The show of my newest paintings with neon signs opens in Denver April 28, 2017.
The show of my newest paintings with neon signs opens in Denver April 28, 2017.
J: The fragmentation in your work is emblematic of how we as a society have been cordoned off into groups and tribes, and yet we are trying to work together. Are you seeing new themes and imagery show up as related to the “crazy pants” events of the past year?
P: My paintings (and drawings) are often divided into zones, but I use formal elements to bring the various parts together. So they do walk a line between ‘fragmented’ and ‘unified’. It’s a literal way to show the fragmented nature of society and by extension, ourselves, internally. I have so many interests, so many areas I study, that pictorial content comes to me from a lot of sources…
Click the link above for the rest of the interview on Julia’s blog.
I assembled and edited this video containing samples from 20+ years of art making.
All art – Peter Illig
Music: “Common People” from William Shatner’s 2004 album “Has Been”.
New painting incorporating neon sign by Peter Illig. The Nuts and Bolts, 42×54″, oil on wood, with neon sign, 2016.
Peter Illig is a staple in Denver’s art scene. Having aggressively worked for the last twelve years as an artist, in “Full Fathom Five,” Illig exhibits new works that epitomize his signature style. Known for his use of monochromatic imagery, realist style and surrealist composition, Illig has created five new large-format oil paintings for this exhibition.
This series of work explores Illig’s interest in appropriation and in paint-on-paint pastiche. He has incorporated various images of pre-existing work – including Gericualt’s “Raft of the Medusa” and Winslow Homer’s “Gulf Stream.” Atop these underpaintings, Illig inserts seemingly incongruous images. The effect of this is simultaneously unsettling and intriguing. The exhibition’s title was also taken from seasoned artists, both Shakespeare and Sylvia Plath have used “Full Fathom Five.” Illig sees the process of appropriation as a means to build on the art and ideas that history has provided, in new visually and intellectually challenging ways. This method allows him to show how ideas, events and art of the past and present are all connected –a prominent idea in Illig’s work.
Known for his monochromatic paintings, Illig believes that the monochrome, specifically black and white, offers a documentary quality to the work-presenting ideas honestly and truthfully, where the seductive nature of color can distract the viewer from the ideas presented in the work.
Illig’s canvases are saturated with images and loaded with metaphor which creates a very active viewing experience-the eye is pulled back and forth across the work, and eagerly searches for the answer to the puzzle Illig presents. Illig takes inspiration from quantum physics, philosophy and theory to develop his work. He also aggressively addresses modern issues and themes. This series is heavily dependent on the imagery of water, a metaphor for deeply felt emotion.
An older painting from 1996. Peter Illig, 45×62 in., oil on canvas.
The studio which we see in the picture is not even Matisse’s but loaned to him by an American woman, a sculptor, who worked in the South of France. So the painting has many generations of removal from a genuine, actual experience. An artist working in a borrowed studio, borrowing ideas from the young woman’s body, is photographed in black and white but the photographer, Brassai, who (in a sense) borrows the image and prints it on photographic paper. it is then printed in a book by a publisher. An artist (me) borrows the book from a library. The photo is borrowed (or appropriated, if you will), drawn on canvas and painted translated into color. Now it is produced on more time in this paper and may be borrowed for exhibition in the future. The image has a lot of miles on it and it becomes hard to say who owns it. It is a promiscuous image.
I was struck by the resemblance of the older Henri Matisse to Sigmund Freud. His white coat seemed to easily translate to a scientist’s lab coat – Freud carrying on research.
This is a rare viewing experience: a show of artworks made by artists painting over other painters’ work. I know, sounds like a novelty stunt but it’s much more than that. Denver artist Doug Kacena, along with the help of Mike Wright, the director of Mike Wright Gallery in Denver, arranged to acquire paintings by twelve Colorado artists — highly respected and accomplished artists at that — who work in a representational style that is often called “contemporary realism.” The artists are all known for excellence in landscape, still-life, and portrait subjects. Even one of Colorado’s A-list artists, Don Stinson, graciously agreed to contribute a large drawing. Kacena himself is an abstract expressionist painter; his work (found in many art collections) does not contain recognizable subjects. Kacena’s own canvasses are characterized by bold, direct, painterly applications of thick impasto oil paint, often in black, white, and gray, with touches of color. It’s tempting to picture a huge divide between realist and abstract art, but at the end of the day, it’s still painting. The combination of these two styles seems unlikely and that’s where it gets (very) interesting.
Kacena took twelve paintings, one from each of the participating artists, and then gave one of his own abstract paintings to each of those artists to work over. At first it sounds like collaboration, which is not uncommon for artists, two working on an art work cooperatively. But in this case, a finished painting was to be painted over, changed, modified and made into something new, without any direction from the original artist. There is an unwritten law in the art world, and that is, you don’t paint over another artist’s painting. So with that rule smashed, the artists got busy. What resulted is nothing short of astonishing, and widely varied. For example, a realistic still-life by Robert Spooner has been drastically altered by Kacena’s bold white brushstrokes. Conversely, Jeff Legg paints a handsome still-life on top of one of Kacena’s abstract paintings. Amazingly, the two synthesize and it all works. Some of the paintings are severely transformed, others show much more caution.
The artists attempted to paint over the other artist’s work without completely obliterating the original. Partly this is out of respect for the original artist, but also trying to create a synthesis of the two styles. Some of the original will be forever lost but what will emerge as a result? The hope is, something visually exciting, walking a line between realism and expressionism. And they do: the paintings are full of terrific surprises. The original painting is shown next to the final hybrid in a small print adjacent to it so the viewer can compare.
Authorship of the works becomes problematic, but that doesn’t seem important. It is often jarring to view these paintings. Both viewer and artist have to be comfortable with unclear origins, processes, and whether such a work is actually finished. Knowing many artists and how they work, I find this a remarkable deflection of egos, and attainment of a level of trust. They surely could not have approached this project knowing that their art work would be “ruined” or negated but instead, transformed. The paintings are a kind of mash-up of two distinct styles. It fits well into our pluralistic art world, where every historical painting style co-exists simultaneously. Art is a big house and there’s room for these sorts of experiments. Furthermore, the boundary between realism and abstraction is an illusion, since both styles, fundamentally, have paint applied to a flat surface; they only differ by degrees. Doug Kacena must be commended for reaching out to artists so different from himself, and the other artists as well, for bringing a cooperative and friendly attitude. This reinforces my belief that diverse artists have more similarities than differences.
Supplementing the gallery experience is a short film being shown in a side room with interviews of the artists, and shows some of them at work in their studios. It is produced by David and Beverly Schler, and illuminates some of the behind-the-scenes workings of the project.
One comes away from the show having seen a completely original art experience. Each piece in the show invites close inspection and ultimately, reflection on how art processes function as an extension of human personality and perception.
Through January 21, 2017.
The artists: Doug Kacena, Ron Hicks, Quang Ho, Jill Soukup, Edward Aldrich, Ed Kucera, Terrie Lombardi, Don Stinson, Dave A. Santillanes, Mikael Olson, Jeff Legg, Robert Spooner and Kevin Weckbach.