Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Charles Shedden, a.k.a. OWVBICS (don’t try to pronounce it; that’s part of the fun), has been creating abstract/surrealist art for over a decade on mediums as diverse as paper, wood, paneling, skateboard decks and even video. His works encompass an array of styles, too, everything from calculated conceptual investigations to dissolving illusions and stylized female figures. He’s even delved into formats like sculpture and language/writing.
Saratoga Living recently caught up with Shedden/OWVBICS on a trip up to Saratoga Springs for the races.
Before we get into the art questions, what has been like visiting Saratoga during Travers Weekend?
Travers Weekend is fantastic! I stayed at the Batcheller Mansion Inn, an excellent bed and breakfast, and ate at Chianti’s one evening. I had a few companions as local neighborhood escorts, watched and bet at the horse races and picnicked in Saratoga State Park. It was perfect weather in late August! People-watching at its best. I can’t stand returning [to Brooklyn], having scarcely started to explore Saratoga Springs.
Your color palette is exquisite. How do you choose what hues to work with in your art?
I try not to overthink what I’m doing when it comes to color. Color is very much a call and response, an improvisational balancing act within my work. I feel like “thinking” about color can be an impediment, but I also guess “not thinking” has come from years of trial, error and confidence-building. Another trick is utilizing the supplies at hand; this is a great way not to let materials go to waste, and it always leads to exciting proportions and combinations.
Do you feel a connection with the female figures in your work?
When I started my artistic pursuit, there was piles of horrible work. I began making progress, developing confidence and learning what I was doing when I started copying the figures from my sister’s fashion magazines. I would jump at the beginning and draw every figure from front to back on computer paper—hundreds of drawings turned into thousands. I’ve continued with the female figure off and on, as nostalgia or as a constant in my work; when I can’t think of what to work on, need to clear my head or limber up, I paint figures. I don’t always paint figures, but when I do, they are female. Typically, I’ll paint one male figure a year to be ridiculous, satisfy a commission or just by accident.
What is your specific process when it comes to line drawings? They look very complex!
There are two mainline drawings/paintings, the Mega Million and the Square Mile. The Mega Million is a series of 1,000 horizontal and 1,000 vertical lines, which multiplies out to 1,000,000 intersections or partitions of space. The Square Mile drawings are 5,280 feet of line, or exactly a mile. In both disciplines, I am producing something that is actual, something that is a million partitions/intersections or a mile-long line—an artwork that doesn’t employ representation, illusion or rendering: Actualism/Is-ism, the terms I coined to describe this body of work. [There’s] nothing to interpret. Initially, my goal was to see what 1,000,000 somethings looked like. Eventually, I realized art is always acting to represent. Abstract art represents idea/emotion; photorealistic painting renders an illusion; the body of my work that deals with lines/grids removes an aspect of art-making that is so fundamental [because] it’s completely overseen. We are looking at and interpreting vague illusions when we look at artwork. This isn’t a bad thing; I make this type of work, too. The idea behind both of these works is so complex that it returns [you] back to the basics. Like water that is so hot, it registers as cold. Most often, the resulting works are appreciated for the images they make, not the idea behind them.
How do you stay focused?
By working on several pieces at a time: different styles, different ideas. Consistently producing [works] keeps me thinking, keeps me moving. Diversity of interest helps. I get tired of one style and reinvigorated by another, so I’m perpetually feeling the rush of finishing work and the excitement of starting another. Part of art is shutting your thinking brain off and letting things glide. “Don’t think, feel”…Bruce Lee’s perfect summary. While I’m painting a figure, I’m not thinking about the figure at all. I’m thinking about a sculpture or text piece that’s months away from even being started. Think of anything but the constitution.
What has been your best platform to showcase your art? Galleries? Social media? Online?
Galleries, social media, the street, word of mouth: They all have their place. I also prefer to speak with whomever is buying/collecting/looking at my artwork whenever possible. There is always so much to explain and share within a piece. That’s a huge benefit of dealing directly, having studio visits once again or even conversing over email/DM with the inquisitive. The more I speak about my work, the more I learn about what I’m doing and what I’m going to be doing, which is hugely beneficial. Say yes to everything you have time for.
Where do you go to find inspiration outside of the city?
I love going to beaches—as many as possible. If I can swim, I’m happy. I love to rock scramble…by water, even better. I love Upstate New York; it’s giant and filled with so many unique spots and feels endless. Even when returning to a familiar place, I try not to take the same route.
What unique characteristics best describe your work?
Most of my work is highly calculated, but most of that stems from the next whim. I think and work in binary, so there will be intelligent pieces balanced with the asinine. Attempting to understand or learn from both sides, never really coming to a conclusion, just participating on both sides. Whim. Changing directions. Contradiction. Humor. Binary.
If you could have a studio anywhere, where would it be?
I have a pretty ideal situation now; my studio is a half a block from where I live in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It could be closer—a quarter of a block—but that’s about it. The City is an ideal place to work; it’s as distracting as you let it be. Brooklyn is driving distance to almost everywhere I need/like to go: It’s close to the beach, close to the woods, close to plenty of places I’m still discovering. I love working at home, too. I have pieces going on at the studio, and then always a little something taking place at home. I’m content with my setup, which is probably rare.
When are you coming back to Saratoga?
ASAP! I love it here. I would love to see Saratoga in the fall or winter.