Jason Robert Bell
When left to travel the mind can go to some incredible places. Inventing new creatures and patterns, styles and forms, the artists mind was meant to roam. To approach a canvas with an open mind and a general idea, and just begin to layer paint has to be a liberating experience. The point is to allow the image to just appear, uncontrolled and wild, and it is merely defined by the artists hand.
This is part of the process in the work of Jason Robert Bell. In his latest series of work, Jason is allowing the images to come to him, and the results have been incredible. When not exploring these "Metaphysical Portraits" he is working on his pet project, Caveman Robot. A comic book and animated figure, he is quit possibly the oldest robot in existence. What drew me to Jason was fun-loving freedom in his work, and the more I explored the more fascinated I became.
Recently, Jason Robert Bell was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Charlazander in Majesty
2008, Oil, acrylic, epoxy, metallic pigments, collage, and sand on canvas, 8 x 10 inches
Orange Alert (OA): How would describe your work?
Jason Robert Bell (JRB): This is classic question you get at a dinner party with a friend of a friend, I usually say “You are familiar with the work of a Spanish modernist painter, by the name of Pablo Picasso?” They say yes, “then I say my work is just like his expect, totally awesome.”
As for a non-sarcastic answer, my work is about using the visual arts as a mode of hermetic philosophy, to explore assumptions of the nature of reality and create new forms of expression from the vast sea of the human imagination.
OA: Your latest series of paintings or metaphysical portraits are fascinating. You call them "wholly enigmatic entities". Do you have a vision in mind or sketched before you begin painting?
JRB: Sometimes I have a set idea, other times I just start playing with the form of a head or face, I am always trying to get myself into a different mental place, a primal mystic “Eternal Now”, where the entity that is coming into existence in the paintings is a wholly distinct separate person/creation. I am not interested in depicting things that already exist, or quoting pop culture or past art, I am trying to create new culture new myths, new heroes, gods, and monster.
OA: Caveman Robot seems like it has a life unto itself. What is it like to be involved in a project like that, and to see your illustrations utilized in that way? What is the status on the cartoon series?
JRB: Caveman Robot is Mickey Mouse to my Walt Disney, I have been very lucky to be able to bring in many talented people who have worked for free on the project. We have published some great comic books, and put on a 6 week run of a Theatrical Musical, which I am very proud of. Currently however Caveman Robot is mostly me, drawing, drawing, and more drawing. I spent the last three months teaching myself a program called Toon Boom , and I am trying to translate a pilot script into a animated short. It is hard work, but hopefully the final product will be worth it.
OA: I love concept of "Trashsures". Have you done any lately? Do you ever revisit locations to see if your projects are still there?
JRB: Thanks, I have not done a official Trashsure in a few years, I enjoyed the project, and can always do more, but I can’t do everything all the time. Last year I did a three day performance/ art installation in San Francisco, called “the Twilight Kingdom” which was part of a citywide, COCA, Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art event. The project combined my Trashsures series, with my circus performance talents. I made daily appearances in 8 foot stilts and a giant paper mask, as the "Old Man", modeled after Emperor Joshua Norton, who surveyed the park and offering visitors formal citizenship notes of the kingdom. The Trashsures are part of me, and I should get back to them sooner or later.
OA: In January you will be involved in an exhibit here in Chicago at the Thomas Robertello Gallery. What can we expect to see at "The Unreasoning Mask"?
JRB: This will be my second one person show with Thomas, It will be my metaphysical portraits, small playful sculptures, one giant drawing/collage on paper, and a few surprises. The one thing I am always trying to give people is “the unexpected”, I want people to be “blown away” when they see my work. The title for the Show comes from a quote from Moby Dick, about the nature of reality.
“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?” - Ahab
That is what I am going for pasteboard mask, that hint at deeper and more powerful realties beyond us.
OA: What's next for Jason Robert Bell?
JRB: Rock 'n Roll all night, Party everyday...
2008, Oil, acrylic, epoxy, metallic pigments, collage, and sand on canvas, 6 x 8 inches
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in your area?
JRB: Coffee makes the demons in my mind stop screaming, There is Gimme Coffee around the corner from me in Brooklyn, but the best cup of coffee is made at home from my espresso pot with and Lavazza Coffee.
OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
JRB: What is that Kurt Vonnegut quote, "If I should die, let this be my epitaph: his only proof for the existence of God was music" I tend to enjoy music that relates to my work, mixing recognizable forms with mysterious ideas, I like music where you can understand the lyrics, but it still does not make sense. Or music with a otherworldly connection to the past. Also I don’t seek out new music, all the music I listen to has been due to find vinyl records thrown away on the streets of New York and Chicago.
My all time favorties are Steely Dan, Roxy Music, Ween, Roky Erickson, Scott Walker, Gary Numan, Queen, Nick Drake, Frank Zappa, Devo, Daft Punk, Sergio Mendes, The Silver Jews, The Move, and the immortal Django Reinhardt.
For more information on Jason Robert Bell please visit his website. All of Jason's work is available through Thomas Robertello Gallery.