Interview with David Ball
Whimsical, fanciful, colorful, magical- Artist, David Ball's work invites you into his charming land full-to-overflowing with imaginative imagery. Upon a closer look, you realize the wild creatures and the lush environments they live in are a richly-detailed blend of collage and mixed media. Much like Alice's adventures in Wonderland, David places surprises around corner to delight and frighten you. Do you believe in Karmic justice if someone acts wickedly towards others?
I don't believe in the idea of nature keeping a cosmic tally sheet of good and bad actions, issuing reward or punishment meted out based on behavior. I just think it is a way of rationalizing outcomes- a moralizing harbinger, like the threat of coal in a stocking. It would be wonderful if the cosmos was "on our side" so to speak but, far too much shitty behavior seems to go unpunished and too many good people have a rough time. I do however believe that a positive attitude generally yields positive results.
What role does mythology play in your work?
I am not a student of myth but it is true that I am dealing in myth-making in my work. Since childhood, we have had message delivered to us through the veil of myth. Children's books, animation, religious parable- all use allegory. I feel that, by removing reference to specific individuals, narrative can be viewed on a more personal level by the viewer. If I can make people have some unguarded care for the subject, they are more likely to demonstrate empathy with it. I believe that an artist can get a viewer to consider things about themselves and their culture through use of symbol in a way that can often be harder when addressing the emotion straight on. Viscera and symbol also cuts out a lot of bs about specifics and gets the viewer into a more instinctive emotional response. ex. We don't need to know the specific individuals in "Nighthawks at the Diner" to understand Hopper's sense of isolation.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Aesthetically- My head mainly. Conceptually- life at the moment. Every now and then, a trip to the museum or the right sunset inspires me but as far as content goes, I just look to the ordinary experience of existence. Most recent however, the violent events of Aurora and Newtown and the ensuing gun control debates have been present in my mind. I would call this influence and not inspiration though. In such cases, I'd say that I am more purging it out than breathing it in.
When do you know one of your paintings is finished to your satisfaction?
Early on, most everything about a piece bothers me. When it is nearing completion, I cease being aware of things that bother me about it and begin to accept leaving it alone. Overwork is a dangerous thing. and it can suck the life right out of a piece. I like a balance of spontaneity and render.
Do you seek feedback about new works prior to displaying them?
Almost never. I only recently started sharing "in-progress" works with people through Facebook. This was more as a form of social outreach than a critical one. Locked away in a studio, on deadline, not seeing friends, sometimes my work is the most relevant thing I can say about the current state of affairs in my life.
How would you describe the worlds you depict in your work?
I suppose that my evaluation is no better than anyone else's on that topic. I would say the works are often lonely, the world- stark. Figures are generally in ruts, conflict, transition or play. The environments are generally fanciful and hallucinatory with whimsical execution.
What do you enjoy most about the process of creating?
It provides me with a sense of purpose. We all need something to fill our lives with and thus far, this one is mine. I like having problems to solve. I like having a place where I can let everything out.
Is it hard to let go when you really love a piece?
Yes, it can be. Sometimes a piece just makes me happy but usually, if I want to hold onto a piece, I am likely wallowing in that emotion. The piece provides me company and understanding but it also leaves one lingering in the past. These days, I just try to let go. Besides, I have no room to display my work anyhow.
Be sure to check out David Ball’s work in person on February 23rd for ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ at Cella Gallery.