INTERVIEW • JOHN DAVID HOLLAND
“There is a parallel that exists between feeling filtered throughout a closeted adolescence, to how we literally filter, edit and curate ourselves online today. Social media has us all “in the closet”, in a sense. This closeted experience is one in which we appear slick on the outside, but we are compressed, layered and abstract on the inside. My work is the construction of this abstraction, interpreting digital image filters as portraits of fragmented identities. Through clicking, swiping, tapping, and layering with paint, the physical gestures of technology inform the abstraction.”
Tell us about yourself. Why art?
I think art allows for this visual dialogue that can’t always be articulated. I grew up feeling really filtered and painting became the outlet where I could find that important release. To be able to communicate and be receptive to the emotion that visuals can pull out of you is incredibly rewarding and for someone who spends a lot of time in their own head, it’s immensely satisfying and quite frankly, necessary for me to operate as a fully functioning person.
How would you describe your work?
My current work explores the idea of a slick facade, over top of this compressed and constructed form which I liken to a fragmented identity. I’m interested in how we construct, filter and perform our lives. Being part of a generation embedded in a digital sphere, my construction of identity has been abstracted by the performance of our lives online. So right now, Im interested in using digital gestures to inform the abstraction of physical paintings through clicking, swiping, tapping and layering.
Have you been formally trained?
I majored in Drawing and Painting at OCAD University (BFA ’17), and am starting the MFA Fine Arts program at Parsons in New York this fall.
If so, how has this affected your progress as an artist?
My experience at OCAD dramatically affected my work. I was never really taught how to paint, but more on how to think about what I was painting, which I actually think is more important. While I started school interested in the catharsis of abstract expressionism and spontaneous gestures, I’ve since refined that process to sort of inform a style of painting, but there’s an intention behind it that I hadn’t articulated prior.
What artists or art works have influenced you and your work?
Historically, Pollock, De Kooning and the abstract expressionists, the Automatistes (Borduas & Riopelle) in Montreal and of course Francis Bacon. Contemporary, Ryan Hewett, Alex Fischer and Lucas Simões.
What inspires you outside of art?
I’m really interested in the social dynamics of living in a city and being absorbed by technology. Thinking about how my sense of self and social prowess is affected by the age in which we live in, which I think is such an important role for an artist to be receptive to anyways. Art typically reflects the time in which it was made; but the anonymity of being in an urban centre, how we craft identity online, use apps for relationships, etc. is a subject I never tire of.
What anxieties and fears have you had to overcome or are overcoming as an artist?
I think I initially put too much pressure on myself to be incredibly creative. Obviously creativity is an important part of being an artist, but being able to separate yourself from the noise of what everyone else is doing and just make work that is honest and authentic to you is just as important. I remember being told, “everything’s been done already,” which is counter intuitive to what I would like to think as an artist, but that sentiment just reinforced how important the ideas and intention behind your work is.