We chatted with John Berry about his most recent paintings
Can you describe this body of work and what inspired it?
"… I do not think of it as a "body" of work, there's not a starting or stopping point. It is just one stream of consciousness that has come from inside. As far as inspiration, I am not sure I have inspiration per se, rather, what is in my thoughts or what is currently happening in my life, that is the genesis of all my work..."
Could you talk a little about your process?
"… Routinely I try to change the way I work. Whether that is starting differently or using different materials or ways of application. I try to constantly mix it up, make myself uncomfortable with what I am doing. Even buying arbitrary colors... By doing this though, I hope to let each work become what it needs to be, if I am doing the same routine over and over, I feel it becomes stale. I think you can see this if you look at my work over the last few years."
Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what have you been listening to recently and does it influence the work?
"Yes, I do. It always influences the work in one way or another... Music produces such an emotional response, whether it is the pace, sound, nostalgia etc. So I usually select music that is in rhythm with my feelings for that day. But sometimes I do put something on that is the opposite of what I'm feeling, that is always interesting... It will range from Indie Rock to Reggae to Classical, to 80's music I grew up with, but more times than not it is what the kids call Alternative. Spoon and Metric are my favs."
What have you been reading?
“The Last River”, a nonfiction story about people trying to kayak a river near Nepal, that has never been run before. I like adventure stories, but if you wanted to get artsy, I did recently finish a biography of Matisse. Biographies of artists are a mainstay of my reading, go figure."
Can you talk about how you come up with the titles of your pieces?
"Most of the time my titles come from songs or phrases I read or hear that resonate with the piece. Sometimes they are straightforward, sometimes I try not to reveal directly what I was thinking or feeling, just hint at it... I hope by doing that I let the viewer fill in the gaps, make the piece their own. Kind of like connecting the dots, that is the hope anyway."
Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to feature Duality by John Berry for our July exhibition. Berry's work combines an incredible tension and incorporates a new direction. His bold colors and shapes reference the landscapes he has painted in the past with a dynamic new body of abstract work. We took a moment to ask Berry what inspired him and how his process is evolving...
Compared to your previous works, Duality, has taken a more abstract approach to your Western Landscape. What was the inspiration for the change?
The initial change had no inspiration. It was one of necessity. I felt I had reached a point in my career/work where I could go no further with what I had been doing. I had felt this coming for some time, but didn't know where it would lead or how to even start that dialogue. The Western Landscape was not even on my mind at this point.
I began by revamping the method in which I worked and the tools I used. I even changed the type of music I listened to in the studio. It was a period of great experimentation. It was exciting. I think this fueled me, this unknown path was the impetus for my continued searching. It was akin to standing on the edge of a drop off, not being able to see what is below or ahead, and then just stepping off.
Throughout your work there is a sense of tension, that is enhanced by complimentary textures and colors, could you speak to your process that helped achieve these results?
Once I found myself on this new path, I revisited past ideas I had wanted to incorporate in my work. One that resonated with me was duality or opposition. To put it simply, I believe all things are a dual being. This intrigues me. Through the medium of paint I wanted to explore this idea. Let the paintings, by the marks and they way they were painted, tell that story: Line versus Shape. Thick versus Thin. Rough versus Smooth etc. In the actual creation of the work I found this idea spilled over as well. Periods of expressive painting abandon contrasting against periods of slow contemplation. It was very exciting to be a part of this, to see it unfold.
At first, I did not see a correlation. I thought this was a completely new undertaking, which in it's own right it was. It was not until I had completed the whole body of work that an artist friend from NY pointed out to me, that he could see and feel the Western landscape incorporated into this new body of work. At first this took me aback. Then as I pondered on this, I realized this was all part of the duality I was trying to capture. It amazed me.
There is this part of me, even though I did not think about or consciously address, that found it's way into my work. Even though this is a body of non-objective work, it still captured the ideas and matter, that is a part of me. That duality has a tendency to blow my mind if I think about it too much.