Known for his hyperrealistic renditions with ink and watercolour and washes of tropical palm trees through venetian shades, Brooklyn-based painter Evan Gruzis creates iconic, cinematic pieces which slot indelibly into the subconscious like the memory of an endless summer. His newest show Alpha Wave – at Berlin’s DUVE gallery – explored some of the human brain’s peculiar and bewildering processes. He chatted with Wonderland about it.

You have said before that you like to bring theatre into your work as much as possible. How did this apply in Alpha Waves?

The video installation “Television” is based on reflected light, there is ambience going on with that. And then there is the wallpaper we did of a photograph of a television screen, which is this blue nothing screen. But also my works are meditative now, so the show plays with theatre but it also verges on pure abstract minimalism. I mean minimalism is pretty theatrical if you think about it.

The newer pieces are a step away from your other work, which explored 80s symbolism, film noir, tropical palm trees and venetian blinds. This Alpha Wave series, is very explicit in what it examines: the phsycio-mediatative state and the limbo between somnolence and closing your eyes.

The new body of work is an abstraction into these broader psycho-physiological themes. The pallete is still the same, even some of the compositions – like the frame within a frame. The stripes come directly from the venetian blind pieces. I’m trying to build on the stuff I’ve done already, but drain out the cultural signifiers – taking some of those images out opens up a space for a more phenomelogical reading of the work. My fascination with this subject matter comes from an interest in theatre. I’m looking at screen media, cinema and television as an analogue for perception, like our field of vision – the fundamentals of perception and how that relates to simple stuff, like colour, like the colour of the inside of your eyelids.

What do you think defines our present western culture, as members of the internet age?

Culture is just going to change modalities. The way we exchange information will change, but culture will stay the same. Just the way we perceive culture will change, because we have access to the past, we have access to so much information. It almost brings an equiminity to the importance of all images. Something that I was trying to get out of my earlier works was street and advertisement imagery, the seductive imagery is the same importance as the art historical painting. Here is this cultural consumerism and unfulfilled desires, the Western culture, and that void is a beautiful thing. Culture is reaching a new level of self-awareness.

This was your first time working on such a large scale – pieces such as “Verge” and “Array” are 172 x 126 cm each. How did you find this change?

I loved it and want to work bigger. The issue is the weight of the support structure versus the size of the paper. I can only manipulate something that is a certain size and weight. I have been waiting to do it and finally I took that stab – then these abstract stripe images occured to me. ActualIy, I don’t even want to call this abstraction because stripes aren’t abstract. The work relates so much to screen media and so closely to my other work. It is not pure abstraction. As far as future works, I never know, I’m just going to keep going.

Words: Irina Makarova