Hello Dear Howard Fox. Thank you for giving us the chance to Interview with you. Our first question is how the “Covid-19” affects your art?

I cannot say that the pandemic has influenced my style or my subject matter, but in the beginning it did provide a very interesting backdrop to my painting of "Utopia on the River Eden".

I found myself painting an idealized city, infused with beautiful architecture mixed with the sublime that nature offers, while people across the world, as well as myself,  were fearing for their lives and wondering what the future had in store.

Utopian thoughts mixed with the terror of an unseen killer was quite a powerful artistic force.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what drove you to choose art as a career?

I was born in Canada, in the mid fifties in a middle class environment.  From my earliest recollections I was scribbling and or painting on pieces of paper and cardboard.  I can still see myself lying on the floor of the salon, in front of the black and white television screen, my crayons and colored pencils scattered around me, drawing a child’s concept of a city, as well as sports figures.

I was pretty good at it, and never imagined myself being anything else other than an artist.  Sure I dreamed of being a star athelete, but that did not happen.  So I settled on being me, a painter of paintings, a dreamer of dreams.

In other words art chose me.

What was the most challenging project that you worked on?

My latest work, Utopia on the River Eden, was probably the most challenging.  The work is quite large, the largest piece I have done until now.  I was faced with creating a geography conducive to the creation of the idyllic urban-scape, The buildings had to represent much of the eclectic and awe inspiring architecture I had witnessed in my life.

It is important to note, that I grew up in Canada, a virtual wasteland of dull, uninspired right angled architecture.  There was no joy to the buildings, little if any imagination.  Not until I spent time in Israel and Europe could I even imagine the aesthetic and historical possibilities.  Trips to Turkey and the Far East served to expand my understanding of the passion that went into creating urban monuments to the dreams and hopes of humankind.  Of course like all perfect cities, the city is built around a river, the source of life.

I enjoyed the work immensely, surrounded by the silence of a world in lockdown.  it was truly a gratifying experience, and I am happy to say that the work has found a good home.

What is your creative process like? How has your style changed over the years?

Like everyone else, my days and nights are spent with thoughts spinning around in my head.  Unlike most people, I try and harness these thoughts and weave them into ideas to be placed on a white canvas.

Just as the shoe salesman sees the shoes people wear as he/she walks down the street, my brain pays attention to shadows and light, as well as the rather mundane things that for some peculiar reason spark my imagination.

My style has gone through a few changes over the years.  As a kid it was a mixed bag of colored pencil drawings and a stab at oil painting.  I am a self taught painter.

I spent a lot of time doodling in class, with a Bic pen.  After graduating I found myself creating cities on Arches paper using a Bic pen, either black or blue.  Trouble with Bic pens is the ink, it disappears.  On my first trip to Greece, I found myself drinking a beer on Paradise Beach in the small restaurant, when I spotted someone sitting across the room and drawing.

I approached to see what he was drawing, and discovered the Rotring drafting pen.  I fell in love with the pen and the technique.  Dots became me, I just loved the feeling of the dots meshing to create a figure, an object, light and dense shadow.
After doing dots for a few years, I realized that I had not given oil colors an chance.  Of course the first painting I did came out as mud.  But as time went on I refined my style.  I was always enamoured with the surrealist painters, as well as Bruegel the Elder.  I found these works magical, both candy for the eye, and food for the brain.

I began painting works I called fiction.  Like a good work of fiction they appeared to be real but were all based on a fictitious story.

We want to talk about the “Hotel Utopia” Collection of yours. Can you tell us more about your Collection?

Back in 2014, I had a near fatal heart attack while singing the blues on stage.  After coming back from a stopped heart, the blues man in me prefers to call it a broken heart, I began to wonder what it is all about.  What are we actually in search of?  What makes us happy?

The term utopia seemed to implant itself on my mind.  I was aware that if asked most people when asked about their utopia will speak of a pastoral setting, in the country, yet they choose to live in urban environments, surrounded by traffic, noise, pollution of all sorts, violence, and the loss of the night sky.

Human kind is complex.  Next question was how long do these moments of perfection last?  A moment, a minute, an hour, a day, a week?
That is when it clicked, Hotel Utopia.  A hotel which offers you the Utopian experience for an hour, or a night, a day, a week , for however long it takes.

We complex beings have very different ideas of what Utopia looks like, feels like and smells like.  One man’s heaven is another man’s hell, as the saying goes.

At this time I am focused on Hotel Utopia, and discovering all its dimensions, aesthetics and the eclectic nature of what we call the ideal.

We see that your artworks name like a “Babel the Fall” and “Utopia on the River Eden. Can you share the details of this titles stories with us?

I have long been fascinated by history.  As a Jew, I tap the stories of the Torah for ideas and stories.  For example the “Fall of Babel” depicts the moment the Tower of Babel fell.  The original story from the Bible is only six lines in length, giving only the bare bones of what must have been a truly awesome event.  In my pictorial version of events, it is not only a lack of a common language that drives people apart, but a total breakdown of any means of communication.  In the painting a crane operator, yes I put a modern day crane into the story, armed with a wrecking ball, is supposed to be following directions from another worker.  In the work the laborer gestures from the crane to move left, but instead the crane operator moves his wrecking ball to the right, taking out a few columns and a wall, causing the whole structure to fall.

It is not just a story of miscommunication but a thorough breakdown of society and whatever shared goals, in this case misplaced, they had.  The Torah calls it the work of God, and who am I to disagree.

Utopia works on two levels, the micro, which is the individual human being and on the macro level, which is society as a whole.

Humans have their own tastes, whether it be food, design, lifestyles and or sexual habits, while societies seek the utopian experience through ideologies and religion.

The promise of a messiah, is meant to bring people together to pray for the “coming” and to act in a certain manner in which to insure that the chosen one comes.  I personally am certain that not everyone shares the same concept of the perfect world after the “coming”, but so be it, this idea of a better world for those who believe has worked on many for centuries.

With the arrival of modernity, and the placing of God on the shelf, human kind developed ideologies.  All of them promising a better world, a perfect world in which leaders are glorified, workers are heroes and money can solve all of societies ills.  Take your choice, some have failed miserably while others have done quite well, though never pleasing everyone.

 These works and the titles are meant to help paint a picture.  I employ dilemmas like a Giant Baby attacking the local Walmart, what to do?

 Or a grown up giant is found sleeping on the city’s central bridge, again what to do.  We can either react with violence or more peaceful methods.  Nothing is assured of working, and that is typical of the physical and moral dilemmas that confront us daily as we live our lives.

What are you working on at the moment?

As we speak I am finishing off a piece entitled “Hotel Utopia, The Voyeur”.  The work is made up a brick building, that being the facade of the hotel.  In each window is another scene, depicting the guests enjoying their stay, doing what they have chosen as their moment of utopian bliss.

The viewer of the work is the voyeur, peering from a safe distance into windows hosting scantily clad women doing what women do when they are wearing little.  A party is taking place on the top floor, while next door a woman is painting an oil painting on canvas.  Below is a sexual neural character reading a book.  In a blue lit room a man holds a gun, and appears to be aiming the weapon at someone we do not see.

I have two more windows to fill and am weighing my options, either go for the utterly mundane or the erotic.