When was the last time you painted on your mom’s family heirloom? John Michael Gill may not exactly be painting on an heirloom, but he sure is rocking layers of paint on an unassuming surface: vases. And that’s really just scratching the surface. Gill creates unique ceramic work, adorned with some truly sick imagery, as well as stickers and paintings, to name a few.
I started doing art at an early age. It’s a beautiful form of expression, one that I believe chooses you not the other way around. Growing up I was very inspired by cartoons, movies, and music. I hung around and skated with a lot of very talented people, mostly older kids that for some reason let me hang out. These cats were into all kinds of new things, which really influenced me to express myself. We all possessed a do it yourself type philosophy so instead of watching skate videos, we made em, or instead of listening to music, we made it you know. The skate culture to me was an open-minded group, no prejudice, no rules, you know, the skies the limit type mentality. One party would be playin punk another hip hop and another would play some alternative shit that was new to everyone. I drew on all my skateboards, clothes, ramps, whatever, so graffiti was an obvious transition. Over the years I have started doing more and more artistic murals but in the beginning I was just another cookie cutter graffiti kid. A bunch of kids at school started playing the role, hittin up, starting wack crews. It was all cool to me for a minute but I knew that I had more skill then just ruining some wall with a tag so I started focusing heavily on drawing and painting. I knew graffiti was one of the ultimate forms of art when not abused. I never believed in crews due to the fact I think graffiti or art relies more on the individual. I started to learn of artists in the real world who were doing similar things to what I was doing. I saw that these artists came from similar backgrounds of thought. I saw that these cats were in galleries and the world was embracing this culture. I still do graffiti occasionally however I find the most enjoyment in canvas and ceramics.
Me and my friend Captain Darren started printing stickers at his dad’s printshop. In only like one year we printed over 65,000 stickers for a music project we were doing called character 3. Him and I would roll all over sticking these things up, along with posters and tags. The stickers made it all over the U.S. and into other countries. In this time I was approaching galleries and landed my first show at the Rico art gallery in Santa Monica. The show led to a couple of others in the Santa Monica area. A few years later I met L.C. Croskey and Michele Waterman of the cannibal flower. I give these two the biggest props as well as Marshall Astor of walled city gallery for supporting my work every month.
Art is an ever-expanding thing to me. It calms me down and is personal. It brings me together with other creative minds. My art focuses on spirituality, religion, science fiction, reality, and my thoughts and imagination. I love to use words in my paintings. I feel it lets the viewer dive deeper into their thoughts and mine. Life is a beautiful thing and I feel blessed to be spending mine creatively.
Recent projects include art for various records including, Circus and Asmar’s “Gawd bless the faceless Cowards”, the shapeshifters “was here” and Awol ones “reborn” record.. Upcoming shows are all in l.a. but I hope to show on the east coast and Tokyo.
Can’t forget my shout outs,
Love and respect to the Gill family, Transducer, Cuz, Circus, Awol, Charles Bukowski and the beat writers, John Lennon, math, science, anti war solutions, the demons that haunt me, Dave G, and most importantly, the well read sophisto and the blissful ignorant.
Please visit Johnmichaelgill.com to become super smarter.
The image above is titled Diamonds in Suburbia. “It’s about the road to becoming king, not in a ‘ruling’ sense,” says John Gill, “but more in a piece of mind sense. It’s the story of a child growing up in suburbia, witnessing the evils of monotony and seeing all of his friends die of self-inflicted disease. The child sees a much larger world to be explored, and as he grows up, he realizes that the world is much larger than the small towns that condemned so many to death or living death. Through his journey, he achieves peace of mind, thus rendering his soul eternal and becoming king. The diamonds represent the eternal.”
