Robert Szot’s love for abstract painting occurred as soon as he was introduced to the asymmetrical lines of a brush stroke. The vibrating colors and multiple shapes, came along with sacrifices Robert had to fight and overcome. Luckily it didn’t stop him from leaning into an unknown world, a cultivated world in which would soon pay tribute to his expense.
Curiosity didn’t make the creator think twice about a complex path in a city as demanding and fast paced as New York. And as challenges have come and gone, the difference relies on how Szot always extends his emotions with a mix of colors, lines and shapes. His opinions and views coming through canvases at times make you question, ‘what is that all about?’, yet through series of questions, there is only one thing Szot explains, ‘if I’m right, my paintings are me, anything I’ve experienced.” And that’s when visual stories tell bits and pieces of art forms, of a significance.
On one of his canvases, for example, there is a story in which Robert tells me over frozen margaritas, he recounts how, he lost a tooth after breaking up a fight on a random Wednesday night, back when he bar tended around Park Slope.
“Those were weird days of my life, moments where I was begging ConEd not to turn my power off and having a Quiznos meal for three dollars because I needed to buy paint,” Szot tells me, and proudly. But thanks to those odd jobs and harsh ‘starving-artist’ days Szot was able to build more character, gain a lot more respect.
Challenges also rely on developing good translations, which is something as essential as practicing a craft. Szot explains how the translation is “sort of an understanding of what you’re trying to do and where you’re trying to get.” This means long hours of work at his Brooklyn studio.
But hey, he’s alive and he’s working, “I wasn’t told it was going to be a very fluid thing and I don’t want to find an end to it. I always want to be working towards something and kind of pushing that work as far as I can.”
That includes adding a bit more color to the boroughs of Bed-Sty. After living in the city for 15 years now, nothing has been more rewarding than feeling he is on the right path. No matter how much work is waiting for him, the purpose is to be able to produce, to give.
He gives paintings a sort of mystery though, you can’t really see what he’s trying to say, but he’s saying something. And it makes you wonder, it makes you be engaged. Szot thinks that the best paintings cause this, “you spend time with them, and you realize its important to you, you feel a connection with a bit of a mystery.”
The self-taught painter practices what he preaches as he is sort of a mystery himself, he doesn’t mind being cut off from humanity, he would in fact prefer to be a ghost living in New York City. “It all feels like a big distraction to me, life for me is about expressing your individuality and not talk about it.” This explains why he also believes how living in ‘the moment’ is about celebrating your emotions. As we talk about them, we certainly are still celebrating them too, cheers.
Szot’s Views on NY as An Artist.
Its easy to get fed up in this city. But when I think about leaving, I just think - where? What's out there that I'm not getting here in NY?
Its sort of nice aspect about it is that your work can travel, and you can travel with your work. Or you can stay where you are at and the work will speak for you. I am not the kind that goes out and shakes a lot of hands to make connections. I like to be working, I like to be in the studio working all the time. There may be a lot of solitude in that, but my work speaks for me. It can go out of my path. And hopefully people have the same experience. And you work so hard to get to a point theta you're able to work every day and you don't suffer the constraints of like a job
Its the history in NY that I really like. Like all these people that painted in NYC, all these people that I follow, they are all dead. But I've kind of fallen in love with all of them. I want to watch them, and have a shared experience with them. With a dead person. It was here before, and now I want to see where I sort of have a piece in it.
I never really put this stuff into words. I’m always thinking about it, but I never really talk about it. It’s sort of cathartic to get it out. It’s a very ethereal thing of this whole thing of painting in NY, don't want to sound like it’s a cliché.
I want my work to unfold over a period of time, just sort of the city kind of unfolds itself. And the longer you're here the more you learn about it.
Szot on How to Go With it
You've got to knock the dust off once in a while. Part of the requirements of being an artist in NY is that you do have to meet people, you do have to be able to talk with somebody and have to be very clear about what your work means and where you are going with it, because I find more and more people don't want to buy a painting, they want to buy a part of their history. You know your timeline.
So I think if you're more interesting, if you're clearer on what you're doing, you can talk about that with other people. I think you just add some value to it - it gives a story to tell and it’s nice.
Szot on the Art World
It could be such a cold business, so it’s good to add a little humanity to it.
