Ian Gamache is one of my favorite artists. I don’t currently own any of his work, but I will soon. I defy anyone to look at his drawings www.iangamache.com and not relate to them on some level. They’re hip, edgy and contemporary, yet warm, human and approachable. They’re simplistic, like cave man drawings yet sophisticated. When I first saw his work online, I made it my mission to chat with him.
MICHAEL: Ian! Dude, I LOVE your work! It's sort of German Expressionist meets Basquiat meets allegorical fun. I don't know, but it rocks. How do you describe your work? It's dark, bold and brooding yet refreshing, No?
IAN: Hi Michael. Thanks. I like how you refer to it as “allegorical fun.” There is darkness in the work, but I hope that something light and positive can still shine through perhaps something funny. Some works are more dark and serious than others, some perhaps are more humorous. But people can read them different ways. I always try to keep them open to different perspectives. I explore universal themes and try to have empathy for the subject I am drawing.
MICHAEL: You definitely have a style. Is this something that you cultivated or do you just paint and draw naturally and this is what you get? Your work certainly lends itself to canvas, paper and even animation.
IAN: I just draw and paint the way I do; it's changed somewhat through the years, but when I look back I see a natural progression. So, I guess that I have a certain style, but I also feel that style can be limiting, so I always try to push my boundaries. I see changes and evolution in what I do and it stays exciting for me.
MICHAEL: Tell me about the materials and media that you use. How do the materials help you express what you're feeling and thinking? I see your work as being very large and dramatic - bold, sweeping paintings and works on paper that cover entire walls.
IAN: They are not traditionally what one might call “large” paintings. Most tend to be pretty small, but I don’t think their ‘scale’ is small. Many of the works relate to others, so it would be easy to cover a wall with a series of my art works. Lately I’ve been working on the back of old record covers. They are solid and work well with my collage and my drawings. They also allow me to make a reference and a connection to music. Mostly I work with paper and collage, but I usually have a few large canvases that I am working, but they tend to take a long time, and personally I’ve always preferred paper. I strive for work that is fairly light and allows for mobility. I almost always have some art works with me, which I can take out and work if I am away from the studio or at a café. In terms of materials, I have a variety of different tools and materials. But mostly they’re acrylic or water based paintings, with a number of drawing devices.
MICHAEL: Are you saying that you're also a mobile artist? I've not heard anyone say that. You're not always confined to your studio?
IAN: Mobile is a good word to use. At one point I made a conscious decision to begin making art that was light, portable, and “clean” – clean in the sense of limiting my use of oils and the most toxic material. Before that, I had been making heavy sculptures and assemblages. They were large, heavy, took up a lot of space, and were very difficult to transport. They were made with found objects, nails, metal, wood and mostly things I found in back alleys. But eventually, most of those works had to returned to the back alleys. Society is becoming increasingly mobile and hopefully cleaner or at least thinking about it. So I felt my art should be like that. So now I have art works with me most of the time. It allows me to work outside and in cafes. I don’t think it is anything too new, because the Impressionists did that kind of thing. It was in the 20th century that art became more of a studio practice. I still spend most of the creation process in a studio space, but being light and mobile is very important to me. I would also say that the main delivery device for the artistic message is the internet. And that is a very light, economical and incredible mobile platform. You can cross the world in a millisecond on the internet. Art can travel and cross through cultures and language like never before. Especially visual art, which because it is visual, it can be the quickest art form, in terms of emotional or message reception and also be a lot less limited by language and perhaps culture.
MICHAEL: Another thing that I love about your work is that I relate to it on a very basic level. I feel like it's speaking to me like caveman art. It makes me want to grunt like Sasquatch and point at it! LOL. It's heavy, crude and not "conventionally beautiful." It's art for anyone, but I feel like it's MAN art!
IAN: I see what you are saying. They are almost like a type of modern cave drawing. I like that, cave drawings are a simple and very effective communication. So I hope like that, my own lines can cross cultures and language and tap into our most basic senses.
MICHAEL: Speaking of culture, I assume that you're French Canadian? How does such work come from an artist who lives in a hip, sophisticated city like Montreal?
