Sign Up

Join the Tappan family and stay connected to the art world, including invitations to exclusive events and early access to unparalleled emerging art.

Studio Visit - Ethan Caflisch

Studio Visit - Ethan Caflisch

Studio Visit with Ethan Caflisch

Ethan Caflisch is an Oakland based artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture, photography, art direction and design. Across all disciplines, his work explores the beauty of raw materials and is personified by bold linear and organic forms, interspersed by a graphic use of color. His arts education began at California College of the Arts, where he graduated with an Individualized Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Visual Studies Minor in 2015. His practice continues to evolve through constant exploration of color and materials, being featured in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the US.

Q.

Tell us about this your body of work launching on Tappan...

A.

The broad-stroke, common threads are communication and relationship. Those words exist in the physical forms and on the surface design of my work. My attempt to balance communication and relationship in the work extends into the studio, and hopefully into the gallery and beyond. I want these same words to come through with the viewer’s response to seeing them.


It feels right to describe my work as being conceived by a designer’s brain and executed by a sculptor’s hands, as everything is heavily planned out, even down to the order in which I make pieces.

 

Q.

Describe your work in three words....

A.

Material, process, form.

Q.

What is your creative process?

A.

New pieces are always based off of things I’ve made before, my practice as a whole is a constant motion forward. I do a lot of sketching and take lots of photos (both film and digital). There are a lot of tactile thoughts leading to a decision of what to make, which usually stems from looking at my material inventory. The decision of what to create goes two ways, either “i should make a piece from this stuff.” or “i wish i had that stuff to make this piece.” My process from there is very standard, with a twist of design - more sketching, some color studies, making various maquettes, making tweaks with Photoshop or SketchUp, and active problem-solving while making the actual final piece.

 

There are two important aspects of my practice that are different from a lot of other artists - I always finish the piece I’m working on and I never start a new piece until the piece I’m working on is finished.

 

What is your life philosophy?

"I’ve long been drawn to, and still constantly remind myself of H.D. Thoreau’s quote “rather than love, than money, than fame; give me truth.” I think this is a crucial mentality to have as an artist, and any other profession; that success, by any definition, will be found in making honest work."

Q.

Your artistic practice was originally rooted in ceramics. What motivated  you to move towards painting?

A.

That’s true, and always kind of a shocking reminder as I rarely work with that material anymore. The story with that is my ceramic work gradually moved from function over form, to form over function. It all started clicking when my sculptures began feeling equally as painterly as they were sculptural. I then started introducing painting techniques and materials that I had been observing from a distance, which eventually turned into pieces that looked more like paintings. I still think that my work is very sculptural; it’s definitely about the object itself, not just the surface treatment I provide. You really have to see the work in person and see the depth and care I put into creating a 3-dimensional object.

    

Q.

What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?

A.

The work is made to be enjoyed, it’s supposed to be a beautiful object. So, I hope that my audience takes a minute to breathe with it. I hope it conveys a curiosity, an appreciation; anything really. If I’m able to make a piece that creates some engagement, it’s a successful piece.

 

Q.

Your work often feels pared-back and almost minimalist. What drew you to develop this aesthetic?

A.

I love the challenge, for sure. It’s really difficult to make work that says a lot with a little.

 

Also, making work is an inevitable reflection of one’s self. I make work that feels like me, and work that I enjoy while reminding myself that whatever aesthetic is there now won’t totally be there in the future. It should be a life-long development and gradual/continuous exploratory growth.

 

At the same time, I discipline myself to resist trends. I am making work for now, but I also want the work to be relevant in the future and historically.

 

Q.

How do you approach color?

A.

I’m very particular about everything, but especially my color palette. My simple approach to color is leaving the material as its natural self, which applies to most of my work but not where I’m applying paint.

 

I actually fell out of color for a while and just got back into it last year, so painting with color still feels pretty fresh to me. It was a conscious decision to reintroduce color. I took a really simple, practical approach in retraining myself in color theory. I was looking at a lot of other people’s work and extracting specific colors to make new compositions that was all about primary/secondary color relationships.

 

With my current paintings in color, I do a lot of sketching on paper and in photoshop. I find it much easier looking at the virtually infinite color wheel than my collection of paints; even though I mix my own colors. As I’m working through color, I’m also working through the form of the final piece. Then, hopefully it’s as simple as enlarging the sketch (but it never is).

 

Q.

Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?

A.

The equation a(b) + b(a) = ab, which doubles as my artist statement. Conceptually, it’s accurate to how I approach my work.

 

Q.

How do you approach color?

A.

I want my work to live in the present-tense, I’m not interested in making nostalgic paintings.

 

Q.

Your body of work incorporates many different materials. What attracts you to working with so many diverse, tactile elements?

A.

Material is one of the three key variables in my work. It’s where I begin and it’s often is the focal point to the piece itself. I like the physical and mental relationship of working, knowing which processes work with certain materials and also breaking the rules (which sometimes results in breaking my tools).

 

I am attracted to the natural form of material, often leaving it as its unaltered self; for example, I almost always leave my canvas raw and unprimed.

 

Q.

Where do you find inspiration from in your daily life?

A.

I have a pretty mathematically-based brain, so I’m attracted to various types of structure. It’ll sound pretty cliché, but music is vital in my practice; language as well. I keep a running archive of weird things I hear other people say and often use those sentences to title my work.

 

Q.

How does modern culture influence your work?

A.

This is a subject that I am constantly grappling with, especially now. I often feel the necessity to make very political work. But, I feel like my place in the discourse is to make work that feels like a break, something to enjoy, something to ease yourself with, and reflect upon.

