Bruce Helford is the creator/writer/director of Anger Management. He and his wife Jan own the Corey Helford Gallery. Of course, Ray Caesar is one of the artists they represent. We should probably keep our eyes peeled since some of our other favorite artists may be featured in the background of the show.
Der Schrecken hinter dem Vorhang (find the edited German version in LOW No. 7 through the link above)
I was born in South London in 1958 and moved to Toronto as a child in 1967. I went to the Ontario College of Art, as it was the only Art school in Toronto back then. I studied Architecture and design as I didn't know what else to do and liked the idea of building something that would last forever and the concept of doing art for a living was incomprehensible to me. I mean, back in 1979 my sanity was held together with a string and chewing gum and a platex girdle. I drew and painted but I could not see what I did as Art, more as a kind of diary or a place to put unbearable thoughts to give my mind a rest. I grew up in very poor conditions in a brutal family. My father was a borderline psychopath with malignant Narcissism and my childhood is still something I struggle with through a lot of therapy. From that time I was left with a lot of Trauma, Diverse Identity Disorder and Panic Disorder with which I still suffer today. I took a job at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, as there was a massive recession in 1980s and no jobs in Architecture as nothing was being built and ended up working in a medical art and photography dept. We photographed a lot of child abuse and surgical reconstruction and animal research. Considering my own childhood, I truly believe it was a place that "Fate" chose for me, a place that wasn't easy but it allowed me to work through many of my own problems. Sometimes I think destiny chooses a path for us and we have no choice but to follow it and if we take another path Destiny kicks us in the testicles until we get the idea that it knows better than us what we need. I worked in Film and Television for several years afterward and that allowed me to get better at my craft of using digital media. I think "Fate" played a part in that too as I can’t think of a better training ground to cut my little sharp teeth on. In a way it was twenty-five years of school and therapy and healing. It took me twenty-five years to do what some can do in four. I still don't consider myself a "Fine Artist", that's just a label other people use and it has no meaning in my life. I wake up each morning and work towards what I love to do and what I want to see. For the first half of my life I had to learn things, and now I am doing things with what I learned in the other half of my life. If that's "Fine Art" then that’s ok and if it isn’t then that’s ok too. I feel I have done the same thing my whole life, made an opportunity by going through a specific door that leads to a room with other doors and by choosing a door we choose opportunity. I take the path of least resistance as it is always the most difficult path and the right path. I think we are all "Fine Artists" in this world and our own soul is the real work of "Art".
I do Art for my sake, for the sake of my injured and damaged soul. I create because I truly love to and I create what I want to see. I had a choice when I was a young man to be a creator of light and hope or a choice to be a greater more dangerous monster than my father. Big monsters create little monsters that can grow up to be even bigger monsters. There was a time when I was 10 or 11, that I used to dress as a girl and play with dolls, knives and fire. I stabbed my Father in a fit of survival and began a hatred of the masculine. I hated men and anything male-like and I hated the way they take whatever they want from anything smaller and weaker than themselves for their own self-gratification. I had no use for them and no use for the masculine in myself so I began to reject it. I can remember standing in front of a mirror at age 11, dressed up like a femme fatal in my mothers and sisters clothes and wig, holding a very sharp knife, the ornate wood framed mirror made a picture of myself that burned an image in my brain. I made a choice that day to make pictures of what I saw in that mirror and it is very very lucky for unkind and cruel men that I did because my choice could have been in another direction entirely... and I don't think there was a cruel man in the world that would have wanted to spend time with me in a room with my knives or one of the girl/boys/its of my pictures. But making pictures was so much easier and instinctively I felt it was the better path. Through the love of others I learned that to spend a life creating what you love is the best reaction to all the pain and hate and destruction in this world. My pictures are me! And they are a reminder of what I could have been and they are a reminder to the cruelty in the world that my children await them in the next world. I don't mind what I do day to day or as a job though. I would clean toilets for a living without a care if it put food on the table for the ones I love and I would still do as I have always done and make pictures as its the manifestation of my very soul. It is fun and I will try and do this job till the day I die because the day I started was the day I was born.