You began doing art at a young age; is it similar to the kind of art you do now? How was it different, and what changed your style over the years into what it is now? When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by fine art, but I was a kid, so I was influenced more by robots, dinosaurs, animals, and cartoons. Then I started really getting into skateboarding, and paid a lot of attention to the graphics on boards and stickers. That led to graffiti, which led to “fine art.” I think what shaped my art to date is my strange sense of humor and all things depressing. I’m still influenced by robots, dinosaurs, and animals. What role do eyes tend to play in your work? I noticed their recurring theme. Does their placement affect the mood, tone, and/or style of the piece? Eyes are an important element in showing emotion. When looking at paintings or photos, I’m always drawn to the eyes. It’s true what they say about the eyes being a window. Sometimes they also represent spies, or paranoia. How do you choose what textures to use on the different parts of your piece? So many are portrayed that it makes one wonder if they come to you as do the rest of the creation, or if they are perpetrated. The textures come from what medium I’m using or what I’m trying to portray. For most pieces, I start with a vague idea or none at all, and then imagery comes out and starts to explain something. It’s a really weird process. Many artists argue that words and other such symbols that humans can define detract from the creativity of art. How do you feel about using them in your work and in art in general? I believe those artists who think like that are taking themselves and art way too seriously. Words are very creative. It took creativity to define sounds to communicate. If I draw a building, people know what a building is - that’s defined. I mean, what are these people saying? Should “good” art be invisible? The further I go with art, the more shows I do and the more people I meet, the more I’m saddened and frustrated at the fact that people constantly ruin art by taking it so seriously. Art is one of the few things in life that doesn’t need to be stressed over or over-analyzed. Some people want to be so intellectual that they forget the fun in finger painting. 99% of the art I do makes me laugh and I have fun with it. I use words because it forms poetry on canvas. Some words are very poetic, but I guess there’s always some critic who thinks poems are detracting from the creativity of art. You incorporate a lot of collages into your work. Have you had any trouble with copyrighted images and/or other material as of yet? How do you feel about such battles? I understand both sides. People spend a lot of time and money to create identities, and when someone takes from that and represents it poorly, I understand people getting pissed. I’ve never used these styles for commercial work and rarely in my personal work. When you did commission work for things like band covers, did the customer give you a basic idea of what they wanted? How much freedom did you have artistically and how did it affect your final product? I’ve been extremely lucky. I have always had creative freedom. I was shocked when working with bigger labels that they didn’t pick apart things. My work with Unwritten Law was very easygoing and enjoyable. Same with the Shape Shifters; I’m friends with a few of them, so I guess that helps. For the “Circuit City” single, Circus and Asmar had a concept that was pre-conceived, but there was no direction as to how to execute it. But sometimes it is hard. In fact, I was denied today for a poster I was asked to do. Sometimes what one person is thinking is so far off from how it’s interpreted. But the bottom line is: I’m very lucky to be a part of creating art that is used for music. That’s always been a dream of mine. Some cool stuff is in the works. Does any of your art project the future, or do they focus more on the present? I am a prophet. My paintings are like a map to what the fate of humanity will be. So pay really close attention, or the world might end without you knowing it. Just kidding. At times, I project thoughts of the future, present, and past. They’re all elements of life of which is what I’m most focused on: life and death. Lastly, what does the color yellow mean to you? Bananas, lemonade, lemonheads, the sun, the light between red and green, failing livers, that song by Coldplay, pee, and yellow.
© 2004, 2005 Redefine Magazine - PO Box 95219, Seattle, WA 98145-2219
John Michael Gill's work is the epitome of urban folk art. In a Southern California art scene so driven by technique, John's work has 'raw guts'. He's not afraid to have an individual style while always playing with concepts and ideas. Many artists hide their lack of concepts behind pop representations of other people's creativity, while John just puts his ideas out there and allows thoughtfulness to be an intregal part of the artwork. In a world where copying a style of art or music is the modus operandi, it's obvious that John isn't trying to be anyone other than himself. John's work is timeless because it represents snapshots of human thought in the urban experience and the things we think but didn't know how to express. You get a feeling that he actually is absorbing his surroundings and experiences and feeding them back to the viewer through the 'Gill filter'. John's art work is the opposite of a computer Blog. The ideas are short-winded and unmechanical, and naturally powerful like seeing a huge tree growing in the middle of a city providing fresh air in a desperately confined space.
:: JOHN GILL ::
Yesterday I had the pleasure of going to a sort of art bbq get together type thing. Lots of amazing artists all kicking back in the 80% weather drinking beers in West LA. It was super fun. Of course, lots of beers and lots of artists made for lots of new friends. One guy I met in particular was John Gill. This dude is hilarious. And, his work speaks for itself. It's colorful, illustrative, clean, messy, serious yet playful, and emotionally driven. Plus, I've never met anyone who can laugh so hard while discussing total human tragedy. But, he laughed in a loving way. Yesterday he told me he had a bunch of shows coming up so I thought I'd introduce him to the rest of the world beforehand. So, here is John Gill.
PC: Who the hell are you?
