In a timely way I got to see some images from GA Gardner's portfolio recently that use collage technique to make simple statements and ask certain questions. The collages range from the iconic-political statement to more painterly tributes to collage and black arts and culture. He works in various media such as paint, mixed media and also CGI. The resulting images however are all driven by this method of approaching imagery where he cuts into it and rearranges and pulls out meaning where we queried nothing before. The images 'Black-faced' (above), and 'Foster Mother and Child' (below), in particular speak to this side of his artistic approach. The painterliness that meets magazine page cut-outs can be seen in 'Earthly' and 'Icon' below.
|Limbo - CGI print|
ART:Jamaica: You began your career using CGI to make large format images. The CGI images are very painterly and you also make paintings, so what led you from pigment and brush to the computer as an creative tool?
GA Gardner: I came to the USA in 1988 with the plans of becoming a graphic designer. I didn't really understand all that that entailed but I already had a background in fine art and commercial art in Trinidad. I also had training as a woodworker. I enrolled in college in the US and took a animation course and from then on I was hooked. I thought it was fascinating even back then. I later transferred to a University in San Francisco where I studied more fine art, film and animation, then got accepted to the Ohio State University where I received a Ph.D. in art education and focused on computer graphics and animation. We were using SGI workstations that were donated to OSU by Industrial Light and Magic after being used to create the movie 'Jurassic Park'. So very early on I got involved with creating high end 3D graphics and animation. This was not too much of a stretch from what I was already doing in the traditional fine art and commercial art world. In fact traditional fine art and woodwork prepared me for the field of CGI. Creating texture for digital surfaces is much like painting and building the geometry in 3D is much like building wood structures. Also I drew on my knowledge in film when it came to lighting CGI subjects. And being a naturally animated person, well, understanding movement on the computer was not too much of a challenge. In essence I took all my knowledge of traditional art and brought it to CGI. Perhaps this is why my CGI images look so painterly. After graduation I began working on large format CGI in print format. I printed on various surfaces with master printers in NYC. I preferred printing on watercolor paper at the time.
ART:Jamaica: Does this difference in working method affect as well as enable your artistic process?
GA Gardner: Those of us who were born before the CGI era may find that it is better to sketch first before getting on the computer or to experiment with color using paint and brush before experimenting with digital colors. In essence the computer to me must mimic what I have in mind not vice versa. I find that I always gravitated towards traditional fine arts methods to resolve issues in the CGI world.
ART:Jamaica: You also have quite a large body of collages that incorporate the act of painting and manual dexterity as well as editing. How have the collages allowed you to develop ideas that the CGI work didn't allow. Tell us about your process in making these collages.
GA Gardner: Doing CGI was a very long process for me. I had to build the images and geometry of the figures, pose them, create texture, light them and spend all day at the printers working on getting them to look right color wise. It is rewarding but long. In that world I was more of a purist. I did not want any paint or traditional tools to meddle with the final print. It was purely an archival CGI print. It is somewhat of a sterile process. I later begin working on collages and this to me was the opposite of the spectrum. It required me to get loose with the image to rip parts of a perfectly good photo or text, to incorporate hand written messages, and to most importantly paint on the surface. I was breaking out of the box I was taught in school. I was messing things up if only to focus on the message, as opposed to leaving things clean to the point where the technique often overrides the message. When I create a collage I am more free to do anything. I may start with an underpainting or an abstract background. I then begin building on that surface from background to foreground. I love working on wood as it allows me even more freedom to add various elements to the surface such as nails or metal. I don't alway go there but I like the idea that I can go there if if I wish. Ironically, I try to stay off the computer gathering my raw materials from magazines, posters, and printed material. I try to cut them up, paying close attention to color, lighting directions, and scale. I cut across cultural, racial and ethnic lines, I am looking for what fits well together to tell my story. Or in some cases what strongly opposes that creates tension. Selection is a big part of the process.
ART:Jamaica: In the collages there can be seen influences of other contemporary artists such as Wangechi Mutu, Ellen Gallagher and also references to Romare Bearden. How do you see your work in relation to the work of these other artists?
GA Gardner: Wow, I like them all. They are all doing great work. Each of them is using college to allow people to see the same thing differently. We are all somewhat surreal in our approach to creating images. We are all so different yet still we incorporate similar elements. Romare Bearden made giant steps in validating collage as a fine art form and I am inspired by his success.
ART:Jamaica: Having experience of working in painting, mixed-media and digital media how does the idea of a 'collage aesthetic' represent your ideas and content.
GA Gardner: Collage allows me to connect cross-cultural, cross ethnic forms and identities and blend them on the surface. It gives me freedom to transform and metamorphosis traditional visual perspectives in ways that create new and enriched interpretations of reality.
|Foster Mother and Child|
ART:Jamaica: Can you discuss some of the core stories and ideas behind your collage images: 'Black-faced' and 'Foster Mother & Child.'
GA Gardner: Opposing images often brings tension. It is the notion that one doesn't fit well with the other and looks out of place. In examining these image the two parts are equally strong thus the tension is greater. This is the same for "Black-faced" as it is with "Foster Mother & Child" We have a figure that is full of history. It is somewhat disturbing for folks to see but if you don't see color then it is not complicated and there isn't any tension. That is the problem and that is why it is gets in your head because we see color first and second you see an unconventional roll being played out. "Foster Mother & Child" is more of a Madonna like figure with the moon behind her in an angelic position and she is nursing her foster child. In an ideal race free world there should be nothing questionable about that.
GA Gardner is a Trinidadian artist and you can see more of his work and view his information here
What meaning do you find in these images?