Gyan in her studio in Fairfield, Iowa.

Gyan in her studio in Fairfield, Iowa.

Gyan Shrosbree received her B.F.A. Degree from The Kansas City Art Institute in 1998 and her M.F.A. degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2000. She has exhibited in galleries throughout the United States. Her first book, The Suspects was published by Devibook in 2010. Gyan is currently an Assistant Professor of Art in the Department of Fine Arts at Maharishi University. She lives and works in Fairfield, Iowa.

Artist Statement:
My inspiration is drawn from the world around me. In some ways my studio is an escape from my more practical life, but no matter what, my life comes into my art.  My life is what inspires what happens in my studio.  The relationships I have. The conversations I hear. The places I go. The artwork I see. The clothing I wear, I look at, I dream about. 

Material is a great love of mine. Words are another. Color drives me wild. That perfectly-off color combination that just happens to work so well. I like transforming one thing into another. Sometimes by using it in its raw form and doing very little to it. Other times by dragging it through the mud and bringing it out upside down. That place where beauty can be disgusting is a place I like to land. 

Paint and material is the only place where things become as glamorous as I imagined them to be in my head. My interest in words comes in and out of my paintings. They are always there, just not necessarily visible to the viewer.  There in the process and for me as the maker. I enjoy telling nonlinear stories with my paintings. I also really enjoy painting without words. I feel like the two ways of working feed off of each other and one is not more important than the other for me. Sometimes they meet up in a painting and other times they remain on separate canvases. 

I am fascinated by the way the world interacts. People crack me up. Humor is a big part of my life and the way that I see the world. I think that comes out in my paintings. I would like it to in some way or another. 

Artist Interview:

Hi Gyan! You mention in your statement that words are a big part of your process. In what way do words or language surface in your work? Are the actual words ever apparent or are they always hidden?
The words have gone through phases of being there in the paintings. They are often found in my drawings and in my sketchbooks for sure. They inspire me when I am in my studio and they often make an appearance, although buried under the many layers of paint. In the past few years the work has just not needed the text to be visible. I am not sure if it will be making a re-entrance at any point, but for now I feel pretty good about the removal of the visible words. They are important for me more in my process of making at this point. I do really enjoy the humor that I can communicate through text, so I will continue to use it; but currently text lives in the drawings and the sketchbooks.  

Can you give us some insight into your process? How do you begin your paintings? Do you sketch a lot or do you tend to work more intuitively?
I don’t sketch out paintings. When I draw, the drawing is the piece itself. I don’t plan anything before it is made. I react to the moves that I have made, working intuitively and formally. I begin with something that gets me started—maybe cutting into the canvas and doing that to five different canvases—like a task that is not something that I have to over-think. I then react to that move, like say, weaving some yarn into the canvases. I work all of those five paintings at once, kind of like one big painting, until something starts to happen that draws me into one of them, and poof! One thing leads to another and I am in! I then work back and forth between the series, not frantically, but so that I don’t overwork the paintings and so that they can have some breathing room from each other. This allows me to get some distance from the work, and also keeps the series active—each painting feeding off of the other and growing together at the same pace.  As needed, I begin more paintings. I am usually working on about 20 at once, and I consider them all as a single series. This allows for a lot of experimentation, a lack of fear and attachment, and for the work to sit around long enough to cook at its own time.  

Your work is incredibly unique! Have you always worked with a combination of materials such as
fabric, paint and glitter in this way? What inspired you originally?

Thank you. I have always been interested in combinations of materials. I have gone through phases of just using paint, but whether I am using literal paint or mixed materials, I am always considering the material in terms of painting. I think of it as paint. I love the light that I can achieve from glitter. I also love the fake glamour of it all. In terms of my inspiration, I think I have always been and will always probably be inspired by clothing and fashion, but not just high fashion—clothing good and bad, the way it fits the body, or does not; the weird combinations that people come up with from head to toe.  

What is something that you feel makes your studio practice successful?
Working a lot. Working on a lot of things at once. Being open to change and possibilities. Not staying too rigid in what is “supposed” to happen. Listening to the work. Listening to my own intuition. Making sure that the work is formally sound. Having fun! Giving myself and the work enough time to properly come into its own.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book, The Suspects? Where can we see/order it?
Ha! The Suspects was a series of paintings that I did while I was living in LA surrounded by the world of online dating. They were portraits with text. The paintings are quite different than the newer work, but very much about my surrounding environment, and the way that I felt about the dating world in general at that time. I guess I made the paintings in like 2007 or something. They are funny, and also maybe a little bit sad. They were published by Devibook in 2010 in conjunction with a show that I was having at Flight Gallery in San Antonio, Texas. My good friend and a great journalist, Claire Hoffman, contributed a humorous and very well-written essay to go with the paintings. The Suspects are a good example of my work with text. It is more story-based and involved in a bit of a social commentary that is more obvious than in my abstract work, which might nod at this stuff, but is more open to interpretation. The book is available online.

Are there a few artists that you are looking at currently?

  • I can’t stop looking at Matisse—EVER!  The Cut-out show is still fresh in my mind.
  • I love El Anatsui. 
  • I am mesmerised by The Quilts of Gee’s Bend.
  • I have been looking at a lot of Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Joan Mitchell…..
  • Love Amy Sillman.  
  • Love The new work of Tal R!  
  • Jessica Stockholder is an all-time favorite.
  • Always love Cindy Sherman!!!
  • Judy Pfaff.  
  • Revisiting Basquiat lately. Inspired by his raw and inventive canvas structures.
  • Sarah Cain is someone who is a younger contemporary artist who is super exciting to me!
  • I have been looking at Sheila Hicks work lately.  
  • Also been interested in the new Valentino Gowns. They are to die for!

What is the most important thing to you about your studio practice?
That it is fun. That it doesn’t become stagnant. I want to be surprised. I never want to lose the magic of my own work surprising me. It would just be terrible to be bored and stay bored because you are trying to please other people or some general public. I guess what I mean is, I want to stay connected to the work and its needs. Listening and looking  are very important parts of my studio practice.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work and talk with us! 

To find out more about Gyan and her work, visit the artist's website!

To order her book, The Suspects, follow this link.