Artnet China | Interview with Amanda Baldwin

Georgina Zhao, Artnet China, 26 Mar 2021

"Artnet China: Can you talk a little about your inaugural show in Europe? Was it hard to pull everything together in the middle of a pandemic? Why Paris?  

Amanda Baldwin: It was a little difficult to pull everything off from afar, but the gallery was great with  working with me and luckily technology makes it easy to send images and communicate back and forth.  

I was able to visit Paris a couple years ago when my husband was teaching a summer course in Berlin. We spent about a week in Paris and had the best time going to all the museums and galleries. I find all the detail and attention that is put into everything in Paris from the art to the food to the architecture fascinating and inspiring and I feel lucky to be able to have my first European show in Paris.  


Artnet China: The ordinary objects have been the center of your subject matter. What keeps your  longtime interest in making landscape and still life paintings?  

Amanda Baldwin: I love abstract art and I actually initially began with making abstract paintings. However, at the time I was making them I felt that all my ideas already existed out in the world. I didn’t feel like I was adding anything new. I then took a turn and started making the still life work and my hope was that as I continued creating them I would gradually be able to find a way to incorporate realism with abstraction I had been working with. I didn’t really know what that entailed or how it would look, but I knew that was important to me. The  landscapes became a sort of extension of the still lives in that I feel like there is a lot of room in them for me to develop new and exciting ideas. This notion of representing the world we know and see everyday, but breaking down that familiarity by introducing new identities is what excites me and keeps me challenged at the same time.  


Artnet China: It is refreshing to see a shift in your practice. The new body of work - “Indigo Skyline”  has a glowing and illusionistic surface. What were the inspirations of this shift? How did  you realize the varying shades of indigo and the different types of texture?  

Amanda Baldwin: I love the color blue and had fun trying to mix as many different hues as I could for the show. The color blue is very rare in nature so I find myself using it often in the paintings as a way to experience something that normally I wouldn’t be able to in reality. That’s the exciting thing about painting…being able to see things in a different light or imagine what could be. Texture has always been an important element to me within my work. It is difficult to communicate the texture in photos, but in person the varying textures are more apparent.  


Artnet China: This group of work expands your interests in both traditional landscape and still life,  here, you also imbue new identities with the familiars. The geometric patterns and shapes create a surreal depth with flatness – something like a stage backdrop. How did  you put distinct elements together in the same space? What does the inspiration come from?  

Amanda Baldwin: A lot of the inspiration comes from the art I was introduced to as a child. My dad was  born and raised in Japan and came to the US to go to college. My parents house is filled  with beautiful furniture and artwork that they brought back with them. I especially loved  the landscape woodblock prints. The scenery would encompass the entire print, perspective was completely skewed, and they were filled with bright, bold colors that popped. I found it so smart to create depth without volume per se but using pattern and altered perspectives to achieve it instead. 

I like the notion of a stage backdrop…I think the fact that every element I paint has it’s  own considerations in regard to how I render it. It makes it so that every piece in the painting feels separate from one another but also the same because they all share the commonality of being different. I think the same applies to a stage with all the different characters and changing acts.  


Artnet China: Tell me something about your studio. (location, size, luminosity and other fun facts etc.)  

Amanda Baldwin: My studio is located in a building in Queens, New York with other artists and musicians so there is usually always a nice ambient sound of other people creating things. My studio originally had 5 windows but I covered up a couple of them with walls so that I had more space to hang paintings. I have a couple windows left which is nice to be able to peer out and see the light. I also recently got a treadmill in my studio. It’s been great having it. It allows me to take breaks between painting and go for a quick run. If it wasn’t in my studio I probably wouldn’t get any exercise at all!  


Artnet China: Has the way of working changed since Covid?  

Amanda Baldwin: Slightly. Studio visits haven’t been happening because of Covid so that separation from other people can be hard. Also with no where to go I found that I would end up painting longer hours and having a hard time stepping away or taking a break from the work. That can be good and bad…taking breaks can be healthy not only for my mental health but  also good to have space to come up with new ideas and let certain things sit for a minute before finishing.


Artnet China: Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?  

Amanda Baldwin: Here are a couple paintings that are going in upcoming group shows that I am working on.


Artnet China: What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or  podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?  

Amanda Baldwin: I primarily listen to podcasts while I work. I find that keeping my mind occupied helps me work and drowns out the unproductive thoughts. I try not to listen to too many political/news podcasts while I work as that can often raise anxiety. I am really into true crime podcasts at the moment. New podcasts have exploded over the past couple of years and  I’m constantly finding new ones that I love.  


Artnet China: What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why? Who are your favorite  artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now? What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?  

Amanda Baldwin: Honestly, my dog is my most indispensable item in my studio. I am in there all day by  myself day after day and if I didn’t have him to look over at and play with the isolation would really get to me. Yes, he cannot talk to me, but we have a certain way of  communicating that makes me feel less alone.  

I really enjoy looking at Shara Hughes and Nicolas Party’s work. I like the playful quality  of the landscapes in Hughes' work and all the contrasting textures she achieves with the  varying mark making. Party’s work sucks you in with his vibrant colors and otherworldly scenes. I enjoy how the elements in his paintings go from being representational in  nature to slowly morphing into more abstracted forms and shapes.  

The last show that really made an impression on me was Matthew Wong’s show ‘Blue' at Karma which I saw right before the pandemic happened. His use of pattern to create form  and the many ways he was able to achieve numerous variations of one color in a single painting. He was able to mix so many different hues and values and they all blend together but stand their own ground at the same time. He was able to mix a beautiful blue  that was very close to purple… it seemed right on the edge between the two colors where I couldn’t tell which one it was. The paintings were also so confident and assured in nature…they were really breathtaking.  


Artnet China: When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get unstuck?  

Amanda Baldwin: That’s a good question. Starting a painting is always my favorite part. I usually have a  slight idea at the beginning of where I would like the painting to go but through the process of painting it changes quite a bit and I try and let things develop as I go. There’s usually a part in the painting, when I’m about a third of the way through that I find it the most challenging to bring everything together and make it work. I always get stuck at this point in the process. When I first started painting I would just give up when reached this stage and start over. As the years go on, I learn to trust myself more and trust the  process and once I am able to get through that hump and reach the other end it’s really rewarding.  


Artnet China: Do you still keep the day-time job? How do you keep the life balance between being a  prolific artist and the daytime job?  

Amanda Baldwin: I have a part-time job working for another artist. It can definitely be hard at times to  balance both, but I really enjoy working for him and it has been nice to have something  else other than my work to focus on at times. "