Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sensory Overload

On a whim I went to the artist talk of Richard Purdy in the art barn today and my day wound up coming full circle. Not only was Richard Purdy one of the craziest, most inspiring and eccentric people I have ever encountered but my post earlier today about creativity relating to dreams was realized in his talk. Richard kept everyone on their toes by describing his last five years of multi media work - he is full of energy which is surprising because one of the main methods to his madness includes never getting a good night's rest. Richard constantly moves his mattress around his house at night in order to have a disrupted sleep - causing dreams - which is where the majority of his ideas stem from. He also relies on intuition to guide him and claims that instincts, persistence and integrity is the key to success.

Richard's work since 2005 has dealt primarily with water and the senses. Here is a run down of just a handful of the projects he has been working on in the past five years....

Dishware made from fruit and vegetables. Richard made food scented and coloured plates by taking a food and using their natural colour to colour the plate and adding in it's oil to scent the plate. He made everything from celery (which apparently was revolting) to lemon.

Square tomatoes. After playing with scenting plates, he decided to start covering his vegetables with plastic children's toys as they grew on the vine in order to have them grow in unnatural forms. He made carrots into hearts, pickles into swirls, and tomatoes into squares as well as morphing the rest of what grows in his garden. He continued to do this until a man from China sent him a Buddha pear mold he had made and Richard realized that the idea had already been thought of and this man from Japan was having more success... so he moved on to another venture...

Dinner Parties. He started hosting dinner parties where he would hand out coupons to perfect strangers and they could come to his backyard (providing they had a coupon) and receive a free meal made by his students and himself. The meals would be improvised and often included edible comics or novels (made from crepes), jello stupas, and his morphed vegetables.

The biggest accomplishment of his lifetime will be his upcoming show at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa that will run from June 18 - September 16. After much persistence he got his show and will be using three huge rooms (we're talking thousands of feet altogether) for his installations. He is basing the rooms off of installations he has already shown but this will be on an exponentially larger scale. He is filling the gallery with water (just a few cm's deep) and it will run through all of the rooms. The first room will be 500 of his paintings (he is currently finishing 20 a day!?) and they will be hung upside down so when reflected through the water you will be able to see them right side up. He explained that this creates a hilarious atmosphere because when someone moves, the water moves and the image is blurred so the viewers wind up all working together and moving as one like a sort of dance. The second room has logs cut in half sitting in the water so everyone has to move across the logs as if they're loggers to the next room. The logs are freshly cut so the aroma wafts through the space. The third room is meant to fill your senses and not know where you are. He is currently being filmed by CBC for a documentary of the preparation for this show at the National Gallery. He explained that the film crews follow him to dollarama everyday, where he spends $200+ on florescent soft rubber toys that he cuts up to float in the water. The toys glow from black lights (the only lights) hanging from the ceiling and are supposed to make the viewer feel like they are descending on an airplane into a big lit up city.

One of the students asked him how he has time for everything and his response was that he's not actually that busy. No one believed this and then he explained that what he does is play, not work, and he is constantly looking ahead to the next project and never looks back. When the talk was over my chest felt full and I felt incredibly energized. The guy sitting behind me remarked that he felt he should just give up but then my friend next to me commented that she felt exactly the opposite - like she wanted to make EVERYTHING. I felt the same way - next up - more dreaming, morphed veggies, and no looking back!

And if anyone knows where to get their hands on a buddha mold, let me know! I've looked all over the internet and am dying to find it!


  1. this guy sounds incredible! i think i need to go to ottawa!

  2. i know me too! he is the most insane man... oh i also forgot that at one point in his travels he saw a sculpted buddha head that was hundreds of years old floating down a river and he said he was certain that he made it (in another life) and he took a photo of it and put it in his portfolio.... he's nuts but in a very endearing sort of way...

  3. I would like to make contact with Richard Purdy if he is available. I have finished reading his
    thesis on stupas and I feel my mind is ready to
    pop. What a wonderful informative report. I need to ask him questions about what I believe is
    an ancient stupa here in North America. This formation has a saffron border and remnants of its once all white plaster exterior still remaining. It has a carved arched entrance into
    a short tunnel. It has the appearance of an ancient water diversion temple water tank system.
    The harmika is present at the top. In fact there is only one major required feature of a Buddhist stupa that is missing from the site which is amazing given the passage of 1500-2000
    years. That is the yasti(spire) with the accompanying chattras that has apparently weathered away. If I could arrange for it to happen I would meet him at the site to have him
    share with me what about the feature does not match up with his knowldge and training. If anyone could recognize a stupa if he saw one it would be Richard Purdy. If you know where Dr.
    Purdy is or how he can be reached would you ask him to contact me at
    Thank You