London-born artist Faith Patrick caught my eye late last year, when a time-lapse video of her painting Frank Ocean gained internet success. After sending her some fan grrrl e-mails, the mega-smart, soft-spoken beauty invited me into her art-strewn home, to talk the ATL Twins, cake farts, plastic surgery, third genders, and how it feels to have James Franco promoting her on Instagram.
Let’s talk about the Frank Ocean video. You referred to the technique that we see in the video as “drip-pour”. Is that something that you coined on your own or did you see someone using it and think, “Hey, I’ve got to try that”?
It was a happy accident! My original plan with that painting was to do a hyper-realistic painting of Earl Sweatshirt using a paint-by-numbers technique. I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the process and that it wasn’t looking the way I wanted it to, but I didn’t want to scrap the canvas. I had all these bottles of paint, so I just spread the paint out, and kind of brushed it around really wildly and stepped back from it, and thought it looked kind of cool. Then I accidentally tipped it up and it started dripping…but I realized that made it cooler. I wasn’t really stoked about the aesthetic of it, but then everyone who saw it was blown away, so I did a few more. It’s a difficult way for me to paint; it’s a lot different from my normal style of painting, so I’m still learning a lot about the drip-pour technique.
It’s perfect for the video- people like to watch other people doing and making things for themselves. Was that the reason behind it?
I’d wanted to do it for a long time because I take a lot of inspiration from other creative people all over the world, and the only way I can see people outside of my local is on the internet. I guess it was me wanting to make something high quality and interesting and inspiring and I also recognized that the process was kind of neat. When people would see me doing it in real life they’d go, “Oh, I had no idea”, and to me, that was kind of a cool moment, because as the artist, I just assumed that the paintings reflected the process, like everyone knew how I was painting them. I think when I realized people didn’t know that, I decided I’d show them.
The video is great, but your website has a really awesome portfolio of your work showcased on it as well. I noticed that you have a couple of different collections. Can you tell me about one that you’re working on right now?
The series I’m working on right now is called “The Correction of Form and Function”. I paint women who have had plastic surgery. I like that series the most and so I’m currently expanding it.
What motivated you to take up the subject of plastic surgery? Is it a critique of beauty?
The series is not a critique of plastic surgery, but it stemmed from my interest in beauty and ugliness. I’m probably too obsessed with beauty and probably too obsessed with plastic surgery. The conversation I want to have about plastic surgery is not the one that I’ve had over and over again, which is moral in nature- is plastic surgery good or bad? I’m not interested in having that conversation, because it’s been had before and I don’t gain much from that.
And the conversations that have been had are usually too confined. It’s not a matter that’s black or white, it’s very personal. What conversation do you want to have about plastic surgery?
I’m interested in the externalization of consciousness. There are two ways that we can understand our existence in our world. One way is through our external actions, then there’s the other way that we understand ourselves, which is to turn inwards and internalize concepts of ourselves. I think that things like body modification, whether it be something like dressing in drag, which is another series that I do, or something more extreme like plastic surgery or covering your body in tattoos- I think those are all ways of trying to make your outer self feel more like the inner self. Between the two, I think we feel the need to make them cohesive and I think that tension or conflict happens when they aren’t. I think that plastic surgery can be more, it can be a deeper reflection of somehow feeling like your inner self and your outer self don’t match up, so that’s what I’m interested in.
You mentioned your drag series. Do you think in some way you’re using the series to “normalize” something that some of our society considers to be taboo?
I hope the taboo concerning drag disappears. I think that our definitions of gender are still too confined, and I think that has a lot to do with the language we use to talk about things like gender, and all of the other topics that fall under that umbrella. The inspiration for that series was based on the third gender in Samoan culture, called the Fa’afafine, who are men that are born biologically male, but who describe themselves as being more in tune or inclined to the feminine, so they dress in drag. They play this dual role in society and they have relationships with straight men, but they don’t consider themselves gay. It’s just this really beautiful, open way to think about gender and I don’t see that here. The series includes celebrities like James Franco, but I’ve also painted my brother’s friends who identify as heterosexuals, and it’s been a really cool part of the process to see how they react to being dressed up in drag, and to have photos taken of them. It’s such a non-issue and I want to show people that.
