Studio: Eric Zener

From the moment you enter into Eric Zener’s studio, you feel the as if you’ve stepped into a meditational realm. A place where paint and canvas collide to create paintings that captivate and excite the viewer.

Zener is best known for his utilizing the subject of water in his paintings, and often feature his wife Julie who was at one time a competitive swimmer. Over the years he has flourished as an artist, and has grown a following that makes him one of the most recognizable figures in the contemporary scene today.

Arts Publishing LTD just released an amazing compendium of the artist’s work appropriately entitled “ZENER”, which is the most cohesive collection of Eric’s work to date. Readers will be impressed at the amount of art Zener has produced, and the 244 page book captures all of his paintings in beautiful, exquisite detail. For the serious Zener fans, the limited edition series comes with a 15.75″ x 13.75″ original resin work of art entitled “Immersion” – a neat addition we’d like to see offered by more publishers and artists.

Recently Zener embarked on a dramatic new direction with his work. Leaving the water, and climbing upon dry land for his latest series entitled NATURE. Both symbolic and packed with metaphor, these paintings are a new evolution for the artist, and mark a turning point in his career.

We caught up with Eric in his Sausalito based studio and asked him a few questions about this new body of work….

You’re well known for your works based in and around water, can you elaborate on why this subject has taken center stage in so much of your work?

I believe there is a universal connection to water and a collective desire for renewal and joy. Regardless of who you are or where you come from we all feel a great sense of ‘transformation’ from the world above when we are submerged in the blue water of a pool or the boundless space of the sea. There is something archetypal about the cleansing effect of water and the sense of nostalgia of our youth when we remove ourselves from daily life and slip away. While I have painted water quite extensively over the years I do find the subjects of sleep, pathways and immersion in nature to have a similar transformative quality.

You’ve just completed your “Nature” series of paintings, what inspired this dramatic switch from the work you’ve done thus far

Well it certainly is a dramatic switch both from a art making process and stylistically. However I do believe the core experience as a viewer points to the same transformative portal that my water work spoke to. Immersion is central here. Being alone is central here. Being humbled by the scale of something far larger and far older than us is central here. On a personal level I had a rather pedestrian but profound experience “in nature’ a few years ago that, like an epiphany, tapped me on the shoulder. I felt the same sense of renewal both literally in nature, and then ultimately as a subject in art. Knowing that this subject has been painted to death over the years, I felt that exploring it more from an intimate immersion perspective and looking at color (and the lack of) as more of a means of sharing the feeling of the light, rather than the realism I have spent so many years chasing- a wonderful artistic release and hopefully a welcome look at an old subject. Additionally I loved the gestural, visceral and reckless approach to building the compositions: indeed something new for me.

You spoke to us about the feeling that one gets while standing in nature. What has been your experience in translating this feeling from paint to canvas?

Scale is important. Nature is big. We are largely quieted by our relationship to it’s size, patience and contract it makes with all around it. Compositions that suggest that are more successful. The black and white works speaks even more to the light and shapes that are so evident in the long cooperative relationship the entanglement as a whole makes as each limb reaches for the light. Just like us….

How has the “Nature” body of work been received by those close to you?

My friends and family have enjoyed the work, and perhaps even more, the necessary and normal evolution an artist should engage. I have only recently started to share them with dealers and collectors. I am encouraged with their reaction and feel good about where it might take me.

What’s next for Eric Zener?

More trust in uncertainty and faith in the outcome.

– Warholian

Visit Eric’s personal site here for more on his work: