Bringing Life to a Level of Fiction with Street Photographer Daniel Huete

Self portrait by Daniel Huete in Hong Kong (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwb8foyFPqE/)

What does your photography say about you? This may not be a big concern for most of us, as we upload our most impactful shot(s of the day) to Instagram, but some artists take this question very seriously.

I recently spoke with Daniel Huete, a Spanish born photographer currently based in Bangkok and Seoul, and who is known for highly technical, multi-layered street photography. But as I learned during our interview, Daniel sees photographic style as a “constant search”, rather than something he’s arrived at.

You’re a relatively well known photographer on Instagram and in Bangkok. Why haven’t you put together an exhibition of your work yet?

I’ve probably got enough work to do several exhibitions, but the work I’m currently doing is completely different than the work I’ve done up to now. I think your first exhibition says a lot about who you are as an artist — your style and your intentions. I don’t want people to know me just because of those types of pictures.

My past work was very technical. It was all about composition and making the greatest candid shots of people. It’s very clean and visually interesting, but right now I’m taking a completely different approach.

“I think your first exhibition says a lot about who you are as an artist — your style and your intentions.”

Democracy Monument, Bangkok Thailand by Daniel Huete (https://www.instagram.com/p/BvbhVCZlcEn/)

What led to your shift in approach?

I attended several photo workshops. When I started photography it was all self taught, but I thought why not try this out and see where it takes me.

The first workshop I ever took was with Indian street photographers Vineet and Rohit Vohra, and Singaporean photographer Aik Beng Chia. During that workshop in Singapore, Aik Beng Chia showed us his multimedia pieces, which inspired me to add multimedia in future work.

Following Singapore, I attended a couple of workshops in India with Vineet and Rohit. They were great.

Over the course of time, I started to look at my work and I noticed it was very, very technical. I felt like something was missing. The photos can be very good, very clean, great layers and subjects — but what’s the meaning behind them? For me it’s not just about coming up with a story. It’s about your photographs having a connection to you, the pictures have to resonate with you, with who you are.

“For me it’s not just about coming up with a story. It’s about your photographs having a connection to you, the pictures have to resonate with you, with who you are.”

Holi. Nandgaon, India. by Daniel Huete (https://www.instagram.com/p/BvGyfIGl7D-/)

Where did that lead you?

After seeing that my work had become very technical I wanted to break apart from it, so I attended a documentary workshop with Chien-Chi [Chang] in Hong Kong. The workshop was intensive and great, but at the end of the workshop I felt I needed more.

He told me if I wanted to go deeper the only workshop he would recommend would be with French photographer Antoine d’Agata. I did a workshop with him in November 2017 and it made me question my photography to such an extent that I wasn’t able to shoot for almost a year.

Wait. What? You didn’t shoot for a year after the workshop?

Many of us either got inspired or broken after that workshop, especially. Throughout the workshop he requires you to get physically and mentally involved in the projects. It’s not just going outside, seeing something and taking a picture. You have to bring your life to a certain level of fiction. You have to document what you actually live.

It was a five day workshop and during that workshop you have to discover who you are, what your life is like. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s self discovery.

I remember something that Antoine said: “You don’t leave a trace behind by making good photos. You leave a trace by saying ‘I was this person at this time.’”

It’s a different way of doing things than just picking up a camera and taking pictures. Because when I showed him my pictures he was like, “You’re a good photographer, but why are you taking these photos? Why makes you go there? What are you trying to communicate?”

So, the fact that I’m seeing well doesn’t mean I connect with my work, it doesn’t say who I am as an individual, or where I’m standing politically, or mentally. It just says “look at this good picture.” That’s it.

“You have to bring your life to a certain level of fiction. You have to document what you actually live.”

But this is what most people do. What are you taking a different approach?

Photography itself right now is at a stage where people scratch the surface and they’re happy with it. Think of it this way, most people who do photography are just swimming and trying to find something on the surface of the water that’s interesting. Then suddenly one day you start to snorkel and see there are fish below the surface. And then one day you go deep diving and snorkeling is no longer enough.