You create your images digitally on a computer, but still make some sketches, as seen on your website. Could you talk about the process of thinking of an image, putting it on paper and then working on it until the digital painting is completed? The first step is to let your mind wander. The mind is the first and only real tool. Nothing else really exists but what’s in the mind. Let the mind play and go places you wouldn't think a mind should go. When the mind has wandered and wondered you get an itch and that itch is scratched by drawing. I do something called "Automatic Drawing". I draw without thinking or concept and just let my fingers and pen scratch that part of my mind and let the pen scribble out what comes to them before I can think about it. Many writers work this way and many musicians and from what I hear mathematicians work this way too. They see the answer before they had time to really consider the question. They hear the music before they write it out. I think we all do it. I am doing it now as I write the answer to your question as I let my fingers fly over the keyboard and an answer is there before I had time to really think about it, it’s instinct of feeling of what you know deep down to be right. This is why I use digital media like Maya. I can model this way and use the tools to create and undo and the ebb and flow are like a kind of music in your mind. There are many found objects and happy and surprising unexpected results and after a while, the piece you work on has a mind of its own and it’s all you as the artist can do to keep up. It’s a tool that to me is more fluid than paint and I find more surprises inside it that what traditional media can do for me. And yet I still love traditional media. It’s something I do "unconsciously" or "subconsciously" without concern. I keep a few things in my mind though like a North Star and one of them is the concept of the Archetype of the "Divine Child", the symbol of spiritual growth. It was the child that learned to walk and learned to talk and survive and it’s the child in us that had to do all the hard things that the adult in us takes for granted. The child in us was an amazing survivor and adapted our mind to endure anything so that the adult could be born. You can’t walk a day in a Children’s Hospital and not see this... it slaps you in the face everyday. As adults we take for granted what the child in us did and my work is a way to honour that little "Ancestor" in all of us. At the hospital I saw so many that didn't get a chance to live their dreams so I now live my dreams for them. I open a door in my mind so they can feel what it is to dream and live a happy life too. I have so many personalities in me that what’s a few more? To do otherwise would be a pure and hateful sin.
From the sketches seen on your website, the images there seem a lot “meaner” an “uglier” than the final images, which are somewhat dark or feeling a bit uneasy, but still very shiny and good looking. Is this a conscious decision to hide the true image under a shiny surface or is it important to you that the paintings themselves have an allure all their own, apart from the depicted scene? The sketches are uglier as they are more primitive and brutal when they are first born. They are like that face you see in the mirror and that breath you smell first thing in the morning, hair all messed up, unshaven, hung over and hacking up phlegm. They are that ugly blood covered half foetus-half baby that pops out of the womb screaming for its first breath with a face only its mother can love. There is a beauty in that too but it’s not pretty yet, it’s primitive. I think the soul is also like that, it’s an empty black void when we are born. It’s hungry and it will eat anything and everything like a newborn wolf. Time does something to these things and they all become more "presentable". The morning face washes itself and combs its hair. The newborn is cleaned and placed so carefully in gentle new clothes and sleeps so peacefully that we are mesmerized. The soul learns to measure its appetite and we become careful what we put in that void we call "our-self". The drawing progresses and becomes what it intends to be and all we as the artist can do is brush its hair, put it in a few nice clothes and make it feed with a little more dignity than a wolf. The drawing becomes "civilized", but if you look deep enough you still feel and smell its roots in the same way you smell the fetid and foul things in the best of perfumes. When you look into the eyes and soul of the person that next passes you in the street and if you could see what is in their soul, I think you might actually be shocked. So many layers hide what we truly are and I love putting a bit of that flavor and odor in my work.
You said in an interview that you paint pictures of the human soul – are we that far apart from our inner self that our spirits look at us like the one that did not get the joke or the one who is not at all in on what is going on? Through a great deal of Psychotherapy I have realized that the subconscious does indeed exist. It shocked me the first time my therapist made me have a panic attack right there in her office – I was amazed. I have multiple egos and people that live inside me as that was a survival mechanism as a child. Not so great as an adult but art helps so much. I compartmentalize parts of myself and can literally turn off "Anger", "Fear" and "Humiliations" like a switch. That is a survival mechanism too. When we lay on a bed for days in depression. It’s also a survival mechanism, as our subconscious knows it’s best to shut down for a while and still our hand that might do harmful things. I think in today's world, we are so very out of touch with our subconscious that it’s like a stranger to us. We are the ones who didn't get the joke! That's why we are destroying this little beautiful blue world one day at a time. Why we create mountains of chemical waste we put into the water and air and food we need to survive, why we make our streets unsafe to walk on, why two thirds of the world starves and the rest throw away more food than they consume every single day. As a species we are committing slow and ritual suicide – Seppuku! And all the time we are not realizing what we are doing as we slice that knife through our guts. We are such a beautiful and amazing species though and I think we have lost sight of what we could be and should be. We have a tremendous amount of potential and hope and we can’t really see that in ourselves either. We are not getting the joke! We are that far apart from what our inner self looks like! Our spirit is like that very dangerous child I was so many years ago: confused, outraged, holding onto a knife and contemplating such things as this world would quake to look upon. Our souls are growing and we are realizing that the things we thought we needed are the things that are killing us. We are realizing, what worked as a survival mechanism as a child isn't what we need as an adult. We are painfully growing up in a world that might not want us anymore and it’s going to be a very close shave if we survive at all. Creativity and the willingness to change is the answer to all mindless destruction. Create what you love and what you want to see in this world. It can be art or music or hope for a child or a safe and loving family. You can create small things and big things and sometimes it’s a signature on a cheque that helps build a new wing of a hospital or maybe you can create something no one has ever seen before. To me that's the art of making a soul and it’s an art we all do every day.
Last Edit: Dec 14, 2012 13:05:51 GMT -8 by murdock
I like Ray's art. Of course, not every image is my cup of tea, but when I like an image he creates, I tend to be mesmerized. When I looked at the High Fructose images, sleepboy, I was struck by this one :