ROBERT ST. JOHN
Making art is like doing old-fashioned magic tricks – the kinds of illusions people used to create with playing cards and pretty scarves; you practice a lot (this can take a long time) until you have incredible confidence in what you’re doing, and then you bring in a lot of beautiful materials and try to create some stunning gestures. There’s this other element too – a kind of good monkey wrench that often gets thrown in the mix; art making is typically a very positive human activity and many times things can just seem to magically go your way.
I primarily use the medium of relief printmaking – I carve images into pieces of linoleum, print the images on handmade paper, and embellish them with watercolors. It’s a pretty simple and direct process that is primarily inspired by the Japanese woodblock prints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The last step of what I do is to collage the prints along with pieces of decorative paper onto panels of primed hardboard.
I’m trying to make art that is original, imaginary and idealistic. Art can be about things that aren’t real, or that can’t be readily seen. For several years now I’ve been trying to conjure up images that depict characters with only vague suggestions of any specific ethnicity, gender or cultural background. I don’t find these characters’ origin or purpose to be easy to discern – they seem to me ephemeral and mysterious. Sometimes they appear to be some sort of worldly trickster or magician, and sometimes they seem like angels or other very ethereal beings. I don’t know if they are falling, floating, or flying, but, unfortunately, since the 9/11 tragedy we all seem to be falling more often than flying.