WHO IS CHAD WYS? ART, BEAUTY, SHAPES AND COLOURS ARE THE KEYWORDS TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION. THE ARTIST WHO FUSES VISUAL ART AND CLASSICAL ART TELL ABOUT HIMSELF TO REDMILK.
What is art for you?
I think art is a variety of emotions curated for a receptive audience. Art is contextualised sensations. I think any definition of art has to be fundamentally broad and indefinite, but it should include acknowledgement of contextual awareness; in other words, one must be aware that art is “art” in order for it to thrive as such.
What is beauty for you?
I think of beauty as a site-specific emotional reaction. I feel like “beauty” fluctuates for each of us, shifting from an amorphous sensory impulse to something more definite and expected. We tend to anticipate what we will find beautiful, but some of the most intense beauty we encounter is unexpected and perhaps indefinable.
How would you define yourself in a word.
In what era of the past would you have wanted to live?
In trying to come up with an answer I’ve started framing history in terms of its cultural inequities, as opposed to cultural output – our current socio-political climate in the States and abroad has me thinking hard about injustice. For example, it’s tough to imagine a time where I’d feel comfortable being a gay, creative intellectual. But despite the acute anxieties of the time, the pre-WWII era in Europe – a time of art deco opulence, Bauhaus ingenuity, and Dadaist imagination – is most alluring to my mind.
What are your reference artists?
Man Ray is my perennial favourite. Marcel Duchamp, James Whistler, Kara Walker, Jenny Holzer, Gerhard Richter, and Ellsworth Kelly each inspire me in radically different ways. New “old” favourites include the decorative artist Jean Dunand, book designer John Gall, and artists Yves Klein and Piet Mondrian, both of whom I’ve lately been revisiting with fresh eyes.
I had the opportunity to go to dinner with a great artist of the past, who would you choose?
My impulse is to name my main aesthetic crush, Man Ray! Although they say, “never meet your heroes,” so perhaps I’ll shake things up with the equally heroic but unexpected Mary Cassatt… picking her brain on ideas of feminism and the unbearable maleness of (art) history would be invaluable.
How did the idea of merging classical art with visual art come about?
On such a primal level I’ve always been inspired by collage. It took a long time for me to realise the act of collaging disparate content together is what stimulates my critical thought receptors the most. I’d say it was when I entered graduate school in the late 2000s that I began to, quite literally, piece it together. There’s a long history of visionary collagists (e.g. Hannah Höch, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, et al) bringing their voices to the table through juxtaposition and pastiche. I knew I wanted to carry that tradition into our contemporary information age where technology and materiality are in constant conflict. My work isn’t always what one might think of as a “traditional collage” (paper glued to a ground), but I think “collage” can be a conceptual apparatus for creating dis/harmony from conflicted segments.
How important are shapes and colours for you?
They’re the building blocks of visual understanding. Quite literally, babies are given colourful blocks to begin their creative engagement with the physical world and to work out how it merges with their cognition. Why shouldn’t adults continue to play in that way? I love the minimalism of sight and concept, and so form and colour distilled to their basic principles have always thrilled me with possibilities.
What do you think of the art world today, in the era of social media?
I think art has never been more present, prescient, and far-flung. Local art from around the world is instantly available to anyone with an internet connection. That kind of information power is staggering. It will be most exciting to see how access and exposure to virtually limitless content impact the work of an increasingly diverse pool of artists. It’s an exciting time to be alive for that reason. But as politics shift into a much darker, restrictive place, art is becoming more and more vital as a force of resistance.