I don't want to be the 'stuffy' artist - that's just not interesting. I just kind of am who I am, I think that my work is who I am, and I don't know - I don't think there's much difference which was always my goal because whenever I see a painting such as Willem De Kooning, or Francis Beacon I feel like there's something about that person that I can take away, just by being in front of the work. I've always applied someone's ability to transcend their own lives and put their lives in something like a canvas. And if you can make that connection with a piece of work, there's something quite magical.
Szot on Identity
Basically all books that I read are all written by dead people - and art that I've seen are basically people that are long gone. I don't know what my attraction clicked to that. I go out, and go to shows. In theory to contemporary work, there's nothing really exciting about it. The concept of not being excited about it is because I also shut myself from it a lot. I'm constantly just working on my studio, and I think it’s probably bad that I don't take contemporary work and take it in a contemporary way - but I'm just so caught up. I think I probably suffer from that, because it’s always good to get a new audience and a fresh perspective. I don't know why I don't allow myself to take it.
I think more and more my identity becomes less immune from people. I don't get my identity from painters in NY, I don't feel like I have a cultural identity. I turn inward so severely now, that my identity is just about my work.
I’m a singularity making singularities.
I feel very disconnected from another source of identity. Other people draw from those sources.
Szot on finding your creative outlet
I was a musician in Austin. I played guitar in a band. Making music with my friends. Every day is sort of a party, playing music with my friends. People go to see a show and they respond to what you're doing. There is certainly something creative about it, I really enjoyed it, but the problem there was I got kicked out of the band. I was devastated. They all went to form their own band without me, which to me I was so confused. I had started the band, they were all very close friends of mine. But what I took out of it was that there is a danger working with other people. I just think I would rather be a self-sufficient, singular person working outside. If you're not the singular author of your own work, there is potential for profit.
Szot on Francis Beacon
An honest character, the nature in his paintings changed as he had changed as a person "that guy really got it" - he was so famous for this one thing and then suddenly, critics took the hell out of him. That’s freedom.
Szot on Richard Serra
I met him once. He constructed these abstract sculptures, these giant pieces of steel. But I was worried when I met him because I wondered, he's probably going to be like his sculptures, sort of composing - hard, not warm at all. But I met Richard Serra and the thing that struck me more is that he wore a pair of air jordan sneakers that he didn't tie. Then, I looked at him and we were dressed exactly the same. I had to introduce myself and he was so nice and affable. We had a 15 minute conversation mostly about me.
I just couldn't believe it. What a soft place to lie down. There’s this man that creates these larger than life works that you can only stand in the shadows, and you meet him and it’s just like - he got it too. He was given the opportunity to have a very broad audience in his work, and if someone wants to come up to him to shake his hand, and just tell him how much they appreciate him, he's so grateful for it.
I want longevity in my life, I want a foundation and think – you know what? I did what I wanted to do because in that scenario there is no failure. It’s like you’re on a path, that if you're on that path you've already succeeded. And so, it really frees you up to do whatever you want.
A walker person would mean the freedom of giving up, but not giving up. The freedom of having the option to give up, and once you can get your mind around that, you can do whatever you want.You can always turn the light switch off whenever you want. So to kind of get there mentally, you can do whatever. Once you get to the freedom side mentally, you have a very strong desire to assist people that have less than you.
I have a special niece child in my family, she's nine years old. It just changed my way of thinking.
It changed me as a person. Sort of being faced to something like that. This little girl had no option - that very definition that it is unfair. It really changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Charity and giving back became so much sharper for me after that, because it’s not just her, it’s a lot of people.
So if you have an opportunity, you should do it - if not, then what's wrong with you?
Robert and his audience
If you click into where you want to be, your life is about 15 minutes. So, I’m going to enjoy it for 15 minutes. There will always be a part of me where I feel slightly paranoid about losing everything and many people feel that way, certainly.
But for me it’s not a material thing, it’s this thing floating, and it’s something you can finally stand on. I’m not so dumb that I don't know if could be all gone tomorrow, but will that change me or my work? I don't think it would because I don't work for an audience. The audience found me, and I’m grateful for that, but if they were gone tomorrow I don't think it would change anything.