Ted Simons: On tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat," we take a look at the contemporary western American art of Ludvic. "Don't Fence Me In: Ludvic Paints the West" is the title of a new exhibition at the Desert Caballeros western museum in Wickenberg. Ludvic joins me now to talk about his first foray into western art. It's good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Ludvic: Thank you for having me again.
Ted Simons: You betcha. Why western art, why you, why now?
Ludvic: I am from the East Coast, originally. When I came here, the sense of space, which is a very intangible sense, you have to understand it and absorb it as an artist. New York City is a Gotham city, vertical city. Everything is gridded like Mondrian paintings, and everything fits within an enclosure. The space there is pixilated, and preordained, and even there is something called space right. You cannot build a high-rise without buying the space of your neighbors. So as part of the building code it cannot be -- we were driving -- the minute I hit Texas, the space opened up, it's not like the pixilated space of New York City. And here it's autonomous --
Ted Simons: That's interesting you bring that up. If you have limits in the East Coast, I was born and raise there'd myself, I know what limits are there; sometimes you're forced to be creative because you are in those limits. If it's so big and it's almost limitless, how do you get that creativity going?
Ludvic: You get that autonomous feelings of openness, and you start to conjure it up together and graft it into a different enterprise, creative enterprise that really -- art in the west, it's totally about not nature exactly, outside, art subsumes nature and supersedes it. And then you graft it into your own creative enterprise. But the concept of space, I hope a lot of artists discuss that concept and research it, because it's so amazing.
Ted Simons: I want to take a look at some of your paintings, this collection. Some of these paintings, you talk about space, but there are also portraits. There are profiles. How do you get that sense of space when you've got a face, a human figure there?
Ludvic: No, this is a different enterprise. When I paint a portrait, it's around a history, especially a Native American history. This is the mythic Indian and Indian of the mind, the imagination. The mythic cowboy and Indian is where all artists western artists congregate. It's -- the history of native Indian is exhumed every day, and….
Ted Simons: It's the narrative, the myth.
Ludvic: Exactly. And it just -- I do not -- I do not copy from my portrait outside -- I paint people from the inside out. And when I paint the native Indian, it's the mythic Indian. I grab something from reality or historical references, and I build my own reality. It's the painted reality, it's not --
Ted Simons: How is your painted reality different from so many other western artists?
Ludvic: Three things.
Ted Simons: OK.
Ludvic: Makes any creative person serious. Number one, content. Number two, expression. Number three, technical velocity. Those three things, technical skill, those three things are shared between one artist or another. What do you call it -- do you remember --
Ted Simons: So again, when people say it's western art, it's a horse, it's a sunset, or sunrise in this case, but that is a different look at it. Correct? And when you -- when you saw this, when you painted this, did you see this or did this appear on the canvas?
Ludvic: When I see -- first the mind is capable of deciphering what the eyes capture. Then you internalize it and come up with your own vision of the west. I see everything I carry images with me for months and months before I sit down and take a few hours to execute it. So -- but it's all mythic. I watch cowboy movies a lot and composition, and color, and action and all of this seeps into me and then comes out.
Ted Simons: The next thing we're going to show is some pen and ink on paper. How do you know if it's a sculpture, if it's a painting, pen and ink. How do you know this had to be pen and ink?
Ludvic: I start by sketching. If you can sketch, if you can draw, you can paint. Sketching and drawing is the essence. Sometimes I do 50 sketches to get one action correct. And then I transfer it to canvas. The creative process and the doing, in the continuous discovery, and continuous redoing and doing, until you force certain parts are and take out certain parts until the composition is intact. If you don't have composition you don't have a painting.
Ted Simons: We hear a lot from writers how they set out to tell a certain story but the characters decide they want to do what they want to do and you're coming along for the ride. Like this -- the gathering before the storm, the next painting --
Ludvic: I saw this actually exactly.
Ted Simons: You saw it -- so nothing changed that much when you --
Ludvic: No, no. A lot changed. But I saw that scene, two cowboys gathering the cows, and it was so dark sky, I didn't capture it exactly. But I was -- I was there. And art in the west is mainly narrative like you said, in nature. And you look at nature, and then you subsume it, and then you supersede it. And you come up with your own vocabulary of the composition. Being an artist, I looked at thousands of paintings and thousands of museums. I saw the Louvre 600 times at least. I know art. You have to be able to read a painting and the meaning of what the artist wants to say. What I put in the painting is the exact -- is the essence of the composition.
Ted Simons: It's always a pleasure to have you. Congratulations on your success.
Ludvic: I appreciate it.
Ted Simons: Thank you, sir. Good to see you. "Don't Fence Me In: Ludvic Paints the West" is at the Desert Caballeros western museum in Wickenberg through January 6th. Museum director James burns host as lunchtime conversation with the artist on november sixth. For more information visit the museum's website, www.westernmuseum.org.