We’re bringing Papirmass subscribers the quirky and hilarious work of artist, David Fullarton.
“I’m interested in the minutia of everyday life, how ordinary people find ways to cope with the banality and the absurdity of existence in the modern world.”
We get to know David as he talks to us about apologies, pakoras, and accomplishing things with your non-dominant hand. David Fullarton’s Apology Series is featured in April’s postcard issue.
Hi David! Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I’m David Fullarton. The most interesting thing about me is that I’m an artist who uses a combination of words and pictures in his work.
There are some other less interesting things about me like I’m Scottish and I’ve lived and worked in San Francisco for a long time.
There are also plenty of pretty uninteresting things about me like I’m the father of two American youths, I make a living as a freelance copywriter, I own too many hats, and try to justify this to myself by imagining they compensate for my lack of hair. Also I wear glasses.
Finally there are an almost incomprehensible number of things about me that are of no interest whatsoever. These include the fact I like potato chips and pencils and beer and plaid wool shirts and taking short naps.
Oddly, when I look at the above I realize that the things that are least interesting to others are the things that are most interesting to me. And vice versa.
You’ve drawn a lot of apologies from a wildly entertaining cast of characters – what are you, personally, sorry for?
I think generally that being sorry is kind of a self-indulgent waste of time. We all, as fallible human beings, do idiotic things that we genuinely regret, the important thing is to learn from those mistakes, and also to learn how to forgive ourselves, and others, for the mistakes we all make.
I think part of what makes the apologies funny is the inherent hypocrisy involved in apologizing, the fact that the “sorry” part is usually followed by some kind of justification, or qualification, that leaves you with the feeling that the apologist isn’t really all that sorry. It’s human nature to justify our actions to ourselves, even though we know that something we did was wrong, we want some absolution, we want to pin at least some of the blame on circumstances beyond our control.
Actually, now that I think about it, I’m sorry that this answer was so dubiously contemplative, instead of just being an amusing anecdote about the time I shoved a chicken pakora up the exhaust of my neighbor’s car.
You’re from Scotland but now live in San Francisco – how do you think that move changed your view of the world and your art practice?
I had given up making art for about 10 years when I moved to San Francisco, pretty much since leaving art school, and the move really re-started the whole thing. The creative atmosphere in the city back then really surprised me and made me to want to do something. It’s changed so much now, unfortunately. I’m glad that I got to experience a bit of the old, crazy, pre-tech boom San Francisco, but I’m also happy that I’m now more involved in stuff that’s happening over in Oakland, through my association with The Compound Gallery. It seems like a lot of the idiosyncratic, feisty feeling that San Francisco used to have has migrated across the Bay Bridge.
“I think generally that being sorry is kind of a self-indulgent waste of time.”
As far as the differences between living in Scotland and the USA, that has had a big bearing on of what much of my work is really about. I’m interested in the minutia of everyday life, how ordinary people find ways to cope with the banality and the absurdity of existence in the modern world. I think being an interloper in another culture has really helped me observe things with the distance that’s afforded to a legitimized outsider.
Scotland and the US are very different in the way that their inhabitants approach life. I’m fascinated by the kind of desperate optimism and positivity that so many Americans feel it’s vital to project at all times. There’s so much pressure in American society to be seen to be continuously happy, to succeed within an incredibly narrow and conventional definition of success. The irony is that the Scots, outwardly curmudgeonly, pessimistic and perpetually disappointed, actually seem much more genuinely happy with their lives and themselves than most striving and discontented Americans are. Maybe us Scots are just happy being unhappy. Living in both places has been an interesting experience, that’s for sure!
I see many collected bits of the world making their way into your art, which is a great mixture of collage and drawing. What’s your work set-up like? What’s your process like?
My workspace is a bit of a disaster area. As you rightly say there are a lot of “bits of the world” that make their way into my art, and before they do they’re all cluttering up my studio. I have drawers & drawers full of old tatty old bits of paper, stationary, books, and other random ephemera. I’ve discovered that if I put it all away, out of sight, I forget about it, so a lot of the stuff that I think I might use ends up lying around on the floor in piles. Every few months it all becomes too much and I make a half-hearted attempt to clean up. It’s usually an utter mess again 48 hours later. Sometimes I like to pretend it’s organized chaos, but really it’s just a horrible shambles.
My process varies, depending on what I’m doing. Sometimes pieces start out based on words, and sometimes they start from images. They change a lot as I work, very seldom do they end up resembling what I envisaged when I began. There’s a lot of making mistakes, and quite often I deliberately mess things up as a way randomizing the process. Usually the clearer the idea I have at the start the worse the piece turns out, and then I have to do something drastic, and quite often destructive, to move the piece on to a more successful phase.
The apology drawings were a bit different. Because they were a series they kind of followed a pattern. When I was working on them I tried to shake them up a bit to keep them from getting stale but I did get a bit tired of them, and haven’t done any for almost two years, even though I have a few that I’d still like to realize.
And, finally, what is on your plate for the next year?
Well two weeks ago I broke my right wrist in a cycling accident, and I’m right-handed, so for the next little while there’s mostly just frustration on the horizon. I’ve been trying to do some left-handed drawing, which is interesting, and if I can keep at it I think I might just try and create one big left-handed collage piece until I get my cast off.
“Usually the clearer the idea I have at the start the worse the piece turns out, and then I have to do something drastic, and quite often destructive, to move the piece on to a more successful phase.”
Apart from that, I’m scheduled to have a solo show at The Compound Gallery in February 2016, and right now I have precisely zero new pieces ready for it. So when the wrist starts working again I’ll need to get busy.
I’ll have been living in San Francisco for 20 years at the end of this year, and I think that I might use that, at least partly, as the theme for the show, although I may well change my mind. Right now the working title is “20 Years Of Wondering If We Should Leave, And Not Leaving”.
David Fullarton is our April 2015 artist. See more at davidfullarton.com