Interview &Translation / Alice Dong
1.Welcome to Xindanwei.com, you are the first digital artist featured in Xindanwei People! Would you mind to introduce yourself a bit?
Thanks for having me, my name is Bernard Bolter and I am originally from San Francisco. I started my interest in creating art through painting back in San Francisco in the early 90′s and that sparked my interest in traveling, especially to Europe, where I eventually attended art school in the town of Utrecht, the Netherlands. I was taking more fine art classes at the school, while I was there, but this is when my interest in computers and the possibility of digital art began and I taught my self photoshop and web design. In 2000, I left Holland and moved to New York City and lived for about five years. I bought my first digital camera and began working on a couple of different series of artworks, that combined digital photography and painting on to a single canvas. With a group of New York artists I knew, we formed a group called Art Collision and organized a traveling art exhibit and showed our work in New York, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, Baltimore, Austin and San Francisco. In time, I felt like returning to Europe and I moved to Amsterdam, where I eventually returned to school and attended the Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy. This time I stayed in Holland for about 5 years and in about 2008 I began work on my current project, the Digital City Series, which is my first completely digital undertaking. I am currently based back in San Francisco where I am working to show in Galleries and traveling, when I can, to photograph new cities for the series.
2.You’ve been working hard on the artwork and have had a couple exhibitions out here in San Francisco，Please elaborate a bit about it?
I currently have some pieces from the Digital City Series in a gallery in downtown San Francisco, Nieto Fine Art. There are a couple of large prints (4′ x 4′) and some small prints (16″ x 16″) in a group show there. The reception of the work has been really positive and this is probably the most established gallery I have shown in up until now, which is real exciting. And about two months ago I exhibited more of the series at a recently opened gallery in the city called Book & Job Gallery. This was my first solo show and I had 11 of the large format cites on display there. The exhibition was planned out to coincide with a Kickstarter campaign that I had launched and happened near the end of the funding cycle as a way to keep interest in the project going and help put the funding over the top at the end. It has all been real exciting and I am very pleased at the impact that the images had in the large format. It was always my intention to display them at the large size, but as it is digital work, the compositions are something that I’ve worked on a small screen for so long, it was nice to realize them at the intended size and see how they worked together.
3.Can you tell us about The Digital City Series, the photographic project of digitally constructed city portraits you launched? What prompted the idea for your project and what excited you to make you undertake it?
The Digital City Series is a project of mine that started in 2008 and is a series of composite city portraits from around the world. After I explore a city by skateboard and take as many panoramas of the city that I can get in, I eventually work out the composition on the computer and find up to three or four scenes that I can blend together into one seamless image. There are 25 compositions in the series so far. I think the idea for this project happened organically for me, and even though I didn’t fully realize it at the time, when I look back, it is a natural extension of all my previous work – even back to the time when I first started and would paint surrealistic landscapes with no training or schooling. I just decided to become a painter one day and started to paint, which has worked out in the end, but in my older years I wonder how I could have just thought that, but that’s the beauty of youth. The series, for me, has many layers and subtleties which have revealed themselves over time. On just the surface, I’ve had people see the work and really appreciate it, only to come back to another exhibition and realize that the work is not just one photograph, but a composite. I feel that it is through this kind of subtleness that you can create something that can give meaning and feeling to somebody each time they come back to the work. There are other layers I’ve discover, like how the compositions can have a universal appeal to people that have visited or are from each particular city and at the same time is a very personal journey of my life in the past 4 years. My original intention was to make a series of work that was at the same time beautiful and conceptual, which I feel is sometimes lacking in the art world today. Sometimes beauty is dismissed as being too easy in the art world and there becomes a separation between ‘art for the masses’ and ‘fine art’. On the other side, many people I meet that aren’t into the art scene, feel put off and excluded from art with a heavily conceptual base. In this world, it’s probably a hard path to try and please everybody, but I’ve had some really good responses to the work already from both sides of the fence.
4. We heard that you have gotten a Kickstarter project funded and coming to China to get some books made, would you be willing to share your thoughts and what are your future steps?
Yes I have and it has been one of the harder things I have done with my artwork. The way that you have to put yourself and your artwork out there in an all or nothing bid can be quite scary for an artist, but the response that I have gotten and being able to successfully fund the project has been really amazing. Kickstarter is not only a great way for an artist to raise money, which is important, but even more important for me, it’s a way to expand your reach and gain an international audience. Most of the support came from people that I know, but it was really amazing and inspiring that people from Europe and Australia pick up on the project. I am using the funding from the Kickstarter to make books from the series. The final intention of the series is the large format prints, but it will take time for me to find patrons that can afford the price of these prints and the books are a way for me to have an affordable item that people buy and support. This will allow me to take the large prints on a traveling exhibition, connecting back to the cities I’ve been to and visiting new ones in the process. I am currently in China looking to find a printer that can get the books made to satisfy my Kickstarter supporters. But I also want be able to print a larger run of books in the future and possibly be a book broker back in San Francisco for other artists that I think could benefit from this sort of art / business model.
5.Can you tell us about your coming joint exhibition in Shenzhen with a Chinese artist Da Huzi you met in the Da Fen Oil Painting VIllage and what you do for them?
After I started the series and had a couple of compositions under my belt, I was living in Amsterdam and heard about the Da Fen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen, China. Da Fen is famous for it’s copy artists and I said to myself, I got to check this out and get some of my compositions painted in oil. I’ve had a few of the compositions painted and results have varied, but the experience has been priceless. I met Da Huzi through some people I knew and he ended up painting my Venice image, which turned out really good. As I got to know him, he showed me some of his original art and I became an instant fan. I just respect somebody so much that can work making money with painting and still have the drive to make their own original work. I just hope that by us having an exhibition together, I can help him get more exposure for his work in the west. I will leave for Shenzhen soon to make this happen.
6. Thanks again for providing Xindanwei.com this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Just want to say thank you for the opportunity and thanks to the readers for checking out my project. Please feel free to contact me about anything, maybe some advice about a Kickstarter you would like to start or any questions about the Digital City Series. And in the end, if you happen to come across some dude skating through your town, jumping off his board, taking a bunch of pictures for a panorama, jumping back on the board and riding off down the street – you might just know whats thats all about now. Thanks again everybody.