“Bleeding” isn’t a word usually associated with the positive. It’s visceral, biting, pungent and warm. It can, however, be synonymous with blending, emphasizing feelings and outpouring of expression. A melding of two merging into one. It can be refreshing and invigorating; it’s all about perspective. The word invites you to sculpt your own interpretation.
The work of contemporary artist Nouel Riel “bleeds” by any measure of this word. “Visceral” on all accounts, this mixed media artist now living in Los Angeles combines painting, sculpture, and photography. Creating work that gives the viewer her world on a silver platter. Riel is brisk, bold, clear and dark. Riel’s work is better seen in person rather than described.
In A New Mythos, Riel’s most recent body of work slated which made its debut January 14th at Rhabbitat is described as, “Through the use of paintings as bold, emotional landscapes among which sculptural deities roam, we see this exploration and are inspired to begin to address our own origins without boundaries or heavy connections to the past.” Through a siphoning of human emotion and excavation, Riel begins to uncover a truth she will, perhaps, always be searching for.
You work with three different mediums: photography, sculpture and painting. When working with one, do you feel the other two mediums become a part of the process?
Yes, they are all tools wanting to speak for me. I chase the one that's the loudest, but often a painting will lead me to a dance piece to a dress to a poem that I write on a canvas and back again to a painting. It's a snake eating its tail. Everything is connected for me. It’s all an integral part of the process of conveying a span of time or specific experience the most accurately. No medium is more important to me than the other. I also use dance, video, sound, clothing, writing, modeling and collaborations as forms of making, but paintings probably come through the most. They cause me the most growth and pain.
If this newest show, A New Mythos, was a story, what would it be?
It's my life story! I've never thought of it that way before, but it's true and absolutely why everything I make is abstract. In general, I am 100% honest and literal in what I am conveying. If a paint stroke looks violent and bloody, that's what I physically or emotionally experienced. Everything is literal, but I don't feel people have as much to gain from my work unless it is an abstraction from the physical event, feeling, trauma, mental space or mystical experience I encountered, because they could not project their own truths onto it as easily.
Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from?
I've roamed, growing up in Oregon & Washington, then middle school and high school in the beautiful sideshow that is Reno, NV. Most recently, I was living in Santa Fe, NM, but now I'm back in Los Angeles.
Did these cities affect your art? If yes, how so? If no, why do you think not?
Every city moves me in some way that is impossible to escape. I am so affected by any single thing near me that the landscape changes the art I am making innately or at least subconsciously. I love land and the vast array of attitudes the ground can emit. Though I am happy to be in Los Angeles, I have lustful thoughts of Santa Fe still. That place is just so old and is an energetic vortex, so real Yin/Yang feelings tend to arise there. Reno and Santa Fe are probably the most honest places I've visited and I like that quality about anything. The desert does magical things in both positive and really very dark ways.
What do you think it means to be an artist? Do you have a definition?
Being an artist, for me, is surrendering everything and sprinting naked down a long dark road chasing Divinity... only a madman would sign up for that. My favorite artists are just shamans making objects. Being an artist means there is no turning off, only heightening. I think everyone has the potential to be an artist, but it can be a very scary thing to truly do, so most people chose not to activate constant creation in a conscious way, which is all an artist is doing.
Most people want to press snooze and feel nothing and that’s fine. I was just born into a different sort of beast. I do think everyone is creator whether they want to or not, because evolution doesn't stop and that is constant creation. In the future, everyone will see themselves and everything else as art though, so there's that to look forward to.
Has Los Angeles shaped or misshapen your perspective and how you make art?
In general, Los Angeles has given me the teachings only Los Angeles could. My perspective has changed from them, but I continue evolving regardless where I live. Having a loving and generous community here has been a beautiful and much needed perspective. How I make art has shifted here because of technicalities. I am painting only outside, so paint and fabric and various materials react completely differently to the air here than New Mexico for instance.
What was the inspiration for A New Mythos?
Honoring various aspects of others inspired A New Mythos and myself who have influenced me instead of forgetting or demeaning them. These fractals of self are either dead (as in no longer useful), dormant or surging through for the first time and they wanted to chat so I was inspired to let them. Eventually they were formed into characters I acted out on Polaroid and VHS film. While developing these human traits, I used those characteristics to create totems that are deities as well. The narrative I am most interested in speaking right now is dissolving the distance between God and man, because I believe there is no distance or difference. It seemed the most obvious way to go about doing that is to create deities from people I've been or known. I am completely obsessed with how various cultures convey gods especially. It's freeing to let loose parts of myself that are violent and uncontrolled, or terrifying and supremely graceful. We all contain many multitudes.
What is A New Mythos?
A New Mythos feels like standing in the sun. It is creating an entirely new mythology of one's choosing, rid of karmic bonds. I am just following bliss.
How do you see audience participation in an art culture that rapidly changing?
I see only increase in audience participation. Obviously most of the participation is online, but I think that is miraculous because it is so much more inclusive than any other time.
What colors are you most drawn to in life? Do these colors differ from the ones used in your pieces?
Every color pulls me in, especially when I feel repulsed by it. I see different colors when I meet people, hear new sounds or go to new places and am more open to utilizing those hues in my work now, though it can be quite uncomfortable. I tend to channel people or events, so sometimes it's imperative to use colors that I don't necessarily like looking at because that is the color or sound that someone is emitting. Black and white photographs are my favorite things to look at, because the erratic symphonies of color are turned down for a moment.
written by Claire Mckinzie
photos by Kayte Methven