• Julian Schnabel in his Palazzo Chupi, New York.
  • Julian Schnabel in his Palazzo Chupi, New York.
  • Installation view, "Plate Paintings 1978-86", Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, 2016.
  • Julian Schnabel in his living room , NYC.
  • "The Tunnel" (Death of an Ant Near a Power Plant in the Country), 1982, Julian Schnabel.

Julian Schnabel

The Painted World

Interview Bill Powers
Photography Clément Pascal

I like to paint in the dark. Particularly if I’m painting portraits. I can see better in the dark. Color doesn’t get in the way. When I made the first plate painting “The Patients and The Doctors”, which isn’t a portrait, I painted at night with electric lights. When you paint in the daylight, it will always look better when you take the painting inside.

BP I wrote a novella called “What We Lose in Flowers,” which is sort of loosely based on your life. After reading one passage, you texted me to say what a touching beautifully-written pro- jection of yourself. By the same token, would you say that “At Eternity’s Gate” is a projection of you, Julian Schnabel?
JS I made a movie about Van Gogh, but it’s not just a projection of myself. In the movie, Dr Rey says to Van Gogh “you’re confusing people, you’re confusing yourself, you’re confusing yourself with your paintings.” And Van Gogh says “I am my paintings.” Well, that’s true. He is his paintings and I could say that I am my paintings. I am my movie. When I’m not around anymore that is who I am. Look at this painting I’m working on – everything that’s not in the painting doesn’t exist. It’s its own world with its own set of variables and conditions. The art stays, the artists don’t.
BP Perhaps the most signi cant part of any painting then is the side of the canvas where it meets the wall, because that’s the intersection of two worlds colliding.
JS The edge of the painting is one world. Everything else beyond that is of another time. The painting remains a constant. After a screening of the lm, a guy got up during the Q&A and asked “What is reality?” And he was asking earnestly. He wasn’t asking about the facts versus ction in “At Eternity’s Gate.” He was questioning the nature of existence. In fact, Willem Dafoe isn’t acting. He’s in a situation where he has to survive in the best way he can. He navigates with whatever tools he has that he can press buttons inside of himself to ac- curately respond in a way that will be acceptable to him. He’s not making believe. The process of making something is really all there is and in the case of moviemaking, recording it. I don’t understand people who have a job where money is their goal. And then they think “I can go on vacation now and relax before I go back to make some more money.” I don’t understand that mindset. You should read Jonas Mekas’ “In Defense of Perversity.”


Read the full interview on MUSE 53