“Some people are laughing. This is a really good sign.”

REGENERATE14 was The Lab Magazine’s (friendly) takeover of Berlin’s Generator Hostel, and I stepped up to the challenge of making art for an audience of beer-pongers. The bathrooms echoed with my sound piece, Conversations, and a projector in the car-garage-turned-basement-bar lit up a screen with my video, Three Point Perspective. People let down their guard in transitional spaces—I was one of those kids who pep-talked in the toilet stalls before school presentations—and to spontaneously engage people (without spectacle) can require the utmost solidarity: you alone heard that/ the on-screen dialogue keeps running/ only from the corner of my eye can I see things clearly.

Below is the original exhibition text for Three Point Perspective, as well as stills from the video and a short clip.

Three Point Perspective
(exhibition text and video preview below)

Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s freely-distributed environmental documentary, Home, serves as the backdrop to a pre-recording of the International Space Station’s live video stream, which launched back in May. 30 million viewers have tuned in, entranced by low-res panoramas of our planet, while Home’s YouTube channel has a relatively low subscriber count of 75 thousand. Our capacity to posit our thinking outside of earth-bound time is paradoxically sustained by second-to-second feedback from the ISS’s cameras; what’s being offered is a way out, and what’s missing is a way back in.

A conceptually perfect space-cam would complete the feedback loop by returning images as detailed as those in Home. Out of the corners of our eyes, we would watch sweeping vistas of landscape and landfill; there would be no pedantic Glenn Close voice-over, just the static of space noise. It’s on during dinner while we fill up on food and chit-chat, and it’s a surrogate window in a young couple’s basement apartment; when there’s no game on, TVs in empty bars, hotel lobbies, and mom-and-pop restaurants default back to it.

There is little horizontality in the closed captioned banter that runs in and out of the image: vertical stories that end as abruptly as they begin peak and crater our shared experience, so that the act of watching lets loose a volley of the mind. Jumping into the middle of a dialogue scatters utterances off an edge--and falls from that height leave craters. Meaning forms in those gaps, and the open spaces that shift between each layer of this video piece serve towards a personal act of creation, softly reassuring that you are here, and you are participating too.

looped video, 1:18:48

(following extract spans from 0:14:28-0:15:44 and 1:08:03-1:10:00)

Spanning four years and seven countries, the voices that seamlessly flow in and out of one another in Conversations are distillations of context, eddies along the current of our daily soundscapes. Stories spoken for their own sake, not on account of another, still require a listener; happening upon them, and then having the opportunity to linger, can transform even the most transient of spaces into personal zones of reflection.

Bathrooms are an anomaly among public areas because they offer privacy without surveillance or immediate apprehension (as long as there’s some consideration for people waiting). Residual affects of intimacy are not flushed away with every use, as each of us can—and most often does—read the words scribbled on their walls, some of us even further elaborating upon them.

Conversations is thus presented as a foil to the forced sterility of bathrooms, embracing the fact that these zones see the greatest intersecting of people, thoughts, and intentions. And getting caught off-guard while in the stalls might even elicit some uninhibited laughs.

DARYA KOSILOVA—Hi Winston! How long have you been in Berlin?

WINSTON CHMIELINSKI—Since last May. No, August. Yes. That’s what the official documents say.

DK—What prompted your move from the US to Deutschland?

WC—I wanted something huge for my twenty-fifth birthday, and this is what I got.

DK—What do you think is the biggest difference in the art culture between North America and Europe?

WC—It’s like there’s no ocean between the two, considering the total overlap of shows and general globalized artish themes, which baffles me when exorbitant shipping costs and German customs agents are so prohibitive.

DK—Has living in a new environment impacted the way you’re creating work?

WC—Yes. I feel like I’m still learning how to take up space, I’ve never had this much.

DK—What are the main themes you’re exploring in your work now?

WC—Let’s see… Real magic, quantum entanglement, the desires of objects, and the black hole that hovers precariously over the hump of the next second! There’s all this collateral that I collect and put back in place. I don’t really feel an impulse to create from the ground up when I can assemble stories that are much bigger than myself; built from the minuscule details of our everyday and charged with residual symbolic value.