IAN: I have never completely fit under the main cultural umbrella of wherever I was currently living. My roots are French Canadian, but I grew up in Central Canada and spoke English as my first language. But I never felt very much of a call from Canada’s winter and hockey culture. Most of the media I was consuming when I was younger, the stuff that had the greatest effect on me, was from south of the border. I am open to everything, but it just so happened that the work that affected me the most was from the United States. Now I live in Montreal, which is a very different cultural experience from that of Central Canada. I really like it here, but at times I still feel like a bit of an alien. I think I always have, wherever I live. I just try to be a citizen of the world, so I don’t feel there is anything identifiably Canadian in my work, perhaps only in the sense that Canada is often looking outward - looking to the south, and to the rest of the world.
MICHAEL: How and when did you become artist? Did you go to art school? Do you come from an artistic family? What influenced you?
IAN: I feel I had a fairly creative youth, but I wasn't exposed to any real visual art or modern art, until I was about 20. It wasn't until I moved to a city where I started to learn about and see more art. So it's about then that I started painting. I would spend a lot of time in libraries looking at books about abstract painting, and spend the little money I had on canvas boards and oil paint. That's how I started. A few years after that, I put together a portfolio and went to art school. But throughout, I was learning mostly by myself and from looking at art books.
MICHAEL: Many artists and creative people spend a great amount of time alone. Do you need to do that in order to create? Is being an artist a lonely pursuit or more about being alone sometimes?
IAN: Yes, I prefer to be alone when I am creating. I know some artists who do “live” painting in front of an audience, but I have never been able to do that. My process is all over the place, so it's best when I am alone or with just a few close people.
MICHAEL: The world economy is still in a big slump. Many artists struggle even during great economies. How are you doing? Do you work full-time doing something else? Being an artist clearly isn't for the faint of heart. Tell me about your experience.
IAN: The economy hangs over everybody. So it’s about having enough money for food and shelter or even an artist's own creative economy, in terms of space, art supplies, pricing and display methods. As an artist, one most always consider these issues. Which I am sure often influences the way I work, surely in terms of scale, material, how and where I exhibit, to how much I charge. The artist is always being affected by some kind of economy, which can lead to a lot of limitations, but which can also sometimes lead to great art in itself. Of course there is also the general economy and how it affects the so called art world. I’m not sure if the high-end, the upper echelon, are hurting, but I am sure it affects the rest of us trying to paint for scraps. I try not to worry about it too much. I think many types of artistic media is going through a shift and I think it is starting to have a great affect in the way that visual art is viewed and consumed. Perhaps the market and institutions of the art world are slow to adapt. I think certainly slower than music and maybe print media. But the internet is really changing things for visual art. I think with the new social media tools and websites, art can infiltrate our daily lives. It’s not just about going to a museum or a gallery for an artistic experience. And it's not so much about images hanging on a wall. I think the web offers so many new opportunities for artists all over.
MICHAEL: You know, most people don't know much about art and feel intimidated by it or afraid of artists. What do you think about this? What would you say to those people?
IAN: Well, I guess some artists can be seen as pretty strange, so perhaps I understand when people are intimidated. But I wish and hope that they won't be intimidated by art itself. The art is more important than the artists.
MICHAEL: I think your work lends itself to 3D imagery and installations. Have you ever thought about this?
IAN: I've experimented with installations and hopefully will have a chance to do so again. If you mean 3D works in the sense of sculptural art, then that is always a possibility. I used to do large sculptures and assemblages that were 3D. But 3D in more of the technological digital image sense would require some technical knowledge that I don't have, but I wouldn't be opposed to working with someone on it if an interesting project came my way.
MICHAEL: Finally Ian, What would you say is the message of your body of work so far and what are your plans for the future?
IAN: I don't know that I have a singular message. I tend to say a lot of things and I am sure some of them contradict one another. But I guess the main thing I want to get across is empathy. The world needs more empathy, and I think my work is about that. As for future plans? Well, I don't usually like to dictate the direction of my art, but rather I like to follow it. To let the creative process unfold and to go where it takes me. I try to be optimistic about it.
MICHAEL: Thanks Ian. Your work is great and I'm wishing big things for you.
IAN: Thanks Michael. You had some really good questions.
Check Ian Gamache out at www.iangamache.com.