The Logic of Dreams – Peter ILLIG


Logic of Dreams (detail)Logic of Dreams

Logic of Dreams 1

The drawing is a narrative of an implicit dream, a pastiche of images of emotional turmoil and crisis, creating a two-way dialog between past and present, order and chaos, art and everyday life.  Like changing channels on a TV, or surfing the web, images move like a sliding puzzle, the drawing presents a series of cultural meanings  —  elusive, oblique references, innuendo, erotic symbolism, implications, metaphors, unclear boundaries, non sequiturs, incongruities, romantic ideas.

The Logic of Dreams may be seen as a metaphor for the outward appearance of the rational, observed world that surrounds us. Is the world operating only on scientific principles, or is it more like a dream, drifting from image to symbol….an illusion of “cause and effect”?  Physicists find matter and the cosmos hard to measure and explain. The Uncertainty Principle, quantum mechanics and Chaos Theory point to a world where matter cannot be proven to exist, where subject and object cannot be separated, and (pay attention here)  consciousness may be determining reality.

We participate in the creation of our world by the act of observing. This has important implications for artists. But we can seek the spiritual, not by avoiding matter, but by immersing ourselves in it. The charcoal I’m drawing with was once a living thing. Everything is related to everything else. Thoughts are things. And so are dreams.

The drawings are the incomplete narrative of love and existence, metaphors for sensations and thoughts.

The “sleep of reason” leads to another plane.

It’s not machinery, but magic.

– Peter Illig, 2010

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“Reading Between the Lines”, review of the show “Drawing Never Dies” at Redline, Denver CO


above: “Ruin”,  by Peter Illig.

Drawing Never Dies, an interesting and somewhat provocative examination of contemporary drawings — at least that’s purportedly its subject — is nearing the end of its run at RedLine. The show was juried by Donald Fodness, a Denver artist, and Daisy McGowan, director of the Galleries of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. They considered nearly 700 works submitted by artists from around the world, and ultimately decided to include just over eighty pieces, nearly all of them installed in the enormous main space at RedLine, with a handful in the library to underscore the intimacy of the drawing medium.

To come up with their picks, Fodness and McGowan employed an expanded meaning of “drawing,” which they say is arguably the oldest and most direct art form. In this show, the idea of “drawingness” has been stretched not just to its breaking point, but way, way beyond that: Sculptures, bas-reliefs, ceramics, digital prints and photos, video and even a video “drawing” game with a poetry soundtrack are included. While the preponderance of the material here falls easily within our common understanding of what constitutes a drawing, there are many things that don’t. Some of these pieces are just a degree or so from a conventional definition of drawing, but others go much further than that — and there are a few things that are hard to understand in this context at all. Still, the open-ended approach by the jurors has resulted in a fairly lively and engaging aesthetic experience, even if the underlying thematic narrative is not as tight as it could be.

The show certainly looks good as a whole, with several strong passages providing visual variety. Fodness and McGowan were able to organize groups of pieces with shared affinities so that different points about drawing are made in different places. This approach is especially successful at the start, but it falls apart somewhat as the exhibit proceeds.

As you might expect, some of the most compelling works are contemporary versions of traditional representational drawing. “Five Hundred Degrees Celsius,” by Anna Kaye, for example, is a stunningly beautiful and meticulously detailed depiction in charcoal on paper of a forest fire at twilight. Sharing the same fanatical sense for representation are Caroline Peters’s “Broke Down Palace,” in ink on paper, and Peter Illig’s “Ruin,” in charcoal on paper; both depict collapsing buildings. Shelby Shadwell’s “Comedie 2,” which shows a soiled diaper being set upon by roaches, looks like a photo, though it’s actually charcoal and mixed media on cloth…

-excerpted from an article by Michael Paglia, Westword, Denver CO  July 2016

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“Escorts,” Elizabeth Mahler Licence, at Kanon, Denver CO

Santa Fe Drive in Denver is chock-full of small art galleries and this month a show at Kanon Collective is full of surprises. New works by Elizabeth Mahler Licence fill the front of the small gallery space. Licence has been a photographer for years, showing small works there many times, as a member of this art cooperative. In this exhibit, entitled “Escorts,” she has appropriated others’ photographs and manipulated them to her own purposes.
Unless you grew up on another planet, you know that Las Vegas, Nevada is famous for gambling, but also for legal prostitution, and in downtown Las Vegas, you can often be handed photo cards as you pass on the street, to advertise the services of various ‘call girls’. The images they present are a kind of soft-porn, with stars or hearts or other shapes coyly placed over the women’s body parts. Licence has taken this presentation and artistically altered it to take on a kind of “women’s work” appearance. The photos are turned into soft-pastel digital color prints on fabric on embroidery hoops (about eight to ten inches diameter is typical size). Then she has sewn cute cutout cloth shapes to cover their delicate parts, with needle and thread, mimicking “ladies hand-work” decorative crafts.

The printing has the effect of multi-color screen printing, where each color is separated and layered. As a result these soft-porn images of sex workers become transformed into decorative designs, masking and disguising the original image’s promise of sex, with almost-innocent, sweetly-crafted alterations. Licence has made an interesting transformation here: the work recalls the championing and use of traditional “women’s craft” such as sewing, knitting, and crochet by second-generation feminists. And the works draw attention to the re-appropriation of “images of women,” intended for consumption by men, to artful purposes. If there’s irony, it’s partly because the art works are for sale (naturally), thereby doubling the intent of the original advertising card image.

