Erik Gonzales’ Abstract Work Is Rooted In History


Erik Gonzales

ature and historical references are prevalent in the abstract works of Erik Gonzales, who incorporates various materials, including clay, plaster, acrylics and marble dust, in his creations. Although the past is represented in each of his pieces, the Phoenix artist is always looking to expand his horizons.

Here, we tapped the style maker to get the inside scoop behind his multifaceted work.

Erik Gonzales

A sketch of a work in progress and a notebook where the artist develops ideas share space on his desk. Abstracted forms from nature, such as fossilized shells and starfish, sometimes find their way into his paintings.

Erik Gonzales

Artist Erik Gonzales' Phoenix studio is filled with mixed-media canvases in various stages. His process involves layering materials, such as paint mixed with ground marble, then scraping down or incising the surfaces with customized tools to reveal the base coat.

Erik Gonzales

The artist's vision board features mixed-media studies, paint samples and a cropped shopping bag from the Barcelona-based Fundacio Antoni Tapies, which houses the permanent collection and private library of the Spanish painter whom Gonzales considers his greatest inspiration

Erik Gonzales

His tools include brushes of all widths and putty knives for scraping surfaces

Erik Gonzales

Gonzales works on multiple canvases at a time.

Is there one artist you’d credit as an influence?

Catalan artist Antoni Tapies gave me an understanding of what art could be. He created these wall-like surfaces to break through. I went on a fact-finding mission, looking at photographs and reading everything I could. I even learned Spanish to read more about Tapies. And then I began to do my own experiments. I don’t know if I’m doing what Tapies did, but I’m a mad scientist, and I owe that to him.

You describe your process as being “scientific” and your studio as a “laboratory.” Does this give you a sense of control?

In some ways, I’m a control freak, but inevitably, nature takes over and accidents create magic. For example, waterdrops opened craters on one piece and inspired me to attempt to recreate those conditions on purpose.

Has becoming a parent changed your work?

For my son, painting is about moving color around, seeing what happens. Watching him has led me to do more abstract work. It’s a scary process–even a little bit of a free fall–but it’s liberating for someone who was classically trained. I’m not afraid to admit that his boldness and freedom inspire me.

What does success feel like to you?

When the dust has settled and the painting is finished, there’s a moment when I look at it and think, “If I hadn’t done this, I’d be pretty upset.”