Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | 156 Comments
There’s a lonely and terrifying echo felt but not heard in Luke Painter’s stark dreamscapes. Rendered in woodblock etching textures and muted antique lithography colors, his images are often populated by architectural structures ripped out of time. Their telltale ornamentation and historical context give us a glimpse into the many fixations that inform Luke Painter’s work.
While the overall feeling we get from your recent paintings is a surreal desolate future vibe, we’re curious about many of the historical motifs you reference: the William Morris Arts & Crafts style fabric patterns, the turn of of the century woodblock style, images of the Crystal Palace. What is it about that period that fascinates you?
I recently became interested in Britain in the 1850′s. I don’t usually research such a specific time period but some of the people, ideas and architecture spoke to me. I do a lot of research around the history of ornamentation (which is a vast subject of course!) which let me to the seminal book The Grammar of Ornament.
Known as the world’s first muliticultural design sourcebooks, the architect, author, designer and publisher Owen Jones travelled the world, sketching and recording different examples of ornament. Jones goes on to design the book and innovate a new printing process that becomes known as chromolithography.
My more recent colour works have been very influenced by the colour schemes from this process of printing. I am interested in this time where architects (Jones and Morris) were engaged in a number of different fields and would go to great lengths to have their vision become reality.
Of course there is the philosophy in the Arts and Crafts movement to bring a focus back to the handmade. As a material artist and maker I would say that I connect with that.
Architecture seems to take the place of people, or becomes the main character in many of your paintings. We found the effect to be really unsettling, even menacing. Saarinen House starts to feel a bit like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. How do you feel about the houses that inhabit your paintings?
I am interested in the anthropomorphic qualities that are given to or projected onto architectural structures. Specific examples of this include gothic cathedrals with their rose windows that are supposed to represent the eye of god and horror movies like House (from the 80′s) where the architecture seems to emanate a personality.
I created a collaborative work with my father in 2008 where we rebuilt from memory a house that used to be across the street from his house. The rebuilt house was around 9 feet tall and 8 feet wide and changed quite a bit from the original. In the back of the house there were two stained glass eyes that had projectors behind them that shone through the eyes and beamed an animation out into the exhibition space. The house literally took on an anthropomorphic appearance.
There’s an incredible amount of detail and intricate ornamentation in your paintings. One can go a bit crazy looking at the images close-up imagining the work that went into them. Is detailed rendering for you a favourite part of painting, or rather a challenge in trying to achieve the look and effect you’re after?
I have been concentrating on drawing for the last 10 years and I think the work has changed and become more detailed. I try to connect that sense of a laborious process to the content of the work. For example, the Saarinen House is based on the architect’s Eliel Saarinen house which is Arts and Crafts style. Eliel and his wife Loja designed everything in the house including all of the linens. It is a tremendous amount of work and I wanted to display that obsession that a person can have with their surroundings through the rendering of the drawing itself.
We couldn’t help but notice one or two nerd-friendly references in your painting titles (The Last Gasp of Sauron 2, The Two Towers of William Morris 2. ) William Morris’s writings had informed Tolkien’s books. Is it fair to say your inner fantasy geek might be hiding behind your inner architecture and design geek?
Yep. For sure. I like the mixture of high and low aesthetics, so mixing architectural references with Tolkien and Morris comes naturally. I like that Morris had a literary effect on Tolkien. They are both interested in the Medieval and are both out of step with time but become wildly popular in their own fields. I am usually drawn to cultural pinpoints that have a historical ambiguity to them. It is a fairly specific reference (Morris and Tolkien) and most people won’t know it of course, but my work is fairly contextual in the first place and probably needs the viewer to dig a bit to get everything. A tad nerdy I suppose.
Any new projects coming up we can look forward to?
I am currently working on an animation project that is going to be included in an exhibition curated by Peter Burr called Special Effect. 20 artists have been asked to create 30 second animations that respond to the movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. I am very excited by it and it opens at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York in November.
I also co-curate and host (with Meera Margaret Singh) a karaoke based art show called K-TOWN. Meera and I have asked over 50 artists to make karaoke videos to their favorite songs and then we perform them. Lots of fun and very different than my solitary drawing practice. We had just hosted K-TOWN at Nuit Blanche in Toronto and then we are traveling to Montreal in November to mount the performance at Galerie Trois Points.
S&TM: We’d like to thank Luke for taking the time to do this interview with us. We really apprieciate it!
All images © 2012 Luke Pianter.