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My Feelings Like You, We Like Gary Taxali

World renowned illustrator Gary Taxali has achieved quite a phenomenal CV over the past decade. Raised in Toronto, Canada, the globally recognised, Grammy-nominated contemporary artist has won over 500 industry awards, exhibited in countless solo and group shows, and has even created a coin for the Canadian Mint. With an impressive and reputable client list including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Converse, Levi's, Time and MTV, The Outsiders Gallery are delighted to be bringing Taxali to London for his first UK solo art show.

We first encountered Taxali's graphic textured works in Angus Hyland and Roanne Bell's 2003 Hand To Eye illustration book. At the tender age of four, his favourite activity at school was to draw the characters and scenes described in stories told by his teacher, as they were read aloud. Taxali's tools of choice include alkyds (quick-drying oils) which he paints onto masonite, ink, collage and liquid paper. He combines these with the use of antique paper to create his charming and nostalgic illustrations which are inspired by Asian packaging, Mexican graffiti, poster art and old fonts.

His latest exhibition, titled My Feelings Like You will feature ink and enamels on cardboard, a collage featuring old book pages, and oil paintings. Whilst the artist is noted for miniatures, the exhibition will display his largest ever work at 60 by 80 inches. Hand pencilled school desk-style graffiti adds yet another layer of playfulness to Taxali's humanist approach, exploring into his happy world by telling stories.

We speak to Gary Taxali about the exhibition at The Outsiders Gallery, his fondness for the 1930s, and more.

Tell us about the work in the My Feelings Like You exhibition?

The show features 38 new works of various sizes and media. Much of the show contains my mixed media pieces (which I am best known for). The show also features some rather large works, in fact, my biggest to date is a mixed media work called, Skunk Electrical Soap and it measures 150 x 203 cm. I am rather proud of a painting in the show I created called Whew, Friends and it measures 91 cm square.
The themes explored are just as much about introspection as well as searching. There are a lot of assertions in the works I make about states of being and status of place. Yet there are also inquisitive, questioning and curious follies regarding various emotions and relationship dynamics. These are realised through my constant exploration of angst, happiness and catharsis that I hope is evident in the characters I draw and paint. A common character I am known for, The Toy Monkey, makes a few appearances in these new works. He's a guide, if you will. Many people may surmise that he's taking the viewer to a past time, in particular the 1920s or 1930s, but I'd like think that the place is just a byproduct and the real journey is in conveying the emotions through narratives.

In the past decade digital illustration has developed to conform to a trendy aesthetic and therefore portrayed as a contrived. Do you think your work is considered more timeless because of the vintage style and analogue process you use?

I'd like to think the way I draw and my ideas are timeless because of the themes I explore. The process is just the result of that. I don't know if I'd draw such a big divide between digital and traditional. Some really great artists are doing things digitally who create works that are seemingly traditional. Then there are traditional artists who have such a new, fresh take on things that almost look as if they are digital works (Dalek comes to mind). My vintage, retro type style puts everything I like into a cohesive presentation. I love things from the 20s and 30s and that readily apparent in my work but at the same time, I deal with contemporary themes and ideas and so if one looks carefully, it's quite apparent that it belongs to our time. Given that, people always tell me my work reminds them of the past or their childhood. This is likely because my process includes varying layers of random writings, drawings and sketches created on seemingly discarded papers and surfaces. Few of us don't have an attachment to that sense memory.

Your characters often remind me of Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel, do you read graphic novels/comics (old or new)? If so, who are your favourite comic artists?

I don't read comics and have no interest in them for the most part. I like some comics, but from nobody living. I used to read a lot of MAD Magazine comics growing up but even with that, I had only a fleeting interest because I was only interested in the work of Bill Elder. I love the Fleischer Brothers, E.C. Segar, Ernie Busmiller but I never read the comics much. I was always more interested in fine artists like Ray Johnson, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

Your work uses a lot of found papers, vintage note books and surfaces, where do you source these or do you have stockpile of papers in your studio?

I scour bargain bookstores, flea markets, antique stores, estate sales, garage sales and even found amazing books and surfaces discarded on the street. And yes, I have a stockpile! I can get lost in my studio for a long time without needed art supplies.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

I'm in many group shows coming up. I was contacted recently by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock who asked me to be a in a group show at Thinkspace Gallery in LA. The show is called New Blood and and features artists such as Shepard Fairey, Ron English and Liz McGrath. The caveat is that we each have to bring into the show a young, emerging talent that is new to the art scene. I love that premise.
Other than that, I am working on some ideas to realise some large scale works. I am very interested in working big right now. I think the few large pieces I created or My Feelings Like You inspired me to purse this.

You've had a very successful career so far, is there anything you'd like to achieve that you haven't yet already?

I'm very keen on the idea of doing public sculptures. I'd like to see large statues of my characters interact in public environments. I've created a few sculptures already but none on a grand scale. Also, I'd like to do an animation (whether it's a short or a feature length film).

If there was any artist/creative you could collaborate with, who would it be?

I'd love to do a collaboration, in any capacity, with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. I love his work and did meet him many years ago but would love to do a project with him now. If I had to pick a non-living artist, my dream collaboration would be with none other than Andy Warhol.

Gary Taxali: My Feelings Like You is open at The Outsiders Gallery from 4 May till 2 June 2012
8 Greek Street

Louisa Lau
22:59 - 30/05/12