The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

ASSASSINATION: Paul Vincent Bernard, Artist and Printmaker at fishart press

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Photograph of Paul Vincent Bernard. Courtesy of Paul Vincent Bernard.
Paul Vincent Bernard: Double freefall, 2008, lithograph, 22 by 60 inches. Courtesy of fishart press.

Studying carefully Paul Vincent Bernard‘s paintings and prints with a wandering eye, I have been happy to see them, considering my Asian heritage. The artist’s delicate yet forceful work combines crossing lines, blocks of color, and woven patterns of very thin lines into forms resembling stone formations or even mountains. Originally I was drawn to his black-only lithographs that paralleled the work of my close friend, Vincent Como. All works of exquisite beauty.

Bernard also owns his own printing studio called fishart press that does lithography, intaglio, relief, and monotype. With his space at Poor Yorick Studios, he is able to work with some large-scale printmaking for executing rather unique experimental work that has been exhibited around Utah, particularly at Tanner Frames, a solid venue for contemporary artwork.

If you have any questions about Bernard’s artwork, feel free to contact fishart press at

qi peng: To begin off on a lighter note, are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Salt Lake City or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I love fine food.  As far as I am concerned there is no finer restaurant in Salt Lake than the Metropolitan.  The menu and service exceed ones expectations.  For simple fare, Stoneground is my favorite place to get tomato-basil soup and to enjoy a beer.  A new place that I enjoy is Meditrina, which offers a small plate menu and a carefully chosen wine selection.

I used to spend a lot of time at bookstores; my favorite is actually in Seattle.  I go every year too Elliott’s in Oldtown Seattle.  If we had that bookstore in Salt Lake I would be there all of the time.  I buy a lot of books, but regrettably I buy them from Amazon.  Shame on me.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz or Roberta Smith?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I don’t read much art criticism. I am busy responding to what I see around me.

qi peng: Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I thumb through Art in America.  I recently began a subscription.  I also subscribe to a great magazine, ART ON PAPER.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis?

Paul Vincent Bernard: There is a blog for printmakers, Inkteraction, I look at it occasionally.

qi peng: Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Chicago or Salt Lake City will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession?

Paul Vincent Bernard: Not really.  There is not enough intellectual or social diversity here to develop a great art market.  In Utah, most of us look the same and there is a lot of art created to fill the needs of the sameness.

qi peng: What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Salt Lake City area where you live?

Paul Vincent Bernard: Going back to my previous answer, I want to counter by adding that Salt Lake has more incredible great artists than the economic environment and demand can support.  So we just keep doing our art realizing that we live in a bell jar.

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies outside of your printmaking? How does these things relate to your studio practice?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I am an avid fly fisher and gardener.  My art does center on the natural world and these activities allow me to connect to the earth and to realize my own particular smallness and insignificance in the natural order of things.  This feeling certainly the main thrust of my work.

qi peng: Do you find yourself having to enter into the studio out of discipline or inspiration or a mixture of both? What are some of the practical challenges that fine artists have to face inside or outside their studio time?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I am a strong advocate for discipline in the studio, to behave otherwise is to pretend to be an artist.  The practical side of this is that you have to give up time so that you can face your work daily.  I have a regular job.  This too is a regular job as important or more important so I treat it accordingly.  I cannot do art at home.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here?

Paul Vincent Bernard: Favorite artists – Richard Serra, Sean Scully, Jim DineHelen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Brice Marden.  Most of these are either minimalists or absttract expressionists.  I favor the minimalists most.

qi peng: Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your painterly eye and imagination?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I have recently been in a position to travel yearly to New York City.  These trips become work trips because I go with a list of places to visit.  Last month I was in New York and went to Pace Prints on 57th and was able to rifle through prints of Serra, Close, Dine, Frankenthaler, Mangold and others up close and personal.  Very different from the museum experience where you are asked kindly to step back from the art.

qi peng: Also what are some things that you enjoy about sushi and other types of Asian food?

Paul Vincent Bernard: My wife is Japanese-American.  Before I met her, I didn’t have a lot of experience with these cuisines.  I am quite fond of much of it now.  I love sushi.  My favorites seem to be octopus, squid, tuna, really most of the raw stuff.  I really like the fusion approach.  The Las Vegas style roll with jalapeno is incredible.

qi peng: What trends do you see are forthcoming within the contemporary art world?  How would place your artwork within the overall context of art history particularly within the abstract expressionism movement?  What is the overall tenor and philosophical drive which is shown within your artwork? Before you embark on a particular project, what factors do you use to determine whether the final work is to be large or small based on scale?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I came to art later in my life.  I am in my mid-fifties.  I went to school in my forties.  After a heart attack four years ago I felt freed from the need to work in a certain way or to make certain statements.  I am not cutting edge, but my art is smart and has a philosophical bent.  I love the land.  I love that it is so large and that we really don’t count but I appreciate being alive nonetheless.  I think there is a sadness and loss to my work mixed with gratitude and awe.  The size of certain pieces may be determined by how small I am feeling when I start the piece.

