The UT School of Art is pleased to be hosting Artist-in-Residence, Zahar Vaks for the fall of 2021. Zahar Vaks, (b.1983, Tashkent, Uzbekistan) Is a visual artist based in New York, NY. Vaks will be in Knoxville for four months.
Vaks presented an artist-in-residence lecture at the UT School of Art on Thursday, November 18, 2021, at 7:30 pm, Art & Architecture Building, Rm 109. Much of that lecture is available online.
Vaks emigrated from Uzbekistan to Philadelphia when he was young. His mother, a musician, encouraged him to play the violin, but his artistic understandings are better expressed through painting, video, and performance arts. He says, “Fluency in art is interactive and multiple levels of fluency inform each other.” He brings this vision to his teaching, which he sees as a conversation regarding painting practice, inspiring and reciprocal in nature.
He earned his BFA from Tyler School of Art, and his MFA from The Ohio State University. He has shown in New York, Philadelphia, Columbus, Las Vegas, Houston, Vienna, Beijing China, and on the island of Svalbard in Norway. In 2018 Zahar was invited to participate in the Rauschenberg Residency. He attended the Galveston Artist Residency from 2012-2013. Currently he is doing the UTK Artist in Residence program. He is a member of the Ortega y Gasset Projects (OyG), an artist-run curatorial collective and exhibition space in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Zahar Vaks lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His wife Nickola is also an artist.
You can find more information about Zahar Vaks’ practice and curatorial projects at www.zaharvaks.com .
“My painting is a constant search for alchemical empathy. Feeling deeply for the subjects of my painting. Empathy is a vital ingredient in the marinating, cooking, and writing that is present in my painting practice. I activate my materials to physically and intuitively merge with a relative subject narrative. For instance, organza can be stretched in a way that communicates a fragile ecology, or can physically capture a bellowing that feels like a breath. The way one touches, writes, draws, and applies paint bodies, can physically trigger a material narrative. This is what I call alchemical empathy. A cherry stem could be the figurative link to decoding a painting composition. Using cherry skins or fusing different kinds of fabric can help decipher the mysterious skin of the painting.
“Although my work is rooted in painting and drawing it is influenced by other modes of thinking and making. This includes the playing of the violin, cooking, impromptu rhyming in English and Russian, the manipulation of recorded moving images and sounds, the movement of my body, and collaborating with other artists, musicians and dancers. For example, playing the violin has a direct influence on my painting. The use of my gesture in painting is echoed in my use of vibrato, or the gusto of my sound. I am less fluent in my violin playing than I am in my painting just like I am less fluent in my use of the Russian language as opposed to English. However I am interested in the dialogue between these ways of creating and their various levels of fluency. The painting may have multiple speeds. A quick bold gesture can dissolve into a slow and subtle remnant. Moments of specificity are enmeshed with ambiguity. The presence and absence of structure plays a significant role in the construction of the forms and at times the conjuring of imagery.
“The paintings are material narratives actualized by a multi sensory approach to creating. Smell and touch are just as important as seeing the work. I pair traditional materials such as oil, tree sap balsams and pigments with ingredients used in cooking, such as beet powder and turmeric. This is another form of material narrative that is a direct way to address the relationship between painting and cooking along with my cultural identity. I am a Russian and Ukrainian Jew that was born in Tashkent Uzbekistan. This yields the potential for the viewer to empathize with me through the way they see, experience a sense of touch, and if they get close enough smell my painting.”
About the Artist-in-Residence in Painting & Drawing
The Artist-in-Residence Program was initiated in 1982. Each semester an invited resident artist teaches both undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in the painting and drawing curriculum. The AIR program has been highly successful in making a direct connection to the marketplace of ideas that surrounds art centers such as New York City, Chicago, and LA. The artists we bring to campus represent a spectrum of current sensibilities in painting and drawing holding sway in the art world today.
The AIR is integral to the core of the graduate student and undergraduate student experience and adds significantly to the vitality and vibrancy of the dialectic engaged by the various faculty and students of the School of Art.