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surreal pop art

Surreal Pop Art by Kris Hoglund

What is "Surreal Pop Art"?

In the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", the character played by Richard Dreyfuss displays a great example of what I call "Surreal Pop Art". Driven by something he can't quite seem to put his finger on and something beyond his ability to control, over and over he sculpts a vision from his mind, a vision that he does not understand. Although his first efforts don't satisfy his mind's eye, he continues to search, to refine, until the time comes that he makes the connection between what is coming out of him and what it means.  Although the image in the movie was placed in his head by aliens, we all have subconscious imagery, visions that represent our life's experiences and emotional states.

Some of these visions are shared by many people as a result of mass culture and/or shared experiences. While these "visions" are not exclusively reserved for 'visual' images only (music would certainly be another), I will use visuals as my point of reference since I'm a painter.  Classic Pop Art concerned itself primarily with media images.  But there are other images that we all share that come from outside the media culture.  The sky, swirling clouds, the moon, the sun, the night sky, the face of our mother as she rocks us to sleep as a child.  In some ways, these types of images are the cores of our beings, the foundation of our emotional memory.  As life goes on, we add images to our memory and we begin to diverge from one another on the meaning of imagery depending on the circumstances of our lives.  These visions may have a broad cultural recognition, but their meaning can only be understood by us in terms of our own experiences.  This is the "pop art" of our subconscious.  Commonly recognized symbols that mean different things to different people.

I call my art "Surreal Pop Art" because I am driven to put the familiar images of my subconscious down on paper/canvas and interpret the meaning they have for me.  The ones that mean the most to me personally generally don't connect with others unless they have had very similar life experiences, while the ones that speak of more general ideas tend to be more accessible.

Recognizing that there are many people on the earth who have had it worse than me, I have to say that my life up until a few years ago was a pretty miserable existence.  When I was 9 years old, my father killed my mother while my brother and I were in the house.  He was a schizophrenic and had been building toward that most of my life.  I'll not go into all the other psychological details that made me what I am, but suffice to say, that type of trauma is not emotionally healthy for a little kid.

Afterwards, I lived a pretty 'normal' life as far as I knew.  I thought I had dealt with the loss, when in fact I had simply shoved it under the table because it was too horrible to think about.  As an adult, I had built a very successful business, had a wife, children, the dream, as most people would say.  Yet, the more I got what I thought I wanted, the more miserable I became.  I was working like a compulsive fool, totally addicted to work and stressed out beyond belief.  In hindsight, I was literally dying.

I decided to take a painting class as a distraction because I'd always enjoyed art.  It didn't take long before I got bored with painting 'happy little barns' and I started pursing my own interests, which were rooted in a fondness for Post-Impressionist art and VanGogh in particular.  In trying to imitate that style of painting, I inadvertently also latched on to the emotional expression that went with it.  The Post-Impressionist painters were, in my mind, surrealists, long before surrealism became a "movement".

The stuff I was doing was starting to give me an 'uncanny' feeling, and I started to obsess on art (as I am prone to do), but I couldn't really put my finger on it.  Like the Richard Dreyfuss character, I was driven to 'sculpt' visions from my mind, symbols that seemed to mean something to me, although I didn't know what.  I call the paintings from this time "Blindspots", because I couldn't see the message.

The intensity of my paintings began to mirror the intensity of my burnout and misery.  I eventually decided to see a therapist because I knew I couldn't continue on like that.  I was lucky to find a good therapist and almost immediately, the misery of my mother's death and the rest of my screwed up life started to gush out of me.  I saw that all the paintings I had been doing were little messages 'from me to me' using my own symbols to try to express the source of my misery.

This kind of freaked me out and I fell into painting almost continuously as a sort of medication to keep me grounded.  I discovered Keith Haring at this time and was really excited about his stream of consciousness approach to painting. My thoughts were racing at about a thousand miles an hour, trying to re-index my perceptions of who I was and why I did what I did.   I began to use painting as a way of expressing myself in the moment, like a series of journal entries that documented all the pain and misery flowing out of me.  These paintings are represented on my site in the "Meltdown" and "Fallout" galleries.

I know this is getting a little melodramatic, but having that veil of denial drop away, that wall between me and my emotions crumble, it was scary as hell.  I'd been hiding from this stuff my whole life and I didn't really want to look at it now.  I just didn't have a choice anymore.  It came out and I put it on canvas.  I'm not a great technician when it comes to painting, but I think I have a talent for self expression.

Since then, I've sort of reintegrated myself and am actually enjoying my life, doing the things I want to do and eliminating the things that were keeping me miserable.  My painting is not as intense, but I still do a lot of it.  I am exploring myself in a different light now and I really don't know where I'm going with it, I'm just going with it.  These paintings are in the "Unknown" gallery.

I got on the web about a year ago, and it has become a big part of my artistic pursuits.  Like most people (come on, be honest), I found myself looking at porn on the net.  I also noticed that 'art' sites don't get a lot of traffic so I had the idea to combine the two to see if I couldn't get some exposure for my paintings (some of which are graphically sexual anyway).  Surreal Pop Erotica was born by taking the 'pop art' of the internet - porn - and adding my own aesthetic to it with photo manipulation. Along the way, that old surreal process took over and I found I was using this new medium and subject mater to explore my own sexuality.  It's interesting when you start to analyze what turns you on (ie: what you look at) in terms of it's symbolic significance to your own life.  I don't expect that a lot of porn surfers are doing that, but it's still interesting how it all works.  We're wired for sex and I think we develop our preferences at a pretty early age. It's another tool for self-analysis if you care to use it that way.  If not, knock yourself out anyhow.

The erotica site had the intended effect of drawing more traffic to my painting site.  Not everyone is going to like what I do, but that's OK.  I have a little fan base who appreciate what I am doing, which is nice validation, but I really do it for me.  It's just what I do.

The web is really not a practical place for an artist to sell paintings.  You are trying to display something on a medium that simply cannot translate the visual experience, and who want's to buy something they've never seen in real life?  Rather than focus on selling individual paintings, I've decided to focus on the digital.  Because I'm such a friggin' compulsive, I have a huge amount of paintings and graphics from the past 5 years, more than is practical for the website.   I thought it might me cool to put it all on CD so that seeing it all would not involve a lot of waiting for file downloads.  I've put almost everything on CD ROM, including stuff from my sketchbooks, expaned biographical info, video clips, entries to juried art competitions, and at least 200 paintings, graphics and drawings that aren't currently on the website.  Info on the CD is available at the website.

To wrap it up, I'll go back to the Close Encounters analogy.  Dreyfuss' character was greatly relieved to discover other people, painters, sculptors, and artists in general, who shared his vision and his passions.  I've found many of those people on the web, including Rick at Artbabyart.com, and it feels good to know you're not alone in the world.Come visit the site when you have some time and happy surfing.

:: Kris Hoglund ::
Your Email Comments Welcome
Saving the World by Kris Hoglund
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