DK—You are one of our main artists at #Regenerate14. One of the key themes of this exhibit is the concept of “social sustainability.” How do you feel social sustainability can be achieved through art?

WC—The myth of the masses needs to be slayed. Art is about engagement, and its effects should last a lifetime. We all bring our own experience to whatever we see, touch, taste, or hear. Interactivity is as much about participation as it is self-reflection. How we structure those experiences to be positive and profound is where art comes in, as a necessity, and something that should be a baseline for everything we do, and not the profession of a few.

DK—Tell us a bit about the piece you’re making for #Regenerate14. What do you hope your piece will inspire among the viewers?

WC—I wanted to make the opposite of a spectacle, something that catches you off-guard and lures you in with a gesture. The bar and the bathroom spaces are safe spots, at least in terms of just letting your mind drift. That’s what I wanted to ride, that half-conscious state where a word, a phrase, or an image comes in and spurs on a train of thought.

DK—You are mostly recognized for being a painter. What has been your biggest challenge going from a canvas to more multi-media sensory installation?

WC—First, I’m grateful for the opportunity, so thank you. I was sitting on four years of material and just needed someone to say, “Go!” The accidentals of painting have their parallel in the technical fiddling of sound and video, so the pieces for #Regenerate14 came about in an organic way, and really feel like a natural extension of my body of work.

DK—I read that you suffer from sleep paralysis. I do as well, and you’re the first person that I’ve ever met that has it too. Do you feel fear when it happens or do you embrace those thirty seconds of physical vulnerability?

WC—So you also know that it never gets easier! I usually still struggle my way out of it, and then chastise myself for not exploring the sensations more.

DK—Tell me about your “SSPB” (Secret Single Person Behavior). Is there one thing that you would never do in front of your significant other?

WC—Yeah, sometimes bits of my head hair stick up straight and I basically have to mold them back in place. I do this by tying a towel or a T-shirt around my head. It looks really questionable.

DK—Is there something that you would never want to see from your significant other’s SSPB?

WC—I don’t wanna know!

DK—What do you do for fun?

WC—My vice is eating while watching TV. For fun I go to grocery stores. Markets are good too, but only if they have a healthy proportion of whole to broken.

DK—What’s the craziest thing that ever happened to you in Berlin? Tell me a story.

WC—Well, one was getting my apartment. Forty people wanted it and I got on my hands and knees and kind of cry laughed about how I felt like I had found my soul home and something about light and happiness and a death-bed playlist. Also another crazy story which has to do with the apartment, a gypsy forced a puppet house on me with little prayer bells inside and that night I had a lucid dream and was actually inside the puppet house, complaining about how I couldn’t see the sky through the ceiling.

DK—If you could pick two historically famous artists to be your parents, who would they be?

WC—Leonardo da Vinci and Björk. W.B. Yeats would be my uncle, and Erykah Badu would be my godmother. I hope by historically significant you don’t mean dead.

DK—If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?

WC—A massive bowl of porcini mushrooms fried in butter.

Interviewed by Darya Kosilova
Photography by Justin Tyler Close

I met Nicholas Faraone of BARBARISMS in Paris, 2007. We didn't study much, a year went by, and then I left for NYC while he stayed on for a bit. Fast forward seven years to last May and I get this email with one sentence of life summary, three sentences small talk, and a proposition to to cover his album (with my artwork). I love when beautiful chapters of the past come back.

I'm proud of you for your debut, Nicholas, and I love the result.


The Raw Book
a conversation between Winston Chmielinski and Alicia Chon

Tell us about yourself.
I’m 25 and working towards a full split.

What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
It can close gaps and bring you back to the moment.

What did you study in college?
Creative writing, mostly, with some satellite courses in philosophy, psychology, and dance.

At NYU, what were the greatest lessons you took away?
Make the best use of your resources!

You studied philosophy in school; does your background in philosophy influence your artistic process in any way?
Everything I learn has to be taken out and played with for it all to stick. My studies helped me make connections, but also taught me to leave plenty of space.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is one of my favorite books; can you tell us about your own painting, Bell Jar Dance?
Fiction is the freedom to be overwhelmingly honest. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is exactly that. Paintings live in a fictional space, too, which allows them to achieve an impossible level of clarity, and directness, and sensation.

