't deny the fact that I'm trying to invent my own language and say something that hasn't been said before. Unlike many other artists, I'm not re-assessing what has been done before - I want to do something new. To do so, I might as well start with breaking the rules altogether by using materials that haven't been used. It's a rather attractive proposition and it's also fairly dangerous - you're getting into areas that nobody has been in before and you've got to pull something out of the hat.

P: How would you see the role of the artist today in relation to society?

AB: To me art is a very pure process and the less it has to do with other ideologies the better. There are horrifying things happening every day, everywhere - what am I supposed to do as an artist? ...You can't change the world with a brush. The only thing I can do is try to give a piece of my truth, and add it to humanity. Just a small little something that I believe is good, and gives pleasure to other people.

P. How important is the viewer?

AB: The viewer is a bonus - there's no two ways about it. The nature of the work is solitary. In a sense I'm like a performer and I give a concert when I have a show. If I didn't like people and didn't value their opinions I wouldn't be showing. It's the nature of the work; you go into the studio and you paint and when you wish to have a show, you have a show, and that is sharing it with people. I sell paintings. People buy the paintings and put them in their homes. Galleries show them to the people - what else can a painter do?

P. Rather than attempting to define mystery, you seem to be more fascinated by its aura.

AB: A mystery becomes a reality to me. A mystery is what is in the can but the reality is what happens when you empty the contents and try to do something. I evolve with the painting ... when I start painting I know so much but I don't know a thing; this way I leave myself open to whatever happens.

P. What was the motivation behind the series of paintings reproducing the work of Van Gogh?

AB: These paintings were painted for a movie The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh. I was the production designer for that movie. Rather than using reproductions - you certainly couldn't use the originals - I decided to paint some of his paintings in order to allow the camera to get into the paint and basically get closer to Van Gogh himself. It was done especially for the purposes of the movie.

P. Is there anything problematic about your art?

AB: I guess there would be a problem to people who have closed minds - academics who can't see past their faces. I don't seem to have problems with artists and kids and people generally who are not "experts" in their field so to speak. I give those people nothing but joy and pleasure. There are buyers who buy these paintings irrespective of these preset ideas. People pay many thousands of dollars for something they've never seen before - this is a moment of courage. However I'm still an outsider. I'm still having a battle with the system.

P. In terms of what you've said how would you describe the modern condition of today?

AB: As I've said before, I feel lucky to live in this day and age that has allowed me the freedom to do what I'm doing - I value that more than anything else. I would have hated to have been in a position where I would have wanted to do something but couldn't. I'm sure I would have been one of the first to have been thrown in prison if I was living in a different society - I was always difficult and different perhaps I would have been a lot more successful if I had given my paintings different titles. If I had called this painting Kakadu North - are you going to argue with me that this is not Kakadu North?

Asher Bilu web site