So it isn’t that I particularly enjoy advertising things. And I am not the type who jumps at an opportunity to tell people about the latest thing that I have experienced saying, “You got to see this!” or “This is the best thing ever!” I am, however, the type to try to find a way to do the afformentioned annoying things by disguising them as something else.
I believe that artists see their art in other places. I see most of mine in film and in cartoons. The most profound moment of this, for me, was sitting in the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Cy Twombley room where they have the entire “Fifty Days at Iliam” on exhibition. At the time, my work was unabashingly concerned with capturting man’s need and penchant for both discovery and destruction. Someone with these things on his mind does not have to look to deeply in these Twombley’s to see them. Confronted by these works I was overwhelmed with the sence of satisfaction that someone else could arrange marks in a way to bring such emotive responce. I was also humbled by the realization that this man had done what I want my work to do…and had done it better. Of course I was not painting large canvases. In fact, I was not painting like that at all, and when I did make marks, my employ of the naïve paled in comparison to that of Twombley. I thought what better way to capture activity that is as fundamental and unavoidable by us, than to use a device that is elemental and universal to our language and visual experience. Needless to say, I was both frustrated and inspired. My task was to use my toys and carefully constructed messes and piles to instill the notion of importance and futility in our quest for understanding and warfare. Sticky subjects to both hybridize and articulate I know….I still know.
That was example 1. Example 2 came a couple weeks ago while browsing titles on Netflix. My favorite book growing up was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. Undoubtably, it was the illustrations that attracted me. Those that remember will recall the maticulous use of lines to construct shapes and value shifts. My art school inundated mind responds to the clever use of these thousands of lines as a well executed means of creating imagery….while my eight year old self was and is still just impressed by how much work that must have been.
“God, that must have taken an entire afternoon!” -Ian Shelly, 1991
But alas, as good as that book was and regardless of the days I must have spent with my head inside the pages of mashed potato mountains and helicopters carrying off giant pancakes, I am wanting to talk about the movie. The 2009 release from Sony Pictures Animation of the same name blew me away. I didn’t see this one in the theatre and I regret it sorely. What I was taken back by was the vision of the film makers and how it carried and drove such a well constructed project. But again, I am not trying to advertise here, I am, after all, talking about my work still. When I sit down to make a small model of a 55 gallon drum, for example, I start with a sketch and maybe a drawing and if I am feeling particularly anal retentive that day, a maquette. The way that I would draw such an object would no doubt display a certain amount of imperfection. Drunkedness is a word that potters use to describe a vessel that posseses a certain amount of this by exhibiting lines that undulate as they circle around. The form itself would probably and rather predictably if we are talking about drunkedness, tip and/or sag to one side. This would even begin to be anthropomorphic as in the case of the dishes in The Sword and the Stone or the teaset in The Beauty and the Beast. Anyway, I am getting distracted, my drawing would have a soul that looked like this in the way that all of my drawings in my work do. It is my soul and it is recognizable. All artists put their soul into what they do and this is something that can’t be helped. What impressed me about this film was the barrels, cinder blocks, rocket ships, buttons, EVERYTHING was the way I would have done it. I didn’t have the same sense of mild failure that accompanied the Twombleys a year earlier; just the satisfaction. There were countless things in this movie from the sense of humor to the way things were colored important to the way appearance and story were planned that I both saw and wanted to see in my work.
I think and believe that artists are always on the lookout for something that reaffirms our project’s energy, purpose and state of being. For me, it is film, cartoons, toys, etc… Anyone who has had the misfortune of trying to ask me what kind of things interest me and influence my work, has found this out. They are coming as us all the time and we are here to listen for them. Now…I have to be getting back to my miniature-jet-powered-shipping container-lifting-blimp….powered by little scientists of course. -ian