Rubens' art practice intrigues and inspires. In advance of his residency at Township10, I had a few questions that he was kind enough to answer:
MD: May I ask about your recent time in Italy?
RG: I was at the American Academy in Rome for 6 weeks through an Affiliated Fellowship via the University of Tennessee where I teach. This was not the Rome Prize. My topic of research there was a constellation of sorts that dealt with Bruno Giordano, Ramon Lull, Caravaggio's compositions in relation to Leon Battista Alberti's spatial considerations and the history of Mount Testaccio which deals heavily with earthen vessels. The latter is very important to the unpublished poet whose life and praxes has been the basis of my work for the last 8 years.
MD: How long have you been teaching? I notice you do a lot of mentorship as well.
RG: I have been teaching since 2002, though at the college level since 2010 after my MFA. Prior to grad school I taught art for high school students that had been kicked out of the public school system. In 2008, I went to RISD to pursue my MFA and subsequently returned to the Philadelphia area where I started teaching at different art schools and universities.
Teaching is a plethora of things for me. Due to the revelatory conditions and relevance of learning in my life, I feel a need and have a desire to open up the same conditions to others. Personally, teaching and mentorship are activist roles, wherein you can soak up another's life as they soak yours. In that exchange, which is ultimately one of contemplation, rigor and painstaking absorption, things have the ability move, to foster, to grow and to finally become.
MD: As a ceramic artist, I am very interested in the ceramic objects that appear in some of your paintings.
RG: The ceramic objects come from a myriad of terms for me. Briefly, the history of the earth transformed into a material for human usage, for contemplation (Chaekgeori painting), for compounding into an object (that is both utilitarian and encompasses the cultural conditions of those who made it) the spiritual, philosophical and
psychological terms into form. Secondly, the poet whose praxis I base my work in, used to bring shards of an earthen vessel to specific cerebrations he conducted in the woods between two trees. Along these shards, he would also bring four items, three of which are found in a short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges called The Sect of The Phoenix (gum arabic, cork or wax). The fourth was a cassette tape player that played loops he would make in a tape at home for these specific rituals.
BIO: Rubens Ghenov was born in São Paulo, Brazil and immigrated to the US in 1989. He holds a BFA from Tyler School of Art (1999) and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (2010) both in Painting. Ghenov has shown in both solo and group exhibitions at Morgan Lehman (NY), Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami (FL), Geoffrey Young Gallery (MA), Whitespace Gallery, (GA), Hoffman LaChance (MO), Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery (TN), TSA Brooklyn (NYC), Woodmere Art Museum (PA), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA) amongst others. In 2013, he co-curated with Dona Nelson the 72nd Annual Juried Exhibition at the Woodmere Art Museum. He has been featured in Art in America, Hyperallergic, Bomb Magazine, Village Voice, ARTSATL, The Tennessean, Title Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.