I think it’s interesting that you chose to paint James Franco. People are apt to thinking that he’s phony or pretentious because he has such a fluid identity; he seems to portray himself as no one singular thing, which tends to scare people, so I think it’s kind of perfect that he’s in that collection.
I’m very confused by some people’s reactions to James Franco. I don’t understand them not understanding his need to dabble in a bunch of things.
I think it’s intellectual and curious of him, that he’s trying his hand at all these mediums and trying to take in knowledge on so many things. He’s pushing the boundaries.
I think that’s a great word, curiosity, and I think it’s a word that’s lacking in culture today. It’s so fun to be curious! I don’t know if it’s that people want to fit other people into a category, and it’s like, “Stay there”. I don’t know. I love a lot of the underlying themes in his work and I think that he’s really interested in gender and gender bending and he creates work about interesting topics. He was the first person I painted in drag, and it only made sense to include him.
Well, painting celebrities sometimes has it’s perks. James Franco mentioned you on Instagram, right?
Yeah! He also asked for the painting of him, so a case is being built so that I can ship it out to him in LA, which is pretty exciting!
And the ATL Twins, who most people know from Korine’s Spring Breakers, are also owners of your art.
Actually the twins are the ones who put me in touch with Franco. After they received their paintings, they called me and we talked about what I was doing with art and where I wanted to go, and they had seen my painting of James. They said they’d sent a picture of it to him, and I thought that was a nice gesture, but I doubted anything would happen…then they called me to let me know that they had posted a thing about my art on their Instagram and they go, “Did you see James Franco’s?”. He asked if he could have it, so obviously I said yes and then they put me in touch with his assistant and everything got figured out. They’ve been really great to me.
The ATL Twins are awesome. How did your relationship with them start? How did they find out about you in the first place?
They randomly found me on the internet one day. They’re so great- there’s a shamelessness about them. They could be very different in ten years, but they’re not apologetic about who they are right now. I admire that in people a lot. I’m drawn to it, the assertiveness and the confidence.
Did they find you because you’d done portraits of them already?
Yeah, they saw them either on Google or Instragram. They reached out and they were interested in a different painting of Sidney that was actually a commissioned piece going to Toronto, but I told them I’d done two other pieces and that if they wanted them, they were theirs. They were willing to pay, which is really nice. I think a lot of portraiture can be mistaken for fan art, and I would like to avoid that. I don’t think I make fan art.
How has this kind of celebrity clientele inspired you? Has it changed the way that you view yourself as a working artist?
No, but it is exciting; there’s a new level of excitement that I feel. I can’t say I look at my art any differently, but I don’t feel silly thinking about certain possibilities that I might have previously felt silly thinking about. I think now I’m more motivated and I’m willing to try things and put myself out there. I think it’s just an exciting time.
Well you’ve gotten a lot of attention based on the work you’ve put on the internet, but I know you’re bummed about the difficulty of obtaining gallery space. Do you think it needs to become more accessible for young people to show their art in the flesh, or do you think that the art world is changing to cater this surge in online presentation?
I’m grateful for what online platforms have done for me and my work, but I’m still absolutely interested in showing my work in the gallery. It’s hard to say how online platforms have changed the industry, but it is something all artists, especially students, should think about. My new work is designed specifically for people to experience in the flesh, but with that being said, I’ve been moved by work I’ve seen online that has been documented really well. Mat Martel filmed and edited my Frank Ocean video, and he will be helping me document all of my new work. This new work luxuriates in space and is designed in part to allow the viewer to apprehend light and colour, so for it to be effective at all online, it needs to be documented really well.
Does the online world demand more competitive aggression, just because so many artists are taking to it as a curatorial platform?
I don’t know that it takes aggression to be an internet success. I’m interested in creating good work, and of course I want to share it with other people, and the internet is one way to do that.
You mentioned earlier that you’re influenced by people online. Who are your creative inspirations?
