David Ball’s art is a mixed bag – beautifully crafted, designed, adorned and painted collages. They are surreal dream-like fantasies which speak of childhood and early monster sightings. Almost magical in their illusions – mixed-up zones, whether it be physical or spiritual pervade his art. Underwater deserts, animal people and vintage subterranean folk tales – all unite seamlessly in his works. They are many-layered and buffed to smooth perfection, daring one to tell where the paint meets the paper.
He currently lives in good ole’ San Francisco and has a body of new assemblage work - “Harum Scarum”, which opens at 111 Minna Gallery on Feb. 2, 2012.
My favorite art memory from my childhood is …
Walking through the woods in Connecticut. with my father trying to see things that weren’t there. As we would walk through the woods he would stop me from time to time and show me a tree root, or the negative spaces between trees, in the clouds and would say, “What do you see there? Looks like a face to me!” In this and other ways, he started to teach me about art from a very early age. I just didn’t realize that he was teaching me design and perception. Also, having grown up in a cold weather climate, we had a lot of fires in the cold months. When we did, I would just sit there with one of the cats and zone out on the continually changing flames..
My interest in art/painting started …
It is hard to say. I took to drawing quite a bit in middle school years. I was much more interested in my newly burgeoning sexuality and in running. In seventh grade I started to study with a drawing tutor. My real drive for art kicked in around 16. I am fortunate to say that my parents provided me additional tutoring with an oil instructor and at 17, with a pastelist from Art Center. At this time I also got my first drafting board. My father was the an art director, and critiqued my work rigorously. I was sensitive about this but I believe that art was always the healthiest way that I connected with my father.
College was a rather hedonistic experiment – so, while I paid attention in class and did what I needed to pass, it didn’t really get serious until I got out. Once I graduated, I bid for a job painting trompe l’oeil by pretending that the slides of the colored pencil and marker works in my portfolio were paintings. From that work, I got a commission to do a 96″x108″ piece which really opened up my love for paint.
While away for a month in England I saw the anamorphic (producing, relating to, or marked by intentional distortion of an image) works of Samuel Van Hoogstraten. I came back very inspired to understand the nature of distortion and visual perception. So I did a series of works focusing on understanding how different types of kaleidoscopes break up imagery and then went on to studying various types of anamorphic work.
I am often inspired and motivated by …
Conceptually, I am inspired by people, what is said, and isn’t said, and their sense of place within themselves, their relationships and their environment. Visually, I am inspired by everything and nothing in particular. Movement, planes, shadows, distortion, emotion, perception, conditioning, the unconscious: all these things interest me.
If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be … And we would….
I would like to talk with Max Ernst, Duchamp or Picasso. I imagine food (because I am hungry at present), drinks and art discussion and then hopefully the opportunity to watch them work.
The tip or art technique (a specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise) that has helped me the most is …
It is not a tip that I was given but one that I am happy to provide. I have found that, at least with National Geographic, that the issues printed in the last few years, while beautiful, are difficult to burnish down without the images losing their ink and requiring touchup. Good for the environment but not so good for collage.
If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …
Gino Severini’s Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin of 1912. I find it as stimulating and curious as I did when I first saw it in 1987.
My favorite piece of my own art is … because …
I think the triptych “Itch” (below) would be one of the more influential because it is raw and got me to create art in a more visceral way about what I was feeling. It is not my favorite piece (I don’t think I have one) but an influential one. I found that the news of the pending war which looped on my radio was affecting how I perceived. That unconscious suggestion and how it affected the work – really sparked my curiosity and I tried to stay more open in process from then on.
My ultimate project or fantasy is …
I can not say it is the “ultimate” project but I have been recently revisiting the idea of drone warfare and find the concept to be ripe for exploration. It simultaneously addresses – systematic termination of life (the strategic strikes), a valuation and devaluation of life (who is expendable vs. who is saved, whose economic needs/ religious beliefs are “more” relevant). Also, it addresses failed communication, the desire for power, the detachment of the drone operator and duality of their life – and the manner in which they themselves are a drone of another and so on…
The last song I choose to listen to was …
The last book I couldn’t put down was ….
Whatever it was, it was read too long ago – but likely by Chuck Palahniuk. I have a short attention span so I get my info mainly from audio and articles. I find little time to do more than make art, eat, sleep and swim. Most of my information comes from the web or NPR while working.
My favorite word is …
For today, “level”, because it is and is balanced.
I can’t live without…
How does the solitary work-mode of an artist affect this? Do you like to work with others?
If I am dealing with concept, I don’t want anyone around. It takes a very specific, quiet, rarely unobtrusive person for me to be comfortable with them around while working and generally, they would need to be working as well. I am a kind but fussy cat. There are a few people that I can work around but generally my work is behind closed doors.
It’s not hip, but I really love ….
Spatial organization, hands down. I am such a huge nerd for it and it gets me very excited. You know you have a good friend when they nod and happily endure the tour of my new “efficiency modifications”. Notice how I am still talking about it. Sooooo, everything in my studio is collapsible, and almost nothing is without need. I like to know where my stuff is, especially if I am going to tear through it all.
My favorite motto (or quote) is….
I don’t have a favorite per se but I like this Duchamp quote:
“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste”.
Your works are truly mixed media, marrying collage and painting. Would you mind sharing your favorite paints, glues, favorite boards, seals or finishes with us? Maybe the brand names?
Finished, treated, sealed, 1/4 inch birch with 1 3/4 cabinetry moulding, Golden and Atelier acrylics (especially transparent pigments, Golden matte medium, Lineco bookbinder’s glue (ph neutral), and Golden varnish with UVLS.
When working, do you adhere closely to a rough sketch done beforehand? Or do you let your cut-outs act as puzzle pieces and arrange, execute from there?
When I am creating illustrations for magazine clients, I have to make roughs – but if it is my own work, I prefer to start from somewhere abstract to begin with. I like the authority and energy of the brush stroke and use it to invest some life and composition to the surface. I then assemble- by rummaging through my cut files and looking at magazines to find the ideal pieces. Each one informs where the picture is growing a bit more and then I know what I am building structurally – but not its final look. I do not know what anything will look like until right near the end. I work on multiple pieces at first, rotating through them for more prolonged attention, as I get to know them better.
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111 minna gallery, artist interview, david ball, david ball artist, harum scarum
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