Albert Leon Sultan: Return to Eden
Albert Leon Sultan is a multi disciplinary artist whose new solo show is coming to Gallery 23 in New York City on May 19th, 2022.
I have had the pleasure of knowing the artist for some time now and decided to delve into how this show came about. I appreciate the fact that Albert excels in so many mediums.
What makes this show different than any other work you’ve been involved in?
This show is different than previous shows in that it encompasses two different but related bodies of work. At the beginning of the pandemic I took an abrupt look at my painting practice and decided to experiment with new ways of composing paintings and new materials. As the world came to a sudden stop, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight, I felt there was nothing to lose by taking the time to explore unfamiliar methods and techniques. The more I did, the braver I became. I learned to trust my instincts more and in turn make bolder decisions. The second year of the pandemic I explored the same themes-but again- changed up the method of execution. The work in this show thus marks a period of intense growth and curiosity that took me to surprising destinations.
I read the press release regarding Return To Eden and wondered what was the spark that allowed you to create such a series of work? Was it the fires? Why did that particular tragedy stand out to you?
This work, despite its colorful nature, first arose out of a deep sense of despair following the fires that engulfed Australia. I had researched dropping everything and going off to Australia to volunteer in the recovery efforts. Koalas were in danger of becoming extinct due to the loss of habitat. Animals were continuing to die of thirst in the aftermath and they needed people to help feed the animals in the wild. It aches me even today to think of the tragic loss of life sparked by careless camping fires. At the same time fires in Brazil and accelerated logging due to the policies of the current government were creating the conditions for a further mass extinction event. The sense of absolute helplessness overcame me and stays with me to this day. Suddenly, the pandemic hit. Amidst the loss of human life, we began to see glimmers of hope as corners of the globe started to heal when human activity slowed. The concept of the loss of Eden, a pristine harmonious home from which we sprung, birthed from all of this. The yearning for a return to that state of equilibrium animates me and this body of work. I want us all to be reminded of how fragile our world is, what a gift it is in a desolate universe. We must all remember that we have been tasked to tend to the Earth for the sake of all living things.
If anyone wants to learn more about the devastation of the recent Australian wildfires and help restore the habitats lost please visit and donate to https://donate.wwf.org.au/
To donate and learn more about how the World Wildlife Fund(WWF) protects threatened species, restores forests, rivers, and oceans please visit https://www.worldwildlife.org/
Since I met you several years ago- your palette and choice of colors in your work have been noted as colorful. Is that a reflection on how you view the world? Do you ever paint with a darker, more intense palette? If not- please describe the relationship you have with color.
Before I met you I actually painted in more muted earth tones. I experimented with limited palettes and deeper tones. But as time went on, my painting practice began to mirror my furniture design practice which had always been exuberantly colorful. While each of the pieces uses bold color, you can definitely see that the color is contained. I don’t use every color in each piece but rather try to create a limited color harmony the way one would while getting dressed or designing a room. Since I am creating abstracted landscapes of an abstracted place called Eden, I see myself as free to be both bolder and more complex with my color considerations.
Can you kindly tell our audience how your extensive interior design background comes into play in your latest show? I did see furniture on display that I fully believe you designed from scratch did I not?
For many years I have had a parallel career in interior and furniture design. While I have created pieces from scratch, I much prefer to take existing discarded pieces revitalize them, and transform them. Most people throw away absolute gems (furniture) and I see it as my mission to rescue these hidden treasures and bring them to life yet again. The more our world consumes and discards, the more we tip the balance away from harmony. Stripping the land of resources destroys entire ecosystems which will inevitably affect our own habitats. Thus conserving older furniture and giving them new life is a way to minimize our carbon footprint in the world. You'd be surprised how a worn looking ordinary piece of furniture could exude extraordinary flair once again.
What type of music do you listen to while you paint?
I tend to listen to melodic house music such as Above & Beyond, Monstercat Silk Showcase, Vintage and Morelli, Nora En Pure and others. The transportive nature of these extraordinary musicians helps me to let go and access hidden realms inside myself.
Is there something you can tell me with regards to your work that you have not told another journalist before?
My work is a mixture of intention and accident. I have folders of images I have found or photographed myself. When I begin to design new works I’ll start by going through the folders and pulling out at random whatever jumps out at me. From the ten to twelve images I select I will further narrow down and collage a few together. There is something magical about the subconscious working within limitations that you set for yourself. People think you need to have everything at your disposal to create something new and complex. I find the greatest works come out of imposing restrictions on my process, be it source material, color palettes, or techniques.
What piece will it be the most hard to part with and why?
There are three pieces I will be sad to see go but of course happy that someone else will get to enjoy. “Reflections of Paradise”, “Embers of Fortune”, and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” These three pieces transcended their source drawings in ways I couldn’t anticipate. I went off script midway through the painting and discovered that the works had grown meanings I hadn’t originally intended. This revelation that occurs to me, the artist, the one creating the work, is an extraordinary experience. Where does the meaning come from if it’s not from you? And yet somehow the universe held back something about my own paintings until it was ready to reveal itself. These works have a life force separate from me in the way a child develops its own personality separate from its parents.
What is next for you Albert? Any other shows lined up or collaborations you are excited about?
I have never been one to plan to far ahead. I have a strong faith that God sends you what you need at the time you need it. I have some potential projects in different stages of fruition. I believe in the power of relationships and connections. The people you meet today can be your clients and allies down the road. A large commission I am starting later this summer is for a man, a general contractor, I met over ten years ago while I did a small touch up in one of his client’s home. You just never know what’s around the corner!
Is there any advice you can give to emerging artist’s such as yourself as to how to go about getting a solo show? What type of hard work was done to secure Gallery 23 so that others might learn from your experience?
I worked really hard for years creating this body of work with no clear goal of where it would end up. One must put in the work first and opportunity will follow. Preparation and persistence meets opportunity and not often the other way around. However long it takes, between jobs, between family life and hardship, do the work slowly, painstakingly. And then go out into the world with an open spirit. You cannot force anyone to look at your work no matter how good it is.
This show actually came about after I made a bold decision to get out of my house and drive four hours to the Hamptons with no distinct plan in mind. I went to see the Hamptons Art Fair last summer and to commune with people after being in isolation so long. It was on this day that I connected with the owner of the gallery which subsequently led to this show.
Thank you so very much for this interview and cannot wait to see the show in person on May 19th. This most certainly will be a Happy Birthday indeed!