The women in Licence’s art works retain their allure, but now as decorative “playmate” types, where the hard work and raunchy side of prostitution is easily forgotten. I’m not sure if that is the artist’s intent but the show is intriguing nonetheless, and draws attention to the possibilities of crossover in art and life. Life, at least in Sin City, USA.

Kanon Collective, 766 Santa Fe Dr, Denver CO
May 2016
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On Clyfford Still’s painting “PH-235”

(A talk given by Peter Illig at the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colorado)

The material leads to the spiritual.  Or another way of saying it, the spiritual is in the material. How is this possible?  Why would troweling paint pigment onto a thick cotton canvas lead to a spiritual revelation?  It depends on the approach, and the attitude the artist (such as Clyfford Still) has when he is working. He may start with a mental state, a predilection for a certain mood or an idea; some big question that has been on his mind that he feels compelled to say something about. That will inform his choices as he paints.   But also, he will likely abandon reason and conscious decisions and let “other forces” come into play:  intangible and hard-to-explain unconscious forces that will determine the painting’s form.   The psychologist Carl Jung believed these forces were at work in all humans, but only the focused energy of the experienced artist, could put them into some sort of visual form.  Still’s paintings aren’t “illustrations of ideas” but transcendent images that expressed universal ideas as they were created.

Still stated specifically that the color black was, for him, not a color of fear and terror, but one of warmth and energy.  So the black ground is not a frightening void or abyss but a mysterious generative space.  The red arc would seem obvious as a bolt of lightening but that’s perhaps too easy an interpretation.  More a filament of energy, a pathway through the dark ground.  It does not separate two sides, as an edge would, but travels in a jagged linear fashion. As it travels, left to right (our Western view) it passes 3 other phenomenon:  a white drip which advances outward, a jagged yellow shape, and an emerald green splash below.  It can also be seen as a crevice – a glimpse into a gap, pulsating with warm energy deep within.

One of Still’s predecessors, the German expressionist painter Max Beckmann, is known for this statement: “If you wish to grasp the invisible, penetrate as deeply as possible into the visible”.  He was speaking as a figurative artist, but this can apply to abstract artists as well.   The material, the paint, the support, etc, will, in the hands of the spiritually-minded and experienced artist, take on a sense of the transcendent.

P. Illig


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Art review in ‘Westword’ – May 2016

Figuratively Speaking finishes off with a group of five Peter Illig paintings. Illig’s style refers to mid-twentieth century book-cover art and advertising, giving them a post-pop sensibility. Assembling various disparate images combined in the same piece, Illig’s work is allegorical, but the meanings are often obscure. These recent Illig paintings struck me as very different from his earlier work, yet thoroughly consistent with it.

at Walker Fine Art, Denver CO

-Michael Paglia

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New Works – Peter Illig 2016


A red monochromatic reproduction of a painting by Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi fills most of the space. In the original, which illustrates an apocryphal biblical tale, Jewish queen Judith and her assistant have beheaded Holofernes, an enemy of her people, but in this painting, a symbol for patriarchy. Inset pictures comment on the meaning in ambiguous ways.



Three images are metaphors that combine to comment on some of the “mechanisms” that make sexual politics function in our society. As in the other paintings, women are shown as a presence; men are only alluded to. Male and female energy turn the gears (a well-lubricated machine); take out one part and the machine stops turning.



A 19th century painting by French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres provides a figure and setting, but the young aristocratic woman in the original (seen in reflection in mirror), is replaced or ‘cancelled’ by a modern young woman wearing the accoutrements of technology. The painting is “constructed,” as alluded to by the cranes at left. Past and present collide.



A woman attempts to hold back a “flood” of male sexual energy. To the right, stereotypes of men and their supposed power and independence are shown by the chess ‘king’ and motorcyclist.



ILLIG_Trajectory_Ptng _sm
A jet above and a pageant princess below, two metaphors for exaggerated male and female ideas. Both possess a certain energy and charisma.



Ways of Knowing

An astronomer peers through a large telescope, looking upward to the heavens.
A woman immersed in water finds her self in bodily experience. The buddha represents the inward, spiritual search for knowledge.


These paintings and more may be viewed at Walker Fine Art gallery in Denver, CO through May 14, 2016.

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Review of Walker Fine Art exhibition – 2015

On the other side of downtown, at Walker Fine Art, is the eponymous solo Peter Illig, featuring a recent set of paintings by this longtime Colorado artist. Illig has not exhibited a new body of work for more than four years, so this show shouldn’t be missed.

The paintings here are about Illig’s life, at least broadly speaking, but as is usual for him, there’s a decidedly retro quality to them, and they appear to be set in a time before he was born. That’s partly because he often uses old found photos for inspiration. Though Illig also works with live models, even the pieces based on them seem to hark back to an earlier period.

The paintings are mostly monochromes, and many feature a main image coupled with a smaller, secondary one. In “Epistemology,” for instance, Illig has rendered in a grayish purple a man in a wide-lapel jacket and tie who appears to be feeling his way toward the viewer. He is unable to see because he is blindfolded. Illig told me that he saw the man as himself, trying to feel his way in the art world. Up in the right corner of the painting is a small rectangle in which there are depictions of three open books that appear to be tumbling to the ground. There are several other paintings with blindfolded figures, as well. Their existence adds an enigmatic quality to the portraits, and the idea that the subjects are sightless is an important narrative component.

Despite the fact that abstraction and even conceptualism were meant to supplant realism over a century ago, the realist ethos is still clearly relevant in the 21st century. It’s amazing when you think about it.


Michael Paglia, Westword,  March 2015

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