Tuesday 18 February 2014

Erik Volet in conversation with Sam Decter, 2013-14

Totem Plane 2

Let's talk about your recent work. When was you last show?

My last show was at a friend's Antique shop/gallery
 in Toronto called 'Weird Things'
I showed a series of gray scale drawings
 done with prismacolor felt pens. 
The drawings were a small series whose content was derived 
from experiencing a number of traditional ceremonies
 throughout the year. 


Some of the imagery was inspired by indigenous art of the
northwest coast-albeit pretty loosely, since I took some imaginative
liberties, as well as referencing traditional art from elsewhere.

 The drawings came from my personal vision, 
but were clothed in certain traditional conventions of form.
 I had shown the same series a month or so earlier
 in a small cafe in Victoria.

Totem Plane

Does the set of drawings have a collective title?  

The set of drawings doesn't (yet) have a name 
they are all bound by a sort

of medicine/interior vision type of theme/form/quality.

Twp paintings resulted from the series
but I have since moved on to other stuff.
The 'series' may be resumed in the future...

Medicine Boat

Can you tell me more about the medicinal and visionary approach to your work ?

Attending (these) traditional indigenous ceremonies, 
both... local traditions, as well as those rooted in traditions
 indigenous to other areas of the world, 
has had an impact on my work in terms of new spatial

relationships to vision, and relationship with the sacred. 

Sun Mask

I have always been interested in non western-centric modes of art making/doing, 
but actually being able to participate in and experience these traditions

opens up a direct relationship,(one) that is harder to access through studying

traditional art in the removed sense of a merely academic approach.

More recently I've been producing larger format 
black and white paintings from various photo sources. 
The photos give me a point of departure. 
They help me to take off from a found moment that already exists in the world
rather than arising from my own imagination.

Scene from the Yiddish Theatre

 I sample the staging of figures existing in a landscape or interior

 that I would otherwise not be able to concoct as convincingly
 from memory or the imagination. 

In the selection process these images interact with my unconscious
enabling me to construct uncanny scenarios rooted in the real 
and employing classical space to a certain extent.

Stolen Journey

Reducing the palette to a gray scale helps me focus on structural elements

that were de-emphasized when I was working in a more openly expressionist

mode reliant on color being used in a spontaneous subjective manner. The

idea is that a surrealist painting can arise as much from a planned,

structural mode of construction, as from an automatic spontaneous mode,

just as an expressionistic painting can result from careful staging as
much as from wild abandon. Eventually merging these two apparently opposed
tendencies would be ideal, as I go back to the color, and the spontaneity
the idea is to synthesize the lessons learned from the preplanned staging
and the palette restraint.

Beggars' Banquet

Beggars' Banquet is from a still from Luis Bunuel's 1961 film Viridiana. 
Stolen Journey is from an old photograph 
as is Scene from the Yiddish Theatre.

Can you elaborate on what you refer to as
 'alternative depictions and experiences of space'?

 To start with a few western examples of what I meant 
Andre Breton said that "the eye exists in its savage state"
 now I'm not going to pretend I know exactly what that means 
but for me it refers to the idea of an interior vision,
 the eye that looks within as well as without 

and is related as well to Leonardo Da Vinci's 
celebrated suggestion to his students that they look 
at the spittle encrusted cracked walls of the city
 and therein find visions of marvelous battles and



Anyways, I think that ceremonial time affords a certain glimpse 
into this way of seeing that goes so far beyond 
the mere recording of the limited
'reality' of the external world as we believe it to be. 
This is a common idea in most traditional cultures 
where the access to non-ordinary realities 
or what we might reductively call the mythic
 (is) just a familiar and accepted aspect of reality. 
But in the west it seems we had

to 're-discover' this sort of perception, 
this way of being in the world,
and so in the context of modernity we have 
come up with things like surrealism, 
and various other routes to regaining a connection
 to what I would call the Sacred 
(although that term might make some surrealists touchy)

Elk Angel

 When I say the Sacred, I mean that ceremony and ritual also reconnect us
not just to new (old) ways of seeing, but also a different way of
experiencing our own existence -so it is not just our visual relationship
to the world, not just an aesthetic thing, it is as much about sound,
music, rhythm, the voice, storytelling, communion with one another,
nature, the elements and the divine.

Khmer Dancers

So there is this mystic aspect to drawing vision from 
sources other than our own Cartesian ego, 
which the Greeks understood since their idea of the muses 
gave credence to the notion of divine inspiration.

Then there is also the material aspect of culture...
which preserves the mythic, the archetypal, the collective memory of mankind-
and when we look at the diversity of form within
 the traditional art of the various cultures of the world
 there is an immense repository of knowledge...
which also gives us a glimpse into 
the 'interior vision' of
all peoples.

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