qi peng: Your formal art education was at University of Utah. What were your years of education like? Were there any influential professors and fellow students whose ideas or drive influenced your interest in printmaking? Are there any memorable stories from your studio visits or school days?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I had a great time in art school.  I was apprehensive about returning at a later age.  I was still actually young then.  There were many students who were returning after careers and other degrees.  Bob Kleinschmidt was my print mentor, Tony Smith taught me to open up in my drawing approach and Paul Davis taught me that I could draw the figure.  I don’t work figuratively much, I leave that to others.

qi peng: What is the story behind your recent acquisition of a large lithography press for your studio space? What are some of the techniques that you pursue to create a unique style of printmaking?  What are some of the guiding characteristics of your own prints?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I bought the bigger press because my small press would not give me the density of black that my images required.  I bought the press on Ebay.  It was such a fluke that it became available right at the time that it crossed my mind that I needed a bigger press. For the large work I am now approaching the plate as it stands vertical against the wall.  I attack the plate surface with a fully inked 14″ litho roller.  This is my drawing tool.  It is so immediate and then I add the edge work.  I think that I am known for the stuff that I do on the edges.

qi peng: You have mastered the color black within your prints. What blacks or shades of blacks do you enjoy using within your artwork? What emotional or philosophical connotations exist within the use of that particular color?

Paul Vincent Bernard: The black is simple, but I do mix dark blue or red ink for the litho work.  For my drypoints I like Graphic ChemicalsRenaissance Black.  It has some sepia tones to it.  I usually print the black twice on the litho prints.  For me the blacks are seductive.  They just p[ull me ibnto the work and I can look at this stuff for hours.  Its like staring into eternity or into the dark sky.

qi peng: How does your work compare to the prints which the sculptor Richard Serra executes? How do your and his technique of markmaking differ between that of both artists?  Do you do preliminary studies before you create the final print?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I am looking at Richard Serra a lot.  I believe that there is limitless room for exploration of such simple forms.  There is the weight of the white to the black, the density of the ink, the edges.  Some have said that my work looks like Serra and that it has already been done.  These are people that just painted a landscape that looks like it could have been done by any one of 30 artists in the city, and I am not saying that that work is not valid.  I just like working minimally and if some think that I am a little Richard Serra, my answer is that I am flattered.

Serra is smarter than I am and he has been at his work a lot longer than I.  Like I mentioned I saw his prints and held them in my hands last month.  I want to be able to have my ink stand over a quarter inch off of the page like that.  Serra’s influences are shipyards.  I am attempting to interpret what I see on the Utah landscape in a way that I don’t really see anyone else working.  I have to be honest that I do like hearing the words….but its so black.

qi peng: Your studio is located within Poor Yorick. What is it like over there and how has the sense of community boosted your presence as one of Utah’s foremost artists?

Paul Vincent Bernard: The move to Poor Yorick’s has been great for me.  We open the studio only twice a year but we get a large crowd through the building and more people know my work since I located there.  I have also been much more productive in that space.  I have more space and I am usually alone when I am in my end of the building.

qi peng: What has your experience doing solo shows at Tanner Frames been like during the past few years?

Paul Vincent Bernard: Travis Tanner of Tanner Frames has been a real champion of my work, first, just as a framer, his skill and sensitivity to the work of each artist is uncanny.  I won’t let anyone else near my framing, not even myself.

qi peng: What are some of the challenges and hardships that fine artists have to face within Utah?  What are the joys of being a Utah artist?

Paul Vinvcent Bernard: It’s not easy, anywhere.  We need to be grateful for those who support us and for those who appreciate our vision.  It is not a given.  The world doesn’t owe us anything and as an artist, while we may have some kind of vision, we are not that special.  I think that in Utah it is perhaps easier being an artist and being regular.  In a big market there is probably more pressure to be the next big thing.

qi peng: Have you done any collaborations before?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I don’t play well with others.  I don’t know that I could collaborate.

qi peng: What has your experience been like working at the facilities over at Saltgrass Printmakers? Last year, 15 BYTES editor Shawn Rossiter covered within an article about the workings of your studio. What was it like being interviewed by Rossiter and how did it inform the public regarding the creation of your prints? What is a typical day at the studio like? What are some future projects that you hope to pursue during the next few years at the Paul Vincent Bernard studio?

Paul Vincent Bernard: Shawn does a lot for the art community.  I appreciate his even-handedness working with a community that can be a trial at times. He took some great shots of my studio.  The story did not really get into my process or my art.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with your readers and fans of your printmaking or exhibitions here?

Paul Vincent Bernard: I just had a show at Tanner Frames – Working With Color, which has been an exploration of oil on panel, oilstick on panel, and some aluminum plate mixed media work.  I will have a lot of work up at the downtown Wine Store, July through September, 5 new plates for the Art Access Plate Fundraiser and a large woodcut which will be steam roller printed at the Utah Art Festival.  This has been my most productive year yet.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

July 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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