The Image Collector (farbel) wrote,
The Image Collector

an interview i did for numb magazine

I Am the Tree: Q and A with Artist Dave Moyer
By Jewel Welter

Jewel Welter: Tell me about the mural you are currently constructing. What is in your mind as you are preparing to create the mural and how do you usually prepare for the creation process?

Dave Moyer: These days there is much less preparation and planning for a piece. Until about four or five years ago, I spent a lot of time planning and creating paintings in my head. Then, I would take the idea and work until I had realized it. Nowadays, I start with minimal preconceptions of the outcome of a piece and, instead of the creative joy being bunched up at the beginning of the process, it is spread throughout, so all I am thinking about vis-à-vis the mural is mechanics, how to stretch it, etc.

Jewel Welter: Why have you changed your approach to a less methodical reasoning? Did something signal a change for you?

Dave Moyer: My method has always cycled between play and control. It began with play in some frivolous drawings in 1982. As I explored further, I tried to be increasingly specific about the outcome of each piece. At some point, my process became so tight that I did not enjoy it any more. So, I broke away and played again. Ideas flow much more freely in playtime. Gradually, I took a few of those ideas and exerted more and more control over them until the pleasure went out of the process again. So, I broke away and played some more. I went through this cycle several times, culminating in a few outdoor shows where I was attempting to "paint to sell," to create what I thought people wanted. That almost killed my artistic spirit. At one point, I painted over a very controlled, commercial painting with a freeform abstract. That was the turning point for me.

Jewel Welter: So you see the artistic process as a battle of self over outside control?

Dave Moyer: Not exactly. I see the creative process as a quest for balance between the natural, i.e., the way my hands move comfortably, and the way paint performs, and my own control of the process. The more natural and uncontrolled something is, the more perfect it is, yet I try to guide the uncontrolled natural movements just enough.

Jewel Welter: When you painted to sell, what type of material did you produce--what influences and styles and how do you contrast that to your work now?

Dave Moyer: I have always painted the occasional representational piece. When I am moved by the forms of the desert, I will sometimes use them in a painting--never realistically, but recognizable. When I was trying to "paint to sell," I did more of that, because I mistakenly believed that since people were drawn to representation, they would be more likely to buy it.

Jewel Welter: Who or what influences you--be it music, film, television, or objects of nature, friends, and people?

Dave Moyer: I do not think there are any overt influences on my work right now. I am sure that my environment affects the intuitive choices I make during the course of a piece, but those choices are so buried in my subconscious that I could not quantify them.

Jewel Welter: Would you classify any other painter's paintings as similar to yours? What artists do you enjoy for pure entertainment value?

Dave Moyer: I like to think that what I do is completely unique, but of course, that is pure conceit. The pattern that is omnipresent in my work is probably the only element that is purely mine. My influences range from Escher to Olitsky, from Stella and Poons to Kandinsky and Dekooning. Some of my favorite art is the work of the photorealists, such as Estes or Chuck Close (although he is much more complex than a photorealist). I like to be amazed, and they never fail to amaze me. I identify most with peoples who have used pattern throughout history, the Australian aboriginal peoples, the Islamic nonrepresentational artists, Far Eastern textile and metalwork, Celtic knot-work.

Jewel Welter: Now that brings us to the pattern. Explain the pattern and its significance to you.

Dave Moyer: It is a non-repeating, organic pattern of interconnected curved lines that evolved from a series of drawings I did in 1982. It is the central element in all of my paintings. From the first, I knew it was unique. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere. I believe it is a very rare thing for an artist to discover something completely his or her own. I say discover rather than create, because somehow this pattern seems to come from a place beyond me. I discovered it and I create with it. That said, it serves many purposes in my work. It unifies colors across the canvas as your eyes and brain mix adjacent small areas of paint. It creates movement; drawing your attention all over the canvas as you try to connect the lines, it brings texture to the surface. It creates and enhances the illusion of depth. It is also virtually impossible to describe, both in appearance and in effect. The process of painting it is important to me as well. To a casual observer, it might appear tedious. Quite to the contrary, it is both meditative and engaging. My mind is constantly at work, feeling out the right place for the next line, connecting pieces of the pattern. At the same time, the process is mantra-like, focusing and clearing my mind.

Jewel Welter: If you related your paintings to a spiritual process or religion, what would it be and why?

Dave Moyer: Never having been a student of religion, that is a very difficult question for me. Let me just say that I paint because I must. I do not know where within me the art comes from, or how. I believe that the creative place is within each of us if we are willing to dig deep enough. The creation of art is itself a spiritual process, as any painter, writer, or musician will attest. Humans spend most of their lives consuming. Art is one of the very few ways we add to the universe instead of taking away from it.

Jewel Welter: The standard North American human condition is very much indicative of high consumption and little output. What do you relate that to artistically, meaning, do you consider a viewer of art to be consumers or is there something an audience grants artwork that allows the art to continue?

Dave Moyer: I like that question. I suppose in a strictly economic sense, viewers and collectors of art are consumers, but without them, the art cannot live beyond the process of creation. Once I finish a painting, it can only live through the viewer. My process becomes largely irrelevant, and what is then crucial is the interaction between the viewer and the piece. Art works on the mind of the viewers, stimulating the creative place within them. How they interpret and interact with a painting is in itself a creation. The viewer becomes the artist.

Jewel Welter: What do you hope to achieve with your art and its vision?

Dave Moyer: I hope to someday approach the perfection of a tree.

Jewel Welter: Do you really think a human can approach perfection?

Dave Moyer: Approach, never achieve. The quest is important.

Jewel Welter: I agree with you, on the basis of Siddhartha Guatama's own teachings and quest to be like every aspect of nature. To observe the tree is to be the tree for the moment of observation. If you were to select what your art would be remembered for, for posterity, what would you select?

Dave Moyer: I would like to see my art, and the pattern in particular as the trunk of the tree from which many branches grow. The greatest honor would be the legacy of other artists inspired by my work.

Jewel Welter: How does the Sonoran Desert influence your designs or does it? Do you intend to abandon pencil drawings altogether?

Dave Moyer: I moved to the Sonoran desert a little more than a year after I began painting with the pattern. The forms of the desert and the art of the indigenous peoples have all appeared in my work at times. In a way, there are two parts to one of my paintings, the "underpainting," and the pattern. It is the underpainting which has been most influenced by living here. For example, in the mid-nineteen-eighties I did a series of paintings with intricate geometric backgrounds inspired by Native American textiles. I have also done a number of pieces using the forms of the Grand Canyon and monument valley. I still draw, but mostly abstractly, and I sometimes sculpt natural elements of the desert when I hike. Rendering has never been a passion for me. I learned the skills in art school, but never had the drive to pursue them.

Jewel Welter: The most effective artists paint life and in that, they are the paint, they are the trees. And you Dave, are a tree, too.

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