Briefly describe the work you do.
My artistry is somewhat multidisciplinary. Outside of writing, I primarily use music, dance and photography to explore notions of symmetry, pattern, order, and form. As a practice, I unconditionally cater to letting ideas take shape, unfold and distill themselves organically. To me, formal relationships are more inherently something to be discovered rather than preconceived. Beyond the umbrella of formalism and natural order, my work predominately explores our relationships between Nature and technology, feedback between deconstruction and reconstruction, as well as the line between analog and digital.
At what point in your life did you want to become an artist?
My very first dream job was actually to become a movie director. I must have been around 9 or 10 when I first saw cinema’s transformational ability to conduct emotions and ideas. I didn’t know at the time, but my desire to shape experiences would slowly boil down to becoming an artist. The decisive moment wasn’t truly until my first term, freshmen year of undergrad. Ty Warren, a dear professor whom I am eternally grateful to, showed me the infinite potential of Art. She advised me to “join the Darkside,” and I did.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in Oregon and was extremely fortunate that my parents were passionate to travel so much. From before I can even recall, they were busy instilling a keen sense of adventure in me; it seems my whole childhood was spent camping, hiking, canoeing, and endlessly exploring some new frontier with them. The presence of nature and natural order in my art is an unmistakable reverberation of this.
I’ve recently began realizing how much of current process can be traced back to instances in my childhood. For example, like I mentioned, my practice is highly reactive; I’ve simply never had the ambition to undertake a process of preconception, execution and actualization. For me, it’s a matter of learning with my work rather than trying to teach it to behave – repeatedly allow the last step to inform the next. I connected the dots that this mechanism most definitely stems back to my early Lego days. It was much the same constructive process then as it is now – only it used to be a matter of brick by brick. Suppose it’s just how I operate.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I’m very careful, particularly with visual projects, to keep my conceptual concerns embedded within my process. I should preface that none of my work is achieved through Photoshop to this effect. For instance, with Binarium and Currence, I use a flatbed scanner to warp and abstract my subjects. Over the course of a flatbed scan, I choreograph movements and intervals of rest with the given subject. As the scanner’s interface assembles time and energy into still image, this methodology enables me to sculpt digitally dependent forms from the analog input. Doing so not only resolves to suspend each image between realistic fidelity and the abstracted performance, but it allows the forms to inhabit a fractural space between the physical and digital worlds. Particularly, in Binarium, I use this framework as a platform to explore the complex relationship we are conducting between nature and our technology. When a subject (in this case, a plant specimen) is in motion during a scan, the limitations of the scanner’s RGB optical channels are consequently exposed (see the detail image). This creates divisible breakdowns and acts as a conceptual catalyst to the work.
Currence is the natural progression from Binarium and aims to break this scanning methodology down another level. I use a squared piece of pine as the subject (twenty-four inch length, half inch sides). Essentially, this project is an attempt to distill the entire creative process down to its fundamental ingredients: order and energy.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I agree that inspiration, in this sense, is certainly not something to be waiting around for. Being idle can quickly spiral into being lazy, so I do my best just to stay as physically and mentally active as can be. The equation is simple: greater input = greater output, so traveling and woods time is a surefire way to clear the air and gain a fresh pair of eyes when I find myself stagnated on a piece too long. In fact, my process has become completely dependent upon my ability to waver back and forth between these modes. I suppose the real answer here boils down my own relationship to nature though. It’s a simple compulsion that motivates me to create things in dialog to this relationship, so I suppose I can say that nature is what inspires and motivates me the most.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
My friends will chuckle at this, but the band Animal Collective has profoundly influenced my outlook on art more than anyone else (in other words, all my favorite humans are in Animal Collective). To me, the level of intricacy and complexity they can draw into their music and their sound’s ability to submerge you – in terms of form and natural order – is the bar. I’ll stop myself before this questionnaire becomes 7 parts art practice, 100 parts love for Animal Collective…
I’m also compelled to mention James Turrell here. I revere the sheer scale of his practice and unwaveringly look up to the way he has navigated a presence within “art world proper”. Bottom line: he changed the way I look at light.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I really just do as much hiking, camping and traveling that my schedule can allow. I also am a keen concertgoer, reader and movie watcher in my down time. And of course, all the above is best practiced in good company!
Bryce Willem was born in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1990. His family moved to Corvallis, Oregon when Bryce was only 3. He later attended University of Oregon and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Digital Arts and a minor in Music. Bryce currently resides in Portland, OR.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.