dead in black and red.
john casey's superb line drawings of his alter egos pull me in completely. it's hard to not be taken w/ john's enormous talent and his characters. his lines are meticulously drawn and his subjects are oddly wonderful. john casey's installation picket fencing opens this friday at swarm gallery in oakland, california. john answered q&a's for me about his work and the inspiration behind it. i hope you guys dig it, i was stoked to read his thoughts. thanks john!
the phone call.
thereoccurring central theme in your drawings are male figures, often w/some sort of malformed body part. where do these fellas you create comefrom?
thecharacters in my drawings are male simply because they are essentiallyself-portraits. the physical malformations my characters have are the resultof biomorphology. my theory is if one could distort one's body based onone's emotion or psychological state, what would that look like? whatif the body formed strange huge club-like limbs or a floating head onit's own, without the control of the owner? whether the figure is incontrol of that morphing, i'm not one hundred percent sure. i think itvaries from work to work.
praying for takeoff.
your little guys have been described as monsters, you're not a fan of that word. how come?
i'mactually okay with the word if it is used in the complex sense of theconcept as in mary shelley's frankenstein, a being who is ostracizedfrom society but a being who also has complex emotions and a desire tobelong, to be loved. the more simplistic idea of the monster being evilis what i reject. there is no such thing as pure evil.
your mom saved drawings of your's from your childhood, is there a specific drawing that stands out most in your mind?
thereis one figure that has that special, turtle look with a round body andflipper arms that kids draw when they make a person. the head featuredthese spinny, spyro-graphic eyes and sharp, pointy teeth. i made thiswhen i was three so i obviously had an interest in the expressive crazycharacters even at that young age.
i know you were a big fan of creature double feature as a kid, do you still watch monster flicks?
notspecifically. i like movies that have characters struggling with moraldilemmas that often result in monstrous choices and behavior. i love sci-fi flicks. i'm not into slasher films. i can't stomach those moviesanymore. i think i've seen just enough real violence in my life that idon't need to see the gratuitous stuff.
what are some of your favorite movies? are there any specific movies that have influenced your work?
sure, i love cronenberg's naked lunch, julie taymor's titus has sometruly mesmerizing surreal scenes, ken russell's altered states (talkabout biomorphing), and anime movies like akira and sprited away. isaw der golem recently, the german expressionist film from 1920. thecreature in that story inspired a specific drawing for me.
your work is so clean and refined, what do you draw w/?
i use micron pens, faber-castel pens and itoya pens on stonehenge print-making paper.
the prodigal son.
what was your earlier work at art school like?
prettyviolent and expressive oil painting. i was an angst filled young man. now i am happily married and living a good life and appreciating it. hopefully, i am developing some restraint while still exploring strangepsychological landscapes.
whenlooking at your work there is never any background, which is such agreat backdrop for your subjects. it leaves so much to the imagination.is there a consistent running storyboard in your head when you draw?care to share what it is?
i abandoned specific backgrounds in my work around the time i startedmaking sculpture. i decided to leave the narrative in the work prettyopen to the viewer. eliminating backgrounds eliminated specificcontexts and allowed me to fully focus on the figure development. mystory takes place in a parallel universe where humans are not quitehumans. the not-quite-humans are a lot like us but they have crazypowers of transformation (often unwanted transformation). they have thesame emotions, similar clothing, and similar societal hierarchies. butthey are not us and not bound by the same laws of physics.
you also create radical little sculptural dudes, any plans to create a vinyl toy in the future?
i'vethought about it and had a few folks approach me with the concept. i'mnot adverse to it, but i wonder if the vinyl toy market isover-saturated at this point? would folks be into that? i'm not a vinylcollector so I don't know.
coloris pretty massive right now in contemporary art. you don't often use alot of it but you recently "collaborated" w/ cohen and his watercolors.how was it incorporating color into your drawings? will we see more ofit?
maybe. but i like to keep things like materials super simple. i'm a creatureof habit and changes in my work happen at a glacial pace so maybe onlya few colors at any given time.
you'vegot an installation show "picket fencing" at swarm gallery at the endof the month can you tell us about your motivation and drive behind it?
a dad told me a story about his four young sons. the boys were playing inthe back yard and when the father went out to check on them he foundthat they had torn pickets off the pristine picket fence and they weresword fighting with them. this story really made me laugh. probably,because i have two younger brothers close in age. we menaced ourneighborhood at times and played war games (this was back in the dayswhen kids were given toy guns to play with). the picket fence has somany powerful connotations and it reminds me of new england where igrew up. so i am reinterpreting this scenario using my characters inthe form of large-scale wood cutouts that will wrap the walls in swarm's project space.
what else is coming up for you?
i'm working on a book of my drawings which i will be published by rowan morrison. i'm shooting for sometime this fall for a release date. there should be70+ drawings in there. TAG will have my work at their booth at the affordable art fair in NYC June 12-15. i have some group shows brewingin LA and the bay area and a solo at swarm next march which should bepretty darn epic if i do say so myself.
thanks for the interview meighan!