ICONS: a New Gallery by Pochan will Debut this Saturday, Feb. 1st at Wild Sage.
Full name: Andrew Gregory Pochan
Originally from Maryland, Pochan has spent most of his life in Reading. His work includes 8 murals in West Reading, three in Reading, with one more Reading work in progress on 11th street through Albright College. Pochan is also a filmmaker. His most recent film, “Dust Nuggets”, was shot here in Berks County. It's a highly visual and colorful story about a band manager experiencing a fantasy land while in a coma. He’s recently had a screening in NYC and will be available for more details at the Gallery Opening on February 1st.
Pochan’s art is very public, even interactive. He calls the viewer to add their personal meaning to his creations. We had the chance to ask him about his upcoming gallery that will be on display here at Wild Sage for the next few months:
WS: Tell us about your process for these paintings. Did you follow any traditional icon-making processes? What paints did you use? Did you start with an individual in mind and grow the color story out of their background, or did something else in particular compels you to the final composition?
P: I'm a big Andy Warhol fan. He was a big fan of the square portrait. So that's where it started, a square. Then I think it was Christmas or my birthday (I'm Dec. 16th), I put a birthday card of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour next to a Russian Orthodox icon on my mantle. When I sat down and looked at the two, it pieced itself together. Icons with crazy colors. Legends, myths, whatever, put it with leopard print or polka-dots. The ICONS series takes the edge off the heaviness of religious figures. Maybe I was trying to wash away my own Catholic guilt by combining polka dots and stripes with Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The first portrait I did was the Mary and Jesus with lightning bolts. This derived from an actual Russian Orthodox painting of Mary with Jesus springing out of a cup... if you look at European religious art carefully, you'll notice some WILD stuff. ICONS quickly evolved into more contemporary people, legends and myths. Some examples include Frida Kahlo, Michael Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty.
I didn't follow any traditional process that I know of. I do a lot of wood working and have carpentry experience, so I just have wood lying around all the time. The 3D aspect with the layering of the wood was immediately after I got the idea of patterns with gods/legends. The layering adds another aspect to it. A flourish, something to get away from the standard canvas. Also the frame is built in, so you don't have to frame it. I noticed Russian icons had heavy frame around the image, I always loved that and it found its way into the overall composition. The uniformity of size and shape is unlike the icons I've seen in churches which vary widely, just like stain glass windows or statues. I settled for a single size and a single shape based on my previously mentioned Warholian predilections.
WS: In traditional iconography, there is very little artistic license; every image within the icon is symbolic, even the colors have very specific uses, and the artist is portraying a clear message. Are you intending any specific meanings in this gallery, or is your hope for the viewer to find their personal meaning.
P: What I would like to do is multiples of the same thing. Same pose, everything. Mix and match all the colors and the patterns. If the painting matches something in you living room like the couch, I'm fine with it. You wann special order one with a specific pattern or person? Sure. Nothing is sacred. I mean, if you bought one of the religious ICONS from the series isn't that mildly putting a price on religious practice, or for that matter any/most of the ICONS? I like the idea of this concept living and breathing in your living room, destroying an old idea and forging a newer more polychromatic idea. It's more than just a purple Jesus, or a houndstooth Buddha in your house. It's the whole process of creation and destruction living within a square that kind of looks like someone you know in the color you wanted. Art with a Wal-Mart-esque ethos.
WS: From the sneak peak of this gallery, it is clear that you combine both western and eastern religions, art itself becomes a religion, artists take on a divine character, and political symbols are represented. Can you speak about this intertwining of varying ways of viewing and being in the world?
P: I think I just did, but if that doesn't hit it on the nose enough then let's try this... Everything is a religion, because religion is a belief system. I've heard art as religion, nature as religion, understanding as religion... I imagine the stretching of the word religion is relatively recent, and in this century so much has been blurred because of the Internet and our connectivity. You can watch mass online if you're sick at home, you can listen to Hindu chants off YouTube to chill you out... even at the same time if you're so inclined! Really playing with that idea in a visual, yet still accessible way was an intention with ICONS series. I like the idea that we can mix and match and customize our icons. We do that in our heads anyway, change words or neglect other things to idealize the image. We as humans have been modifying dogma since we could organize ourselves into civilized societies, ICONS is a ripple of that. Modifying something that came before that fits the new aesthetic model. We idealize a certain character and demonize the other in our minds before we do anything about it, if we do. Why not have Jesus match your couch or curtains? We've already crossed the line of profanity many times prior.