Tuesday, April 9, 2013
GJ Pearson interviewed by Philip Willey, April 2013.
‘What and who we are today is the reflected, accumulated, and re-reflected summation of our experiences. The art that I make is not only a recapitulative outpouring of my own past; it is also a retelling and revision of it. I like to work as a persona, as someone who doesn’t necessarily belong in this time, but with materials that are of this time. The material itself, being not universally malleable, helps me in my interpretations by influencing the final form of the work.’ Gj Pearson, artist’s statement.
We sit in GJ Pearson’s studio which is crammed with bizarre and interesting objects, sculptural works and drawings that range from the whimsical to the macabre. We talk about art, life in general, and the difficulties of being an artist in Victoria. Selling art these days is hard we agree but we also note that things could be much worse. Art just isn’t a priority for most people but that’s true pretty much everywhere. Maybe people just don’t have the money these days. Or the ones that do are investing in the Kitimat Refinery.
Still Victoria is a pleasant place to live and things are happening. Not always in an obvious way but artists are surviving if not thriving. Falling back on New Age wisdom we decide that it is what it is.
We also agree about feeling uncomfortable with video interviews.
PW. OK…no camera. So what motivates you to make art GJ?
GJP. I want to create things that don’t exist. Also seeing beautiful things makes me want to be involved.
PW. There’s a lot of humour in your work. The wings for instance look like brave attempts to get airborne. They seem to fit somewhere between Icarus and the Wright Brothers.
GJP. The humour is inevitable I think. I can’t get away from the absurdity of life. Also it’s an outlet for my frustration with the world. I’m pushing back at the seriousness everywhere.
GJP. If you like. I’m commenting on the absurdity. So I make elaborate machines that don’t really do anything. Reducing complexity to its simplest form. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. I like to think the machines are intricate but meditative. I want people to wonder why they were made and feel…..er puzzled by them…
GJP. Yes. Like that feeling you get when you go to Tokyo say. Being lost in a strange and
foreign land. So it's a slow and gradual discovery. By recognizing small elements, a path to
understanding can be found.
PW. What about this one? (GJ’s pieces are made of twisted wire, treated paper, beads, bells etc. often with small motors that create movement. A large assemblage catches my eye….GJ obliges by pulling something…. wheels turn, wings flap, a crucifix rises, a bell rings.)
PW. A wry comment on transfiguration?
GJP. I suppose. I was working out my feelings about religion. I’ve got it out of my system I think. No that’s not quite right. I feel that I still have a lot to say about religion, but I am not really sure I want to antagonize people anymore.
PW. I can see the influence of da Vinci in your work. How about Arthur Rackham? Or Roland Emett?
GJP. Da Vinci for sure. And Rackham. I love Roland Emett’s contraptions.
PW. Some of your drawings look like mystical lettering. Some kind of arcane alphabet. What do the letters represent?
GJP. They are Sigil drawings. It’s a form of evocation. I see them as a graphic representation of a desire. A statement of language is rendered down to a simplified form, then embellished with decorative elements such as flourishes and gold leaf to create an object which is both beautiful and ambiguous. The meaning is lost in the process.
PW. Would you describe the Sigil drawings as mystical? Arcane? Or just decorative? Or all three?
GJP. All three, they are based on an ancient practice and developed by a modern artist named Austin Osman Spare. He believed that the conscious mind was incapable of working toward manifesting desire, the sigils were a way of burying intention and letting the subconscious do the work. I believe that all art has the ability to affect people in ways they may not be aware of, thereby making all art sigils….and all artists alchemists.
PW. It’s interesting the way you make paper look like parchment.
GJP. I get the paper from Opus. It’s a Japanese rag paper coated with a pva glue and water solution. It’s perfect for doing wings and skin. Similar to the papier mache process or making model airplanes.
PW. And what about this piece? (GJ has used the hot air from a lamp and wings so that various objects are orbiting a rather timeworn planet.) Does it have a name yet? Does the orb refer to our own sphere or is it just some remote place?
GJP. That piece is called ‘Trip to the Moon’. It’s meant to be a meditative piece. It reflects my desire to return to a simpler time when impossible things seemed to have simple solutions. It may be a romantic notion and perhaps that time never existed, but I still want to live there.
PW. Can you talk a bit about the skull piece, ‘Artifact’?
GJP. I’ve always been inspired by Renaissance painting and sculpture, and ‘Artifact’ came from wanting to create a beautiful object which was from my time, using materials which are familiar to me. I hope to lead the viewer to a place of questioning. What is it? Why is it? The addition of motion should only serve to reinforce this uncertainty.
PW. OK. One last question. Would you call your approach intuitive?
GJP. I generally won't work on a piece unless I feel inspired to do so, and sometimes that inspiration feels like it takes me out of myself, so I guess that my work is in a way intuitive.
PW. That’s great. Thanks a lot GJ.
GJP. Well thank you Philip and Efren.
You can see the work of GJ Pearson and other artists at Arrogant Pirate, 12-532 Fisgard Street, Victoria.