Whitehot Magazine

Might Within the Micro: A Conversation with Artist/Musician Bill Nace

Each piece of art is Bill Nace, Untitled, 2017 courtesy of the artist. Installation shots are Bill Nace Nole, 2017 the shoebox gallery, Toronto.

, FEB. 2017

Having an extensive creative practice that spans both the aural and pictorial spheres, the work of Bill Nace can only be described as something visceral- it cannot just be seen or heard, but is something that must also be felt. As a musician collaborating in duos that include an enormous range of talented artists like Michael Morley, Mats Gustafsson, Jooklo Duo, Thurston Moore, Paul Flaherty and Kim Gordon (to name just a few). Nace’s approach to the musical realm is in many ways quite similar to that of his carefully crafted and modestly sized collage images. Both are made in a moment, without intention, and allowed to grow organically as their own specimens. They are worlding experiences, and as is revealed in the Shoebox Gallery’s newest installment of his visual work-  prove that size and impact are hardly co-dependent.  

Kimberly Barton
: So to start with the basics, you seem to work primarily in collage. What drew you to this as opposed to other mediums? Do you work exclusively in collage?

Bill Nace: Not exclusively, no. I do pen and ink as well. And recently, painting.

I had done two shows at Rozz Toxx a year apart and did collage for both of those. Jen Fraser asked me to do this show when I had just finished the work for Openings so I stuck with collage for that as well but the choice was arbitrary.

KB: What sort of subject matter do you typically find yourself exploring when drawing or painting?

BN: It’s all a similar approach to the collages. There’s a kind of "automatic" approach to it where I just kind of start without thinking much about it. Though with all of them there do seem to be certain shapes and compositional ideas that I naturally return to. But as far as approach, it seems close to how I work musically... I just sit down and try to be open to the moment and start to at least answer how they begin.

KB: In past interviews, you’ve said that the goal for your work is to “evoke a kind of dream state” in your viewer. Do you find that the process of making is necessarily a subconscious one for yourself?

BN: It is what I’m drawn to or keep going back to in terms of an approach hopefully to surprise myself.

But I don't think it has to be limited to that... and I've recently been trying to counter that approach by trying some things that are more deliberate. In terms of the images for Nole it’s definitely in line with the subconscious approach, yes.

KB: Do you feel that you're successful in surprising yourself?

BN: Sometimes yes, but at other times there seems to be a certain kind of shape or space that occurs in all of them... there’s no escaping myself I guess (laughs). But that’s why I’m starting to try some different approaches recently.

KB: So what does your current process entail? 

BN: As I was saying earlier, I just kind of sit down and go. The source material can dictate a lot and these past groups of collages are all drawing from the work of Yvonne Rainer and dealing with the body. Yvonne Rainer was starting with something that people already project so much on to and was trying to move that into a more unfamiliar space. The collages use images of Yvonne Rainer’s work as source material. Working with images of the body was just kind of a challenge to myself. I usually start with something that’s more textural and already unrecognizable and then build a form from that. This is in a way moving from the opposite direction.

KB: At times there seems to be a fascination with movement and extensions of the body, and at others there’s this containment of forms. 

BN: Yes, some I wanted to feel like they were frozen in a moment and others to kind of exaggerate the movement a bit. Even something like extending an arm longer than it would normally be, but not necessarily in a way that I think someone would even notice at first... not to a cartoonish extent. I wanted the bodies to lose their familiarity and try to show that during different stages of becoming something else. And drawing from the subconscious approach is a way to get a world started for me, and then from there these kinds of things come into it. Specifically with these recent pieces.

KB: Each image seems to be very much its own microcosm.

BN: Oh good! In previous shows I think there’s more connection between the images, but, for this group I thought something a little more random or less cohesive would work. Especially considering the uniqueness of the setting and the separation of the cubicles that they'll be displayed in.

KB: What is it about Yvonne Rainer- or her body of work- that you find most influential?

BN: I do love her work, although in retrospect some of these [images] feel like an homage of sorts and that wasn't my initial intention. I was reading Being Watched- a book about her- and Byron Coley who runs Rozz Toxx asked me to do another show. I had the thought that I would use bodies as the source (something I had explicitly avoided in the past) just to see what it would be like. I do think some of the images share an idea of the reconfiguration of the body and space that she worked with.

KB: You're engaged in diverse creative practices outside of the visual realm, in particular your musical collaborations. Do you find there is a kind of overlap between these aural relationships and your work in collage?

BN: I do, but I find it difficult to connect in words. Sometimes I get images in my head when I play and will revisit them if I remember… I think they both involve an attempt at being open to something more subconscious… but even that is a kind of general connection.

KB: It seems like you sometimes take the same approach to either practice- in that you allow for an element of chance- or allowing for an automatic response from yourself. You've been compared to the Dadaists in the past based on the appearance of the collages you build, but I find this faith in the element of chance even more compelling and akin to Dada values.


BN: I love the Dadaists! Although they were actually a reason I avoided bodies at first, or visual puns, because I didn't want to look like them. The element of chance is big and something I try to be open to throughout.

KB: As an artist based in the United States, do you find the recent political climate has affected your work?

BN: I haven’t made much recent work, or in the past couple months at least, so it’s not necessarily something where I can point to this or that, but it is most definitely something that is in my daily thoughts and daily life and extending from that I don't see how it can't NOT affect my work.

KB: I just have one final question, or thought really, in that It seems kind of an appropriate reflection for these self-enclosed universes you've created to be shown within this micro-gallery- each containing their own infinity of possibilities despite their size 

BN: I really like that...self-enclosed universes! I’m hoping they will read like little film stills maybe- each having their own screen to project on. I think when all of the works are hung together in a bigger space you start to make a narrative and maybe connect all these dots whether they were intended or not, but within the individual space they each have it will hopefully be like all these little specimens from different places, or film stills from many different films.

Bill Nace can be found online http://openmouthrecords.blogspot.ca/ and http://bodyheadmusic.com/ & on twitter @openmouthrecrds

The Shoe Box Gallery is a micro gallery, and the first of the Epi&Gus Curatorial Projects begun by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser. A curator, writer and researcher with an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University, Toronto http://jenniferlorrainefraser.weebly.com/epigus.html and on twitter @jenlorrainegold  WM



Kimberly Barton

Kimberly Barton is an independent writer and curator based in Toronto Ontario, Canada. She received her MA from Western University in 2015.

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