JG: John Michael Gill, a.k.a.john gill, a.k.a, gill, a.k.a. WORMZER3000, a.k.a. the blissful ignorant.
PC: Tell me about your work?
JG: My work is a language that resides in me. My work is me on whatever surface I use. It's an ever changing thing which is a mixture of a plan and where the painting takes me. I love color and design maybe from a love for graffiti.
PC: Is there a larger message you are trying to convey with your work?
JG: Sometimes. There are times when, like most artists, something very profound comes out. Like if you're dealing with issues in your life or if you're really inspired by something. I try to convey a sense of spirituality. I'm very consumed with the idea of death in all facets, from the shear pain of it, to the beauty of it, so death comes through a lot as well as life. Mostly what I'm trying to convey is the old primal urge to prove I'm alive. It's my mark ya dig..
PC: How many cigarettes do you smoke a day and why?
JG: Too many. I'm one of those stupid people who always talks about quitting and getting healthy and stuff, but damn it, I'm compulsive. I'm down from like a pack a day to maybe 19 a day. Will power is a gift..
PC: What is coming up for you artistically Shows? New projects?
JG: 2006 is gonna be fresh, this year was good for me with art but I'm starting to pay more attention to my work and its progressing nicely. 2006 I have a solo show at walled city gallery, a 2 man show with my girl Sophia Pottish. I'm really amped on that cause she's so good and our styles work well together, plus its at a new gallery opening up soon called red dot. Julie Rico is doing it, she gave me my first show when I was 17.. As for projects, I'm writing a book about death, I'm gonna self publish a book of my art, and I've been illustrating the bible. Also keep putting out my zine "the well read sophisto". And keep scrawling stuff on walls...
PC: How do you feel about art in LA?
JG: Well, I feel it's starting to come full circle. I think the community is getting more focused. People are all starting to know each other. I have to give it up to cats like L.C. and Michele from cannibal flower (who just had their five year anniversary) for pushing art shows like nobodies business. These 2 cats have harnessed a huge energy source of creativity. Really the art scene out here is most likely like the art scene anywhere else, it's a scene. You have your real deal innovative cats and then your egomaniacs. Nuff said
PC: What artists/galleries get you inspired in the city?
JG: Artists: Sophia Pottish, Eduardo Benedetto, Jeremy Szuder, Mear, Dennis Larkins, Greg Simkins (Craola), Joshua Petker. Too many to name. There is also a bunch of dope emcees out here that are on the art tip and inspire me like, Shape shifters, Awol one, Circus, Radioinactive, and Busdriver. Galleries: Walled city, Cannibal flower, 1988, Project, Hive.. any gallery that gives my work a chance.
PC: How long have you been making art?
JG: Since I was a fetus.. all my life. Anytime my parents take the wallpaper down theres all these old kid drawings which are similar to what I do now. They have pictures and phrases. and I hope to live forever to become the illest I can be.
PC: Do you have a cat?
JG: At the moment no.. but fear not, I love cats. Me and my girl had a bad year with cats. We lost our homies Chet and Mama. I don't want to talk about it.. but we will be getting kittens asap. I want dogs too. labradors are very intelligent. good names for cats or dogs are Bela, Lugosi, Elton John, or Hank.
PC: What is your working method? Drawing? Painting?
JG: Really, I do it all. 99 percent of my work is mixed media. I'm young so I have no set formula. I'll try anything because you achieve different things. I love doing ceramics too. mostly acrylic based stuff or oil pastels.. all graffiti utencils are welcomed. I see a lot of cats who already have a set style or formula at such an early age. i think that's dangerous when it comes to progression.. all my art heroes went through "periods" where work was similar.
PC: What is your favorite piece of art ever created in the entire Western World and why?
JG: Damn! uuummmmm.. Well, what artist is most copied?
PC: Do you think alcohol inhibits or encourages creativity?
JG: I'm a big believer in doing art sober. Not that I do all the time but I know lots of cats who say stupid shit like "i cant paint unless im high". that's whack.. those people are frauds..but sometimes its fun to down a few and paint. as for the actual question. Bukowski was loaded a lot, i dig his writing. it seems through history, creativity and self destruction are a marriage of sorts. but im also down with nancy reagan.. hold up, i gotta get another beer....
PC: Sum up your hopes for John Gill as an artist in 10 words.
JG: I want to get really, really, really, really, really good.
