will pope

post-modern landscapes

taking the gloves off

Will Pope's current body of work, using the power of color and symbol, are narrative landscapes in oil, laid over Italian plaster on panel - and finalized with Italian dry pigment and olive oil.   The resulting works relay an appreciation for the historic use of Italian materials, applied to his cutting edge post-modern themes.   The process evolved through a process of both historic and self-discovered technique; a surface of craquelature and rich patina is achieved, onto which careful narrative drawings are laid.   The works are sealed with an ultra-hard modern sealer and varnish layers for archival protection and to add finish.

'the dance' 48x61 oil, varnish on italian plaster dec 2006 (visions west galleries)



colorful history

Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1965, he is a third-generation painter.   He began his painting career while working at the Bedford Schoolhouse in New York   in 1989, working in the company of artists Stephanie Clifton and cartoon film artist Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat.).   From 1990-1996 he lived and painted amidst a host of Taos, New Mexico artists, to include Agnes Martin, Larry Bell, Ron Cooper, R.C. Gorman,Jim Wagner, and his longtime friend and roommate, Wes Mills.   Will went on to earn a Fine Arts degree at the University of New Mexico, focusing on painting and photography, and participated in two solo and sixteen group exhibitions from 1990-1996.

Will made his first films with writer/director Ian McCrudden in Taos, New Mexico ( Baptizumseen, Trailer-The Movie ) from 1991-1994, and was hired as a writer/producer in Hollywood.   He worked with several 'A - list' actors as a screenwriter until 1999, and returned to Santa Fe for a one-man show of paintings entitled ' Train to Nairobi ,' at the Santa Fe Armory.   Will continued to paint and show with the Skeleton Art Gallery in Santa Fe, and produced work for another single-person exhibition ( Horse With Bather Series ) in 2002.

After publishing the children's book ' A Horse Called Jupiter ,' Will wrote, produced and directed a children's feature production by the same name, featuring seventeen hand-carved puppets.   (Dallas, Texas.)   See ' ahorsecalledjupiter.com.'

Currently Will works as a painter and filmmaker in Bozeman, Montana, and showcased twenty-six paintings in June, 2006 under the title, ' Maps for Matadors ,' also a one-man exhibition. He is represented by galleries in Bozeman/Livingston, Montana,   Park City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado.

His artworks have been acquired widely in North America, to include the University of New Mexico permanent print collection, and the National Gallery of Mexico at Queretaro.

Will is a full-time painter, and recently has completed an original screenplay for a major motion picture to be produced in 2006-07 in Cuba, and maintains other works-in-progress.

Excerpt from 'Maps for Matadors' (catalogue, june 2006)

I spent a lot of time by myself over the winter, painting in the basement of our new home in Bozeman, Montana, almost always in the middle of the night. After the kids got to bed I would sleep a few hours and then automatically wake up and head down to paint. The weather was freezing cold, sometimes down to twenty or thirty below, and my company was an old baseboard water heater that made a lot of odd popping sounds and whooshes when the pilot would light a new influx of gas. Otherwise it was quiet and in the back of my mind I entertained that the thing would eventually explode next to me. Painting next to it was a form of roulette in my mind; it made for a kind of morose fascination, entertaining what the explosion might do to the house, how far I might be thrown, whether or not I would survive at all. Intellectually I rightly knew that there was no danger, but the abrupt pops and sound of gas igniting was a constant interruption and would startle me mid-brushstroke. It was beyond irritating.

It was so bleak and cold I thought a lot about Mexico, South America, points south. I began to work in a very bright and warm palette, which literally warmed and comforted me, and hence the Mexican imagery, even the flamingos of south Florida and South America presented themselves as a reminder that in other places people were tan and warm and happy.
I would paint for several hours, then make coffee at four or five and walk my Bassett-lab, Penelope, through the long park next to my house in Bozeman called Galligator Trail, a pathway along the old Galligator Railway through the forest and along a frozen creek running from downtown all the way to the foothills of the mountains. There was never anyone around, and I felt I had the entire world to myself, just my breath and the sound of my feet crunching and compressing the frozen snow as I walked, the sunrise hitting the mountains and the old orange train cars.

I’ve always hated to paint on canvas, and in art school I convinced one of my instructors to teach classes on adhering paper to canvas, expressly so that I could paint on that surface. In recent years though I’d been working to achieve a surface, a ‘prepared ground’ that would help to distinguish the painting layers, and would have a meaningful context in the history of the painting. I had worked with a lot of mediums to work this out, and finally got a way of working with plaster that I loved and which could be made relatively bomb-proof after painting. All of the works I did over the winter and spring were done in this way, and I’ll continue doing it- I get a craquelature out of it that adds a lot to the picture plane. I use a set of antique leather stamps to tap words into the plaster sometimes too, and that’s fun and intriguing to me.

I spend a long time considering the images that will go into a painting, and how the juxtaposition of images and color will work together. I research for hours or days to find the precise imagery I want to see in a painting, and then do a lot of moving around with color and background until I know the painting. I almost always know the painting before I begin, at least most of the elements. I allow some room for surprise, but mostly when I’m executing I want to be focusing on line, color, and attitude of the subject. In a figure I practice the line over and over in my head before I draw it, over several hours or the day before, so that when I go in it’s already second nature. Some of the drawing appears to be very loose, and it is. But that’s because I know it before I do it, like a kayaker running a river that he’s already mapped out. If you screw it up, you’re having to remove paint, pencil, graphite, whatever, and it’s a drag. Not every time, but it can be an irritant.

While I do plan color, that process of choosing is very active throughout the history of making the painting. I keep a broad palette in front of me, and I choose every speck deliberately, carefully. If I don’t see the right color in front of me I don’t substitute. I’ve developed a foresight in a way, by which I view what’s there, what colors and shapes, and an intuitive process will show me what needs to be added to make the thing ‘right.’ I can tell if something’s missing or overstated, and I know what color needs to be added in what place to arrive at balance. At least my sense of balance, completion, hopefully perfection.

This active painting process developed over time- it used to be that I worked entirely on instinct, and I would work for hours or days and wake up and the painting would be done. And I think historically a lot of the work I did was good, some of it very good in my aesthetic opinion. The difference now is that I can paint without going into a trance, I can be awake, and I can describe precisely what I’m doing to another while doing it, and tell why. It’s an important breakthrough. I’m not speaking about contrived images. I still work through an essentially unknowable filter, a muse if you want, but a very mystical membrane. The experience of painting is as alive as ever, but the added ability is to be hyper-aware of inspiration through execution. It’s a natural awakening and another layer in the discovery of image making that comes by doing something again and again.

Painting is magic, though, for me. One response I recently got is that there is no depressing or dark imagery in my paintings. When I heard that it struck a pretty deep chord, and I realized that subconsciously I’ve been making an effort to put forth something positive, to add some fun and some beauty to the world. Thinking back on other exhibitions I began to see a through-line emerge, in that the images I tend to create are lighthearted and celebratory. They don’t lack complexity but I think they reach to invoke an archetypal ideal, like Greek statues in a way. I’m not sure that’s evident to other people, but there’s a positivity in the work that leaves tragedy aside. It’s very childlike and I’m glad about that.

youtube video: mentors: r.c. gorman, agnes martin, wes mills

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©2006 Pegasus Portrait Company/willpope.com

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