Interview in Issue 3 of Collectif Magazine. Q & A via email.
What is paradise to you?
I find the idea of paradise to be slightly problematic. Something about the notion suggests to me an end-state or a static environment that I'm not entirely happy with. Perhaps the etymology of the word 'paradise,' meaning a walled enclosure has something to do with my discomfort with the term. For sure, paradise might be a remarkably pleasant place but it is one that is inherently bounded. If all your dreams come true, what are you going to dream of?
Jumping over the semantic issues, if you allow a rephrasing the question into one of a Utopian vision then instantly the answer is the dissolution of all walls and barriers. The place I'd really want to be living in all the time is pretty much what we have now, negotiated through some kind of political philosophy of Anarcho-communism. I'm favor a global non-hierarchical society of networked individual communities with the means of production placed collectively in the hands of those communities. Throw in there an abolition of the money system, free exchange of all ideas, and a renegotiation of religion into a collective investigation of metaphysics and things start getting warmed up. In an ideal form, we're also talking about maintaining the technology of contemporary civilization removed from the pathology of contemporary civilization.
It's the kind of project however that requires a lot of hard work both individually and collectively, and that work will never stop. But that's the central idea: the paradisiacal destination as a constant journey.
That's my little imagined happy-place anyway.
What colour is your hair?
Skulls seam to be very prominent in your work, why?
When I was living in Wellington a friend who was a musician and also a painter saw a couple of paintings in my studio that incorporated a skull motif. In his own work he had been using skull and skeleton imagery pretty much exclusively for quite sometime. He challenged me to a race to see who could be the first to paint 1000 skulls. It seemed a fine enough idea to me at the time, so I started working more with the skull as the central subject of my work. The idea of the race was soon forgotten however, and we've lost touch since then, but I continued to use the skull in my work and found it to be an interesting tool in accessing the peculiar world of culture.
Formally I discovered the icon of the skull to be an really useful hook on which to hang the more experimental side of my practice, which is exploring the inherently expressive material qualities of the paint itself. With the skull the question of subject was immediately resolved and work almost became about the pure process of painting.
There is an essentialness to the skull image that occupies a very particular area of culture in that is emblematic of the central drama of the human experience, individually and as a species. I tend to believe that the core factor that makes the human animal distinct and peculiar is our awareness of our own existence which is inexorably linked to a consciousness of the finitude of this experience. Being aware that you are comes at the price of knowing that one day you will not be, and the image of the skull - a human form only truly presentable in death and rendered from the transient flesh - is an eternal reminder of that.
To a certain extent, the relationship that image of the skull has to what it means to be human has led to it becoming a grossly overdetermined signifier. There is a tackiness to the skull that is fun to play with because even in tackiness the image carries a weight. Take, for example, the skull as the emblem of the outlaw that found it's prime realization in the Jolly Roger of the classic pirate. My contention is that the embracing of this image as rebellion is a defiance in the form of determinedly living in the face of death. The rebel's liberty is activated by the acceptance of their inevitable demise.
To go a little deeper, to me the skull works as a kind of logographic for Martin Heidigger's notion of Dasein; a human entity directly engaged with the nature of its own being, phenomenally bound by time. I believe strongly in the existential freedom posited by embracing rather than fleeing from the unavoidable fact of one's own finite situation. The image of the skull is fucking fascinating way of exploring and reifying the terrible beauty of that freedom.
To me the skull is an expedient tool of my practice and yet even I can't step from its shadow.
What does each day involve for you?
Waking up in the morning is really the worst thing that can ever happen to you in a day. It's an event that tends to hit me with all the terror and anxiety of being shot out a cannon aimed a brick wall. Though, once I've gotten over this recurring shock of the new I know that the day can only get better from there. Drinking quite a bit of coffee helps.
None Gallery (www.none.org.nz), where I have my studio, is a collective artist-run project space, and the majority of my day is generally split between working on my own projects and helping to maintain the space. This generally involves liaising with the artists who show here and keeping our online archives up to date, through to fixing broken stuff around the building and just plain old sweeping and cleaning. There are seven people involved here full time, a mix of artists and musicians, so it's fairly social space to be involved in and most days pass as pleasantly as they do productively.
Occupying most of my time at the moment is helping to organize a fundraising art auction for None's neighbor and compatriot Glue Gallery (check out www.residencyseason.org for their current project). Amongst this I'm managing to slowly work on some new paintings and do a couple of music projects.
We all have an imagination, what does yours consist of?
Generally it approaches me as a shifting palimpsest of images, sounds, and in particular chunks of words. Forever amorphous and impossible to itemize and catalogue I can only wildly grab bits out and try to do something with them. Somehow, however, it sort of makes sense to me.
What inspires you as an artist?
Necessity, intuition, synchronicity, volition, memory, transformation, identity, redemption, community, fermentation, possibility, distillation, and the wonderful malleability of reality.
Where were you born?
Hastings Memorial Hospital. As good a place as any for it I suppose, not that I had that much input in the decision.
What are you parent’s names?
I call them Mum and Dad.
How would you describe your work?
An expression of ontological skepticism and an investigation into the generation of meaning.
What were you doing at the age of 18?
I was unemployed with a trench coat and a funny haircut, drawing a lot and not sleeping very much.
If you could meet anyone in the world who would it be?
Do you have any animals?
Unfortunately my life has no space for animals right now. I live in a warehouse flat in fiscal uncertainty while still harboring some ambitions for travel. If I ever did find myself sticking around an appropriate piece of land for long enough I'd like to take care of a dog and maybe a couple of goats. Pygmy goats. Pygmy goats are fucking cute.