If you’ve ever seen an elephant in the clouds or a face in your cappuccino foam, your brain is experiencing pareidolia, which artist Tiko Kerr explores in his upcoming exhibition, Mythic Proportions: The Politics of Seeing.
Kerr is inspired by the things we see that do not necessarily exist, and things that exist but we cannot see. “I've always been fascinated by perception,” the acclaimed Vancouver painter and activist says, during a recent phone interview. “We make sense out of different arrangements of abstract forms into faces and bodies.”
His new body of work uses collages and different kinds of source material, such as colourful paper, sculptures, and acrylics. By referencing art history, current events and celebrity culture, Kerr says he seeks to explore the quick judgements we make on people by using the mythology of our contemporary experience.
The use of paper collages is new to Kerr, as it is something he discovered just a couple of years ago, and he has found it to be a fast, immediate way to compose. “I just lay down paper really intuitively and quickly,” he explains. “It's an interesting way for me to connect with my subconscious.” Once he is happy with the composition, Kerr then makes a painting from the collage.
Kerr says that, though people may know him for a particular kind of landscape work, this exhibition has opened up a new way of working for him, and a new style of art.
“I hope to be evolving and changing my entire life," he says. "The artists that I really respect in the world are constantly changing."
Upon moving to Vancouver in the early ’80s, Kerr says that his art was influenced by the beauty of Vancouver, and the thriving art scene in the city.
“Vancouver is such a good place to make work,” Kerr said. “The landscape is gorgeous and the light changes constantly. People are friendly and exchange ideas, I came here in the early ’80s and the art community hasn't disappointed me yet.”
Kerr said that people can look forward to a degree of familiarity in his work, as he references a lot of art history in the pieces, but, when you look closer, there’s almost always a twist to the piece that adds an element of surprise.
“It starts all kinds of subconscious associations,” he says, playfully. “The scale of the work is big and delicious and colourful. There's a real sense of dimension and thickness and boldness.”
In a press release for the show, Kerr says that people can expect to be pulled into something that’s familiar until they quickly discover there may be strange, and perhaps unsettling, conditions at play. “My hope is that people can learn to see in a different way when they walk away from this exhibit.”
• Tiko Kerr’s Mythic Proportions: The Politics of Seeing runs April 7-28 at South Main Gallery, (279 East 6th Ave.). southmaingallery.com