Interview by Pablo de Pinho
Opening Reception - Saturday, October 13th 12-10pm
Showing Through - November 2, 2018
The show features a focused body of work loosely highlighting memorable moments of Dill's experiences throughout Oakland. Dill's Paintings range from exterior abstractions of corner stores to beautifully bleak landscapes taken from fuzzy memories of his life living in Oakland. The work is playful but serious, radiating an immensely consistent color palette which brings the viewer into Dill's personal narrative. While the content remains very direct, the loose painterly application gives an addicting quality that keeps the viewer wanting to visually dissect many layers of the story. - Brock Brake - Pt. 2 Gallery
Pablo de Pinho: Do you see this series of work as being a visual journal of the motifs you see in daily life around Oakland? Are all these paintings based in Oakland?
Cannon Dill: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been thinking about this show for a little over a year and wanted to specifically highlight Oakland as the subject. Originally I started the body of work as small exterior crops of Liquor store fronts, which then started to slowly shift into a different focus . By not working from thumbnails, but using a very fuzzy idea as reference - and not respecting the process of painting, it will always send you into another direction. I’d be working and make one small adjustment and say “oh yeah, duh, that’s the trash lot I pass by every week” and then It just becomes that - Which is probably why some of these pieces teeter on the edge of abstraction, I might be pulling from wherever that place might be.
Liquor stores and corner stores, are key components of the Oakland characteristic. How would you describe the city to someone that has never been there before?
Loud. Slow but energetic, Orange sky at night. Remember to be respectful.
How has this Oakland community grown and changed in the last five years?
That’s a hard one to answer because I’m only focused on one very small portion of it...But i’ll say this. 5 years ago you could get a slice of cheese pizza for 2.50, and now a slice is at 5 bux. So I don’t blame the folks moving away because of that, I think about it all the time.
The color palette is striking in this series, do the specific hues have a certain meaning or significance behind them, or have you simply chosen them for their vibrancy and character?
I have trouble seeing a lot of colors, but I’ve been really making strides in learning the differences between certain shades and adapting by thinking about tonality and contrast more so then what looks pretty. I figured out this really goofy experiment where I would “like” certain photos on IG and then after a week I would look back at the “liked photos tab” - what I found is that there would be a common color in a set of 9 liked photos, maybe a dusty pink color… So I would write that down and look for the next and think about maybe why I was naturally attracted to that color in the first place. That’s how I came up with the palette for the show.
You mention writing down colors you like to use, do you also write down ideas for compositions or make sketches for future paintings?
I’ll draw up a few compositions and tack them to the wall and pull from those as I’m working, but it’s never set in stone. I could be working from one sketch and it’ll lead to a totally different thing the next minute. I had one sketch out of maybe 10 or 12 that I had that actually worked as a finished painting.
In this series, do you consider your works to be still lifes? Do you consider Fire Ants On Bird Island (Lake Merrit) and Neighbors Dog (Barking On Repeat) to be portraits?
I was wanting to stay away from still lifes & portraits as much as possible because I’m saving those for another time… I guess they seemed more like Landscapes than anything else - just because of the aerial viewpoint of some of these backgrounds reminded me of topographical mapping, and then the focal points or main figures sort of just stamped on like collage…Everything’s extremely flat and awkwardly placed. I tried to approach it more through the eyes of a folk artist.
Despite being the same color palette, The variety of works shown have quite significant differences in approach when illustrating the subject matter. Neighbor's Dog (Barking On Repeat) highlights the main subject and abstracts the background. Whereas, Yard Sale on 10th St. approaches each object of the sale is rendered clearly with detail. And Plastic Bags and Wild Flowers, is perhaps the most abstract painting in the show a rendition of a pile of trash with wild flowers growing. How do you choose what to abstract and what to stand-out figuratively? Does this approach play a role in communicating the narrative story of each work presented?
There’s a Philip Guston clip floating around, it was from his documentary - He mentions this “third hand” comes into play when you’re really in the zone. That’s just really how it is sometimes. When I’m really working, I’m not actively thinking about anything in front of me because I’m thinking about everything at once, like a huge storm of thoughts creating this cloud of distortion - it’s lights out...The first 70% of the painting is made on auto-pilot, and the last 30% is slower because I’m making sense of what I made from the first half.
Two other paintings in the show have unique distinct approach, 14th and Harrison St. Market, and 2 Dollar Water, have emulations of found advertisement on the street, with figurative elements of products and prices. This approach of painting collage-like compositions seem to play with figuration and abstraction in a different way than previous paintings mentioned. Are they telling a different story altogether, or are they still tied in to illustration a visual composition found on the street?
The idea is definitely not original - ripped ads and posters as painting has been done countless of times, but I wanted these to have a lot of texture to make them stand out differently then what I’ve seen before. I’ve seen a lot of really cool looking markets out here that I’ve been really inspired by. The way ads are placed in windows, all layered up on top of each other. Nobody cares to remove the old ones from 10-15 years ago they just let them ride in the sun until the color is almost completely faded. This concept was the stepping stone for the show, “14th and Harrison st. Market” was the first painting of this series painted almost a year ago before I started the blocky looking Landscapes. This market really stood out to me because It's a watering hole for so many different people - downtown dwellers, club hoppers, after party folk, addicts, writers, punkers, tweakers, yuppies and hustlers. All the most toxic people in one building with a common purpose - which is a really beautiful thing.
5am Dopers On San Pablo Got An Eye On Who’s Passing By, is a very evocative painting in this show. The different perspectives and scales presented in the intersection give this a multi-narrative feel. In addition, the dopers are symbolized as an eye with a ray, in contrast to the lion and the buses which are painted in greater detail. How often is symbolism presented in your work, is it a way to abstract an idea even further? Do you create your own symbology or do you borrow from common symbols in everyday life?
Yeah the whole painting is about riding the bus and seeing Tweakers and Dopers awake at 5am. The Lion is depicted as someone high. It’s a weird heavy painting forsure. Oakland is a really beautiful place but just like San Francisco we have a huge problem with addicts - that nobody is really taking drastic efforts to fix or come up with solutions. You pass down the street and ignore the problems around you, so for this painting - by having someone actively looking at it, I’m throwing that problem back at them directly - as a reminder.
I tend to paint people as animals and symbols because it helps me focus on the narrative more than picking at the flaws of the human body, like oh this arm looks bent in a weird way, or this face looks crumpled. People look at a dog, no matter how the dog is painted it’s still going to be received for what it is. I try to keep the messages really direct.
What does being an Oakland-based artist mean to you, and how do you see this series of work interpreted outside of the Bay Area?
It’s important to me. To be here, in the Bay area as a working artist. It’s a good time to be here because it’s different then before. I’m very receptive to trends on the internet, so I take stuff I think can be used in a constructive way and use it here. All the work in this show is really massive stuff, that’s what I see online. People making big work… I’ve never really seen anyone experiment with scale in the Bay. People have small living spaces so it only makes sense to have smaller sellable work. So for this show it’s definitely risky for me, but for the sake of showing other artists out here that making large work is doable, the experiment is totally worth it. I still try my best to keep the techniques in line with Bay area art history, it’s flat, with latex, I’m building these stretchers with my friend - I share studios with other working artists and musicians out here, so everyone is talking and sharing common ideas.
The Gallery is located at 1523 b Webster Street and is just blocks away from both 12th & 19th street Bart stations. Opening reception at pt.2: are always free and open to the public. To receive a preview of the exhibition please contact email@example.com. Part2gallery.com