Brett Diemer at ETO
LA's Arts District is changing and signs are all around. Many of the buildings once dedicated to artistic endeavors have either been converted into luxury condominiums or are being replaced with resort living complexes. This is a common discussion amongst district locals who often wonder how the neighborhood changes will affect the Arts. Hauser & Wirth gallery is openly growing on 3rd St.; however, directly across the road hangs a banner which reads, "Stop evicting artists."
"It's only a matter of time until this building is bought by some developer and turned into high-priced luxury lofts," says artist slash Arts District resident, Brett Diemer. Standing in the middle of his studio at ETO building on Mateo and 6th, we must say— the concrete floor, exposed pillars and large factory window with a skyline view do seem like Real Estate selling points. "Until then, I'm going to stay right here," he returns with a smile.
Brett gave us a brief tour before our interview began. It's clear to see that his space is in full production; the walls are stacked deep with completed works and new endeavors abound. Brett doesn't seem too worried about the developing tide... in fact, he's thriving. Taking a seat, we begin by asking:
How did you arrive at painting?
I always tell this joke that my goal in life is to make time pass as quickly as possible. In college, I was a creative writing major with a fashion minor. I always knew I could be a good writer, but not a great writer; and the fashion world moved way too fast for me.
I was stressed out the whole time! Mostly what I learned in college was what I didn't want to do...
My senior year I took an art class. For my first painting assignment I noticed that time went by really quickly, like, in this calm and exciting way. That really meant something. Afterwards, I sunk into a flow that- looking back on it now, means so much to me. I just couldn’t ignore Art's impact on my life. I thought to myself, “If you miss this opportunity you might not see it again.”
Why do you want to be an Artist?
Art has totally defined me.
Right away, you notice a few distinctive themes emerging from Brett's work. First— a blend of painting, sculpture and collage. "I do call my recent works collages, but it’s more about how I form the paper on the piece, rather than a focus on the printed image," clarifies Brett. The paintings come out to meet you in a burst of texture and color; as well, their tactile surfaces certainly do make you want to reach out and give it a poke. "What I’m trying to implement is a desire to touch the piece, which is so taboo in the art world! All my work is meant to be touched."
Another is canvas sanding in substitution of brush stroking in order to reveal images and patterns behind its frame. "With these sanded pieces I’m trying to emulate the artists that I really admire," says Brett. "I’ve always loved Mark Rothko. He really did something so simple that nobody else can capture. I wanted to try it my way; however, it’s almost like I'm erasing the idea of Rothko while producing a Rothko." Personally, we were drawn to these pieces because of their clean execution in addition to a strong attention to detail. Wanting to better understand how Brett views his process, we ask him:
What themes do you see in your artwork?
I have found, in my work, that I have a strong gesture for erasing. I build these constructs and then sand them down, or I start with a blank canvas and erase them away. I really like sanding. I don’t know why. It gets my gears going. The aspect of tearing, ripping, cutting and sanding has become a major focus. I kind of rough the piece up a little bit. I consider them precious but I don’t consider them fragile.
I’ve always been focused on the French definition of collage, which means, to glue. Glue is in almost every single one of my works, except for the blank canvases. Even if it’s just a painting I’ve probably mixed it with glue because I love glue!
Is there something about being downtown?
Like every kid from Malibu, you eventually move to LA because Malibu is more family oriented and not really for people in their 20s and 30s. I looked into Venice, but I couldn’t afford a studio there. I knew that the Arts District was down here and I just wanted to immerse myself in something. I love how Downtown is always changing, always developing, always growing and it's really nice to be a part of it. I really hope I can make my name on the neighborhood and city at large.
Ultimately, is your family supportive?
They are Art Collectors, so, they actually got me into the art world. My dad was the one that told me I should be an artist. We put my work up in the house and my parents would have people over... doing their whole Art Collector dinners that they do. Nobody would know that the work they were viewing was their son's. They would just say that the pieces were from this LA artist who’s not really known. I was really surprised to hear what a great reception they got. I figured, 'Maybe I actually have something.'
Does it feel strange to tell people that you’re an artist?
You mean because everybody is an artist or a photographer? Lol! I’ve always wanted to be taken seriously in life but after reflecting on myself, I realized that I wasn’t giving people the opportunity to take me seriously. When I first started telling people that I’m an artist they were kind of like, “Ok, sure, you have fun doing that.” After awhile, they would see my work and have this surprised look. In a way, it’s kind of insulting, but I always viewed it as a compliment.
I love proving people wrong.
In contrast, a plethora of large corporations (and/or big money investors) are descending on all of #DTLA. Warner Bros. Music Group is relocating to the corner of 7th and Santa Fe, and we've all heard about the anticipated arrival of SoHo house on that very same street. Even independent coffee roaster Stumptown has been purchased by Peet's Coffee! As Charlie Brown might say, "Good grief, our city has gone commercial!"
Seemingly the only solid solution for independent artists, or business owners, is dedication, talent, persistence and hard work.
Let's prove people wrong, as Brett Diemer boldly proclaims.