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The New Contemporary Art Magazine

Gregory Hergert’s Blue Acid

Former illustrator turned full-time painter Gregory Hergert’s work has been described as “urban Surrealism”. He paints non-traditional themes in a traditional manner, yet allows the medium to shine through the often brutal settings depicted in his work. Hergert’s latest solo at Brass Works Gallery in Portland, Oregon displays the artist’s talents in both painting and sculpture and, in a few of his latest works, the co-mingling of both formats in fresh ways. We grilled the artist about his latest body of work, and asked a few more existential questions in a hi-fructose.com exclusive interview as part of our site relaunch.

We’ve noticed that your most recent work in Blue Acid explores new areas thematically; in addition to ‘bad ass characters in bleak urban settings”, there’s the inclusion of paintings that explore more complicated feelings. Paintings like “Oracle Clam”, “Cast Off” and “Totem” specifically; they feel less “low brow” somehow, more symbolic. Perhaps it’s the lack of figures or the current environmental state .. Are we reading too much into this? 

The metaphysical urge seems to eb and flow in art and we are entering one of those periods with the resurgence of both surrealism and symbolism. It doesn’t surprise me we always look for meaning I have a small pebble in my pocket that I’ve carried for several months. Two days before my solo show Blue Acid opened I made two painting sculptures that included power sticks that I found along the railroad tracks and after incorporating them into the art I varnished the sticks so their power would stay contained.

There are new mixed media sculptures in your Blue Acid show. They combine 3D elements with 2D painted planes which are almost billboard-like presentations intermixed in the work in a novel way. How do you approach such a thing?

One of the great things about making art is discovering something that sprang from seemingly nowhere. In retrospect it looks logical but in the moment it’s an epiphany and suddenly it’s exciting to explore it. My studio is across the street from Creative Woodworking and they have a box where they put scrap wood for anyone who wants it and it’s irresistible to me and there were a bunch of oddly shaped things with multiple sides so I painted on them realizing that different themes could coexist depending on which side and that led to adding sculptural elements and words and basically opened a new horizon for me.

You’ve been making art for a long time. Have you always sculpted as part of your process?

Like most artists, we are compelled to make things. When I was a cub scout we were making dioramas and I made a swamp with frogs and turtles and it seemed real to me I could barely sleep because I was imagining it and to this day sculpture has that affect on me. I restrain myself and keep it a supplement to painting which I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get good at but sculpture always whispers to me.

There are new mixed media sculptures in your Blue Acid show. They combine 3D elements with 2D painted planes which are almost billboard-like presentations intermixed in the work in a novel way. How do you approach such a thing?

One of the great things about making art is discovering something that sprang from seemingly nowhere. In retrospect it looks logical but in the moment it’s an epiphany and suddenly it’s exciting to explore it. My studio is across the street from Creative Woodworking and they have a box where they put scrap wood for anyone who wants it and it’s irresistible to me and there were a bunch of oddly shaped things with multiple sides so I painted on them realizing that different themes could coexist depending on which side and that led to adding sculptural elements and words and basically opened a new horizon for me.

One of the great things about making art is discovering something that sprang from seemingly nowhere. 

You’ve been making art for a long time. Have you always sculpted as part of your process?

Like most artists, we are compelled to make things. When I was a cub scout we were making dioramas and I made a swamp with frogs and turtles and it seemed real to me I could barely sleep because I was imagining it and to this day sculpture has that affect on me. I restrain myself and keep it a supplement to painting which I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get good at but sculpture always whispers to me.

Do these new sculptures inform or change the way that you approach your oil and acrylic paintings?

It’s very easy to get in a rut and replicate things that work and I’ve discovered that shaking up the process is necessary and in my case with time running out for my big solo show Blue Acid I decided to do some sculptures which my wife thought was a dubious time management idea. However when I’m under pressure I get more creative and suddenly ideas come in my dreams and I wake up with something new and the excitement generates energy and enthusiasm and my paintings get better.

While there’s always a ton of realistic details in your work, the “artist’s hand” is evident in your painterly brush strokes. Because of this approach, many of your paintings have a slightly blurred or  “in motion” feel to them, like a freeze frame of a movie…

I’ve never been a fan of hyperrealism because it excludes the viewer who needs to have room for their imagination to interpret. Sometimes a few brush strokes can imply bricks instead of rendering each one so the blur helps also there’s a concept of a rest place in a painting where the viewer can pause before resuming their journey through the painting anyway think how long movies would need to be without our imagination doing the work.

Thematically, the world that you depict has “gone wrong”, yet isn’t completely bleak. The characters, animals, humans, or otherwise, don’t seem to be in a state of chaos. Have they excepted their seemingly chaotic environment? Is there hope for the world that you depict, or dare we ask, our own?

Like many artists I see chaos as visual beauty just as rusty metal seems more interesting than shiny metal and how years of graffiti piled on a wall with residue of the past filtering through always attracts me. People have worried about the state of the world forever and that won’t change. We live a short time and my goal is to leave behind as much value as I can the world is in good hands with the people that are alive now. 

So, is humanity just a precariously piled up tower of forgotten stuffed animals floating in a basket? And if so, are we headed to a sewer drain, or out to sea?

When I hear heaven described as a place without problems or chaos my first thought is boredom. We all need to do stuff to fix things to make things and to break things it’s our nature. This world provides endless opportunities and to be alive at this time in history is just fantastic and I will be making stuff until the end and I hope everyone who reads this will continue to create and fill the world with beauty.

See more of Hergert’s latest show Blue Acid here. 

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