Geoff Mcfetridge Illustration Essay

If you’re an Apartamento reader, you may have seen a charming feature in which Geoff showed off some of the furniture he makes for his daughters. From simple fort-like structures to little reading chairs and stools to rather elaborate toy cookers, Geoff has quite clearly put in the hours when it comes to constructing things for their amusement. So is there a difference between making personal or commercial work in a studio, and making work for someone you love? Geoff says no. If you’ve ever doodled on a piece of paper only to find that it’s one of your finest pieces of work, you may relate to this.

“If I’m making something for my daughters it’s like well, is that a piece of art? And it’s like no it’s not…but it is. When you totally release yourself to being like, I’m just gonna quickly make this thing for my daughters, it’s of no consequence, and of course the minute you finish it you’re like, ugh, this totally has consequence. Why is the cosmos like that? And that changed me.”

Having children, he says, affected his work like an ecosystem suddenly disrupted. “I sit down and I draw with them. With my eldest I love to get her opinion on things. I think she’s seen me work so much that she just knows. She’s like, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if she had like a staircase coming out of her head and she was walking out of it?’ So I’ll do it, and that happens all the time!

“She kind of throws off-the-cuff thoughts out there. What I do is so simple that for a nine-year-old it’s totally conceivable, so she can participate in what I’m doing.”

Geoff created a video a few years back which showed one of his daughters drawing a picture, with him mirroring her every move. “Until you see what we’re drawing you wouldn’t know whether she was copying me or I was copying her. To me that kind of says something about how I view the world. I understood her drawings a little better – it’s kind of alien and I definitely like that. That sort of input doesn’t necessarily come from viewing other people’s work or going to museums. It’s things you do, your family, your friends, all the inconsequential stuff you know, what I’m reading at the time. At the moment I’m reading a lot about Native American cowboys,” he laughs. “Like, it’s interesting, but it has nothing to do with what I’m…anyway.”

The experimentation and relying on his own head means that not only is the work personal, but it all links together nicely. Geoff says the reason he didn’t take to being a graphic designer was that when one project was over, he’d have to start work on a different idea when he was nowhere near finished with the previous one.

“It’s actually all the same ideas over and over again. So I’m never starting from scratch, and that’s the frustrating thing when I was working as a graphic designer. There’s frustration in the waste – you need years and years to work through ideas.”

In the same way that you spend your days wishing your favourite band will bring their new album out, me and the other Geoff McFetridge fans spend our days subconsciously crossing our fingers for a batch of new work. Well, here it is, and guess what? It’s glorious. You’ve probably been reading about Geoff’s work for the designs featured in Spike Jonze’s Her of late, but that’s not all he’s been beavering away at. As of tomorrow, Geoff’s new paintings are on show at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen in a show entitled Meditallucination – a term coined by Geoff himself. He told us a bit more about the concept behind this new body of work.

“Meditations, in that they are a bit like listening to the world around you, using the noise to find an inner silence and peace that connects you to a deeper state of consciousness. Hallucinations, in that they are made of the raw material of our visual cortex, beyond being found images they are nearly hard-wired into our minds. There are portions of our brain (visual cortex) that view patterns, read language, and make connections to discern depth. Skills that are essential to being a human. I feel this work is about crossing those wires.”

And cross those wires he does. This work, much like the other similar paintings he’s created of late, challenge us to look beyond trivial scenes – a shadow cast on steps, human beings from above, the shape of a hand behind a glass of water – and see them as a kind of magic. Incredibly, as we discovered in an interview with Geoff in Printed Pages, a lot of the time he actually just works from sketches and the images in his mind, rather than from life. What I love most about this new work is his introduction to painting the works directly onto canvas as if they were on a page, like you’re flicking through a book and each work is a moment in that novel rather than being a story in its own right.

“The idea is to make image-based work that lies between image and language. So that your visual cortex ‘reads’ these more as language, rather than seeing them as spacial or physical things. A way to induce a misfiring of your mind to create a connection, and manipulate the viewer in a way that creates a sort of resonance.

“The hand that is split is really a diagram of this. You complete the image in your head, a bit like a puzzle. Placing this image on the ‘book’ reduces this icon to a beyond-flat state, a bit more like a letter than a hand.”

See Geoff’s new work on show at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen from 21 March – 26 April 2014.

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