Trenton Doyle Hancock by Josh Carlevato

Posted on March 28, 2011


JC- The main thing that I can relate with your work is the illustrative style and use of graphic and comic style objects and figures.  I wondered if you ever had to deal with people viewing your work more in the sense of illustration rather than seeing your ideas and intent with-in the piece?

TDH- One of my main influences early on was illustration.  As an undergraduate freshman, I would go to the library and check out illustration annuals in order to figure out what made certain styles of design more engaging than others.  I would then incorporate some of those design ideas into my own working process.  At the same time I was developing away from being a designer.  I was becoming interested in ideas that were a bit harder to pin down.  By the time I was in grad school, I was able to articulate through my art and verbally why my drawings differentiated themselves from illustration.  It had a lot to do with how I generated and ultimately treated the drawing as an object.  That is not to say that a number of my works could not be used to illustrate an idea.

JC- As a Tyler School of Art student and having lived in Philadelphia for a few years now I am interested on how both Tyler and the city were able to influence your art making and if there were anything in particular that you were able take from these experiences?

TDH- More than the city of Philadelphia, Tyler’s professorship informed my attitude and art making practice as did the students around me.  It was the general attitude of Tyler at that time that helped give me what I needed.  It helped me to think about the history of painting in a different way than I had ever thought about it before.  When I got to Tyler it was pretty rigorous in the sense that we were always going to New York and looking at not only contemporary artists but also a wealth of historical painting examples.  This cross-referencing of new and old became a foundation for how I would critique art in the future. I also benefited a lot from Tyler’s studies abroad program.  When I went to Tyler’s Rome summer program, it was a pretty immersive situation where everywhere you look there is history.

JC- I also participated in Tyler’s Rome program and personally was overwhelmed with my surroundings and experiences.  Do you feel that there was any one experience that you took away with you from your time in Rome?

TDH- there was the way people respected art and lived with it that I found really inspiring and beautiful.  If those Bernini fountains were in Philly they might get tagged.  No one over there would dare go there. You can just walk up and go into any church and see these amazing Caravaggio’s or great sculptures that have been untouched for hundreds of years. There is a great respect that is passed down from generation to generation for the city and the culture and for the art, and that is what I took back with me.

After Rome, I developed a heightened sense of respect for art and how to live with it.

JC- Recently you have worked on several public art pieces and was wondering if your art process changes while you are creating and considering a work of art that will be publicly displayed and interacted with?

TDH- I guess in a sense, anything that leaves the studio is subject to public scrutiny, so the pieces that would be deemed more public art pieces I don’t see very different from paintings that come out of my studio, they just happen to be a different form or a slightly different format.   A painting versus a mural versus a public sculpture.  I try not to think too much about creating work to fit an audience, I am just making art.  When it is installed into these different situations, people have to format themselves around the work. Dealing with public space can become about specificity of the locale.  The site itself can in many ways dictate what art is produced, but I’m careful not to compromise the potency and potential of the work when it becomes public art.

JC- With the amount of success you have seen over the past years is there any advice that you would be able to share with young artists or students regarding creating art outside of an academic environment?

TDH- my advice is that after school one should find a space where you can continue to feed your art.  Figure out exactly what you need to have a productive studio life.  The art comes first.  Don’t try to force anything.  It will all happen when it’s supposed to if you listen to the art.

JC- In your work the use of text has always intrigued me.  Many times it feels narrative while other times it feels like forms or even a part of the image itself.  Is there a specific process that you go through when deciding on what text to use or how to use it?

TDH- It’s a little of both actually.  Sometimes I will write a text and then respond to that text with an image.  Other times, the image will come first and I will either write a new text to fit with the image or find some existing non-sequitur text.   I have found that this constant analysis of text versus image has allowed me to find different entry points into my own work and ultimately keeps things interesting for me.  Lately, I’ve been interested in highlighting the text as image or concrete poetry.  I’m becoming more and more invested in the meaning of my symbols, which are both manifest as image and text

JC- Earlier you said that you were planning on working with more color and different ideas with color and I was wondering how that would affect your artistic style mainly because much of your previous work relies heavily on black and white imagery.  Do you feel that while exploring these new ideas you will step away from the use of black and white?

TDH- No, the black and white thing will probably never change for me. I may experiment with the way color comes into the work, but I will always use black and white as a foundation.  In my studio, I will be working with an idea of found color pretty soon.  I wont really get into what that means, but there is an issue of ready made or found color that I’ll be dealing with….. culturally loaded colors.

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