In this recent work I have been exploring different ways of drawing on ceramic forms. Instead of drawing with my own hand, I have been employing decal images of different line qualities from different time periods and different artists to compose and collage my drawings. In a way it is like drawing with someone else’s hands or like conducting a piece of music. In the same manner that musical artists are sampling sounds and music of other artists to reconstruct into their own compositions, I am sampling images to reconstruct into intense, layered, mythological narratives, which have a very different rhythm than flat drawings. Some of the themes that are emerging are Biblical, Mythological and Scientific in nature. I have been exploring the origins of our species, the moral dilemma of good and evil, the role of man in nature, and the interface of science, technology and mythology.
The process is quite involved and time consuming. It takes many hours to complete a single piece. The decals are cut and collaged in many layers and fired many times to create the elaborate imagery and narrative. The decals are applied to a form that has been high fired with a coat of clear glaze. They are then fired to a very low temperature to fuse the decals onto the form. When I begin, I create some type of figure or machine image by cutting and combining decals of different objects. From there a story begins to unfold as I piece together different decal images, cutting and building on the original image. I keep layering and layering until I see a story emerge. In a way it is like excavating by addition. As I move around the form and build the narrative, I come to the beginning where I must blend the end with the beginning. I may have to fire the piece before I continue due to the fact that you cannot layer too many decals at one time. This can cause the decals to burn off and bubble up on the surface. After firing, I continue with the layering of images. At some point the story comes into focus and I stop. It is then fired one last time to 1313 degrees F. and the piece is finished.
— Vince Palacios
“Where do you put a form? It will move all around, bellow out and shrink, and sometimes, ends up where it was in the first place. But at the end, it feels different, and it had to make the voyage. I am a moralist and cannot accept what has not been paid for, or a form that has not been lived through. Frustration is one of the great things in art; Satisfaction is nothing.” Phillip Guston
There are persistent forms, suggestions, images, that show up again and again in my work. I have chosen not to ignore them, yet at the same time I do not inquire too deeply. It is like looking at a star. If you stare directly at it, it eludes you. However if you look at it from the corner of your eye, it becomes clear. I approach work in much the same manner. I seldom know the destination when I begin. Often I get hopelessly lost. It is from here, this state of being lost, that I find my strongest direction. From this way of working three elements or ingredients have emerged that drive my work: Memory, improvisation, and humor.
Recently I have begun to view memory as a type of soup stock. All the experiences, the odds and ends, the scraps of my past, have been thrown together in my head and have been stewing for many years. If you have ever watched a stockpot boil, you would notice after some time the ingredients begin to break down and blend. It becomes difficult to distinguish between the original ingredients and what is in the pot as flavors combine to create new flavors. Memory is very much like this. Specific events over time begin to blend. What is remembered quite often is the mixing of many memories. Some events may not even have taken place. One can never be sure what is real and what is produced by the passage of time. The emotions and images evoked by memories, be they real or perceived, have begun to hold great interest for me. It has been my intent to somehow bring to light these images.
The second ingredient in my work is improvisation. It is a crucial ingredient as it makes possible my desire to bring to light some of the more elusive characters of my memory. I have observed my memory being very much like a slippery grape or a puff of smoke. Any direct attempt to seize them usually proves to be fruitless. I have found it necessary to set up a way of working which sometimes fools the conscious processes into yielding some of the unconscious fruit of memory. I achieve this by simply setting off without knowing exactly where I am going. I force myself, at that point, to rely on intuition and improvisation. When the work is going well, intellectual processes step aside and allow my emotions and memories to form more freely. As new ideas present themselves I can evaluate and incorporate them easily since there is no fixed goal. This opens up great possibilities for chance and change. In the end, I find myself in unexpected places. Many times I am disappointed, but often enough I am surprised and challenged by where I have arrived. This can be a difficult way to work as it sets up many potential failures. Also some ideas and memories emerge which were not expected or even welcome. I have discovered that I need this stepping out in faith in my work. If I always knew what waited at the end of my efforts, then I probably would not bother to work at all. I crave mystery. I love the elusive chase. In the end, the tension created almost always produces my next step.
Finally, humor as an ingredient in my work was discovered quite by surprise. It is like grabbing for chili powder and, upon tasting your dish, discovering you have used cinnamon instead. Humor has begun to pop up in my work everywhere. The color, the form, the gesture, often verges on humorous. Sometimes I am embarrassed by it and try to push it back in but it somehow finds a way out. In some ways it is essential to my work. I have come to think of humor as putting a pleasant face on the clown that can kill you. Not all that I can remember is happy. Many things are even quite fearful. Humor serves to give me access to these areas without being overwhelmed. I have always used humor in other areas of my life to disarm potential danger. It makes sense that humor should function to disarm in my artwork. If a person responds to that humor, then a layer is peeled away and a barrier is lifted. Like peeling away the first skin of an onion only to discover that there are many more layers to be explored. It is this potential for discovery and exploration that I desire most in my work.
— Vince Palacios