The Arts District Citizen
John Michael Gill
by Nathan Cartwright (Article from The Arts District Citizen) – Los Angeles
John Michael Gill was raised in Torrance, CA. Born into an artistic family, he was highly influenced by the skateboard culture in which he grew up, espeically the music and graffiti. His immersion in this culture and voracious reading encouraged his development as a self-taught artist. He says, "Art is not something I chose, but something that chose me".
It’s great to see a folk style not derived from the foothills of Appalachia, but from the sidewalks of Southern California. Gill’s work pierces straight to the heart with strong religious iconography and archaic mark making. He dabbles in all mediums, ranging from mixed media to ceramics, oils and acrylics. His work is a statement on the current condition of mankind and the corporate cement that gags and binds us. John’s subjects are often tormented by demons and dollar signs, indicating the plight of the common artist and, of course, the common man. His canvases collide with chaotic representations of crudely drawn houses with white picket fences, TVs, skeletons and gleaming kings’ crowns, indicating the over-saturation of the "idea" of the American Dream gone wild.
Nathan Cartwright: Tell me about your possession series from last year?
John Michael Gill: The possession series started last year when I was watching "The Exorcist." It was around Halloween, when all the networks seem to have horror movies on. I think I was sick. Anyhow, I started thinking about how completely terrifying the idea of possession is, then took a look around at the people I come across in my daily life. The people I grew up with have slowly been magnetized to the needle and other abuses that have made them mutate into the evils of the world. I looked at myself and my own problems and demons. I started to see that people start out very pure and slowly [get] overcome by possession. It doesn’t have to be the devil. Let your mind wander around the idea of possession. Possession is literally everywhere, and people are lining up. I read heavily about exorcisms. I came up with the show "Exorcising Possessions" at Walled City last year. [It was] based on the idea that it is not too late. We can de-program. We can exorcise ourselves. I fight my demons everyday—as I should—so I paint about it.
NC: Are you possessed?
JMG: Absolutely…I am no different than the rest of humanity. As a child, it is instinctual to mimic things. The idea of copying is an instinct. If there is an evil that presents itself in a fashionable way, most will follow the lead. My demons live in deep places in me. I am fighting the good fight within myself. But yes, I am possessed. However, we can also be possessed by the beauty of life.
NC: What do you think about icons?
JMG: I love icons. I try to incorporate icons in my work a lot. I love the Virgin Mary, saints, etc. Icons are not to be worshipped. Icons are reminders of things big and small. I don’t like celebrities as icons. I like to make my own.
NC: Who is your favorite art icon in the Los Angeles art scene?
JMG: Does Kenny Scharf live in LA? Raymond Pettibon, Charles Bukowski, good graffiti crews.
NC: What will you be presenting for us in September at The Hive?
JMG: I will be presenting work that is still relevant to the possession idea, as well as some illustrated Biblical references and reactions to the ole 9 to 5 lifestyle. I look forward to it.
John Michael Gill will be the featured artist at The Hive Gallery opening September 2nd, starting at 8pm. Check the website at www.thehivegallery.com for more information or check out Mr. Gill at Johngillart.com.
Curator Nathan Cartwright is owner of The Hive Gallery and Studios, on the board of 3EG, a nonprofit arts organization, co-creator of The Max, and curator of numerous large-scale art events around the city of Los Angeles. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't be afraid of John Gill.
Recently i was on a shoot in L.A. from the east coast and found myself
shopping on melrose. In and out of shoe and t-shirt shops i went looking
for inspiration. While leaving one random indies music shop i noticed a
little book of drawings titled "good / bad art" sitting on the window
sill. It was roughly written in pen, folded and stapled together. I
picked it up and started flipping through the pages. Soon i discovered
that behind the primitive sketches was a brilliant mind at work. Each
page was as fresh and as insightful as the next. A make no apologies
look at the world we live in. He is an artist influenced by the street
in the same vain of Stuart Davis, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring.
Whether its black and white drawings, colored canvas or ceramics, Johns
work is an avalanche of creativity.
There are two kinds of artist in the world. Those who tell you how great
they are and those who let their work do the talking. John Gill not only
lets his work be his voice but challenges us to "keep up." His art is
not for the lowest common denominator. It's not work for those who are
trying to match their sofa pattern... Good art scares the simple minded
and being an admirer of John's work gets you out of that category. He
elevates art. His work educates by forcing us to become involved in
topics we might not have wanted to question.
