Patrick Facemire, Digging (2016)
Patrick Facemire is a young American artist who tells me that he is currently shut away in his basement studio. The artist’s work moves between a sort of intimate darkness, academic drawing, and a comic or graphic style depicting fantastic marine adventures replete with mythological creatures and heroic protagonists. He works in the Robinsonade tradition, e.g intermixing images and stories evocative of the Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe archetype richly explored by various modern artists like Oskar Kokoschka. In this remote land, the artist in abandoned to his own devices, and perhaps the darkest parts of his own mind, not to mention outlandish monsters.
Patrick Facemire The Forest (2015) linocut print
Let us look for a moment at Facemire’s disturbing but powerful work Musical Accompaniment, an expression of the harrowing impact of violence on Americans, even those on “periphery” – a sort of collective loss of not only life, but frankly empathy and character, a continual cycle of grotesque cruelty, theatrics, and incumbent numbness.
Musical Accompaniment (June 2016), Pen and ink
When I inquired whether the work was about war, or specific event, or even a personal sorrow, the artist revealed:
“I had started drawing a tentative figure straight-ahead in ink (as is my usual practice) on the right side of the page. The piece, Musical Accompaniment solidified after I learned about the Orlando massacre. Though I would not say that it was a piece strictly about the massacre (at least, not in the narrative sense), I think it is a piece that addresses my feelings on the societal situations around it. I think there is a tempo, a regularity to society that is kept in time not in spite of atrocities, but because of them. Ignominious death is not only profitable, but entertaining and wholesome too. It makes everybody believe his or her bar of moral standards has been raised up a notch. Of course, I’ve only been living a short while, so I am, perhaps, not the most ideal candidate for solving complex moral equations.”
Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel is part of a short series of drawings based on religious themes expressing the incendiary quality of religious zealousness. Facemire reveals as well that his work Piano is “a meditation on art and degradation. I find it very interesting to see how humans lust after beautiful or pleasing things with such fervor, only to express their greatest appreciation of such things by consuming or destroying them.”
Piano (June, 2016) Pen, ink and brush
Other works are distinguished by a robust approach to academic drawing often depicting dark and disturbing materials such as we see in the pen and ink Come into the Garden, Maude (2015), named after the Victorian song based on Tennyson’s poem.
Patrick Facemire, Come into the Garden, Maude
In Facemire’s picture, the man seemingly led the woman into the garden, to partake in a union of sort, yet he looks to be stealing something from the woman, a moment of haunting strangeness. The work responds to the prescriptive tale of Adam of Eve, the emphasis of sinful sexuality, associated with a twisted dark fate in the Christian tradition. Accordingly here we see the transfer of power from matriarchy to the more patriarchal view of the Church. In this storyline, man creates woman from his body, rather than issuing from hers. Perhaps, thus it is the womb that is stolen, and all its incumbent power.
RB: One of your key influences is the work of Cervantes. I understand that reading Don Quixote while hospitalized changed the way you approach your practice. What other factors or influences have shaped your view and artistic approach?
PF: I initially wanted to draw cartoons exclusively, and in order to learn, I turned to books and learned that I should look at Old Master paintings. Once I learned the history behind the paintings, and the way that everything in the world flows in and out of art, I had a desire to work in art in general and not comics or animation exclusively.
The Golden Helmet of Mambrino (2015) pen, ink, brush and razor
RB: Please tell me a bit about the work —The Golden Helmet of Mambrino?
PF: In the work, I attempted to reflect Cervantes’ writing style with my materials. Cervantes never lets one forget that they are reading a book, and is constantly referencing other works of literature and addressing the reader. In this drawing, I attempted to use the format of an Old Master Sketch to illustrate how Don Quixote acquires the “helmet.” The horse is taken from a Da Vinci drawing. Finally, the razor was my sole concession to any need for erasure. Scratching away at the paper renders any corrections obvious, showing the history of the drawing in the fashion of a palimpsest.”