I’m impressed by the pink in Three Can be So Vicious.
It’s intensely synthetic, right? And yet somehow it still gives off this organic, fleshy glow.

As someone who is currently studying Mandarin, I’m fascinated by your year in Beijing. Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study and intern in Beijing specifically to witness its rapid development. We were housed on Peking University’s campus and within a few weeks I had already moved out of the dorms, collected a full refund, and found very basic accommodations in the city’s underbelly of subdivided courtyard houses. I was the only foreigner on the street and woke up every morning to an older way of life sandwiched between high rises, shopping malls, and massive boulevards.

Where does your fascination with China stem from?
My mother was born in China and grew up in Hong Kong. All the cultural incongruities I felt as a kid fit into a much larger picture, one that I continue to render through a first-hand exploration of my heritage.

Who are the subjects in your paintings?
Anyone who casts an interesting shadow.

In some paintings, the faces of the subjects are not clearly defined or discernible; instead they look slightly washed out. Is this intentional?
Sometimes it’s just a shift of emphasis. Other painted parts can assume the twists and turns of a face. Since there’s no linear translation from the experience of embodiment to its depiction, a lot of erasing and rearranging has to happen.

How do you select the color palette of your paintings?
I have favorites, but for the most part I don’t limit my palette. I’ve been using the same array of colors for years and am heavy handed with pthalo hues.

Name people – dead or alive – who inspire you.
Matthew Stone is an artist I truly admire and respect. Sugata Mitra for his faith in kids and a revolutionary take on early childhood education. Hayao Miyazaki, the animator/director behind some of my favorite, forever magical, films.

What’s one color that you think defines you?
Deep Cobalt Turquoise.

What’s your ultimate collaboration?
Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh making a tapestry out of one of my paintings. I would also love to collaborate on a collection with Dries Van Noten.

How do you stay healthy?
I eat well and fidget around a lot. I also build all my own canvases.

What are your favorite books?
Buddha’s Little Finger by Victor Pelevin, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Cool Memories II by Jean Baudrillard, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

To that note, what books are collecting dust on your to-read list?
So many. The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century by Eric Hobsbawm, a biography of Willem de Kooning, I, The Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos, just to name a few.

Do you still read print publications? What are your favorites and why?
When I was in NYC I would have monthly magazine marathons at McNally Jackson on Prince Street. Corner stores are hands off – shopkeepers want you to buy first and read later. In Berlin there’s this amazing store that expects you to loiter and browse, so I’ve been hightailing there whenever I get the chance. Just a couple days ago I picked up copies of 032c and Art Review.

What are your favorite locations around the world?
This lunch spot near my old place in South Williamsburg that felt like a second home, Supercore. Tate Modern is always exhilarating, and I love going to the Met and circling around, and around… My heart melted in Faerie Grove, which is a mossy magical enclave on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I would love to spend my summers in Bretagne. Oh, and being in a downpour just about anywhere.

What songs are on your personal playlist?
Miscogyny Drop Dead / Planningtorock
Beautiful Mother / Dirty Projectors + Bjork
Simili Life / Quadron
Tesko Suicide / Sneaker Pimps

What are three things most people don’t know about you?
I don’t own a Mac, I know how to ride a dirt bike, and I can’t bend my left big toe because I broke it when I was young and never had it set back.

When you paint you engage with the medium's history. There's nothing new under this sky, but everyone has something to say; and sometimes it means the most to address whomever's next to you, rather than the whole crowd behind. Regardless, when a creator is aligned with his/her expression, the work carries itself forward.

I was asked by curator Carson Chan to contribute a piece to Come, All Ye Faithful, a group exhibition staged at Florian Christopher in Zurich. wherein every household item was replaced with an art object. I was unable to meet Florian and see the space prior to the show opening, so I asked for any artifacts or pictures that could help me construct a painting specific to the person and the place.

Historically commissioned portraits idealized their patrons--the painter then was our photo retoucher now, subtly brushing subjects into the best versions of themselves. Symbolism was where artistry overruled observation, as artists dreamed up stages which framed their subjects in a time, a place, and a social standing.