John doesn't just paint, he opens up and reveals the one thing
that makes artists great. themselves.
VOL 9 NO 15 DEC 19 – 25 2003
Written by REBECCA SCHOENKOPF
And welcome to ArtMartyr, even if the Weekly’s Chris Ziegler did get there first. The small co-op has a terrific space with graffiti-mural interiors and pretty good DIY feng shui. Its website, naturally, is preposterously fine.
ArtMartyr has been around since spring, and its fourth show—of a Redondo artist named John Gill—is a fine one. It’s very young work: large tiles in pleasing bright tones are painted with simple silhouettes and vaguely rebellious mottoes. There’s Animal, and Ego, and Public Enemy decorated with a simplified man-bull. The Virgin of Guadalupe lurks in the upper corner of works that borrow from R. Crumb and Llyn Foulkes. Osama, George W., Gorby and Hitler share a canvas. Some of Gill’s works have the feeling of the Madeline children’s books—sweetness and button noses—while most others have a vague Gen Y distrust of politics mixed with affection for the dopier bits of pop culture and unrelenting reverence for Picasso and The Absinthe Drinker.
By young I don’t mean stupid, I mean young. Gill is still sorting through a thousand influences and appreciations. His lines are sure (while also naive), and his sense of color and space is even better.
ArtMartyr holds co-op meetings the first Saturday of the month. Go forth and DIY.
"Beyond Exile" at Arden 2 Project Gallery, 350 E. 17th St., Ste. 112, Costa Mesa, (949) 548-0097. Through Jan. 31. Open by appointment; John Gill at ArtMartyr, 1310 Logan Ave., Ste. H, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-0664. Through Jan. 28. Open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., by appointment.
From the magazine Ad Infinitum vol 1 issue 4
Interview by Kryss Beilby and Crystal Lafata
Written by Kryss Beilby Opinions Editor.
FROM THE EYE TO THE CANVAS:
John Gill vents his steam.
A resident of Lomita California, John gill is breaking through the barriers of conformity, undertaking brilliant analysis of the human psyche with pictures, phrases, and colors; throough art. One can stare at his work for hours; view the intricate detail, the symbolism and arbitrary mayhem brushed vigorously atop the canvas. His works are 1,000 page novels, ageless and picture perfect. His art is striking and delicate, orderly yet somehow fiercely chaotic, injected with honesty and enthusiasm. It is everything-but boring!
“Within one picture or meaning, there are a thousand pictures and meanings,” says Gill about his art.
Gill got seriously into his art at age 14 but art has always been his calling. From painting on canvas, ceramic, and boards to making a line of innovative canvas dolls - Gills imagination soars with determination and creative uniqueness.
His favorite medium is acrylic on canvas. Most of his work is canvas based,although,he has enjoyed working on surf/skateboards and vases,dishes and walls.His influences include Andy Warhol,Kieth Haring,Pablo Picasso and the modern artists in the Hollywood scene such as Shag and the like.To say the least,most of his paintings remind you of the late Picasso,exceedingly abstract and conceptual-but more detailed and extremely boisterous.
Gill doesn’t like to spend a lot of time on his paintings although it looks as if his paintings took months-even years to finish.He uses his art as a total outlet.It is a way for him to communicate,non-violently to the anger that resides in him from timt to time.He remembers how easy life could be and how much he can tolerate his surroundings when he paints.Art is his savior.
Gill describes his art as “negative with a positive outlook”.Although some painting look like the destruction of mankind – the meaning behind them is giving us a hint or clue as to how to survive the mass devastation.In fact,Gill has been working on a series called “Curiosity Killed the Human” of which he incorporates these ideas into his work.
“Humans think that animals are the less superior race and in turn, they are given the terms, “Curiosity killed the cat” but in my mind I believe we are just as curiously stupid in a bigger broader sense.What im doing with “curiosity killed the human”is showing people through my art that human curiosity can lead to the downfall of all humans.”Says Gill.
In one of his paintings,he describes the destruction of humanity relating to humans having sex and the downfall of that instead of the beauty of it – as if that is the way we are all going to self destruct.He truly is a mastermind to say the least.
He is also involved in other pending projects.Aside from doing his series with ”Curiosity Killed the Human”,he is also working on making canvas dolls and excelling the future of his band “Character3”.
When asked where he thinks his art will take him he chuckled,”im striving for legendary status,”
We think hes not too far off.His art has a positive possibility to be legendary………no doubt..