ARTIST PROFILE: BROCK Q. PIPER
Brock Q. Piper (b. 1985) currently lives and works in Melbourne, VIC. Growing up on a farm nestled in the valleys of the snowy mountains, he was taught oil painting by his grandmother at the age of four. Piper’s work is a personal reflection of his life experiences, aimed at discovering truth through an exploration of time, death, shamanism and nature.
We are very excited to present his latest body of work and his first solo exhibition in Sydney – Travelling Light
Read on to learn more about this emerging talent in the lead up to opening night!
Can you tell us about how you got into art?
Painting has always been like another language for me. Some kind of ancient text that no one quite knows how to pronounce. I was four years old when my fascination with paint began, I would be mesmerised by its ability to make your imagination a shareable reality. My grandmother was taking painting and drawing lessons at the time, as many country ladies of that time did. She would paint birds on the family farm amongst countless copies of master paintings, some to this day I am not 100% sure she didn’t paint the originals. Either way, I begged her to allow me to use her old and rather toxic oil paints. I would collect them all like battle trophies and, on the back verandah, would paint for hours with my grandmother. She introduced me to colour, and above all, the importance of being patient, of looking and to just “do”. Painting is a part of me, it always was.
What are the core concerns of your practice? What have been the major influences?
I grew up in a small country town of NSW (in The Snowy Mountains). It had been founded by gold miners and traders around 1824, looking for their fortunes in the hills. It is a timber and recycled paper and cardboard town now. The hills are beautiful, picturesque and like most areas of rural Australia, hides a dark reality of youth suicide and depression. I have personally lost more friends than I can bring myself to speak of and faced my own battles as a creative child growing up there. I was more fortunate than most to have a positive outlet for my creativity. I still deal with these things, but in a reflection of my youth through my practice. For me art has always been a thing of dredging your life, clearing your mind, and expressing yourself in that ancient script.
I am influenced by nature and I pride myself on being a devoted student to it. I believe in constant observation of the world around us.
To truly understand nature one must find fascination in the mundane. Taking time to examine the veins in a leaf, or comparing textures of stones. I find that this attention or devotion, allows me to push my work into new directions, uncovering something hidden beneath the surface of what we see.
I am fascinated by colour and have taken great attention to developing a language of colour. I am naturally drawn to colour as I find it can be used as a device to express things that are lost in the translations of words.
I spend a lot of time gathering content for paintings, exploring different mediums (music, poetry) to help build a more considered work.
I have spent a great deal of time studying ‘the greats’ of the modern art world, to really understand how a brilliant painting is made. To break down, dissect and interpret how marks are made, composed, rules followed and broken. The greatest influences on my practice have been Bacon, De Kooning, Diebenkorn, Hockney, Whiteley. I think art should be a rivalry, healthy, but nonetheless choose a painter of your time and go to war with them.
Ever since I was first introduced to painting, I have tried to absorb as much as I could from the many artists that have come into my life. I believe in a shared consciousness and the progression of creativity is fueled by a collaboration of thoughts and ideas. I have shared studios with some truly amazing artists over the years that have enriched my practice. There is a quite magic that exists in a studio, and if you’re lucky, you might just witness what it means to do what you were born to do.
Brock Q. Piper, Momentary sediment (2017), Mixed media on canvas, 140 x 140cm
Can you talk us through the conceptual focus of your upcoming exhibition at Piermarq?
In short, I am trying to create a visual representation of memories. I use the symbolism or totem of a bird to help depict the way that memory is fractured in our recollection. The bird is as much tearing itself apart as it is binding itself together. I am fascinating by how they can fold themselves, twist and contort their colourful bodies to float effortlessly through the trees. A blur in time, caught in another realm, between the past and the present.
Memories are similarly experienced. Fragments that come and go from our present, appearing, then lost again. Attempting to will the birds out of mid-air, to grapple with them mid-flight. Working the image up in layers to allow the forms to evolve and dissolve on the canvas. As an exploration of self, I am dissecting my life as if it were a specimen pinned down to be examined, twisted and manipulated into its final resolution.
All first nations cultures have some kind of creator spirit that takes the form of a bird. It is this archetypal symbolism that I find fascinating. The bird is a creature that passes between worlds, at home in the air and on the land, they are connected with the heavens and the mortal realms, and some have explored the sea. Testament to their adaptability and ability to command the laws of nature that they seem to so easily defy as they are weightless in the wildest storm. A symbol of wisdom, from their view aloft the wind, they are elemental masters that are aware of “the nature of things”, about when it is time to leave for the seasons, and when to return. They can navigate the globe through charting the stars and the sun and even through magnetic forces that seem to be some kind of divine intervention in design.
“Hope is a thing with feathers” – Emily Dickinson
Can you expand upon the process in creating your works?
Firstly, under EVERY painting, I write “don’t be shit”, a personal mantra, as if a command. There are no second chances with self-expression, you have this moment now and your immediate response.
I start with a shape, it could be anything. It is this first shape that I play with, pushing and pulling the form until an emotion is triggered. It is here where I find that the picture dictates itself; that is through my response to what memory is triggered from this emotion. The most recent works have taken on the form of the bird, a symbol of freedom and of captivity. The memories are like that of a bird being grappled from midair, dragged through a cage, dissected and examined. The bird is depicted in its essence of fight or flight. Most interactions with birds seem to be when they swoop past our view, all we see is a blur, that feeling or essential part of the bird is what I try to capture. Memories attack us in the same way, they are triggered by all sorts of things, a song, a face, a place, whatever. It can instantly drag you back to a point in your life. For me I am just trying to put that memory back together. The bird is just a passenger to my needs.
I use house paints, for various reasons, mostly for their “flatness” and the way that charcoal interacts with it. I want the works to have the “imperfections of the instant” that is that it still looks as it did when the mark was made, the idea of polishing all the edges seems like it’s for a decorative purpose.
When creating these works to what degree was the final product pre-planned? Or did they reveal themselves through the process of creation?
I am always looking, always collecting references for my work, I have 1000’s of paintings in my head, but it’s just not the right time for them. I paint the subject as if it was its self-portrait. That is the subject is looking into itself.
What can we expect to see in your upcoming solo exhibition at Piermarq?
I am really excited to show these pieces at last, they are pretty full on pictures, bright bold pieces that kind of leap out of the canvas and pull you into “their” world. They are laden with energy and emotion and I think that comes across when you are in their vicinity.
Travelling Light opens on Thursday 19 October 2017, 6 – 8pm, and runs until Saturday 4 November 2017.
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