A Q&A with Uprise artist Charlie Engman:
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I was born in Evanston, Illinois, and I currently live in New York City, along with the rest of the world.
Where did you begin to hone your skills as an artist?
On the Internet. You start changing out of your PJs when you realize “other people” are watching, if you know what I mean.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I am always invigorated by the work of Viviane Sassen, John Stezaker, and Anri Sala, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the huge influence of Richard Wentworth, who is a great mentor and friend.
What draws you to the process of collage?
When it comes to art, I’m primarily motivated by that fundamental excitement that occurs when a successful relationship is established between an object and an intention. The simple “aha” feeling when you make a face out of the headlights and bumper of a car, for example — there’s a strange sense of author-less coincidence and uncanny inevitability there that is nonetheless a product of some kind of decision-making. I think collage, and photography to some extent, is uniquely suited to produce this effect. It’s all about collecting and arranging preexisting materials in ways that elicit their previously weak or invisible qualities. Collage interests me specifically, because it involves a double-remove; I’m taking moments that have already by “realized” and un-realizing, or re-realizing, them with my scissors and tape.
Many of your photographs and collages combine textures and objects in unexpected and often surreal ways. What inspires these particular combinations and compositions?
So, that’s what it’s all about—rearranging. It’s both being unexpected and totally forgoing the whole issue of expectation. In collage, everything is flat, and everything is cut-up-able; there’s an equanimity of material. A fancy quaff taken out of Vogue is the same as a creepy mummy face from National Geographic. Of course the subject matter is important, but, to me, it’s secondary to the actual act of collage. It’s no secret that aesthetics are often just as important as the substantive content they dress.
What is something people would be surprised to discover about you?
I am fluent in Japanese. (But everyone who knows me is laughing at the idea that this would surprise anyone; I’m always muttering to myself…)
Charlie’s original photographs are available to Uprise members for subscription ($50/month). Not a member? JOIN HERE. View Charlie’s works in person at the Uprise Art booth at Fountain Art Fair this weekend.