But the workshop with Antoine was like taking a submarine to the bottom of the ocean. He takes you down and when he brings you back up it leaves you in a state of mind where you’re like “what’s next?” What do I do.

What’s that like? Can you give me a clearer idea of how this has changed you?

I was used to just going out there and finding images — good pictures . That was it. But with Antoine, he doesn’t want just good pictures. You shoot as you go, as you live. How far can you go within your life?

When I look back at the work I did in the past, it feels as if it’s not me. People might see my past work as my signature style, but I think to have a signature style is very difficult and it’s a constant search as an artist. Some people don’t even reach that level. It’s very hard to be truly yourself and not be a copy of a copy of a copy.

People look at photo books or watch YouTube videos to see how other people do it, and they try to copy the same images over and over. That constant search for identity and who I am as an artist is what keeps me going.

“People might see my past work as my signature style, but I think to have a signature style is very difficult and it’s a constant search as an artist.”

Chinatown, Bangkok. by Daniel Huete (https://www.instagram.com/p/BuBuj0Vl7m9/)

So are you shooting again now? What’s next for you?

After I thought for almost a year that I wasn’t ready… I’m going back to do my Home project in Spain, to shoot my family. I’m going back to where my mother passed away when I was a kid, to photograph that place and that town.

It’s where I spent five years of my life when I was growing up. A lot of interesting things happened there. I want to do a project where I face my deepest fears. I always try to avoid going back because it brings a lot of sad memories. Confronting that sadness or that fear will push me to have a better understanding of who I am.

That’s the reason I don’t do exhibitions with my past work. I want my first exhibition to be Home. My first photo book. The sadness and the fears that I went through; other people can relate to that.

You’ve been working with us on D Emptyspace, which is an app all about creating and sharing galleries. What intrigues you about the app?

Using D Emptyspace is a different experience. It’s putting your work together as one, not so much thinking about single images. I mean you can upload single images and make them look good. But with D Emptyspace you can put pictures together in a group.

People can learn how to sequence. They can learn how to curate their own pictures. Right now when you have an exhibition, unless you do the show by yourself, you have a curator who selects your best work and puts it up there.

D Emptyspace gallery of Holi Festival in India. Images and curation by Daniel Huete.

Are you a good curator?

It’s still a work in progress. I mean, if we gave the same project to a couple of friends, all of us would edit in a different way. I believe it’s the same with curators putting together a gallery.

I think photographers will be able to use D Emptyspace to learn how to sequence and edit your own exhibitions as well as seeing their work on a “wall” before they print them.

Do you have any closing thoughts for this interview?

“Search for your true self within your work.”

Download D Emptyspace on iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

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The Science of Abstract Art with Daniel Stuelpnagel

The Science of Abstract Art with Daniel Stuelpnagel

If Thou And Nature Can So Gently Part by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

One of the most incredible things about art is how it connects people.

This week we’re talking to Baltimore-based artist Daniel Stuelpnagel. Working abstractly with acrylics, he’s created over 850 pieces and participated in more than 100 exhibitions.

Stuelpnagel studied with Herb Jackson at Davidson College in North Carolina. He now works from a studio near Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Throughout his career, he has practiced philanthropy and donated some of his best works to causes and communities in need.

Experimental D Emptyspace gallery. Images and curation by Daniel Stuelpnagel

What led you to decide to be an artist? Was it something you knew from a very young age or did your passion develop over time? Tell us your story.

I decided to become an artist to discover all the things I never learned in school.

What led me to the decision was a combination of frustration with working an office job for eight years, mixed with a vision of a life in art. I’ve been painting for twenty years, and the past ten years with even more technology immersion. I create images in my paintings that evoke a neural network, or a surreal dream space, or an architectural vector space. So my broad interests in the sciences have informed several facets of the artwork I’ve been producing.

