Artist Philippe Le Miere discusses how the omnipresence of popular culture and the 'distruptive' potential of creativity in the 21st century have formed the basis for his new body of works, 'Block Buster'.
Philippe - you've had a number of exhibitions that use symbols of popular culture as a launching pad for new ideas. In what ways has popular culture had an impact on your life?
Popular culture impacts our lives. Analogous to a democracy, individuals are encouraged to 'vote' for their favourite film. Measured through box office figures, social media activity, and search results, our idea of 'Culture' has changed. It has become something to participate in, measure and identify with. When I see the latest Spider-man film poster go by on the side of a tram, the experience is inescapable. It's impact might be subliminal, but its effect is undeniable. Modern society is characteristically an industrial culture, cost effectively repeating the same message, over and over again. Like a Buddhist monk religiously reciting a mantra, the media's message imbues our psyche.
Popular culture is often associated with trends, fads, and ephemera. Yet the Superman character, for example, has been retold in stories for more than eighty years now. While storytellers compare the character's strength to industrial machinery, such as trains and speeding bullets, such 'Gods from the cosmos' have formed the basis for mythological stories for centuries. A painting of Superman today, is the same as a painting of Zeus in the Renaissance. While the form of heroes and gods change, you can be guaranteed future generations will always remember them.
The superheroes in Block Buster are at once familiar characters, and yet upon closer inspection, they are transformed and distorted in a way that makes us recoil. Is your intention to the viewer in, or to create distance between the subject and viewer? What are we meant to take from this series? Is it sinister, or fun?
Recoil is the effect that distinguishes these paintings from 'fan art'. Each painting is not simply a poetic eulogy to each hero's phantasmagoric achievements. They are transformed and distorted, as an 'individual' might receive multiple and repeated media messages of a single subject. The effect is very similar to looking at a Cubist painting. Unsure of the perspective, the viewer experiences multiple angles, homogenised into a single view. The effect is disruptive, breaking our routine view of a subject we have taken for granted. This was in fact the 'creative challenge' I set for myself in this series of paintings - to create a fresh look at a subject so very familiar. Hopefully audiences can have fun with it!
There is a clear social commentary that emanates from your work. Is it a coincidence that the focus of both Block Buster and your previous 2017 exhibition Click-Bait is the American icon? Can you discuss your thoughts about the omnipresence of American culture here in Australia?
It is a fact that Australia imports a great deal of its culture. And a feeling that these subjects chose me. Like Monet painting the observable effects of light over haystacks, I'm merely a witness to much greater global cultural forces. Yet, if these paintings contain a social commentary, it's that we each individually have the potential to 'be creative'. No matter how dominate a culture may become, we live in an era where a creative response is more possible than ever. These paintings show leadership in how culture can be transformed - irrespective of origin.
There is another layer to your work - that of the psychology of dreams. You have kept a dream diary for a number of years now. Do you consider unpacking your dreams to be an integral part of your creative process? Could you make art independently of your dreams?
I believe dreaming is the experience of 'pure' creativity. At no other time of the day is the human mind at its most lucid and imaginatively free, than when the brain dreams. Dream work to an artist is like gym work to an athlete. Training the mind to 'think creatively' is an endurance, as much as training the body for physical performance. An artist's most valuable contribution to modern society is to help spark creativity within individuals. If these paintings from the Block-Buster series help just one person see the world differently, then I've done my job.