You spend long periods travelling for your work. How does the experience of time and place inform your painting?
Each long trip is really akin to a residency. I go into a place attempting to not preconceive what I will create and after wandering around for a while, things tend to pop into my head. For instance, in Budapest my work became about a walk I took everyday over their ‘suicide bridge’ crossing the Danube. In Spain, I ended up creating an installation in a theater that had not been open since the Franco-era. On a ship across the Pacific, I exposed large paintings to the elements, blowing in the wind, soaking in the rain and dragging in the sea.
Is solitude necessary to your process?
No, but it tends to make the process easier. The less people around, the less distractions.
There seems to be an emphasis on materials in your practice. Is that a starting point for you in embarking on a new work, thinking about fabrication and process?
Yes, I think of the materials first. The work comes from exploration with the materials and the environment. Once the basics are established, it grows from there.
How is your Zona public sculpture piece coming along in Mexico? What are the challenges you have encountered if any?
I’m working on a large sculptural piece that includes a sea of metal trees and one large living tree that over time grows over some of the synthetic ones. It is very exciting for this piece to live permanently in a grand park in Mexico City. It’s a newer medium for me, so the challenges are expected, such as, what’s the best fabrication process, how will the living tree organically grow and related to the synthetic ones, what engineering concerns are there...
You tend to address very macro ideas within your work. Do you identify as an activist? Do you set out to be an advocate for change?
I think everyone should consider themselves as activists and advocates for change. My work is subtle or subversive in its messaging, but hopefully helps a little bit towards broad environmental and humanity related goals.
Sternerg will exhibit in our new LA home, opening in April 2018. Explore his work here.