“I love being able to create original paintings that enable me to articulate a non-verbal conversation about science, tech, architecture, emotionality, and human psychology.“

I love how these themes relate to the ways in which we humans have adapted our brains to the latest tech toolsets of the new millennium.

Tech is a really new trend in our society that only goes back one century or so. We’re fostering so much change, yet always struggling massively to “keep up” with the intellectual and emotional and even physical challenges of tech.

I think if you’d ask twelve people about tech, you’d get twelve different answers. But all of them would say that they’re immersed in tech and their working lives are characterized by full days of interacting with computer systems.

So in my work as a counterpoint, I actually use kind of quaint, mid-century modern, “traditional” painting techniques and materials. But the hyper-stylized paintings I’ve been sinking my teeth into for the past two years are a synthesis of my own styles driven by influences from contemporary narrative surrealism, street art, and other movements.

Daniel Stuelpnagel’s art studio

So you can see my passion has developed over time. In my mind, the non-verbal nature of abstraction makes it a perfect arena for exploring intricate emotional, psychological and social forces.

Your process is unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Can you walk us through how you create your pieces?

I layer acrylic on wood panels and use tape to compose many layers of geometric structure. It delivers a collage-like effect but it’s all thin layers of paint. This sequential process is contemplative and also dynamic, it gives me a lot of room to experiment with color and the psychology of composition.

I’ve been sanding down the surface texture and then painting additional layers to yield some fascinating textural yet subtle effects. An interior designer purchased six paintings from me recently — she was thinking of photographing and enlarging the images, but as soon as she saw the originals, she said that the texture made such an impact, she would only buy the originals.

I usually work in series. Sometimes with a dozen or two squares of various sizes, but more recently a landscape format where the land mass is comprised of geometry implying a built environment. This inevitably shows the implications of climate change and the confrontation between human civilization and the natural world. It means the mood of some of my most recent paintings is joyful but tragic.

Now The Fleeting Moon by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

I’ve done about 850 artworks now. My artistic eye and decisiveness that I’ve nurtured for twenty years have brought me to a place where I actually trust a lot of my decisions and choices in the studio.

I feel really galvanized into action by the dynamic zeitgeist of the time that we’re living in. There’s no room for complacency and being prolific helps me grind under constant scrutiny without hesitation to turn things upside down when a new idea emerges.

Do you see technology changing the way we appreciate art?

Tech has absolutely redefined art and continues to expand the boundaries. It’s a force to be considered in every facet of the arts now.

For example, with the D Emptyspace app, I was skeptical at first, thinking “What does it do? Oh, it looks kind of simple.”

But after two days of using it to display and curate photos, I was totally hooked, and having a vision of this enormous virtual museum, or San Francisco gallery, or an art fair exhibition hall, or warehouse, or whatever, right?

It’s a kick in the ass for an artist to have access to tech that encourages you to take a fresh look at your photos of art and nature. It’s a great way to reframe a whole conceptual photo shoot, or storyboard, or take any kind of visual documents into a different scale and context.

Some Innocents Escape Not The Thunderbolt by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

People often label successful artists as ‘talented’. Do you feel like your art comes from a place of talent or hard work? Or do you see art like your TedX collection, always Under Construction?

Ah, for sure you can see both sides of this. On one hand, you have to consider the continuous nature of practice; some type of hard work intellectually and emotionally to figure out the central design principle to focus on. Building the physical skills, the craft and improv, and the techniques and processes of painting.

On the other hand to compare with talent… where does that come from?

I spent much of my school years daydreaming, so I guess being pensive and in solitude gave me a very vivid imagination. I also inherited a ton of intellectual and analytical talents from both my parents.

But that raw talent had nothing to do with painting until much later when I did decide to pursue it as a way to express myself.

Art really inspired and enabled me to travel more also, so that was super important in expanding my world view. I found it’s mostly persistence and determination. Which they call being stubborn when you’re a kid.