My piece for Come, All Ye Faithful was not a commission, and definitely a surprise. Every painter has the opportunity to make something extremely personal for the viewer, and I took advantage of this by engaging directly with the legacy of portraiture. My piece instantly assumed a symbolic value in addition to the context of the show; it became a new centerpoint of Florian's space, because it was the only thing remaining that, in a way, truly belonged to him.

I painted Florian in an exaggeratedly impressionistic way, presenting a foil to the exhibition's object orientation, as well as portraiture's own love of narrative content. The complete lack of it, here, has been highlighted with daubs of color: a tricked richesse of form and content only possible through paint.

Florian wrote me in the New Year:

"The group show was a hit, everyone was amazed and your piece turned for me in one of the key works of the whole exhibition, as being the most personal one."

Come, All Ye Faithful ran from 17 November - 12 January at

Florian Christopher
Gotthelfstrasse 37, 8003 Zürich, Switzerland

The Twelve Days of Christmas, a popular eighteenth century English Christmas carol is essentially a song about the accumulation of goods. In the song, the twelve days between Christmas day and the eve of Epiphany on the fifth of January are sequentially marked off by a tally of new gifts, increasing in amount as the days progress with each verse. On the first day of Christmas, the singer is bestowed a partridge in a pear tree; on the second day, two turtledoves; on the third, three French hens, and so on. Christmas, in other words, is measurable by its purchases. (Incidentally, PNC Wealth Management in Pittsburg has kept a Christmas Price Index since 1984; a measure of the cost of the sum items enumerated in this song. What cost $61,318 USD in 1984, is $107,300 USD now) Since the mid twentieth century, the twelve days of Christmas have steadily evolved into what is commonly called the holiday season, eschewing the mantle of religious celebration for the politically plural, and morally fluid world of commerce in the process. In China, “Christmas” is defined as a period of heightened consumer activity—the period between winter solstice and the Lantern Festival in the first month of the lunar calendar. All are welcome and equal, under the equalizing domain of money.

Yet when purchased objects enter the home, they assume new roles, entangling themselves with the lives and emotions of their new owners. Come, All Ye Faithful, the title of another Christmas carol, is an exhibition that observes our relationship with the objects we live with. For the duration of the show, Florian Christopher Seedorf’s entire apartment in the Wiedikon district of Zürich will be transformed into an exhibition resembling something between the home of an eclectic hoarder and an IKEA showroom. All of Seedorf’s personal effects, from the furniture, wall hangings, wallpaper, flatware, silverware, clothing, to the bed cover, as well as artwork, will be replaced with new objects curated by Carson Chan. As Come, All Ye Faithful coincides with the holiday season, everything in the house, naturally, will be for sale.

David Adamo, Shane Anderson, Awst & Walther, Luis Berríos-Negrón and Paul Ryan, Jón Þór Birgisson, Bless, Body & English, Broken Dimanche Press, Sol Calero, Julian Charrière, Winston Chmielinski, Charlie Koolhaas, Humberto Díaz, Devon Dikeou, Constant Dullaart, Marianne Eigenheer, Andreas Greiner, Andreas Golinski, Hadley + Maxwell, Ethan Hayes-Chute, Calla Henckel and Max Pitegoff, Antonia Hirsch, Lars Holdhus, Rachel de Joode, Jan Kiefer, Nuri Koerfer, Martin Kohout, Nik Kosmas, Sigurd Larsen, Rodney LaTourelle and Louise Witthöft, Lindsay Lawson, Juergen Mayer H, Jason Metcalf, Zoë Claire Miller, Adam Milner, Anca Munteanu Rimnic, Katja Novitskova, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Nathan Peter, Niko Princen, Przemek Pyszczek, Antoine Renard, Ana Roldan, Kate Sansom, Jerszy Seymour, Jeremy Shaw, Timur Si-Qin, Something Fantastic, Brittani Sonnenberg, Tobias Spichtig, Henning Strassburger, Elisa Strozyk, Amalia Ulman, Rein Vollenga, Benny Wagner, Pedro Wirz, and Mario Zoots et al.

