For Denver’s Peter Illig, everything is metaphor.
In this, Illig is exposing one of the grand epistemological premises: Humans are inherently meaning-making machines. And in his work and in his life, Peter Illig embodies this notion.
Working with popular American images, Illig is a kind of pop artist. But with his perfunctory canvas calls to yesteryear, Illig is even more of a cultural historian. His interests and subject matter range from art history and everything American – especially anything 20th century. Always with his eyes open in his lifelong drive to constantly discover the details of the world a round him, Illig’s aggressive skill lends him the ability not only to impart all he has found – but to pay homage to it as well.
Since he was younger, Illig has possessed the ability, and fondness therein, to spend time locating the surrealistic components that lay all around us, in this American culture. From billboards to 50’s paperbacks and advertisements of all varieties – Illig’s interest is in compiling these components and presenting them to the 21st century world. Because in all of it, Illig is interested in at least investigating whether there is pungent sociological and cultural relevance to these items of history. Usually, there is.
For Illig, art should be accessible. And his work is no exception. This is not to say that Illig always understands where he is heading – in his strange combining of objects and theories – because he doesn’t. Not always at first anyway. But then again this is the great power and mystery of process and that kind of thoughtful engagement in a project, or a body of work. Illig is not afraid of that process leading him where it may: to a direct and relevant meaning.
Just as Illig works through his content, at times, in-process, or on canvas – a viewer of his work may not understand, or uncover, the meaning of a particular piece at first. But if you spend a little time with a piece – the meaning will surface.
Diligently taking familiar images and theories and pieces of literature from the world around him – Illig pairs the often juxtaposing pieces of experience together. In this alchemical process, it is necessary for viewers to take the time and engage with the piece. But don’t misunderstand: this is not to say that Illig’s work is obscure or entirely abstract. It’s not. On the whole his work is concrete – and relatively easily accessible.
Illig is an ardent believer that everybody should have a connection with art. After all, Illig says, the aim is “to get through to something elevated”. And embedded within all the mediums – music, literature, life or painting – there is that opportunity.
In his quest to find meaning in the material world, Illig has triumphantly succeeded in pushing us all a little further beyond everything material, to the immaterial.
For example, Illig’s “The End of Language” depicts a man climbing over a pile of rubble. For Illig this pile is the history of pop art and 60’s advertising. In this, the character of Illig’s work is also a meaning-making machine; seeking meaning somewhere over the top of that pile of history.
Peter Illig, in conversation and on canvas, speaks to every element of being human. Of seeking, striving, connecting cognitive elements present in our cultural landscape – past and present. In this, Illig’s work is entirely human. It’s almost as if he isn’t even a painter. It’s as if he is something more.
Keep up with Illig’s work through his representative gallery, Plus Gallery: Plus Gallery: Peter Illig.
– denversyntax Jonathan Bitz 2007