Interview with Damien Gilley of Igloo Gallery + PORTLAND2010 Opening Saturday


Editor Note: Damien Gilley is participating in PORTLAND2010. His opening (as well as many other artists) take place this Saturday @ the Templeton Building (old Disjecta).  More info:

Interview by Hannah Burns & photo by Christine Taylor

You moved to Portland from Las Vegas. What brought you here and how long have you lived here?

I've been here for almost three years. I wanted to move here for nature, actually, and the city was alluring. The taste of water was good when I visited, everything natural seemed right. It had nothing to do with art. And then when I was here I applied to school because I couldn't get a real job.

Can you introduce yourself briefly as an artist?

I'm an artist that deals with drawing as installation, primarily altering space in a way that helps to investigate or propose new perceptions and awareness of space, usually within the built environment.

Take me through a project from the sketchbook to the wall.

I'll take pictures from specific sites and from those sites I will draw in the computer, based off sketches, what I think should go in that site. So I draw over the photographs in Illustrator. This allows me, then, to re-project this image directly from that spot through a video projector and re-create it by hand with masking tape or vinyl tape.

There' no mechanics involved in how it gets on the wall, it's all hand done with a straight edged razor. A lot of the colors I've chosen are specific to the content, not the concept I'm referring to. One of them was white vinyl tape on a blue latex wall, so it really had the feeling of a blueprint. Another was fluorescent yellow on a matte black surface, which had to do with vintage video game graphics.

How do you think about Portland's contemporary art scene?

I think it's really unique in that there are a lot of creative people interacting together in a more casual environment. It' less competitive, and more cooperative than in a bigger city. Unfortunately, that creates a bubble, and I think Portland can really benefit from outside influence. Spaces like Gallery Homeland, Rocks Box, and Worksound are bringing in people from outside, but I think maybe Igloo' too small for that. But we can provide solo shows and small group shows for people that are local. Ideally it would be a mix that could provide some local platform for people, like six shows out of the year, and the other six could be from the outside. It would be awesome if people could come from out of town for a temporary residency to work for two weeks and then put on a show.

What are your big influences, in terms of artists and concepts?

I do reference King Abdullah Economic City, a test city that' being built from scratch in the middle of the desert. The architectural renderings are fascinating, they do this utopian sunset and midst and this huge spire dominating the skyline, built in the middle of dirt. I'm not playing with utopia, I' not saying what' good or bad, but it' so interesting to see perceptions and renderings of what could be. Some other things influencing me now are prog rock album art covers, and MC Escher, who's such a faux-pas and yet so brilliant. Matthew Ritchie and Julie Mehretu are core influences, but I try to stay away from their seriousness. I want to be a little more playful.

You co-run Igloo Gallery at the Everett Station Lofts. What was the process and vision behind starting this space?

The goal is to be purely an alternative, non-commercial space. Sometimes we sell things, but that' not how we curate. Its model is a live-work space, so it' developed into a residency program. We'e only had two artists so far: The current one is Christine Taylor, and the first was Paige Saez. The resident is integral to how the space is curated and run. We're interested in having this third person bringing in people we don' know, that we otherwise would never have a chance to bring. In the end I think the best function for Igloo is a space for people to have solo shows or shows in which they can take risks or do something that has nothing to do with their commercial viability, and all to do with their artistic credibility.

Your public art piece, ” Incomplete Field Guide for Time Travel”, was recently unveiled at PSU. What wit like to move from an ephemeral installation to a permanent, commissioned framework?

My approach remained simple similar to my temporary projects. I used simple materials (aluminum, auto paint, wood) that translate well in a line art, graphic look. But because I have been a graphic designer and know the process of using digital files to output hard materials, it was the same process of translating the digital into physical, a very predictable result.

And you also recently traveled to Berlin to take part in an exhibition through the EastWest Project and gallery HOMELAND.

The installation presents an illusionistic wall drawing considering ideas of value, defense, and confusion in relation to the retail industry in America, and beyond. The image depicts a luxury department store entrance outfitted to be alluring yet alarming. The work plays off of the existing structure to suggest an expanded field beyond the gallery walls, one that offers an expansion of commerce in unpredictable ways. This work is inspired by the “pop-up shop” phenomenon and uncertainty seen in the retail industry.

What are your goals, as an artist and for Igloo?

I want to be able to have commissioned installations and shows nationally, and if could go around internationally it would be nice. But for Igloo, the model is pretty easy: it' kind of like a co-op, and as long as there' someone willing to live there, it can go on for a very long time, and eventually I will be able to step away and it will continue to grow and change organically.

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One Response to Interview with Damien Gilley of Igloo Gallery + PORTLAND2010 Opening Saturday

  1. Christine Taylor March 20, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    Great interview Hannah and Damien. Enjoyed it a lot. Cant wait to see the installation tomorrow!

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