Pat Perry: On The Road

Thu 10 Dec 2015

Pat Perry is one of jelly’s most fascinating & complex artists. He takes huge influence from travelling and leads what many would call a full life. An intelligent and inquisitive artist, Pat is riveted by the subject of existence, and all and everything in between. With a client list including the likes of VICE Magazine, The New York Times, Science News, Atlantic Records and Ogilvy NY, Pat has a drive to work commercially, but for him, the brand and message is always key.

Recently commissioned for a centre page spread for Contagious Magazine, Pat’s striking and thought-provoking illustrations accompanied an interview with NYU professor, Scott Galloway, on his views of the world of marketing, luxury and the American economy. The brief was to create: “a Hieronymus Bosch-like vision of hell, with terrible things happening, but some rich people enjoying the spoils.” Pat confessed his first draft was created before he even read the copy – his head already swimming with ideas of consumerist hell.

Born and raised in Michigan, Pat is currently based in Detroit. Recently he’s embarked on treks to Alaska, summer trips to Europe and a multi-State tour on a motorcycle. Naturally, we caught up with him to pick his brains about life on the road and how it’s influencing his work…

How has travelling influenced your life, so far?PP> For better or worse, and by happenstance usually, traveling changes the lens in which you see through. When I first started travelling, I had barely any money and it was the only way I could see all the places I wanted to.

Have you visited anywhere recently that particularly inspired your artwork?PP> No, not one place in particular. Different cities and towns are incredibly similar to one another. Same restaurants, same gas stations, same drama, same routines. But in a different way too. I love the volcanic mountains of Alaska as much as the Appalachian foothills of Ohio, as much as the flat fields of Kansas, and as much as the swamps of Louisiana. When the light is right, anywhere can be a tear-jerker.

What about your road trip this past summer? How was that?PP> My pants caught on fire, our hands froze, we slept on rocks, paid some trespassing fines. We slept in the rain, we rode in the rain. I lost my tent, my vacuum piston ripped open, we blew up two pickup truck motors, we rebuilt two pickup truck motors. Surfed Mondos, surfed grainers, put out a forest fire, went to Arkansas, smelled horrible, hung out with Bandidos and licked the ocean. It was okay, I guess.

You tend to work across different mediums: Do you have one that you prefer, or enjoy, the most?PP> I photograph and sketch because they are the only ways I know how to make anything while transient. I paint more when I'm staying somewhere for more than a couple of months, and relish those times as much as the freedom of jumping from here to there. I think it’s important to remember that the context of the photos, sketches, and paintings are all the same.

Can you tell us a little more about your style & approach? PP> I actually really lust over traditional paintings and landscapes, but I struggle to find my own approach. My art practice lacks structure because I'm scatterbrained and overly-ambitious about the different styles I think I can tackle. That plays a huge part.

Your work is often quite observational and highlights recurring themes like the downside of globalisation, for example. Does this play a conscious role?PP> I relate my own practice to journalism in some ways and see my work as a journalistic type of tool; one I can use as a spotlight. It makes sense to me that if you are lucky enough to be graced with one of those spotlights or magnifying glasses, the most useful thing to do with it would be to highlight things that are over-looked, marginalized, forgotten, or ignored.

My practice of making pictures of rural scenes and mangy, overgrown lots is an emotional reaction to globalization. Although, it sometimes feels like being a wind-chime maker at a Skrillex concert. The posters I created with The Beehive Design Collective, for example, were a calculated, grassroots-solidarity-oriented exclamation that the emperor has no clothes.

Would you refer to yourself as a bit of an adventurer at heart?PP> I'm allergic to the word adventure, and the idea of looking for it. It's like looking for happiness; those things are brief parts of life that come and go. I'd hope that we can all acknowledge that every part of being here should be relished in some way or another. All of it slips through your hands so quickly.