The imagination has found a huge ally in Patrick Hourihan.His drawings, paintings and boxes of assembled objects are the door to a strange and surprising universe (not as far from ours as it seems) where the animal, the human, the vegetable and the inorganic have lost their limits to merge in a constant dance. In these visions, full of movement, mystery and sense of humor, physical laws different from the ordinary ones govern, perhaps not very far from those of dreams. This Londoner, born in 1954, has regained the pulse of surreal invention, at a time when it seemed like all was said. For this reason, for Óxido lento, it is a pleasure to offer this interview and a small sample of his works. We leave you with his words and his images.

If you feel comfortable, would you please introduce yourself with a short biography? It is especially for those who have not heard about you, to let them know about your background.

I am London born and was always a reserved, self motivated, creative child and often amused by the obscure.  So it seemed a logical progression of events to attend an art education, which eventually came about as a student at the Watford Art College (1975 – 1979).  This was an amazing foundation course run by Michael Werner, who was closely associated with the early surrealist movement in Europe.

When and how did your interest in surrealism start?

Surrealism was just part of a larger personal picture for me, with no aspirations of calling myself a surrealist… or anything else.  But it strangely seemed to follow me.  I say this because I met with Surrealist individuals along the way, purely by accident, I seem to attract them into my life – artists like Conroy Maddox and Desmond Morris, both of which supported my path of practice.  George Melly first referred to me as an ‘instinctive’ surrealist.  It was my inner world that always fascinated me.  I was for many years a member of The  Surrealist London Action Group (S.L.A.G.)  I’m very much a loner and isolated by nature, but S.L.A.G. was a truly extraordinary group and something that I am so proud to have been part of! 

When I see your work, I feel that you have found a rich vein of gold in the old mine of surrealism.

All my images and paintings arise from automatic work.  Automatic drawing is the fundamental key to everything for me, but I was doing this way long before the surrealist label came along.  The drawings are similar to a series of exciting electric sparks.  It’s like following ‘something’ that strongly promises a wonderful surprise, but that ‘something’ is also tantalisingly Illusive.

Concerning your images, how do you face a new creation? What is usually your departing point from which everything arises?

An automatic drawing is the starting point for an image.  A powerful sense of a promised adventure arises and the process of freely transferring the drawing onto canvas will trigger an opening of doorways to another world.  Nothing can be forced and it’s similar to a two-way conversation with the developing image before me.  I have to listen and always the process is full of surprises. Constantly having a feeling of ‘otherness’, alongside a foreign/unknown part of me which comes forth as a flow of departing points.

Regarding the boxes and the objects, what process do you usually follow? Do you let chance guide you? Do you depart from an initial idea? Where do you look for these elements?

I have always collected found objects.  No particular objective than that it held a poetic magic. Many of these were stored away for a number of years. The boxes started relatively recently and my collection of objects suddenly became food for the process. Very much chance ideas and with no plan in mind, just another automatic process. Mundane objects are brought together and are suddenly transformed into unexpected poetic beauty.  It’s a type of alchemy.

Concerning both, images and objects, what is the importance of the title you choose for them and how do they determine the perception of your work?

The titles usually follow completion of both images and boxes, not at the beginning. I don’t really think they determine perception of the work, apart perhaps from titles with a straightforward literal meaning.

In your head, is there any connection between the images and the objects you create? Or do you simply consider them two different aspects of your imaginary?

There is no obvious connection between the images (drawings and paintings) and boxes.  The two use a different type of process and energy and therefore speak with different voices.

The way you use colour seems really exuberant. In some of your pieces, colour  seems to be the real protagonist over shape.

I have always been surprised about questions on my use of colour.  Again, it is purely instinctive all along the way.  Sometimes, I have imagined the overall colour and hue of a painting, but the unexpected brings about results that are totally different.  It is a contradiction, because I do work in a detailed way while still being playful and open.

You received artistic training. Retrospectively, how do you think that your training has influenced the poetical exploring that surrealism involves? In a positive or in a negative way? Besides, what do you think about the so called Outsider art.

Personally, I was so fortunate to gain so much from my artistic training.  Watford was an exceptional experience with their experimental viewpoints from amazing tutors like Michael Werner and Peter Schmidt.  We were also blessed to have invited guest tutors like Brian Eno, but alongside this was an emphasis on life drawing that assisted me in developing my own perspective of the human frame.  This mentoring attitude has remained with me throughout my work, encouraging freedom of voice.  Outsider art has a compulsive need to externalise an inner world with no ego and a wonderful innocence.

In a world that is increasingly divided, influenced and globalized by media, what is the impact that you consider surrealistic ideas and methods may still have?

The rise of individualism needs to be nurtured amidst the powerful corporate agenda and social media.  Therefore, surrealism can offer an opportunity to create integrity and authenticity, as the early surrealists demanded.  My own view is that surrealism will always continue to evolve, challenge and invoke on its own accord.

Interview Antonio Ramírez / Traslation Gala Milla


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