Years ago I stumbled across a lovely collection of artwork at a Seattle coffee shop. The art was figurative but line driven, bright but soulful and one of those lovely drawings became the first piece of original art I ever bought for myself (a soul sustaining indulgence I highly recommend).
Joey Bates is planning a trip to Iceland this summer to gather source material for a new body of work and he agreed to meet with me over coffee to talk about the trip, his fundraising plans, and the work he hopes will come from this journey.
Q: I have always thought of your art as primarily figurative, are you stepping away from that tradition in this new series?
A: My work has always involved pattern making and the exploration of textures within forms but with these new works I am venturing farther away from the figurative and am more directly working with patterns that occur in nature, specifically geological patterns.
The series of work that I’ve just begun exploring revolves around the way that land is formed. I’m interested in the visual power of landscapes and telling that story.
Q: You are currently raising funds for a trip to Iceland to gather material for this work, why Iceland, especially when you live in the Pacific Northwest, a geologically rich area?
A: Yes, we do have Mount Rainier and some wonderful geological things to explore here in the Northwest and I don’t doubt that my work will at some point feature our own mountains. What draws me to Iceland specifically is how geologically diverse and dynamic the land is. For example, it lies on a geologic rift and above a hotspot. The result is an island of volcanism and geothermal phenomena. The land is essentially in flux, changing and morphing in ways that are interesting, poignant, and documentable. This trip is about exploration of this changing landscape and seeing where the reference material takes me and my artwork.
Q: A lot of artists work from reference material gathered from the internet, books or the photography of others. Is it necessary to gather reference material first hand? How might traveling to Iceland affect your process?
A: For the last year or so I have been exploring mountains from the confines of my studio using the internet, for example, to find visual references. I don’t think it’s a bad practice but it certainly seems better to gather references first hand and even more than that, to experience the place in person. My work, like the landscape in Iceland, is in flux. Drawing inspiration from the place itself rather than from the visual experiences of others opens the door to inspiration and innovation. I have some ideas of the materials I would like to see and capture but I’m also approaching the experience with an open mind and a willingness to let the land speak to me and affect my work in new ways.
We wish Joey Bates the best of luck with his new body of work and his efforts to engage new themes and landscapes.