Interview: Peter Adamyan

During the reception at Peter Adamyan’s solo show at the Lopo Gallery (reviewed), I talked to him about doing an interview for the site. It took a bit longer than anticipated, but here it is. I wanted to get a better insight to this artists work, and I hope this interview does that.

Creep: You stated that you have been drawing since you were very young, did you have any formal art education? If not what was it that helped with the current set of skills you have now?

Peter: For the most part I’m self taught. My brother was my first big influence, he taught me how to make up my own cartoon characters by created a chart of different features I could mix and match. We used to watch Imagination Station with Mark Kistler on PBS which is how I first learned basics like perspective and value. When we weren’t watching that we were drawing Spiderman, Spawn and X-Men out of comics and The Simpsons off the television. In high school I took the usual art classes that everyone who’s interested in art takes to fill up their elective classes and through that I got a scholarship with the Ryman program where I first drew from a live model. But most of what I know comes from reading books and doing research on the internet and just from loads of practice particularly when it comes to painting which I’ve never been formally trained in.

Creep: One of the first things that caught my eye about your art, was the cutout pieces of wood, and layers that you build with them. Pictures don’t show this very well, but one painting could easily be 3-5 layers deep. What was it that inspired this layered style?

Peter: When I first started making art seriously I wanted to be able to work with any medium, so I started doing the cut out to be able to experiment with different mediums while still being a painter with a consistent style. Eventually the painting aspect became more important. At the same time I enjoyed cutting out the pieces and having a collage look as well as not having my work stuck inside of a rectangular composition, I wanted the paintings to take their own shape and it didn’t seem to make sense if it were just a one layer cut out.

Creep: Since your work is 3-dimensional in a way, will fans one day see your work getting even more sculptural? I can only image how amazing a full body sculpture of some of the scenes you have created would be.

Peter: The largest piece in my latest show at Lopo Gallery took about 400 hours of work and is the most complex piece to date and I’d love to do more like it and maybe even do more insulation based work in the future but every piece will be as elaborate as it needs to be and I will continue to push myself, we’ll see where it leads.

Creep: Most of the works that I have seen from you, whether or not they are on wood or paper, almost always have color in them. Nothing that could be considered a drawing or sketch. Do you carry a sketchbook, or something to capture the ideas you want to work on?

Peter: My sketch book isn’t to me what it is for other artists, it’s more of a tool to work out my composition, the ideas are mostly worked out in my head beforehand. I write down all my ideas for paintings in a separate book as I have more ideas then I have time. When time comes to work on them I usually have a pretty clear picture of what I want and use my sketch book to fit it all together in a cohesive way.

Creep: Speaking of these ideas, some of the paintings have the most unique connections in them, The Incredible Hulk with a Gap logo, not to ruin the magic, but what process do you use to come to these connections?

Peter: Like every artist I get ideas from many sources, sometimes it’s a message or belief I want to convey, sometimes it’s just a connection I thought was funny and other times it’s just something I want to do for fun like my portrait of Walt Disney. I usually have a bunch of ideas I want to put into the painting, lots of different details, as the idea develops and I work out the composition I usually have to drop a few ideas to make the piece work. In the Hulk piece you’re speaking of it originally started as an idea for a painting with Richard Simmons and The Incredible Hulk sharing the power of purple shorts, but it was eventually simplified to Green And Proud.

Creep: Your work is filled with religious, political, and pop culture references. Pop culture as you have stated before is “our Gods and our fables”, and a common theme with lowbrow artists. However, politics and religion are themes that many artists tend to stray from. What continues to drive you forward with these themes, when you could easily be painting “cute” or tame images as many have stated the scene has now headed toward?

Peter: I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I painted cute imagery. Most of today’s so called Low Brow artists are better off as decorators for nurseries and play schools. I think it’s a sad turn for the movement to go in. The cute imagery started off being cute only on the surface and as you looked closer you would see a twisted humor but now the big eyed painters and home decorators have taken over. I’ve always believed art should be more then just decoration, it should be a form of entertainment and a way of sharing ideas. At the least it should make you think or make you laugh, or both. Ideas are what make me want to make art and those ideas are inspired by my beliefs. Not all my work is political like the work from my most recent show but I used the show as a way to vent a lot of my frustrations with society.

Creep: Who are some of the artists that were instrumental in the way your work has come about, and what artists continue to inspire you today.

Peter: Like I’ve said before I started off drawing cartoons and comic books which were my first influences. I went through high school studying the masters of art history and in the end of high school I came across the work of Britt Ehringer who inspired me with his use of photo-realism and collaged compositions. Later I came across the work of Micah Sherrill who inspired my experimentation with different mediums and unusual materials. I continued to find inspiration in my love of illustrations from B-movies and pulp magazines and of course the original Low Brow artists like Robert Williams, Joe Coleman, S. Clay Wilson and R. Crumb who have taught me to not hold anything back, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable.

Creep: When I first met you it was at your Lopo Gallery show. One of the things I enjoyed was the reaction that many of the patrons had about your work. Can you tell us a bit of the way people have reacted to your work, any extreme situations?

Peter: Nothing extreme as of yet, for the most part I’ve only heard loud laughter. My first solo show at the Hyaena Gallery was inspired by serial killers and other evil men and it had a lot of people who didn’t know me well asking “is this what’s in your head” whatever that means. The only negative response I’ve received so far has been from cowardly curators who are afraid I may scare off their collectors.

Creep: Are there any pop culture references that you would not integrate into your work?

Peter: There has been a few times where I’ve told myself, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this?” such as in my Aladdin painting, but I tell myself that?s exactly why I have to go through with it. The only line I have not been willing to cross, and don’t find myself likely to cross is making fun of human suffering caused by natural disasters, but I have no problem making fun of people who cause the suffering of others and I use any pop culture reference I see fit for doing so because as I’ve said in other interviews, I try to use our popular culture as symbolism for the greater message.

Creep: Finally, can you give us an idea of what new series or imagery you are working on for future shows?

Peter: Right now I’m just working on a few pieces for group shows and working on a series of head cut outs I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I have multiple ideas for shows with long lists of painting ideas for each but I won’t give much away. I’m always working on something, I really don’t have a choice in the matter, like most artists making art is a habit that I couldn’t break if I wanted to.

Thanks to Peter for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out his homepage for more work and news.

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