“Similar to the time of the European Renaissance, we live in an age where wealth and prosperity are syphoned from areas of the globe and consolidated in others, leaving behind great despair. For those of us fortunate enough to live in a relatively safe and stable environment, the prevalence of violence and chaos in the world surrounding us can induce a constant stress. To know that your comfort is at the expense of people elsewhere (and even the planet itself) indicates that your position is unsustainable and likely to be threatened by what the future may bring. In today’s tumultuous world, it would be strange notto have a pit in your stomach. Instead of suppressing this feeling, imagine that pit as an actual place that expands in space beyond your physical presence. Exploring this space, you become more aware of your context in the story of time. As humans, we evolved to adapt to the land that we inhabit, in a sense defining our every inner urge . Even the laws of many religions are tied to the land, rooted in agricultural significance and developed to help mankind reap the potential bounty of the earth and avoid it’s perils. Eventually these religions took on a territorial element of their own and we see war being waged on their behalf throughout history. As the decedents of war, this connection between land and spirituality is imbedded in our identity. In other words, we may inhabit space, but space also inhabits us.” -DISTORT
DISTORT is an artist who works with a variety of materials. His canvases, murals, scrolls, and other mediums have captivated many for years. He has made his most recent distinction using only enamel and metal in a series of work entitled “The Crusades.” The work displayed is captivating, and extremely detailed. DISTORT has managed to convey a powerful message, while incorporating his characters into the scenes. The themes expressed through the work in his show revolve around humanity, and our natural abilities as humans over time. DISTORT has expressed the basic principles of humanity through his characters and their placement in the extreme landscapes they are placed in.
I got the chance to catch up with DISTORT himself. This is what he had to say about some of the work he produced for this series:
The Crusades conveys ideas of despair, violence, chaos, and inner urges as human beings. How would you like viewers to interpret your work overall? What would you expect viewers to gain from viewing your work in person?
“Even though the show is dark and deals with violence and anxiety, I would say that overall, I want people to walk away reassured. George Carlin, one of my favorite comedian philosophers, has a great line about global warming;
“The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system.”
When it comes to war, we are just the current actors of timeless cycles. The parallel between now and the crusades of medieval times are plentiful, but the real revelation is that despite thousands of years having passed, we enact the same brutality on each other and are convinced that it is specific to the context of modern times. The same way that cells die and regenerate in our bodies without us changing because of it, cultures and conflicts stay alive for hundreds of generations. Modern war is merely a competition between outdated paradigms, using desperate means to uphold their increasingly fragile authority. We humans have hid in the shadows of monsters fighting each other, unable to hold history in our own hands. This show imagines a world where the kings are all beheaded and there is no other option but to survive in the beautiful chaos.”
What influenced you to start creating work with enamel/metal?
“I first started etching about 2 years ago completely by accident. While painting on a rusted car hood, I got frustrated and sanded it down to the metal. I found that by moving the sandpaper in different directions, I could create different intensities of light. When I decided to combine this technique with painting, I found that enamel is the best paint to scratch into. After that, I began to focus on the hybrid style that makes up this show.”
Are there any contributing factors to the way the work itself is presented in the gallery?
“There were several factors to the way the show was installed. While making the art and trying to cram the truths of life into these small objects, everything felt very condensed. I knew that without something to bring the ideas behind the art into the physical space of the viewer, some of their context might be lost. While most installations that I had seen and done so far were aggressive in the sense that they intrude in on the space of the gallery, I wanted to do something that opened up the space and released you from it. To achieve this, I painted murals on sections of the gallery walls and then built false walls in front which seem to melt and disappear, revealing space beyond. I also felt that it was important to isolate and present pure versions of painting and of sculpture since they are inseparable in the art itself. The murals, which have no dimensional surface, functioned as pure painting while the melting walls became the climax of the sculptural elements at play. It was a delicate balance to not overwhelm the art with the installation and one of my guiding forces was the knowledge I gained working at a Chelsea gallery for several years. The shows at upscale galleries are sparse, with only a few works hanging on enormous walls with lots of empty space to emphasize the importance of the art. I wanted to have this initial impact on viewers when they enter the gallery, letting the chaos of the exhibit slowly sink in. The installation on a whole is fairly understated given the amount of labor involved but I think it is the right setting to house this body of work.”
About how long did it take you to prepare for the show? What inspired you to start “The Crusades,” and how did you decide when it was finished?
“The idea for the show started a year earlier from conversations that I had with Evan Slepian of WP Gallery. We had a show together 5 years earlier and we both agreed it was time for another one. From that time on, I worked on the ideas, getting the materials, creating the work and installing the show like an obsession until the day that it opened. I like to go all out and get it in until the last minute. The way I see it, if I had time left over, I could have done more.”
Many are intrigued by your canvas choices. How does that play a part within the show?
“The works in this show are what I call scrolls and shields. The scrolls are made from sets of spray paint cans for the smaller ones and fire extinguishers for the larger. The shields are car hoods. There is a medieval overtone to this format that references both art and war. Also, the fact that the art is made from discarded objects brings attention to the tones of aftermath of destruction that are in the imagery of the paintings. I feel that this helps draw the connection that I am making by calling the show the crusades.”
Are there any relationships/connections between the work you produced for your show to the other mediums you involve yourself in? (Graffiti, murals, etc)
“They are so connected that they couldn’t exist without each other. The spray cans that the scrolls are made from were emptied out on graffiti. The images from the paintings are places that I would not have been visited without graffiti. My art and my graffiti look very different from each other but they have a similarity which is hard to put into words. I guess I try to do the pure version of each one with a heavy splash of my own style, which is what binds them together. When I was working on the install, making the walls appear to melt, I felt like I was standing in one of my graffiti pieces. Its strange how much it all runs together.”
Any specific artists worth mentioning that have inspired you along this process?
“Yes, many. From history I should mention Caravaggio, Genteleschi, Valentin de Bologne up to modernists like Duchamp and Kienholtz. I am also overwhelmed by how much good street art and graffiti I see but my main influences have always been the people that have raised me to be the artist that I am; the people in my crew. Clarence Rich, TF Dutchman, Mr Mustart, Then One, T-Dee, Ntel, Kilroy Savage, Waer, Dzel and others. There are many people who helped make this show happen that deserve a lot of credit as well including my amazing friends Ezy aka Mr Emagin, Lesbo, Esko, Howey, Point B Fabrication, Tommy Acc, Serringe, Gerg, Alex T, Gane & Texas, Jordan Griska, Stick em Up Inc, and countless others.”
Make sure to check out some more work from the gallery here
, and know that seeing the work in person makes a difference. Check out this show before it ends January 15th at the Works On Paper Gallery
located at 1611 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.
Also check out DISTORT creating his masterpieces in an exclusive video created by Serringe of The Element Tree here