An Interview with Artist Astrid Fitzgerald

August, 2007

Born and educated in Switzerland, Astrid Fitzgerald has been living in New York City since 1961. After a year at the Art Students League and encouraged by an award for her design for the New Yorker Theater mural competition in 1971, she began her career painting large geometric canvases and subsequently acquired skills in printmaking at Pratt Institute. Her work has been shown in 21 solo exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States, and has been included in over 40 juried and group exhibitions. Fitzgerald’s work is represented in many public, private and corporate collections, among them: the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CN; Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA; Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY; Lehman Brothers, NYC; the New York Stock Exchange, NYC; Rockefeller Center Collection, NYC; DiGiacomo Architects, NYC; Credit Suisse, NYC; I.M. Pei & Partners, NYC; PES Architects, Nagoya, Japan; and the Chase Manhattan Collection, NYC. Site-specific installations include IBM, Marcel Breuer Building, Boca Raton, FL; UBS Securities, NYC; Ridgeway Corporation, Atlanta, GA; and Kindercare Corporation, Montgomery, AL. An installation by Fitzgerald was selected to represent the US at the Artcanal exposition in Le Landeron, Switzerland in 2002. She has lectured on the golden mean proportion in art, and is the author of An Artist’s Book of Inspiration—A Collection of Thoughts on Art, Artists, and Creativity (Lindisfarne Books, 1996) and Being Consciousness Bliss—A Seeker’s Guide (Lindisfarne Books, 2002).

Julie Karabenick: Your art takes up a quest that was of key importance to the pioneers of abstraction—Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, Kupka and others—a search for fundamental truths that lie behind the visible world of contingency and change.

Astrid Fitzgerald: Yes, I still look to these great artists and thinkers and try to aspire to their ideals. Kandinsky especially is one of my greatest inspirations. He wrote, “Abstract painting leaves behind the ‘skin’ of nature, but not its laws. Let me use the ‘big words’ cosmic laws. Art can only be great if it relates directly to cosmic laws and is subordinated to them.”

Construction 264
Construction 264, encaustic on wood,
41 x 41 x 2.5 cm (16 x 16 x 1 in), 2005

I believe that the more universal, the more primal the thought, the more powerfully it will speak to the harmony within each human being. To me, painting is a spiritual pursuit—a means to self-knowledge not much different from actively engaging in a spiritual exercise or a monastic way of life. This does not mean that I’m not deeply affected by the chaos and injustice all over the world. But rather than depicting the chaos, I aim to hint at the order and the good underlying appearances.

Construction 112
Construction 112, casein on wood,
86 x 79 x 8 cm (34 x 31 x 3 in), 1990

Some of my works suggest the underlying order and symmetry of the universe as revealed in physics and astronomy.

Quantum XXVI
Quantum XXVI, pastel on paper,
91 x 76 cm (36 x 30 in), 1995

Others have explored by means of illusionism the insubstantiality of matter.

Construction 124
Construction 124, oil on wood, 81 x 94 x 5 cm (32 x 37 x 2 in), 1991

My overall aim is always to express the subtle shifts from depth to surface, from the insubstantial to the concrete, from emptiness to fullness, from inner to outer realities, but always questioning the apparent solidity of matter, surface and material.

JK: Throughout your career your work has featured geometric shapes.

AF: Yes, geometry has always been an important element in my work, except in some of my earliest paintings in which color took precedence. Most of my work explores traditional modernist aesthetic concerns. It is characterized by simple geometric elements, hinting at the universal rather than the personal and not inviting associations in the viewer—just an appreciation of what is seen or experienced in the moment.

Construction 114
Construction 114, oil on wood, 64 x 99 x 20 cm (25 x 39 x 8 in), 1990

JK: Via a modern visual aesthetic, you also present a fresh take on the profound insights and discoveries of ancient civilizations.

AF: I’ve always turned to the Ancient Wisdom Tradition to satisfy my quest for reality. The Ancient Wisdom Tradition, often referred to as the Perennial Philosophy, points to the unity of metaphysical truth in all teachings as revealed in philosophical discourses and ancient texts. It aims to reformulate the age-old dictums: to know thyself, God, the nature of the universe, and our place in the creation.

This tradition stands in stark contrast to modern religions, which are based on believing and obeying a Church-appointed authority. The Perennial Philosophy, on the other hand, invites the seeker to observe, to question, to explore the Self within, and to have a direct relationship with divinity.

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