You often mention that you work on collections simultaneously, how does that affect your process? Do you consider if the artworks will fit together or do you let the moment guide you?

I guess it’s just like writing a book and having plenty of blank paper or a proper space to work in.

“We’re products of our choices, and by choosing to be prolific, I’ve certainly made some bad paintings, but I also have given myself room to pursue lots of exciting opportunities and variations.”

Some paintings want to spin off ideas for other new paintings, so there’s plenty of catalysts in the process. But it’s only later on that I look at them together and interpret the themes and implications.

When you work on series, the best work sometimes comes first, sometimes later, but invariably I enjoy the visual conversation and curatorially it gives me a lot to select from, which is helpful.

Images and curation by Daniel Stuelpnagel

I would say the D Emptyspace app kind of takes this to a new level because it helps me take a fresh retrospective of some new work in the context of earlier work. The virtual galleries I’ve uploaded have given me a better sense of dynamic interplay, sparked fresh ideas to bring into the studio, and developed my ability to continually think about color and contrast. The app is a great theoretical workspace to analyze the visual characteristics of your photos in a new context.

Click here to visit Daniel’s D Emptyspace gallery “Vector Space Paradise.

How do you know when a work (or a collection) is finished? And do you have a favorite work?

Haha! I do have a ton of faves, almost every series happens because I keep working and feel inspired and encouraged by recent paintings that really took off! That’s another great reason to be as prolific as possible — you kind of have to be self-motivating.

I have a favorite painting from a recent show that is called “Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends.”

Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

It’s a return to a dreamlike landscape with some quirks, beautifully saturated colors, and makes me think of a theatrical stage as the psychological arena of the mind for an AI algorithm or something; but it’s still about climate change, human nature, and the post-Anthropocene moment.

“I’ll say a piece is finished when I think it’s doing what I want it to do. When I feel the continuity between the process of creating it and the act of viewing it.”

It could be an abstract story but my imagination connects and enjoys exploring what’s there… it’s evocative. Also, it needs to be elegant and well-crafted, subtle, effervescent, or alternatively raw and dynamic and painterly.

If it has the “wow” factor I know it’s done, which is one reason I love exhibiting: It’s great to get direct feedback from people.

What happens before you share a new collection or open a new gallery? Is it something you enjoy?

I do enjoy it — it’s partly social immersion, part performance art and part trade show (in addition to all the artistry and business functionality behind the scenes).

Artist Daniel Stuelpnagel pictured at Superfine NYC gallery opening

I’ve done shows where we have plenty of lead time before the opening and many others where we’re always installing a day before or the day of the opening, so every experience is different. Before it opens there’s an exploration of the work in juxtaposition with the space and that’s an artistic process in itself.

Before any show opens I generally collaborate with a number of people, clarify the concept, and run down lots of checklists to make it happen. But it’s usually pretty improvisational and that keeps it exciting.

I love showing work in Washington, DC where there’s lots of wonderful architecture. Baltimore is famous for having tons of vacant warehouses and lots of room for alternative venues which tend to be really spacious with high ceilings. I install my work for corporate buyers in office spaces as well.

The title of this piece “Most Good Scientists Are Romantics, “ plays into some very deep subcontext. The point at which science and romanticism meet is fascinating, and to some, conflicting. What does it mean to you?

Most Good Scientists are Romantics Daniel Stuelpnagel (2018)

That title was a phrase I saw in a great book by Alanna Mitchell called The Spinning Magnet, it’s about possible shifts in the Earth’s magnetic poles.

It stayed with me, maybe it’s a deep dualism that is part of my world view; I think the age of supercomputing has forced many different scientific disciplines to work together and collaborate as never before and the results have been amazing.

So I think the romanticism is partly this moment of expansion for so many in the sciences that may have invested decades pursuing a particular narrow specialty, so in a sense, I think their optimism has been rewarded and I find that romantic.

This painting is pretty upbeat but still reflects a lot of consideration and discernment.

Navigating the art world can be baffling for artists, how has your time as a TedXJHU artist changed your career?

