Piers Bourke, Sen Series 2013 Green. Inkjet print collaged on board with silver leaf and ink; 120 x 108 cm.
A conversation between Postcardwall’s Sophie Hill and artist Piers Bourke.
Many of your works begin with well-known icons or images; is an image that’s instantly recognizable, such as a postage stamp, more inviting to visually pay with?
I see it as a challenge to try and find a way of creating interest in something that we use every day or see very regularly. Stamps are a good example of this (although I can’t actually remember the last time I stuck a stamp on a letter!) but the process and aim are the same – can I change our perception of something that is instantly recognizable? So in answer, yes, I think it is more inviting because that has to be the end point: have I made you, the viewer, think differently about what you thought you already knew.
There is also an added dimension to this question because, as an artist, I see it as a challenge to see if I can add value to something that seemingly has been used and shown so many times and ways before. The result is huge fun and quite playful, hence the name of my stamp series ‘Lick my Rear’, for example, which people respond very well to.
There is something reassuring about recognizable icons, especially those that are country specific; does nostalgia play a large part in your work?
I think undeniably nostalgia plays a part in my work, but it isn’t something that I consciously think about when choosing a subject. The visual always has to be the most important aspect and what viewers respond to best.
Piers Bourke, Lick My Rear Pink 2014. Inkjet print collaged on board hand finished with ink; 120 x 108 cm.
Tell me what drove you to break out of two dimensions in your three-dimensional work.
I always studied and loved early renaissance pictorial space and perspective, particularly in architecture (Borromini’s perceptive gallery in Rome was always a favorite of mine). I am also fascinated by the way architecture was painted in Renaissance art.
As a painter in my early days I never quite resolved working on two-dimensional surfaces; the edge of the canvas/board always bothered me, as it seemed so much part of the main surface but was ignored by so many. So I took this further and used the edge of the surface as an integral part of my compositions. After a period of working in this way, I began to realize that the next obvious step was to work in three dimensions and take the handbrake off.
This initially led to designing panels to fit with my subject matter, but then opened into other areas such as furniture (see below) once I began to understand what I wanted to do. I started to experiment with photography as a medium in a big way, which has shaped my work to where it is today. Photography enabled me to manipulate images to fit with certain designs or vice versa, which was a very liberating way of working when I had initially come from a painting background where the process was much slower.
This new speed has ultimately pushed my processes along, fuelling my desire to work in three-dimensions and keep the possibilities ever evolving.
Piers Bourke, A boy Named Sioux Red, 2014. Multiple inkjet prints on board hand finished in ink; 120 x 108 x 20 cm.
By changing the colour and arrangement of images we take for granted, you probe our perception of reality. Is this your intention?
Of course. I want the viewer to try and see what I see; to think about things as I do, walking down the street on a day-to-day basis (I promise I am not mad).
I always wonder what the world would look like, for example, if the sky were green and the grass blue. I guess in a way we know what the answer is, but my work allows me to actually see it rather than just think it. This, of course, is a fairly basic example, but on a more complicated level, you can explore the way we look at things if you challenge them and colour is a great medium in which to work, which is why I use multiple colours in many of my pieces.
By repeating the same image in different colours, do you look to provoke different emotions or associations with each interpretation?
I would say definitely associations over emotions. By changing the colours you are challenging the viewer to look and question the work on more than one level. This idea of challenging associations is exactly the reason I have continued so hard to push out many different colours within the same series of work.
Piers Bourke, American Nickel 2014. Inkjet print on panel with ink and acrylic paint; 100 x 100 cm.
When did you start making furniture? Did this evolve from your artwork?
When I started out after Art College, from 2001, I moonlighted quite a bit in the furniture business and started to understand that functionality might be easier to sell than just pure art – though I actually think my ideas on this have now changed, and I am keen to come back to it when I have more time.
Regardless of this, I have always understood that my work can transcend one method of being exhibited to another, so using furniture as an alternative method was always an obvious step for me due to the way I approach my practice. My work has such a strong design element to it – I have a whole load of designs that need to go into production and, one day, I hope they all will..!
Piers has a solo exhibition coming in June to July of 2014 with Rebecca Hossack, New York and will be showing work in Hamptons Art Fair 2014, USA.
Piers is postcard 343 on postcardwall.