Rather than limiting his creative expertise to the visual arts, Pat Perry flourishes too as an intrepid traveller, prolific storyteller and, at times, a disaffected youth and romantic philosophiser. His tales of hopping freight trains and hitching rides with lonely truckers across the American planes are reminiscent of those told by the Beat and Hippie counter-cultures folk. Motorbike rallies with his “gang of goons”conjure up images of blighted, leather-clad biker crews rebelling against the system. His solitary, reflective hies across the Alaskan wilderness capture something of the nature idolising Romantic-era. While he is currently working on compiling these stories into a novel, they have already been documented via the intricate detail of his pencil and are available to pore over on his portfolio.
“It’s easier for me to understand bigger things when I’m not constipated with the biases of a routine. Travelling has played its part as a remedy to the pettiness of everyday life that constantly clogs me up.”
A ravenous traveller, Perry’s work is flooded with images and motifs of travel, exploration and self discovery. For him as an artist, travel facilitates his liberation from everyday monotony in which creativity and innovation can quickly become smothered. For others who are less artistic in nature however, this escape is no less important, as his drawings “Out In The Yard” and “Outlived” reveal.
In the first, a young girl’s childhood home and the life enclosed within its sturdy walls, takes the place of her eyes and mind. Having been the only life she has yet experienced, it makes up who she is at that time. Yet, the opportunity to move beyond this and explore lingers on the periphery. Tyre tracks stretch away into the distance, littered with broken car parts, tractor pieces, discarded tyres, bricks, all urging her to keep moving, never to stop and become caught up in the stale banality that comes with settling. In “Outlived,” this degradation at the side of the road has taken over, engulfing the figures entirely in a powerful representation of lost opportunity. Roots and weeds clamber over everything, while piles of bricks and collapsed timber hint at something unfinished, forgotten. The opportunity still lingers, faintly, in the form of a decrepit tractor, long forgotten, but repairable.
The personal expression of creativity and individualism that Perry encourages is shown as an anomaly in “Disturbance.” A lone student’s mind explodes into a chaotic, plasmic mess above the ardent, intact heads of his fellow students, its colourful debris erupting through a room rooted in heightened conformity and rigid formalities. This is an expression that isn’t appreciated or encouraged by the authority of the room, perceived instead as the artwork’s very title declares – a disrupting, unwanted “Disturbance.”
“In certain ways, I’ve learned more spending nights under an overpass talking to an old rambling man than in classrooms.”
We like to believe that the road of opportunity and self discovery lays wide open to children, viewable and easy to navigate their way towards. But in “Outlived,” this path lies beyond the girl’s shoulders and she alone must make the conscious effort to turn away from the comfort and ease of what she knows. The students in “Disturbance” must break free from the all-consuming lure of words instructed from textbook to teacher to child.
As the car drives away from the home in “Similar States” thick, fibrous roots clamber out from windows and doors, trailing alongside the departing car. Seeds of customs and beliefs planted during childhood, from within the family home, remain firmly rooted within our lives as we move forward.
Perry’s drawings of various figures, struggling and toiling on their bikes, are shown to be physically weighted down by the masses of memories and emotions that are churned involuntarily from their minds. The little home that sits so innocently at the forefront of our existence, proves to be a heavy load.
The artist documents some of his own personal explorations and travels in his Alaska series, a collection of nature inspired sketches, paintings and photographs. In some, the surrounding nature infiltrates the characters entirely, filling them until they seem to embody the wilderness themselves. Others show people climbing, burrowing and contemplating the landscapes around them. Getting lost in the wild arbitrary state of nature is perhaps part of the experience of self discovery, removing oneself entirely from the structure of society and its conventions. Henry Thoreau, in his retreat to Walden woods, certainly believed this:
“Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves.”