Curated by Carson Chan
Assistant Curator, Marie Egger
Changing Definitions: Painter Winston Chmielinski accepts his fate as a purveyor of the aesthetically appealing

Text by Alessandra Codinha
(Originally appeared in the printed edition of Intermission Magazine Vol. 8)

On a late spring day in East Berlin the city is rainslicked and gray and Winston Chmielinski is learning to come to terms with beauty. Which is to say, the New York-based and globally roaming painter has quite literally begun to accept the term. “I’ve been so scarred using the word ‘beautiful’ that I cringe to say it,” the 25 year old explains, “but I really do believe in the power of it, that the definition of beauty is always going to change, and it could be grotesque and beautiful—and usually is grotesque and beautiful, now. But I think there’s a new shift towards taking back some of the power of art to be ‘pretty,’ to be ‘beautiful.’ I don’t see that as an insult, any more.” And that’s a good thing, because both the painter (all lithe sinewy muscle, high cheekbones and full pout) and his work tend to err on the side of aesthetically appealing.

Chmielinski has garnered increasing acclaim and international exhibitions (in New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and the 2013 Venice Biennale, among others) for his meditative oil paintings, full as they are of an entirely self-taught and delicately raw prowess. His figurative representations are impeccable and incomplete, muted by emboldened swathes of color. His subjects achingly realistic skin is interrupted by bright slashes and swirls, their features often erased or obfuscated by highly pigmented blots, the pauses between abstraction and figuration each carrying their own loaded sensations. It’s unclear, looking at his figures, whether they are blossoming in front of you or decaying.

“I remember the moments before I started painting and the moments right after,” the artist reflects, his early subjects being not the ecstatically writhing figures his canvases depict today but what he describes as “only really beautiful people, very symmetric. I think...I was testing how good I could get.” His pieces from this period show masterful faces, so life-like as to verge on photorealism, imbued with warmth and depth and a distinctly human glow. With his more recent work, the obscuring of facial features is “a conscious decision... I cerebrally agree with blotting out things that could be too identifiable,” Chmielinski says, “but it’s also that I now steer away from lines. I put the paint down as shapes, and when you’re drawing an eye, you are working with lines. I find that graphic contrast in my work just doesn’t translate... I’ve started letting the skin take over everything.” His definition of what it means to be figurative has changed. “I think it’s expanded in the more recent work, to the point of seeing the figure as being anything that conveys some sort of sense of organic life,” he notes, “my recent paintings, they’ve swung, sort of pendulum-like, from more figurative than I’ve ever done to extremely non-figurative, in the sense that there is no containing body. Everything is having its moment outside of the contours that I’m used to using.” He pauses and meditatively glances at the knuckles on his hands, rolling the bones underneath the skin. “There’s nothing like a painting, just that space,” he adds, “the fact that it isn’t a cropping of something larger; it’s its own world.”

Chmielinski collects his own references—often photographs, though occasionally passages from Jean Cocteau or Roland Barthes, Virginia Woolf or Nabokov (the latter whom he cites as possessing “an entirely other level of stylism, this complete awareness of melody within words”) —to work from.“You can take an impression of something but completely change the formula that made it, to the point that there is no direct link between the painting and its inspiration,” he notes. His organic acts of beauty often arise from attempted destruction, a two-dimensional mauling of his figures. “I like that accident that happens, the paint splatter that you intended to destroy the work which causes something entirely new to come out. That’s when paintings can become something amazing and sublime, when there’s still some intention from the artist but there’s no idea what the outcome is going to be... every stroke has the potential to destroy just as much as it creates. Francis Bacon was famous for that, but he also says that he destroyed a lot of paintings beyond saving, and that’s terrifying and a fear that everyone struggles with. But you have to take that risk. Because in the end, if you aren’t happy with it, if you know that you didn’t push yourself far enough with it, than it doesn’t mean anything. Finishing a painting can be bittersweet, because whatever conclusions you’ve reached in one will be torn to shreds in the next.” When a painting is done, he says, “it’s balanced, it’s kind of...it’s an impossible thing, but it kind of rings out. And you just don’t want to touch it anymore.”

An Interview with Winston Chmielinski

How important is figuration to you? Your paintings have been described as “verging on the threshold of photorealism and abstraction”. Do you agree with that description?

