Howard Podeswa is a Toronto-based artist. Over the past 24 years, he’s exhibited in Capetown, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto. His 2011 show at Wynick/Tuck Gallery “Sole of a Shoe” presented three generations of painters–Howard, his father Yidel Podeswa and his father’s father Chaim Pinchas Podeszwa.
All of my work, over the past couple of shows, has been about copying. I’ve been interested in what makes an original versus a copy and why we’re so obsessed with copyright and does an artist always have to be an original and my whole relationship to tradition and everybody’s relationship to it. It started when I saw Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” and I was so shaken by that piece that I had to copy it. That’s what got me going and since then I’ve just been moving forward in history.
I worked my way up to my father, who’s an artist, and I opened myself up to his influence. Instead of rigidly saying, ‘I’m going to be an original so I’m not going to hear anything,’ I started taking lessons from him. All my years growing up, I never asked him for a lesson and he was blown away that I actually asked him. A month before the show “Sole of a Shoe“, he was diagnosed with cancer, inoperable, and I realized if I was going to learn something, it would have to be now.
My father taught me to really look. My tendency is to be a little wilder and to be unrestricted and to rebel against any type of restriction. I’ve always been like that and he wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t have any wild stuff that I couldn’t justify. I learned to be very careful and loose in a jazz way–where you’re still loose but it’s very precise at the same time. I couldn’t do the work I’m doing now without having those lessons from him.
I went into my father’s studio and there were thousands upon thousands of paintings in there. There’s something crazy with that making and making and making. He was very obsessive. My dad worked through the Holocaust. The guy never stopped working. He painted in the concentration camp. Then, when he had cancer, he worked until the last few days.
As soon as I walk into my studio, I know what I’m here for and a whole world builds up. It gets thicker and thicker over time as the paintings multiply. The space itself starts to thicken and a new world is created. It’s a huge expense, though. It’s crazy–but you can’t survive without it.
For some reason, I had this feeling that I was Soutine for awhile. Someone sent me a postcard of his painting and it looked almost like a painting I had done. It was really weird. I started to feel him when I was painting and it was spooky. I think when you’re copying a painting, sometimes you do feel that you’re being rewired by that artist.
One of my unsupportable theories is that a painting is a way to become immortal. It’s like leaving a virus behind. A virus can’t move on its own, but once it finds a host, it comes back to life again. A painting is left behind and when someone is sent to it, actually sees it, they vibrate–you can talk about mimesis and all that bullshit along with it–but you vibrate and suddenly you’re feeling the feelings that person felt and you’re seeing the world from behind someone’s eyes. You’re behind and seeing out through that person. It happens through the hands if you’re a painter. Your hands mirror the movements that the person made and through that motion, you see things.
–Howard Podeswa, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Lauren Barless
Visit Howard’s website HERE.