Sunday, July 05, 2009

Meet Patrick Glover

Patrick Glover is an artist living in Charlotte, North Carolina. We met at the beginning of our first year of art school at Cooper Union and quickly became fast friends. Perhaps inevitably for a friendship of such intensity, we had a falling out before our years at Cooper came to an end and we didn't see much of each other until recently when, via the magic of Facebook, we reconnected in a very good way.

One especially nice discovery since reconnecting with Patrick has been coming to know of a series of paintings that he has been working for the past several years.  They are based on photographs he takes while driving. For me, they bring up lots of childhood memories of being driven around while my mother went shopping and riding the school bus. They also tap into something that feels very North American and not completely unrelated to my own Knitting Sprawl project.

I asked Patrick some questions about himself and his work and I am very pleased to share his answers here, along with some images from this series of paintings (inserted somewhat at random). For more information about Patrick and his work, I also invite you to take look at his website.  (Note:  all of Patrick's work is oil on canvas)

(Robyn) Please give me a little of your biography.

(Patrick) I was born on Long Island. When I was 5, my father moved us to a very rural, poor and isolated part of upstate New York. I had just enough memory of Long Island to be aware that there was a bigger world out there, and to be frustrated not having access to it. I was fortunate to be accepted at The Cooper Union and ran as fast as I could to NYC, graduated in 1987, and stayed for nearly 20 years.

I spent a number of years after school basically drifting, from job to job and from non-traditional living situations, from squats to friends' spare rooms. One of those jobs had been for a large restoration company where I picked up decorative painting skills. It took me about ten years to finally have connections and to decide to make a career out of decorative work, at least until I could "really" paint. I had some success, saved up some money, made some bad decisions about how to spend it, wound up hospitalized with pneumonia and without health insurance. As a result of that and the economic crash, now find myself in debt and stuck where I am. However, I am continuing to paint, and living month to month, which is nothing new.

My work has been shown in NYC, as well as in a number of galleries in North Carolina, Seattle, Savannah GA, and Columbia SC and soon in St. Petersburg FL. I am currently working on making my studio into a multi disciplinary performance and collaborative space, which is pretty rewarding and keeps me focused on possibilities instead of problems.

(R) Why did you move south? What are some of the aspects of living there that are positive? negative?

(P) I moved south with the idea of being a real estate speculator:  flip a house in about three years and hightail it to Europe. It didn't work out as planned.

This area has some amazing flora and fauna, incredible spiders, lots of interesting insects. Of course, that includes more biting varieties. The winters are mild and have some of the most subtly colorful grays I have ever seen. Spring is a riot of color, but is very short. Summers are brutally hot and humid, fall is also too short. The mountains to the west are incredible, about a two hour drive. Chapel Hill and Carrboro are very hip, progressive and also about a two hour drive in the other direction. Charlotte has a fairly vital music scene, lots of experimentation, always a number of venues to hear music just about nightly. I am happy with the little mill house I now live in and like this neighborhood which is ethnic and working class. I also like having a yard which makes it possible to have dogs. I love my dogs.

Unfortunately, there really is no arts scene here. Galleries almost exclusively show either decorative, pastoral landscapes or decorative, formulaic abstractions. There are a number of real estate developments and real estate schemes that are attempting to market themselves as an arts district, but none actually are...It is very isolating and that isolation is aided by geographical realities. This place is a poster child for unregulated suburban sprawl. There are plenty of other cultural aspects of this town that are far from enjoyable. I personally have created a bubble of friends and tend to spend much of my time in the studio.

R) Can you talk a little about the evolution of your paintings? Did (does) your decorative work influence your current work?

(P) I basically stopped painting after Cooper, other than doing the decorative work and murals. I was still trying to work through much of my own art school related confusion and what seemed like contradictory impulses. I maybe produced three or four paintings on canvas a year for about 8 or 9 years.

When I did start painting more seriously for myself again, I made a conscious decision to be a little schizophrenic about it, to keep my work and the decorative work as far away from each other as possible. One reason for that was that faux finishing and murals both require that you know and utilize formula methods, standard techniques and are consistent with process, all of which I hoped to avoid in my own work. Another reason was, as I would tell the people I would hire for my crew, with decorative painting you check your own aesthetics at the door. The designer and the client make aesthetic choices, all we were there for was to be the hands. I was also conscious of not letting the market driven motivations that influenced the way I worked as a decorative painter effect my own work. Efficiency is crucial on a jobsite, but can lead to formulaic painting in the studio.

