Brief talk on the Conscious/Unconscious exhibit – Arvada Center for the Arts, August 2015

Conscious / Unconscious – Arvada Center, August 2015

I’m one of many artists invited, or curated, into this show. Rather than talk about my work alone, I’d rather speak on how my work fits into this exhibit, and the exhibit’s purpose. In a roundabout way, I will be talking about my own process and painting content.

This show intends to examine the overlap of the ‘conscious and unconscious’ in art-making. And in so doing, examines that overlap in art interpretation, how the viewer responds to the work. There are feelings that are portrayed in the art work, but the artist can’t completely know how the viewer will respond. For example, if you get ‘a funny feeling’ looking at one of the art works in this show, that’s evidence that your unconscious mind is being stimulated, or hidden memories being recalled. If we have a darker, shadow side to our unconscious minds (and the study of human psychology proves that we do), then often art will evoke those sorts of feelings, when contemplated for a period of time.

Most artists who work figuratively, or with ‘realistic’ images, paint consciously, but often the unconscious is really making most of the decisions about what subjects are chosen, or how the paintings will be constructed. An artist feels compelled to make art, but the meanings of the art work may not be revealed until the process is well underway or even after completion. To me, that is evidence of the unconscious forces at work.

The idea of Conscious and Unconscious is pivotal to my work. Art historians define “surrealism” broadly to mean an art style that deals with conscious or unconscious imagination, often taking strange directions into dark recesses of the human mind. Personally, I’m not so interested in the ‘weird’ but the quotidian, everyday people and scenes.

Someone once said Surrealism makes the strange seem familiar, or the familiar or commonplace seem strange — I definitely lean toward the latter. I don’t distort objects and figures, or paint from my head. I’m more of an assembler of found parts. If I had an affinity to one of the early surrealists, it would probably be Rene Magritte, but without the European sensibility. I take a distinctly American view of the surreal. Often, I’ve referred to my work as “psychological landscapes”. They serve as sites for interaction and hopefully lead viewers to contemplate how ideas and feelings can be shown visually.

I care deeply about dreams, and their symbolic meanings. Many of my paintings may be viewed as dream images, with their attendant crises and anxieties. But that’s a whole other discussion.

Peter IlligILLIG_Epistemology_Ptng


About Peter Illig

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