LIGHT ON: Philip Slagter, more than Pop Surrealism – 2nd part
We made a long, deep and meaningful interview with the great American Artist Philip Slagter.
Here below you’ll find the second part, much focused on the direct experiences of the artist and on his connection with the art world.
For the first part of the interview, you’ll find it here!
The PhotoPhore: You have had a very special artistic journey, both in terms of artistic training, and of visited places in the world and known cultures.
This is probably one of the reasons why in your works there are references of all kinds, from medieval/renaissance sacred art [like the wonderful Saint Sebastian of Molecular Martyrdom, or The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein the Younger, clearly mentioned in Supernatural Magic, Carry On], cartoons, flora and fauna.
How do all these influences coexist in your art?
Philip Slagter: Like any artist, I am a product of my experiences and imagination both conscious and non conscious.
In New York, in my twenties, I was drawn to and visited great museums and saw art and hints of cultures beyond my imagination. That was this reality. I was also introduced to other potential realities through literature and the rare usage of psychedelics.
My experiences with LSD were to understand there are other forms of perceived reality and then learn to retain those experiences, learn from them and to repeat them when necessary without the use of a drug.
Now, in current times, the internet could easily replace a LSD experience in the 1960’s. We open a portal and then the imaginary, yet perceived as real, world floods our consciousness and takes us away from our true selves.
The amount of information I take in now in several hours on the internet exceeds months, even years, of my younger days. Then it was only libraries, bookstores, museums. Now you can plug in while you are sleeping.
I am fascinated by the similarities in all our cultures from the past to the present both in imagery and perceived “beliefs”. Which is why the complexity of images exist in my work. I want to see how they all seem to seamlessly interact.
I’m fascinated by the entire known history of art from the ever-changing date of “first mark making“ to the current massive amount of humans on this planet making art at this time. Expressing themselves.
Seeing a work of art digitally has nothing whatsoever to do with experiencing it in person any more than having a “friend” on social media can replace the experience of a friend in person. So the great paintings and other images that I often reference in my work are only zeros and ones that I have personal interaction with.
We are in an “information apocalypse“ building a perceived new global “reality“. I suppose that’s why “these images coexist“ in my art.
My travels have always been just to prove to myself that some of what we perceive as reality is exactly that. The interaction with people of other cultures has shown me that we are all the same, just with massive, learned, cultural differences as barriers.
T.P.P.: Do you believe that in your works, in your art, there is a particular “guideline”, a “message” that you want to transmit in a more or less precise way?
Or are they all “parallel worlds” inhabited by strange creatures that, from time to time, “meet” each others in your works?
P.S.: There are not parallel worlds in my art. That would make them an illustration of something I imagine to be true. I don’t imagine anything to be true. I am still on my journey of discovering the truth. Painting is simply a way to record my findings. Making art is a fascinating process. An idea/feeling formulates and then in the next “moment” an object appears. Kind of Alchemical, wouldn’t you agree?
I’ve watched humanity for seventy-two years now. It’s fascinating. Seventy-two years of personal experience is nothing compared to the glut of experiences we are bombarded with now through media every moment of every day. Gas pumps talking to you when you fill your car. Your phone reminding you of something you forgot. The constant need for “company” through a streamed manufactured reality.
Hopefully my art gives someone the opportunity to disconnect from that perceived, conditioned world.
Some people use meditation, others heroin, and still others art, for that momentary escape. And some use all of it. Exactly the reason many painters paint. And in those moments we get a glimpse of other possible realities perceived by the artist and available to us. And we share that moment. And extend it into our own lives.
It is a primitive idea, the same as when a tribal “boy” has to go through a ritualistic process to become a “man”.
In New Mexico I spent quite a bit of time wandering in the desert and looking at the amazing pictographs that are everywhere. A young “boy” is sent alone on his first journey. He is told to walk across the valley to the mountains in the distance, find a certain cave, go in and don’t come out until he understands why he is there. As his eyes adjust to the dark, the drawings inside the cave become visible to him. These are his gods.
It is his moment to step outside of himself as a child and awaken to a greater potential. Not too dissimilar from the ever more popular hallucinogenic experiences in the current paradigm. The difference is that the boy in the caves questions were answered.
I approached this in a painting in the 1980’s. It was called Rights of Passage, a large painting, twelve feet by thirteen feet. The size was important as I wanted the viewer to become a part of the same dimensional space as the piece.
The images are archetypal to me and the layering is typical of our everyday layering. So my hopes were that it gives the viewer an opportunity to stop the internal dialogue, step outside of themselves and become a part of something else and then remember that experience.
So the message would be: Be yourself. Learn who you really are and all your potential. My paintings are only visual reference points.
T.P.P.: Usually, of course, all artists love their works as if they were their children. Anyway, there’s an artwork (made by you) that you prefer, and why?
P.S.: I have known artists like that. Their work sits in closets. They can’t let go. I don’t think they understand the value of their “children”.
I guess I would have to say the only piece of mine that I prefer is the piece I’m working on at any given time. My thoughts are going to the next piece even before I have finished.
I don’t feel any emotional ties to my work. I reserve emotional ties for other living creatures.
When I finish a painting, I’m done with it. I don’t retain an attachment to it. Imagine doing that at my age or any age. I would have a thousand regrets.
T.P.P.: Let’s come to the world of art that surrounds us: Do you have a favorite artist and a favorite artwork (not made by you)? Why?
P.S.: I don’t have any one favorite artist but the first that comes to mind is Rose Wylie. I enjoy all her art. She seems to be an artist that has come full circle. The ability to paint like a child yet use the information from her eighty plus years.
It’s like that old saying: “I wish I could go back to when I was a child and know what I know now“. It seems Rose has.
I have no favorite artwork but I do have a favorite title of a painting: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? by Paul Gauguin. The reason being, the mystery and the absolute unknowing in all three parts of the title. Perhaps we never will?
T.P.P.: Suggest us an artist to discover/to feature on the PhotoPhore.
P.S.: Eddy Millan. I met Eddy in 2000 as a cashier in a porn shop where I went to rent a tape.
I had just finished work on a mural and was covered in paint. He asked if I painted. He said he liked to draw. I asked him to show me his drawings when I return the tape the next day. He had a sketchbook.
There was a beautiful sense of line and thinking. I asked him if he would like to get out of the porn shop. Yes. We worked together on murals and other projects for the next 13 years. He says I taught him to paint. I may have taught Eddy some technical skills but I didn’t teach him to think, he’s doing that all his own.
Eddy only recently has had a desire to show his work although I have encouraged him for years. I guess he feels he finally has something to say. His work easily fits into the current movement of Pop Surrealism but with a very individualistic view.
Well, that’s it. Remember to read also the first part of the interview, clicking here, and to discover the works of Phili Slagter on his website, following the link below!
Text by Domenico Fallacara | the PhotoPhore and Philip Slagter