Avery Gibbes is a Toronto-based artist and a graduate of OCAD University. Working primarily in painting, his current practice revolves around the continual creation and exploration of an imaginary alien world.
“It is inevitable at different points in our lives that we'll be faced with entering worlds that are outside of what we already know. This could mean beginning a new career path, moving to a new city, adapting to a new culture, or experiencing a different way of living life. Weirdos of Another Universe is a series of paintings where I've decided to explore the “what ifs” of an imaginary situation where a small population of humans suddenly exist within an alien world. This series is about the feeling of being an outsider after having entered a new world, and gradually figuring out how to find your place within it. This narrative sits at the core of the series, and each painting serves to either further explore this narrative or to further build the world within which it is taking place.”
What initially compelled you to create your work?
I liked the challenge of having to imagine and make up the way that everything looked in the world that my paintings are showcasing. Adding the whole alien world context to each idea also gave each painting another layer and made each idea more interesting to me than they would have been in a regular context.
What main topic does your artwork address and why?
My artwork is about the feeling of being an outsider after having entered a new world, and gradually figuring out how to find your place within it. It is inevitable at different points in our lives that we'll be faced with entering worlds that are outside of what we already know. This could mean beginning a new career path, moving to a new city, adapting to a new culture, or experiencing a different way of living life. I wanted to make a body of work that would speak to this experience but also would be open enough and visually captivating enough to where it would still be interesting to someone even if they didn’t necessarily find a strong resonance with this experience specifically.
I ended up deciding to make up a story where a small population of humans suddenly exist within an alien world and then have this series of paintings follow these humans as they learn and grow within this world. This narrative sits at the core of the series, and each painting serves to either further explore this narrative or to further build the world within which it is taking place.
In your artistic journey, what has been the most challenging point thus far?
I would say probably the period of time just before I began what would eventually become this series that you see here. I was about halfway through my time at art school at that point. I remember I didn’t really have a direction in my art practice or a body of work that I felt was strong and also unique. I felt as though I was trying to make art that I figured others would approve of but also didn’t really feel true to myself. The problem was that I didn’t know what to do instead. At a certain point I decided to just let go and have fun with it, and I ended up making the very first painting with the alien figures that are now a staple of my work. I remember being surprised by what a positive reaction that painting got from my peers and instructors, and that was when everything started to change and I realized I might be on to something.
Is there an aspect of your life that especially impacts your practice?
When I was just beginning to get really into this body of work, I was at the point where I was in my final year of school and facing the prospect of soon going out and trying to make my mark in the larger world for the first time. I think this was one of the initial reasons why I felt such a strong resonance with the story in my work, as it is a story about entering another world, and in a sense, this is what I was just about to do. In general, though, I also feel like being and artist and being an overall quieter person has given me a bit of a sense of being an “outsider” for most of my life as well. So, I would say that these two perspectives have done a lot to motivate the narrative that I follow in my work.
What do you do when you find yourself at a creative block?
I try to design something to add to the world that I’ve created. That could be a building, a plant, a vehicle, or a room. Sometimes it’s easiest to just reduce it down to shapes to start, as in thinking to myself “let’s start by designing a building out of sphere shapes” for example, and then going from there. Then if I come up with a design that I like, that design can serve as the initial inspiration for a new painting. It’s funny because sometimes it will happen where I’ll have an idea for a new painting and then I’ll come up with the designs and drawings for the painting to fit the idea that I have. But there are also times where it happens the other way around and I won’t have an idea for a painting, but I’ll sit down and make a rough drawing of a building or a sketch of an indoor setting and then from these drawings an idea for a painting will be born.