Pat Summers is an Amherst-based visual artist who creates the hazy, dream-like artwork shown below. Summers’ artistic journey started a little later than some, as he tells us he realized he wanted to pursue illustration halfway through his senior year of high school – which led to a scramble trying to put together a portfolio the week before college applications were due. Summers has come a long way since then, as his style has evolved to more digital and painting-based works. We are also happy to announce our shirt collaboration with Summers, which is now available for purchase here. Check out his work in the gallery below, and enjoy our interview with him that follows.
How long have you been making art? And how has your style evolved over time?
I was always drawing comics and cartoons with my friends in school, but I didn’t think of myself as an artist until senior year of high school. I decided I wanted to become an illustrator halfway through the year and scrambled to put together a portfolio the month before college applications were due. Back then, I wanted to be a tattoo artist more than anything. My style then was very graphic, somewhere between traditional tattoo and ignorant style which is very contemporary. I went into my first year of college knowing nothing of fine art conceptually or historically. Honestly, I never learned much from the classes I took, but they exposed me to the art world. As I explored, my style changed. I still do graphic works occasionally, but my paintings and digital works are stylistically a polar opposite from where I started.
What and who inspires your artwork?
I watch a lot of arthouse films which will often give me something to think about, or a tone or feeling I want to recreate in a piece. The relationship between a film and an audience is very important to me There are movies made to entertain you and there are ones that you watch alongside and think with. These are not mutually exclusive, however I often find myself looking for more challenging movies to take away a feeling from it, and to develop [that feeling] into a visual work. Some of my favorite directors are David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and Yorgos Lanthimos. In terms of painters and other visual artists, most of my favorites are ones I’ve either seen or met through social media. Jeremy Saborio (@rebirthcastle) and Scratch Williams (@scratchwilliams) are probably my favorite painters, and seeing others my age doing great work always pushes me to want to not necessarily do better, but to experiment more. I find that meeting other artists through social media has heavily impacted my style. Zach Thompson is another big inspiration. In terms of classics, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Irwin and Francis Bacon are artists I look to a lot.
What’s your creative process like? How do you go about starting a new work?
For digital I work from a lot of scans of old photos found on internet archives or thrift stores. I’m interested in reduction as an artform, often piecing together and painting over several photos or small selections of a scan like an exquisite corpse. An independent study I was recently developing was focused on using digital techniques to manipulate and deconstruct analog work, then reprinting or repurposing the pieces as physical or installation works to represent the deterioration of memory and the consistency of unreliability. For my physical paintings I’ve really only begun exploring the medium recently. I focus more on form and composition above all else, even concept sometimes. I’m less of a conceptual artist and more visually-based because I’d rather create something beautiful that I want to see rather than something that explicitly attempts to communicate with others. This is not to say I don’t wish for people to connect with my work; I just want to make work that transcends. I will say that in my physical paintings something that interests me is the autonomous design of nature, and my lines and brush strokes often try to mimic organic forms.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made so far? Or one you’re most proud of?
This is my favorite piece that I’ve made. The disjointed and contorted body rendering really contrasts the ethereal glow, and how there’s almost a different style to each element of the piece is what makes it so successful to me. I’m looking to make more full body pieces like this since its more challenging to piece together and to make these elements so different yet not out of place from the piece as a whole.
What’s the most important goal you want to accomplish as an artist?
I often feel like a bad artist for not having a clear idea of this yet, but maybe that’s why I’m in school. An idea I return to often is creating work that is completely enveloping, that renders the audience silent – in a meditative sense. I’m fascinated by sensory deprivation chambers and how they force the self to condense and look inward. I see it as creating “the endless,” which is what I want to do as an artist in my own work. Robert Irwin said that seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees- this is the same thought process of getting to where I want to be, but I feel out ideas that diverge there. When you are truly reflective and in a meditative space, it isn’t about what is in front of you, but how and what the work exposes to you of yourself. This is to say that when interacting with work I want to make, every person has a different experience and understanding of it in a way that is absolutely individual. I guess I’m not sure if i really have goals beyond navigating the most experimentation and exploration I can as an artist in the time I’m given.