Having said that, there has been some definite crossover, especially in regards to prep work, ways of scaling up and familiarity with a fairly wide range of materials. One chicken and egg question would be my use of glazes, which although it is a basic part of most faux finishing, predated the decorative work in my own work. I suppose an argument could be made that I have developed some skills working with layers of glaze from years of decorative work, though I am pushing that in non-decorative ways, I hope. Other than that, it has been adaptation plus recognizing and working with both my weaknesses and strengths, gaining confidence in the chance accidents inherent in oil paint and letting go of ownership once I put the brush down, which is an ongoing process, I think. I'd imagine that to be true of most painters.

(R) Who are some artists, living or dead, who you think about every time you enter your studio?

(P) There are some that are probably fairly obvious when looking at my work - Turner, Pinkham Ryder, Corot, Monet, Soutine, Zao Wou-ki, Pollock; some who's influence may seem a bit more obscure; Rembrandt, El Greco, Stuart Davis, David Park, Vuillard, Morandi; and a few that would probably take too long to explain - The sculptors Andy Goldsworthy, Anish Kapoor and Maya Lin, and the composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Mozart, who make up more than half of my studio musical accompaniment. Different lessons from different teachers.

Most recently, I have been sort of obsessed with one particular painting. About three years ago, after having started the windshield series, I was back in New York visiting friends and spent a few days at the Met. I had seen Richard Pousette - Dart's "Symphony #1 the Transcendental" countless times since the opening of the Met's modern wing. On this occasion, it seemed as if I was seeing it for the first time. I was stuck in front of it for about 45 minutes. It has since become a model for me of tensions and contradictions in equilibrium and a visual musicality. Those basic ideas has become more and more important as I continue working on this series. "Symphony #1" has been consistently buzzing around in my head since then.

Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental, 1941–42
Richard Pousette-Dart (American, 1916–1992)
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(R)  Any other influences, not artists necessarily?

(P)  Well, I have a strangely amalgamated jumble of philosophical influences. Marx's theory of alienation as reinterpreted by Guy Debord, mixed with and contradicted by the likes of Dewey and Stendhal... I'm very intrigued by what is going on in higher mathematics like Fractal Geometry and Quantum Physics, but I lack the math skills, education or language to fully appreciate the beauty of the truths they are discovering. Recognizing that, I am influenced by the little I am able to comprehend ( or maybe just my misunderstandings ). Music of all types, and the culture in general, especially the ways in which perception is influenced by mass production and reproduction, standardization and consumption.

(R)  Can you talk about your current series (rainy highway series)?

(P)  The highway series grew out of a small series I worked on when I was still living in New York around 1995-6.

I was looking for an approach and subject matter that could relate to everyday experience and somehow reflect this culture at this time. I began 3 series dealing with both the media and it's affects on narrative, sense of self, desires and perception and the automobile and it's effects on landscape. I did a series of still lives that included a television set as a central object, which was interesting, but ultimately seemed like a dead end. 

I also was working on paintings in which I was attempting to work out some of the issues that the glut of images and information we are bombarded with through the media suggest. That series is still ongoing, but typically stalls for various stretches of time as I lose faith in it as an approach or find myself either feeling boxed in or sense that the work is overly dogmatic...

I also did a series of 12 paintings of highways. I wanted to avoid any personally idiosyncratic, overly individualized or stylized approach to the work, because I felt that the anonymity of the images would be best served by a purely observational approach. I was pleased with the paintings, but couldn't imagine where else to take them.

When I moved to Charlotte in 2002, (a nearly entirely car dependent culture), it seemed to make sense to continue to consider the idea. I had many more opportunities to actually take images, since I was now driving every day and since I was also now using a digital camera. Images captured in the rain where purely coincidental at first and in fact, I dismissed them as unusable, since they did not conform to the original concept. It took a while before I realized what I was seeing, and took a while longer to convince myself to try to make paintings of it.

The images I capture in the rain are endlessly varied and I am very pleased with the fact that they are entirely a matter of chance. I'm also happy with the things they can suggest about standardization, recognition, predictability, even perception itself. They also have given me the freedom to really play around with materials, since each image tends to require it's own approach, which also helps to keep me from being tempted to become formulaic. It's nice to find that a subject matter can be so varied yet consistent, keep my interest and continue to suggest possibilities, even after a number of years.

(R) What are you in love with right now?

(P) Music, randomness, chance, ephemeral perceptual inconsistencies, nature, the patterns in nature, my dogs, food.

(R) What/where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

(P) One lesson I've learned in the past 7 or 8 years is that plans seldom turn out the way you might hope, so I'm not making any predictions. I'd like to be in a more culturally vibrant place with access to mass transit, art, music and cultural dialogue. Wherever I wind up, I would hope that I am able to honestly say that I am making the best work I am capable of making at that time.

Thanks Patrick!

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