I have a whole list! I’d say I probably take most of my inspiration from films. There are directors who I’m incredibly drawn to. I really like Harmony Korine. I like Lars Von Trier. David Lynch is my hero. Gaspar Noe and Kubrick, too.
I think it’s interesting that the first thing that inspires you is film, not necessarily another painter or illustrator. Film is something that’s visceral and mobilized, so how do you think that you transfer that onto a canvas?
Film is a special type of art; it’s so effective in creating an experience for people, a resonating feeling. I like the idea of creating experience for people, and matching the ordinary with the obscure. When I watch Gummo, there’s something really familiar about it, but there shouldn’t be; nothing about that film is anything like my life, but there’s a feeling it creates for me, and I know I’ve felt that way before. I try and make art, more so with my graphic surgery series and my sculpture, that captures that. Gummo and Antichrist don’t completely make sense to me, but I like that and I don’t want to fully understand them. The unknown is something that people need to become more comfortable with. Every once in a while a painting will do that for me, too, though. Francis Bacon is every painter’s hero, he’s mine as well. Philip Guston and David Byrd are great, too.
I like that Korine, Von Trier, and Lynch are your top inspirations, because they seem to embody the grotesque as the beautiful, or as the raw and true, and so I think it’s interesting how that shows through in your work. I think your art exhibits a real connection to that.
I think the sexual and dark nature of their films creep into the mind. I’d like my work to do that. Sometimes I have moments, where it’s like, because I know what’s going on in my mind and I have all of these other ideas that haven’t manifested yet, it makes me think of my work as darker than it actually is. Then I’m like, “SHOOT, it’s not as dark as I wanted it to be!”.
Your recent sculptures have all sorts of amazing qualities- the colour pink, birthday cake, a toilet. Can you tell me about them?
Those two are from this year, the chair and the toilet, and they’re part of the same piece. They’re called “Rule 34” and “Rule 36”.
They do a great job of making the mind wander. What was the intention behind them?
A lot of my sculpture I make about fetishes and paraphilias. Those two sculptures, specifically, tie into the same sort of idea, that our sexual behaviours are some physical manifestation of something in our mind, that’s not being expressed in any other way. I’m also interested in objectum sexuality, in the spiritual connections that people can have with inanimate objects, and I think I’m interested in it because it’s so real, yet it’s maybe not something that most people have experienced.
What are “Rule 34” and “Rule 36” specifically about?
“Rule 34” and “Rule 36” came from this forum site, called 4Chan. There was this blog post that appeared on 4Chan that became very well known, kind of famous in the world of the internet, and it was called “The Rules of the Internet.” Rule 34 is, I’m going to paraphrase, but it’s like, if you can think about it, there’s porn made about it, and Rule 36 is, there will always be something more fucked up, in terms of sex. So “Rule 34” is about cake sitting, which is a fetish where men like to watch women sit on their own birthday cake, and “Rule 36” references cake farting.
I think that it’s awesome that you chose to do everything in pink, this light colour juxtaposing an intense, complex subject, that’s maybe seen as “dirty” to a lot of people. Having seen the cake farts video, I’m curious as to what the research process was like for these sculptures?
I make art about things that fascinate me and move me, but I’m also interested in finding some type of answer, or having a position on the topics that my art breach, so I’m writing an essay right now about the connection between sex and food, sex and animals, sex and domination, and sex and objects. Much of my research involved watching weird porn! There’s taboo around “peculiar porn”, people still talk about certain fetishes in terms of sexual deviancy, and I think that needs to be lifted because it is possible to have a healthy sexual relationship with some kind of fetish involved. I think that’s a more interesting conversation than just saying, “That’s so fucking weird”. I would rather open it up to things like that.
So what does the future bring for you?
I’d like to start writing about my art again, which is something that I always try to do in my off time. I’d say I’m most focused on my surgery series, and creating more sculpture. The piece I’m doing right now is about the woman and that complexity, which is inspired by the black widow spider, so I’m really focused on that. I’m focused on networking this year, the next month is full of trips that are focused on that, and just moving forward and creating more opportunities.
You can catch more of Faith’s work at:
Official Website: http://www.faithirenepatrick.com/