KN: When you're doing graffiti, you often tag the name "Pinocchio" or do a little doodle or him. Any significance there?
I always have trouble answering that, but I've read the book and I guess I like its folkloric, fairy tale quality. Pinnochio is kind of the fool who gets into all sorts of scrapes but tends to get out of them too. I guess I'm just drawn to the tale.
KN: You have a lot of supernatural aspects to your work, but a lot of it is kind of an old-world aesthetic, like fairy tales. Specifically, I'd say "The Changeling" and "The Wandering Mystic" paintings. What draws you to that sort of subject matter?
Symbolism. Also, attempts to communicate things that are beyond the usual, everyday reality. I'm drawn to that in literature and art.
KN: The bio in the Saturnalia book is mostly a jumble of ideas, but one little snippet reads "city becomes site of battle between various factions of witches and warlocks, descent and re-emergence with new strengths and gifts." That last part of the sentence sums up a lot of fairy tales and myths, and there is that feeling of "characters in distress" throughout the book.
Characters in distress.... well, who isn't lately, y'know? I'm a very happy person, but many things can cause distress, and you know what those English teachers always told you in high school: no conflict, no story. The self, in conflict with himself and the outer world. I guess the whole descent and re-emergence thing came from things I've read on shamanism and a trauma of sorts that I experienced. One way of looking at it is that I went crazy. Another way of looking at it being that I was afforded entrance into a "visionary" state of perception that has remained to this day and has greatly affected me. It resembled a lot of accounts of shamanic initiation.
KN: I guess both shamans and artists offer a different societal role for people with different perspectives or maybe different levels of sensitivity. Maybe that's the "new gifts" part of the equation?
That was sort of a buried reference for myself to the Nu-cha-nulth people's legend about children who were abducted by wolf spirits for a time. When they returned to the village, they possessed new abilities given to them by the wolf spirits. To me, that seemed the most poetic, most resonant accounts of shamanic initiation. At the same time, it was a return to sanity, to the village, to the community of life and of cooperation with others. Also, to the responsibility, in some sense, to guide and share.
KN: That seems to parallel the fairy tales about changelings in Europe. How does literature influence your work, not just fairy tales, but also fiction or non-fiction?
I like folk tales, like Italo Calvino's book of Italian folktales and the Arabian Nights. Also I like ETA Hoffman, Edgar Allan Poe and Baudelaire's Flowers Of Evil
, and I read a lot of French surrealist fiction. Alfred Jarry's Pataphysics
, and his absurdism. Whatever there is to steal/absorb – it's always changing.
KN: What kind of art do you identify with?
I like Arthur Rackham and the carnival drawings of Tieopolo, his sort of Punch and Judy drawings. There was also a kind of fairy-tale vibe that existed within the Victoria graffiti scene, and the underground comic stuff that a lot of kids that I would draw with had going on.
KN: Have you ever done a comic?
No, but there's a drawing in the book that looks like it's trying to be one. It's not a big story, but there's a little red riding hood kind of girl that looks at a bird, goes for a walk, comes home and her mother seems to be saying "where have you been all day?" [laughs].
KN: What about your "Visions of Cody" drawing? There's a lot happening in there, almost like a comic panel.
That was after my buddy and I went hitchhiking, actually, and his name is Cody. It's kind of a riff off the Kerouac novel of the same name. I drew it after we got back to Vancouver after being on the road for about 2 weeks.
KN: How far did you get?
Not too far [laughs]. We got to Cranbrook BC, and we turned back because it started getting terrible for getting rides.
KN: Where were you headed?
He was trying to get to Montreal to see his daughter.
KN: You were going in the wrong direction! [laughs]
KN: There's a hallucinatory aspect to your drawings, I find.
I'm very influenced by the ideas of surrealism and psychedelic art in general. I like when it's not a totally determined, fixed idea. Like when we're dreaming, there's mash-ups of ideas. I like to try and leave it in that state, so the viewer can go off on it a little, rather than it having one meaning.
KN: Quite a few of your characters have exaggerated bodies with misshapen limbs.
Exaggerated limbs, I dunno it just looks good sometimes. Maybe it adds to the distress, sometimes it just enhances other feelings and effects. Hans Bellmer, an artist I was into for a while, had this whole idea of a physical unconscious, sort of tech to get into here, but it's an idea of the body reflecting mind, particularly unconscious mind I suppose, as well as a re-arrangement of senses. He drew an ear behind or on a woman's hand, so touch became hearing and her feet are two lovers kissing and at the same time her genitals, that kind of thing. The body becomes allegorical or distorted according to the feelings or thoughts moving through it.