Text by Tiny Diapana
Photos By Ernest Diño
“The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” — Walt Whitman
AS a creative force to reckon with, Charles Lahti and his credentials as an artist can draw in both wide-eyed veneration and intimidation. Lahti has been an essential part of the New York art community for more than 30 years, working with other American art giants like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, LeRoy Neiman and Donald Judd. However, while it’s rather easy to find ones’ self flustered when coming across Lahti and his highly experimental prints, the artist exudes nothing but passion, humility and openness to others once engaged in discussion.
Talking with Lahti about latest prints and his experience as an artist back during his most recent solo exhibit, “Goldenrod,” in 856 G Gallery in Cebu, the artist shows nothing but expressed kindness and most importantly, a passion for learning.
According to Lahti arrogance built over fame does nothing but limit an artist’s potential for growth. Openness allows him to constantly reshape his art and bring forth something new. For example, “Goldenrod,” which started last Jan. 6 and runs until Feb. 10, is a series built on his background in pop and prints, mixing both with his current ventures with minimalism. Warm and dynamic, the pieces in the exhibit permeate an organic tone as it mixes in together these three different artistic schools of thought.
After an engaging discussion during the “Goldenrod” exhibit, Sunstar was able to discuss further with the giant painter and printmaker about his artistic processes, his plans for the future and of course his advice to young artists in the local scene.
TD: You said during our chat that the new batch of pieces exhibited at 856 Gallery is a mix of your background in pop, prints and your recent dabbles with minimalism. What has influenced your work the most in the Golden Rod pieces? What stands out the most?
CL: That in creating the works, it was almost effortless. It was as if the paint walked off my brush and had a mind of its own.
This show began two years ago from work that had arrived at a dead end. It needed a change and then I waited. When 856 G Gallery approached me at the beginning of December 2016, I really wanted to do this show. It provided me with the impetus to complete what I had started. I would arrive at the studio, mind you, I’m only talking about six minutes spread out over eight sessions (much as an actor would prepare for a role) once I stepped into the studio, mixed my paint, grabbed my brush, I simply let it lead me.
Much to my surprise upon arriving in Cebu and finding the works all laid out in its entirety, I was totally shocked that I had managed to take all these disparate themes, sources and experiences that created an amalgam that was balanced across my entire inspirational platform. To answer your question, the ease and intense energy it took to make these was what stood out the most in my recollection.
You’ve had so much experience working and exhibiting your pieces in New York and so many different parts of the world. What has helped you grow the most as an artist?
As I had learned early on when I was still studying Printmaking at the University of Minnesota under Zigmunds Priede, who on my senior year offered me a New Yorkbound ticket to work on a printing project, always saying “yes” and being available to what comes my way, has made me realize that one needs to be unafraid of the future.
What inspires you? What’s your artistic process or your routine as an artist?
Again it’s that old six months + six minutes thing. I wait for the right moment, the right time, to ponder then finish the work.
One of my early mentors, Abstract Expressionist painter Mary Abbot, taught me, use movement to express feeling. I like work where I can see an artist’s uncloaked emotions and I try to take off my coat. Rarely does it happen but when it does it is seemingly effortless but it takes a whole life to get there.
What’s the next project that you’d like to focus on following Goldenrod and your live exhibit at 856 G Gallery on the 30th?
My conversations in Cagayan de Oro near the end of the month and my show at the Negros Museum on February 10 where all my sales proceeds benefit the museum are next in line. I’m also working on a series of paintings that I hope to show in Sweden and Finland towards the end of this year and I am also awaiting my next idea. Fortunately for me I have enough ideas to keep me going till I’m a hundred and fifty, God willing… but another really few good years would do.
Do you have any words of advice to give aspiring artists out there?
Live your life. Be in touch with your feelings, both good and not so good. Look for art every day, it can be a painting in the museum, or it can be the way a plant grows out of a crack in the street. Be kind, listen and approach every day as a gift. If you don’t make money at art, take up a job you believe in and keep creating in your spare time and the answer and opportunities will come. Just be open enough to recognize them.