INTERVIEW: JAMES KERR

Canadian James Kerr (aka scorpion dagger) appropriates Renaissance artworks and gives them a 21st century twist. Kerr uses GIFS to create digital colleges that bring 400 year old paintings quite literally to life. His works have a Monty Python feel about them and are amusing and controversial in equal measure. There’s something a bit unsettling about corrupting beautiful high brow artworks and religious iconography, but we love it. Subjects with serious and pious expressions are reworked to form playful, Internet-friendly pieces. We caught up with the ‘GIF wizard’ to talk about his work and creative process – more of which you can explore here.

 

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe it?

I guess the best way to describe it would be a trip into the world of the Northern Renaissance, but with the stuff that we have today. I’ve always liked to describe it as the lives of the characters on the canvas after they go home when the museum closes.

 

What is it about Early and Northern Renaissance paintings that you’re drawn to?

I just really love them. They’re such incredible, beautiful paintings, and when you really begin to examine the context in which they were painted, you can draw some pretty clear parallels between their world and ours. Not wanting to get too deep into it, but there’s a definite nihilism depicted in them, and I feel that sentiment is pretty pervasive these days. I also find them really funny. You get the feeling that these painters were having a ton of fun.

 

Your work is hilarious – how/where does inspiration strike?

Most of my inspiration comes from everyday, mundane things. A lot of it is based on these little observations I make throughout the day. I really try to make most whatever comes into my head, and not worry about about what people might think. A lot of them are really dumb, but that’s sort of the point.How did your work develop online?

I first started making them as a way to learn how to animate, and would spam my friends via email.  I came up with this idea that it would be a fun project to try and make one a day for a year and see if anything interesting came of it, and also maybe find a gallery interested in exhibiting them. At some point Tumblr noticed what I was doing and started featuring my work on the GIF page. It snowballed – all these amazing emails turning up in my inbox from people digging the work.

 

So you’re uploading to Tumblr everyday. How long does it take you to make a GIF?

On average, I’d say that most of the ones you see up there take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours to make. I could probably really cut this down if I didn’t get distracted by things like playing scrabble on Facebook.

 

We’ve heard you’re in the process of making a book. Congratulations! How are you planning on translating your work to paper?

Thanks! I think most of the GIFs make really nice images without the movement, but the book is going to be augmented in such a way so that with an app you can point your device at the page and the images will animate on your screen. We really wanted to make the book viewable without the animation so if anyone who has never seen it move can enjoy the work.

 

If we forced you to choose a favourite GIF of yours, what would it be?

I guess if I had to pick one (because you are literally forcing me), I’d have to say it’s the one of Jesus shredding on a guitar outside church (November Rain).

 

Thanks, James!

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