 

Aside from that, maybe less importantly and not a surprise, I draw heavy and direct inspiration from fashion, film, food, music, etc… I’m constantly translating other talented people’s work into ideas I can use in my own.

 

Q.

Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?

A.

Agnes Martin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Cy Twombly, Isamu Noguchi, Käthe Kollwitz.

 

Q.

What is your life philosophy?

A.

Yikes.

 

I’ve long been drawn to, and still constantly remind myself of H.D. Thoreau’s quote “rather than love, than money, than fame; give me truth.” I think this is a crucial mentality to have as an artist, and any other profession; that success, by any definition, will be found in making honest work.

 

Q.

What art would you love to have in your own collection?

A.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with this roughly-sawn wooden 5-piece puzzle from the early 1900s depicting a human head. Immigrants coming through Ellis Island needed to complete in order to enter the country. It’s far from anatomically correct, and the brain is represented by a square. It’s a weird, questionable, but beautiful object.

 

Q.

What makes you laugh?

A.

Consistently? Seinfeld, always.

 

Q.

What makes you nervous?

A.

Time off.

 

Q.

What makes you excited about the future?

A.

That I’m not where I will be.

About Ethan Caflisch

Ethan Caflisch work explores the beauty of raw materials and is personified by bold linear and organic forms, interspersed by a graphic use of color.

 

Read More

Explore

Be it two or three dimensional, descriptive, implied or abstract, the use of form, line and shape go beyond mere geometry.

 

Explore Now

Calabria Calabria
Calabria
Regular price $ 1,100.00 Sold
Marina at Sunset Marina at Sunset
Marina at Sunset
Regular price $ 1,000.00 Sold
Spending The Night in a Different Bed VII Spending The Night in a Different Bed VII
Spending The Night in a Different Bed VII
Regular price $ 2,000.00 Sold
Spending The Night in a Different Bed XII Spending The Night in a Different Bed XII
Spending The Night in a Different Bed XII
Regular price $ 1,700.00 Sold
I Can't Wait to be With You Forever I Can't Wait to be With You Forever
I Can't Wait to be With You Forever
Regular price $ 5,700.00 Sold
Quartering Quartering
Quartering
Regular price $ 400.00 Sold
Floating on the Fox River Floating on the Fox River
Floating on the Fox River
Regular price $ 1,700.00
Windward Windward
Windward
Regular price $ 350.00 Sold
Reaching for the Jib Reaching for the Jib
Reaching for the Jib
Regular price $ 4,000.00 Sold
Learning to Float I Learning to Float I
Learning to Float I
from $ 300.00 Sold
Learning to Float II Learning to Float II
Learning to Float II
from $ 300.00 Sold
Untitled (Marigold on white) Untitled (Marigold on white)
Untitled (Marigold on white)
from $ 325.00

About Ethan Caflisch

Ethan Caflisch is an Oakland based artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture, photography, art direction and design. Across all disciplines, his work explores the beauty of raw materials and is personified by bold linear and organic forms, interspersed by a graphic use of color. His arts education began at California College of the Arts, where he graduated with an Individualized Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Visual Studies Minor in 2015. His practice continues to evolve through constant exploration of color and materials, being featured in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the US.

STATEMENT

“My practice is a constant forward motion. I am solving the equation a(b) + b(a) = ab. The variables are time-based relations to material, process, and form.” - Ethan Caflisch

  

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITION

2017, Needles and Pens Gallery, San Francisco, California

2017, Summer Show

2017, Cheryl Hazan Gallery, New York, New York

2017, Mind Control with Nook Gallery at Alter Space, San Francisco, California

2017, We need to talk, Petzel Gallery, New York, New York

2016,  The Realreal, 79 Greene, New York, New York

2016, Alma Mater, Hubbell Street Galleries, San Francisco, California

2016Dia De Los Muertes, Esqueleto, Los Angeles, California

2016, Goop Mrkt, Frank Lloyd Wright’s V.C. Morris Gift Shop, San Francisco, California

2016, Making Our Mark, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California

2016, 23 | 85 (with Jim Melchert), a.Muse Gallery, San Francisco, California

2017, Show #1, Nook Gallery, Oakland, California

2017, Swimmer Streaker (Chris Sollars Performance) Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California

2015, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, California

2015, Written | Read Relations, Compound Gallery, Oakland, California

2015, Baccalaureate Exhibition, Center Gallery, San Francisco, California

2014, Louie Meager Art Gallery, Fremont, California

2014, Water Works, Center Gallery, San Francisco, California

2014, CCACA 26 Davis, California

 

PUBLICATIONS

2016, Making Our Mark

2016, Richmond Art Center

2016, Palpable Space John Held, JR. SFAQ

2016, Under the Radar ArtSlant Interntional

2016, Elysian Redux, Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York, NY Pink and Green, Eddy’s Room, New York, NY

2015, Locality and Global Discourses Catalog Cumhuriyet Museum, Istanbul, Turkey Center Gallery, San Francisco, California

2014, Material Volume 3, Oakland, California

 

 

RESIDENCIES

2017, Independent Residency. Los Altos Hills, California

2014, One Day Residency (Curated by Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo) Guitar Shop Gallery, Oakland, California

2013, Lecturer, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI Coordinator of Visiting Artists for Painting and Drawing Area.

 

COMMISSIONS

2012-2014, James Rowland Shop, Berkeley, California

 

AWARDS

2015, The Third 2015 Showcase Juried Winner - Sculpture ArtSlant Worldwide

2015Clyde and Co. Art Award. Clyde and Co. San Francisco and Hang Art

2014, All College Honors, Ralls Painting Scholarship California College of the Arts

2012, Excellence in Student Leadership California College of the Arts

2011, Full-Merit, Fine Art Scholarship California College of the Arts