Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fauna and Favelas: Skip Hill at Mainsite Contemporary Art

Over the course of a month, Norman Artist Skip Hill transformed MAINSITE Contemporary Art into a living, working studio as well as the site for his exhibition Under the Mango Tree. Hill’s work combines colors that evoke Brazilian favelas with codes and symbols from a variety of cultures and contexts. Hill creates a mysterious yet intimate jungle of birds, fruits and flowers, as well as interior dwelling spaces adorned with the elements of the jungle.

Visitors are inclined to stay and visit with the artist as he works. The closing reception for Under the Mango Tree is Friday September 13th, 2013 from 6-10pm at MAINSITE in Norman Oklahoma. I had the pleasure of contacting the artist via email, below are snippets from our interview.

Skip Hill, As Coisas Boas Da Vida (The Good Things In Life),
Acrylic, collage, inks on canvas 

Laura Reese: What started you working in the direction you are now?
Skip Hill: I was influenced as a child by the colorful collage work of Romare Bearden who I was introduced to through my father’s collection of lithographs. Even though I am confident in a variety of media, for several years now my primary medium has been a mix of painting and collage. Around the mid-2000’s, I began injecting computer generated text into the picture. I have built on the technique since then, drawing on my collection of foreign language books, sheet music, packaging, advertising, magazines and even Braille.

What are your biggest inspirations for this body of work?
The new works from the Under The Mango Tree series were inspired by my trip to Brazil in October of 2012.  The light of the southern hemisphere, the sky, the ocean, the bright pastels of stucco houses, the variety of lush fauna, the multi-hued people, the music, and the color saturated birds seduced my senses. I have to say that for the purpose of my trip, Love and the Romantic also came into play with this body of work.

What is the Mango Tree? Does it represent anything?
Under The Mango tree is also a metaphor for an inner place where possibilities and potential are ripe for picking.  One night beneath a mango tree, beautiful moon and vivid stars above, I was standing on the veranda of the priest’s home looking to the streetlights from the slums in the distant hills, with the collected voices of singing parishioners soothing my spirit from the open windows of the church next door. I had an incredible sense of connection with the Divine, as if I was being embraced and assured that everything was exactly as it should be in that very moment.

Work by Skip Hill

Why birds?
The bird has been a motif and symbol for inspiration in the periphery of my art for several years. But now they serve as the primary vehicles for color and texture. Like homing pigeons, they carry and deliver any messages I want to interject in the paintings

Why collage? How does the process of collage relate to the concepts in your work?
I use collage because it allows for the visual play of contrasting textures, patterns and shifting perspectives. Collage also allows me to introduce external references such as photos, poetry, Art history, pop culture and advertising into the mix.

Where does language play into your work? 
In most cases I use languages for their graphic quality; Japanese Kanji, Chinese characters and increasingly Portuguese as examples. For the viewer it’s not necessary to know the language in order to enjoy the abstract quality the text adds to the picture. For those who do understand a particular language used in the art, the references are usually spiritual, poetic, lyrical or sardonic. It adds just another layer to the visual and conceptual depth of the image.

Travel and cultural exchange seems to be an important theme in your work. 
Travel allows me as an artist to see with fresh eyes another world, another culture, and to file all of that into my mental hard-drive for use later in the studio.  Wherever I go, I make a point of collecting materials I can use in my work.

Artist Skip Hill working at MAINSITE

Tell us a bit about how you will be working in MAINSITE?
I like working late at night, so most evenings if you drive by the gallery you will catch me in the studio.  I like to ride my bike through the gallery when I take a break to think. Good music and a bit of vino will be flowing for sure. We have set up a workstation with paint, materials and invite other artists to stop by and play, collaborate and share ideas.  Since the show opened there has been a stream of photographers, filmmakers, musicians and creative types stopping by to share the energy. If the lights are on you’re welcome to come on in.

Visitors can see Skip Hill's work at MAINSITE Contemporary Art Gallery, 122 E Main St, Norman, OK at his closing reception from 6:00-10:00pm on Friday 13th, 2013.

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