Daniel Stuelpnagel’s banner installation at TedXJHU

That particular experience two years ago was me getting to team up with a dozen students at Johns Hopkins University. They had so many great ideas, we did a collab for about two months where I came up with a large banner for the stage, a sculptural display installation for the atrium of the building, another dozen paintings and a wall collage, and four separate installations all for a one-day event. They had to provide, like, three dozen students to help install and load out everything!

I met so many international students, so I think it acquainted me in a fresh and direct way with the kind of energy level that makes a world-class artist.

Daniel Stuelpnagel pictured with students and installation of his works at TedXJHU

Almost the greater challenge with navigating the art world is that we actually have to create it ourselves. So if it’s baffling, it takes us back to the studio and back to the process of self-examination, which brings us to create work that is so distinctive that the sentiments behind it are felt as universal.

It helps to discover a unique connection and find out who can really appreciate your work the more distinctive it is.

I find architects, designers, and corporate clients especially appreciate my paintings for the lengths I go to in order to create an aesthetic durability, and a piece that will continue to intrigue the eye for a lifetime, yet also rewards a quick glance with a clear feeling and unified aesthetic.

A painting in progress by Daniel Stuelpnagel

What advice would you give an aspiring artist who’s just getting started?

I’d say how important it is to find ways to contribute to the community. I’ve been doing philanthropy by choosing to donate some of my best work for charity benefit auctions since day one.

It’s been about fifty or more pieces so far, and it’s connected me to a global community of artists and philanthropists that made me realize I could have an immediate and continuous positive impact in the world.

You’re using D Emptyspace to curate galleries now. What do you think of it?

It’s like an ideal multi-million dollar museum space built in Minecraft. It’s so specific and useful yet so versatile and adaptable as a visualization tool.

It really has great implications and I believe this app could even inspire a whole new generation of curators.

Download D Emptyspace on iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Download

C.

Creating Contemporary Portraiture Through Analog and Digital With Jonnie Turpie

Creating Contemporary Portraiture Through Analog and Digital With Jonnie Turpie

Screen Bed by Jonnie Turpie

Jonnie Turpie makes a range of art from a shared studio in Birmingham, UK. His current calling? A deep dive into contemporary portraiture by mixing digital and traditional media to dramatic effect.

As a teenager, Turpie drew, painted and experimented with photography. Contemporary art was new to him as he entered Art College, but he learned with “great students and teachers that encouraged innovation.”

Following a career in film and television, these days he’s going back to his conceptual roots and working on multiple projects that explore the relationship between digital and analog in a modern world.

Explore Jonnie Turpie’s Art Galleries.

If you want to get a sense of how Turpie challenges the norm by curating his galleries, experience them virtually on D Emptyspace:

New Powder Drops / Powder Drop / Screen Bed / Art Viewers

What’s your story and how did you get to where you are today?

I was enthused by the introduction of portable video and video art. So I started a career in the media where I directed, produced and collaborated on film and TV for 35 years.

It was a rewarding time to embrace digital media — it was during the rise of the internet and social media — and apply the principles to mainstream television.

But recently I realized that if I did not return to the challenges of individual artwork and how drawing, printmaking and smartphone photography mix together as mediums, I would miss the opportunity to investigate, experiment and learn.

From your galleries on D Emptyspace and your website, it looks like you experiment… A LOT. What drives you to keep trying new things?

I enjoy the feedback that comes from trying new approaches to image making in analog and digital environments. Feedback comes from the making and materials themselves: material encounters.

More feedback comes from in the sharing of completed works with subjects and audiences.

‘Artist, Kevin Atherton by Jonnie Turpie. A1 drawn and printed silk screen 2019

I keep reminding and challenging myself to think out of my conceptual artistic box. What I think, or thought was art may not be the case. Through my practice-led research, I am digging deeper to understand what is both artistically possible and rewarding.

