Devin Powers Q&A

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No Title, 2006, pen on paper, 30 x 22 inches

Pierogi: Where did your love for geometry and patterns derive from?

Constellation, 2006, pen on paper, 13 x 8 inches

Constellation, 2006, pen on paper, 13 x 8 inches

Devin Powers: I was in junior high or high school, and I remember watching a program on PBS about higher dimensional space. It had a diagram of a hypercube, and I thought the space created by the form was fascinating. I was studying geometry in school at the time and I was doodling with these forms during class. For example, I would take a polygon and connect the vertices between each point.

These are also drawn free-hand. No grid or ruler.

P: Oh, wow.
DP: These here were from when I was interested in a more intuitive sense of systems. There’s something very certain about a grid, because you know when something should snap from this point to another, but when you’re doing it without a grid, it’s based on an intuitive sense, a feeling of rightness.

P: Do you view the small works on paper as a body of work, or as studies for larger works?
DP: Some of these, the ones from around 2007, were about responding to architecture. I was making drawings mostly with tape on the walls, floors and ceilings of buildings. As the geometry got more complex I began making them on paper first as proposals for larger projects. The more recent drawings influence my paintings but the relationship between the two is loose – they are not strictly sketches for paintings. Recently I’ve been thinking about place. Instead of interacting with architecture by drawing on it, I’m thinking of creating actual spaces out of the forms that interest me. I want it to be a kind of secular reflection space.

P: So you’re making mockups for these architectural forms?
DP: Yeah, I’m working on Rhino 3D and digitizing these architectural ideas. I wouldn’t want the mockups to be shown though, since they’re not artworks yet, and I have not pinned down how they would exist in the world.

Pattern, Silver pen and pencil on wall, 48 x 72 inches, 2010

Pattern, 2010, Silver pen and pencil on wall, 48 x 72 inches

P: You do murals sometimes as well, and that makes the work about existing physically on a place other than paper, but it’s still not the place. Can you speak about that? 
DP: I have done murals, and now that I’m thinking about architecture, I’ve primarily been trying to figure out what these spaces that I’m imagining could function as. Ancient civilizations had spaces such as temples. What if you had a secular temple, like a temple towards symmetry for example, and you created an environment where people could experience a sense of order, just for its own sake. That’s sort of how art functions anyway, it allows you to escape the realities of daily life, or to be exposed to a different consciousness than your own.

P: Are you interested in Japanese culture, such as wabi-sabi?
DP: I make a lot of sketchbooks, and the sense of hand-madeness but simultaneous offness that gives a sort of empathy to the drawings is something that interests me. That aesthetic relates a lot to wabi-sabi: a beauty that bears the imperfections of the hand.

P: Can you speak a little about your poetry?
DP: I wrote the first poem The Spoken Map In A City Divine in the spring 6 or 7 years ago, and I kept rewriting it every year. It became like the drawings, an attempt to create and comprehend a universe.

P: Do you think your place of origin has had an impact on your work?
DP: Well, not so much, other than that I grew up in a small city and then we moved to the suburbs, and I remember how bored I was with the reality of life there. I remember being drawn to this desire for reality to be different. At the time for me there was a sense of entwinement between Nova specials about black holes and higher dimensional space and also psychedelic culture that I was interested in as an early teen. A kernel of that is still in here, but it’s very far removed.

Break, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

Break, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

P: Are you with a gallery or do you have any shows coming up?
DP: Yes, I’m represented by Leslie Heller Workspace. I have a show at the end of this month at McKenzie Fine Art, I have a solo show in the spring next year, and I’m in a group show at Bob Smit gallery in Rotterdam this winter.

Pierogi’s flat files contain several works by Devin Powers, a selection of which are viewable here