Here at RAW, we don’t only dig the underground—we dig artists who break new ground, artists who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of what art is and what art could be. In short, we dig artists like James Gallagher, a self-proclaimed nerd and Orlando-based graphic designer who hopes force us beyond “pencils and paint brushes” by combining his love for art, technology, and computer science.
Read on to learn more about James’ story, and be sure to catch him at RAW: Orlando presents FIXATE on August 18th.
My name is James Gallagher I’m currently finishing up my last year of school getting a Web Design degree at UCF. I chose web design because I like being able to learn development and programming while also using design to create interactive experiences. While I was born in Florida, I spent most of my life growing up in Cary Illinois, a town about an hour North-West of Chicago. I came back to Florida for school as a computer science major but decided it wasn’t for me, and switched to web design. I love graphic design, and I think that being able to combine math, technology, art, and nature we have so many opportunities for new ideas and solutions.
What’s your story? Where did you begin and where are you now?
Back when I was a kid neither of my parents had any interest in art which in turn meant I had no interest either. This isn’t always the case but I was much more into technology, math, and science, especially technology. I would spend hours messing around with computers and built my first one when I was 12 with my Dad. Fast forward to high school I learned that I was really good at Photoshop but had no idea how to be creative (sounds backward right?), so I took a graphics design class. The art program at my school was amazing and pushed me to be more confident with my art, even though I still knew it was a fact I wasn’t good at “art” because I had no practice, that wasn’t holding me back anymore.
What would you say is integral to your work as an artist?
I’ll mention this a few times I’m sure, but I really love the combination of technology and art together. I think that’s a newer concept and a lot of people haven’t accepted that using technology to assist in your art isn’t “cheating” and also doesn’t necessarily make your work better or worse. Like I said before as a kid I was really into computers and always wanted to be a computer scientist, but once I got into art I wanted to do nothing but graphic design. Once I hit college I wanted to find a way to show they could play nicely together, and my work is an expression of that goal.
Why did you decide to become a RAW artist?
As soon as RAW reached out to me I remembered the art shows when I was in high school. Specifically, those couple hours before the show when the artists are putting the last touches on their displays, everyone is helping each other, and you get an exclusive backstage pass to meet other artists. I have been making art since high school but haven’t participated in any shows so when I read that email from RAW I didn’t stop smiling for a week.
What are you hoping to get out of the RAW experience?
To put it simply I really want to meet other artists in Orlando since I haven’t been involved with any art programs for a very long time other than academically. I also think it’s awesome that RAW is in so many different cities; being from Chicago and planning on going back there soon it’s really cool I can still participate in shows up there.
You describe your work as a combination of abstract art and technology. Do you think art and technology are compatible?
YES! We’re definitely in a time where technology is used for art everywhere but most would not notice it. Especially with graphic design if you think about everything you see in a grocery store, each one is a separate piece of art. In terms of fine art you may see digital paintings, but if you’re a “computer geek” there’s no way you can be good at making art? Nope! I think if we can get away from the “pencils and paint brushes” idea of art we would see a lot of really cool work coming from people who use other parts of their brains.
What new ideas are you hoping to create by combining the two?
You work features a lot of vivid colors and technological effects. What inspires your aesthetic?
This comes from me wanting my work to be fun to look at even if you’re not interested in any deeper meaning, and to be honest a lot of the work doesn’t have a deeper meaning other than being fun. I want people to have that double take feeling of “wait what did I just see” when scrolling down a web page or walking around a gallery.
What was it like to transfer your designs onto clothing? Were there any unexpected difficulties or new opportunities?
All in all the experience was fun and taught me a lot because of all the new ideas it gave me, which makes sense because it’s a completely different medium. Certain shirts, for example, the Rose Sash shirt, I was able to take something that was a rectangle, crop and stretch it a certain way, and make the design wrap around the shoulder (like a sash, of course). So I would definitely say I ran into more opportunities than difficulties.
Your art brings plants, animals, and landscapes into a technicolor cyberspace. What are you hoping to convey by fusing the natural with the abstract?
This is similar to what I am trying to do with art and technology, I don’t think that nature and computers need to be looked at as two separate things. People see plants and animals and think “natural” and no one sees computers as being any sort of natural which is hard to argue. But this is where the “glitch” part comes into play. I have very little control over how the computer distorts images after corrupting them, is that not similar to the amount of control you would have over growing a plant? Instead of looking at technology as a way get around life, we should embrace things like hydroponics as a way to make life better.
Where do you see your art progressing in the future?
I would like to keep learning new programming languages and making interactive art so people can see creating art with technology is not as scary or weird as they might think. Using webcams, touch screens, and analog technology I have been working on some things that everyone and their grandma (or 6-year-old sibling) could have fun playing with, and make some art in the process. I’m going to keep forcing nature, math, and art to work together whether they like it or not.
I’d also like to throw my favorite quote in here, it’s pretty long but if there’s space to include it anywhere I always love to share it:
“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”
― Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices
Click here to get your tickets to make sure you get to see James Gallagher's art in person.
RAW Orlando Presents: FIXATE August 18th @ Venue 578 7:00pm