I’ve added a ‘New Powder Drop’ Gallery on D Emptyspace that is based on another experimentation with print and powder on paper. When I uploaded them to D Emptyspace, I was inspired to see my A4-sized artwork scaled up to wall size. The effect was astounding. By using a digital space, print media can be transformed beyond logical belief.

A virtual gallery space is a way to extend the work from paper to a virtual space, analog to digital.

New Powder Drop Gallery by Jonnie Turpie

I see from your website that you’ve suffered with numb hands? What’s the story behind that and how has it impacted your art?

A couple of years ago both of my hands became numb with pins and needles. This did not stop my drawing, but it made it more difficult to focus for any length of time. Not good!

Following a number of hand nerve tests and finally an MRI Scan at QUEB the problem was pinpointed in my neck. Two vertebrae were compressed and impinging on my spinal cord. With the expert surgery team, I am now much less numb and enjoying my drawing and printmaking.

To engage with the procedure I made three large scale silkscreen prints from my MRI digital scans: ‘interior self-portraits’. I’m thinking of interpreting them in the virtual wave gallery.

Self portrait triptych silk screen A1 by Jonnie Turpie

You’re doing a PhD titled “A journey between analog and digital”. Can you unpack that for us?

The PhD is a large tripartite theoretical and practical research project into smartphone photography, drawing, and printmaking within the context of the making of contemporary portraiture. It’s about investigating the balance between the immediacy of smartphone digital portraiture. And it considers drawn and printed processes of final large scale portraits on paper for sharing with the subjects and wider audiences.

I haven’t exhibited this work on D Emptyspace yet as the research is still fluid. If you’d like to find out more, you can on my research website.

I have created a darkened gallery of ‘Art Viewers’ which is not a part of the research but is a gallery of digital drawings made with iPad, apple pencil and procrea from a wide range of real world gallery visitors reading information placed next to visual artworks. They are not portraits, but they do capture and reflect viewers in the act of looking and learning about artworks.

Art Viewers by Jonnie

Why do you think it’s important to discuss how art is moving between digital and traditional today, and in the future?

Digital drawing in progress on the app “Procreate” by Jonnie Turpie and Mohammed Ali

Living in the 21st Century makes us ‘analog hands-on’ and ‘digital native’ human beings. Like with all new technologies, artists will seek ways to express themselves and engage audiences.

Digital media is now ubiquitous and all-encompassing and will continue to be so. It is important for us to embrace known and unknown capabilities.

Digital media also supports analog projects and ambitions. I am working with spray painting artist Mohammed Ali to make single collaborative images through simultaneous drawings on twin iPads using an app called Procreate to create a composite image, which is then drawn, painted and printed. We are on a digital and analog journey together.

Jacket Man by Jonnie Turpie and Mohammed Ali. Digital and Multimedia

How does technology alter the meaning of an image for you?

By how images are created, delivered, received and shared. There are many examples of how technology can alter the meaning of an image and the manner in which it is distributed from the printing press to TV to smartphone.

For example, within D Emptyspace, the Powder Drop galleries (click here to view) are completely transforming the experience and perception of very delicate material substances on paper, into large scale digital images on virtual walls. This is an exciting example of how technology can offer meaning, material and perceptual changes to images.

Powder Drop by Jonnie Turpie

Over the past 30 years, technology has changed a lot. Some people are scared, others are excited. Do you personally think technology is adding to our lives and creative capacity as humans?

I do! And it certainly hasn’t reached its peak. AI and VR are in their infancy and will be added as artistic arrows in an artist’s quivers. Like how photography that brought new ways of seeing, recording and painting, new technologies will be embraced, adopted and applied — or not applied — as we reflect our worlds.

As with most art forms, there are digital perils and possibilities to embrace and be challenged by.

Babs. Barbara Walker in the Round room by Jonnie Turpie. A1 Silkscreen 2018 from the series: “People in the Arts”

Follow Jonnie Turpie: Website | Instagram | Twitter

Download D Emptyspace for iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Download