I regard the painted space as threshold; from moment to moment there’s an uncertainty of line, color, and form. Figuration sets up a current in all that chaos, something like a wave captured in a box, without which a painting would be nothing more than the sum of its parts. But I think any form can spark growth, and recently I’ve been experimenting with improbable shapes derived from virtual renderings and physical ephemera alike.

Swallow, 2011

Do you find any other activity as fulfilling as painting?

I am humbled and challenged by it. I like to think it brings out the best in me.

For you, is there a big difference between the creative act of painting and the finished result? How much importance do you give to each? Do you think it is a rare thing to be pleased with both the act of creation and the finished work? Is a beautiful painting painful to produce?

Stages are inherent in the process of painting, but wholly committing to them is counteractive. The preciousness of ‘time spent’ and ‘materials used’ will putrefy a painting if you let it. Instead, every stroke should have the potential to destroy just as much as it creates, which leaves half of the act to chance. Finishing a painting can be bittersweet, because whatever conclusions you’ve reached in one will be torn to shreds in the next. It’s all quite exhausting, actually.

A Round of Crossfire Prayers Goes Clip Clap Clip, 2013

Do you feel that there is a big difference between your art and your life? Do the two go well together? Do you ever feel like you need to choose between one or the other?

I process everything through painting. To me they are inseparable, but then again, there’s a lot within me that needs to be wrestled out. And my messy studio is the perfect arena for that, because anything goes!

Do you enjoy the works of other artists? Is there anything happening right now that you find interesting? Do you feel like art is much influenced by the changes in the outside world (technology, etc.)?

Despite the fact that almost everything fits under the canopy of “art” today, I believe that successful works must transcend historical tropes and still make their humble insistences. There are artists across all media who move me, some working with teams to realize incredibly intimate pieces, and others still pushing forward with painting or prose. Art cannot survive in a bubble, and yet some of the most profound pavilions at the Venice Biennale this year, for example, transported me to a sublime place where nothing else really mattered, except the fact that I was overwhelmingly alive.

From Where I'm Standing, 2013

Tell us a bit about your state of mind when you paint – do you paint alone? Is there any particular ritual you like to follow? Do you listen to music?

I’m highly distractible, so I have to set up a quiet and solitary environment in order to channel those impulses back into my work. If my left hand gets tired, I switch to my right. Not that I’m ambidextrous in the least—I just don’t want to break concentration.

Proof That We Were Here, 2013

How do you come up with the colours you use? There seems to be such a complex balance between your blues and pinks, deep greens and purples – is it fair to say that there is a psychedelic element to your art?

Reference images inform my choices. But through the transposition of color, for instance, a sinking shadow might require something blacker than black, like a head-on collision of green and red. That said, working with a varied palette always runs the risk of churning out mud, so I have a lot of clean cotton scraps on hand and will often infer value through chromatic relationships rather than absolute hues.

Back Pat and a Chubby Hand Shake, 2013

Iceland in January isn't as cold and dark as you might expect; composer Daniel Bjarnason and I spent a week together, not at all planning the artwork for his sophomore album, but just hanging out and getting to know each other. He invited me to take part in his life and make something of it, and such a warm welcome from him and his family made it almost balmy in the northernmost capital of the world. The artwork we arrived at fronts "Over Light Earth" and additional pieces can be seen inside and at the back.

Daniel Bjarnason
Released September 30, 2013 | Bedroom Community

You can read about, listen to, and purchase the album here: http://danielbjarnason.bandcamp.com/album/over-light-earth

LAUGHTER at Egbert Baque Contemporary, Berlin

A distended laugh--past the sound, the provocation, the reaction--is immutable. Close that mouth! A jaw propped open leaves a narrative door ajar, and the wind whistling through, oops, lifts up your skirt. Still no sound of laughter, though that silent outburst of a mouth ate up the whole scene, and I swear, the uvula is a hanging convex mirror which makes everything seem bigger, and you, red in the face. Focus on a blue drop in that painting, imagine it’s rain, cool off. We did see everything :) but we mix up your stories and improvise the rest.

Laughter ran from 13 September - 9 November, 2013