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Paintings in Motion: An Interview with Ezra Wube

Trevor Harrington is a Visual Arts Curatorial Intern from Bennington College, who is at Wave Hill for the college’s seven-week winter semester, helping the Visual Arts staff with the Winter Workspace program and other projects.

Ezra Wube’s video works reference mobility, time and place through autobiography. In these time-based paintings, shot as stop-motion animations, he often explores the idea of belonging to two worlds. According to the artist, “as an immigrant, one can never be fully part of the present or the past.” He attempts to reconcile these in-between spaces by connecting multiple realities, places and moments in time through the dynamism of painted imagery. During Wave Hill’s Winter Workspace 2016, Wube explores notions of perception that diverge from his usual anthropocentric subject matter, in an animation short based on studies of Wave Hill’s local plants, insects and animals and how they “perceive” their surroundings.Wube-studio-shot

Trevor Harrington: What influences impact your work as an artist?

Ezra Wube: I feel like my work is influenced by my own biography—born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Living in one household for 18 years. And moving to the U.S. Living here in more than 10 rental apartments in six states! Time has also changed, since Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar, which is seven years behind the Gregorian calendar.

Due to these experiences, time and place are no longer fixed for me. My medium has also migrated from static painting into time-based painting—animation. I use a narrative or storytelling as the means to reconcile these fragmentations. I strive to create a continuous dialogue, negotiating between past/present, here/there, traditional (painting)/modern (digital).

TH: How long have you been working on stop-motion animations projects, and how have you developed this medium over time?

EW: I have been working in animation for almost 10 years. In my current animation project I’m only focusing on “non- anthropocentric” subjects, studying and imagining how natural elements relate with their surroundings. Compositionally, I’m also using organically shaped frames for my scenes. Both are new explorations for me.Wube-work-one

TH: How have your earlier projects influenced current ones?

EW: I think of all of my work as a continuous chain from one to the next. With each project I intend to develop earlier thoughts and introduce new ones. Basically there is no finished or final work.

TH: What is your process?

EW: My process involves walks and study-sketches of everyday elements, but mainly I process the actual work itself. Each project is like a stranger you just met and you are getting to know. I try to progress my earlier thoughts and practices by setting new challenges. These challenges can be different types of limitations on colors, scale, form or materials.

TH: Can you describe some of the technical aspects of making your stop-motion animations?

EW: I paint a scene and after I’ve completed the image, I take a picture with my camera which is then connected to the computer. Then I paint the next scene on top of the painting that I have already photographed, and I repeat the steps of painting and photographing until I am fully satisfied with all the images that I have captured over a certain period of time. Finally, I upload them all into a program and edit them together to create a seamless sequence of images that creates an illusion of movement, just based the changes and continuities that vary from frame to frame.Wube-work-two

TH: What’s next for you?

EW: I’m thrilled to be selected for the upcoming Open Sessions program at the Drawing Center! [Open Sessions is a program at the Drawing Center for artists to find new approaches for contextualizing and exhibiting their work, through conversation, public programs and gallery installations.]

Ezra Wube will be leading a workshop, Animation with Paint and Natural Materials, this Sunday, February 7, 1–4PM. Participants meet in Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery. Register online or at the Perkins Visitor Center.

Pictured above, from the top:
Ezra Wube in his Winter Workspace studio, 2016. Courtesy of Wave Hill.
Ezra Wube, At the Same Moment, 2013. Stop-motion animation, paint on a single canvas, 2:57. Courtesy of the artist.
Ezra Wube, Zemed, 2012. Photography with cut out photograph, 11” x 17”. Courtesy of the artist.

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