Joan Honoridez-Mocorro a.k.a. Joan of Art interviews Juried Winner Christopher Lawrence Mercier from opposite ends of the globe in different times but with one objective.
JHM: I am truly honored and awestruck to do this interview of an amazing artist: painter, sculptor and architect all in one! I studied your Artslant profile where you described the process of accomplishing incredible artworks with a "more contemporary ‘renaissance’ approach to spatial thinking." So tell us: how did you arrive at this unique art form?
CLM: I arrived at my current working methods through a long process of development that still continues today. It has progressed over a numerous of years through investigations and explorations originating with my interest in abstract expressionistic painting, the history of abstraction, contemporary abstraction and the relationship of painting, sculpture and architecture.
JHM: Oil and water don't mix; how is this possible in your oil, ink, latex, and enamel media?
CLM: The various types of materials I use in my work I would suppose are less than ideal from an art conservationist’s point of view. How I came about the various combinations I am currently exploring occurred as part of the development of my painting/paint modeling process mentioned above. I found in my work I was always struggling to try and achieve an outcome with paint that required it to be more than paint, something that you could not only render with but also form/build with. The water base ink I use allows me to do that. I never actually mix the water base ink with the other oil based paints, at least not in a wet state. Instead I have found that the water base ink, if poured into molds can be cast. Its in its dry cast state when I apply it to the work that it may end up mixing with an adjacent oil based medium.
JHM: Have you had any major awards or recognitions in the past?
CLM: Although I have been working continuously for many, many years, it’s really only recently that I have pushed forward in an effort to really show my work. That being said it’s also very recently (over the last 4 years or so) that my work is starting to draw an audience. At this point I haven’t received any major awards (other than my Art Slant Award of course) to date but as we all are, I am very hopeful for the near future!
JHM: In what way does this particular award (the Artslant Juried Winner Award) mean to you?
CLM: What is unique about the Art Slant award is that the jury isn’t made of small sum of individuals. Instead its hundreds of artists from across globe who are out there doing their work and looking and responding to each other. For this reason this award is really a special. Its recognition from the people who are struggling just like myself to find their own work/way. To me that is something I take honor in, as it helps give me strength to continue my search knowing that other artists see in my work a level of quality, care and vision that deserves their vote. I want to thank them all for that!
JHM: You have an impressive resume. Are there other interesting things you can tell us more about yourself? Are you married? Got kids?
CLM: My resume represents a history of what I will call hard work and lots of luck. I have worked hard over the years and found that effort leading to many great opportunities to work with some very special individuals. I take much pride in those past experiences as they have become the building blocks in many ways for structuring my own individual development as both an artist and an architect. In addition to that I have a fantastic fiancée along with her daughter and we are process of putting together a wonderful family along with our 3 dogs.
JHM: What was it like to work with the famous Frank Gehry?
CLM: Working with Frank and the Gehry Partners office was an amazing experience for me! I was there for nine years so it was a real life influencing time. I started in the office in what was termed at that time a ‘model builder’ position. From there I grew quickly taking on various different roles and positions always paying close attention to how the whole processed worked and evolved. Working in a large office like that with extremely talented colleagues and very high profile clients means you either quickly learn appropriate political skills on top of being creative, inventive and very efficient with your immediate work or you get pushed to the side. It’s a very competitive place although from the outside it doesn’t seem that way. I suggest anyone who ever has the opportunity (to) work in a place like that do so, it's very eye opening for both good and bad reasons. I came out of that office in a very positive way and felt my experiences there, although many times extremely challenging, was an incredible learning and growing opportunity. I feel Frank has created a very interesting model in terms of the offices development over the years that one can’t ignore if you like the work or not and I thank him for the opportunities I shared there.
JHM: Did his unconventional approach to architecture influenced your kind of art?
CLM: I would say the biggest thing that influenced me about working with Frank in that office was a way of working and a level of rigor within his method. I have worked for at least a few famous and semi famous architects over the years and for me the interest or should I say what I was particularly paying attention, to outside the incredible design efforts that were occurring, was the way in which architecture (or anything for that matter of any scale) gets processed. What I mean by processed is how does one go about making/design/developing an unconventional form/object/idea and get it built/shown/displayed in the real world for others to experience. For individual artists working in their studios (like many of us do, myself included much of the time) at standard painting scale I don’t think this is of any real surprise. But to have the opportunity to be exposed to and participate in the politics of designing, developing, and constructing enormous scale projects which include the interaction and ideas of 100’s of different people, organizations and committees all coming together to create a single outcome was a very interesting experience.
JHM: Aside from Frank Gehry who and what inspired you in your artworks?
CLM: A number of years prior to working with Frank I spent a year in Italy at a small architectural apprenticeship program called ‘Architecture Intermundium’ hosted by Daniel Libsekind. This was also a life changing experience for me in many ways. It was set up as a small school type situation were a small group of us, 6 or 7 I believe, worked with Daniel on a multitude of different projects, some small scale works, some to the scale of city master planning. Anyway, it was a really great opportunity were I really learned about being committed to an idea/model in way I was never familiar with. In the past I was always exposed to a school of thought where if you were working on something and it wasn’t working then you tossed it aside and started fresh. Here I experienced a method of working where day one you got fully committed and worked pieces/models where you just continually evolved the object even if the idea started to change you never through it out. It was very exciting for me as it started my thinking into the notion of having a concept evolve out of a working process as opposed to starting off by creating a concept to work from.
JHM: What is it like being a painter, sculptor, and architect?
CLM: That’s a good question, not sure if I know how to answer it though? For me its just natural, it’s the way I always thought things were when I was a kid. My mother very early on got me introduced to the renaissance masters which I took a liking to and they almost all approached work that way so it just seemed appropriate to me. When I was finishing high school and in that awkward situation where your trying to determine what your going to do with your life I was always under the impression that I was going to be an artist (painter/sculptor). Then I started thinking to myself there isn’t any money in that, how realistic is it? Then it occurred to me if I became an artist it would never allow me the opportunity to do architecture. That was the driving idea that led me to professionally (college degree direction) pursue architecture. I figured if I was as an architect I could still also be a painter and a sculptor. It was simply that that avenue professionally gave me the most flexibility and that’s how it happened. Since than its been a interesting ride trying to develop a more contemporary method of working & living that combines all those disciplines and addresses your question. That’s why I don’t really have an answer for you, I guess the best I can say is that I am trying to find out.
JHM: What message would you like to impress on your audience?
CLM: I guess for me the first thing I want to do is again thank everyone who participated in the Art Slant voting process, I owe you one! Other than that I would like to say that for me my work is a continual exploration. I am very interested into keeping it new and fresh as is much as I can. Its taken many years to get here and the more I understand about it the more it comes back to the idea that its maybe not so much about where your going as long as your focused and committed to the work at hand and develop a level of professionalism and persistence to see it through. I think that has a lot to do with a lot of things.
JHM: Thank you for giving me your time for this online interview. Again, congratulations and looking forward to more amazing works from you.