Patrick Church, New York and Hell
V caught up with the New York-via-London polymath.
V caught up with the New York-via-London polymath.
Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG
Patrick Church has a love affair with chaos. Like any riveting relationship, it's not necessarily all roses and chocolates. A lot of his personal life revolves around escaping chaos, while his paintings meticulously explore it. It is perhaps because of this that he is living in what he has dubbed "A Hell of My Own Making", which is also the title of his most recent collection of work.
While it might sound bleak, it certainly doesn't look it. Church is known for his paintings and clothing (which came in that order, for the record), as well as his larger-than-life online presence. The work consists of wild, colorful, manic, idiosyncratic pieces that are somewhat overwhelming to take in, but not necessarily "dark." It is a bit like he is observing the chaos, his partner in crime and life, from afar. It's not really a surprise, then, that he practices transcendental meditation.
I met with the artist in his Brooklyn studio, which doubles as his home. Therein, the walls are covered with paintings both new and old, racks overflow with clothes, a teeny-tiny dog wanders around aimlessly, and Church perches himself comfortably on his couch.
Mathias Rosenzweig: Why did you move to New York?
Patrick Church: I was in London trying to make the art thing happen, I didn’t really take it very seriously, I was all over the place to be honest, like really all over the place. I spent a bit of time in Paris, and then…. I’m just trying to think how this all happened.
It’s your whole life, so it’s hard to sum up.
I was used to set back after set back, and I really struggled after school trying to...I knew I wanted to be an artist. I used to look up to artists like Tracey Emin, and there was an artist Stella Vine who was really inspirational to me. And um, just her aesthetic and like, I just really always gravitated towards her work and I knew I wanted to be an artist, primarily a painter. I was at the point where I was just giving up on everything. It's just not going to happen for me. I didn't go to school...I feel like it's this really inclusive world, you know?
Yeah it is, it’s really intimidating.
Yeah. And then I met someone just before I moved. It was actually really strange, I met this guy called Normal Rosenthal who was the Director of the World Academy of Art, and he saw some of my work and took a shine to it, and actually bought a couple of my pieces. And then it started to give me more faith, like, "Okay, I do have a talent and I need to just be around the right people."
So, like around the same time, this is like two years ago, I met [my husband] Adriel on Instagram. I actually used to have two accounts. I had a work account and he would like all of my work. And then I ended up messaging him, and he didn’t know what I looked like, and then he ended up finding out what I looked like, and then we were just talking a lot. He worked in Europe quite a lot, he works in fashion; the business side of fashion, like really corporate and boring.
But he’s based in NYC?
Yeah, he’s based here. But he was working in Italy, and he was like, “I’m coming to Italy do you want to meet me?” And I was like really such a...like, the only thing I wanted in my life was love. That sounds so stupid, but it was true. When everyone was thinking about going to University, I was like okay I’m going to find like...
Boyfriends and husbands?
Yeah, like where’s my husband? I wanted this story. I feel like I had to create my own narrative, like there was a journey that I had to take, I guess.
So, anyway, I didn’t go at first, and then he was going again so I took a chance and I was like, “Fuck it, let’s go.” So, we spent five days together in Florence, and something clicked and I just really knew that I wanted to be with him. It was just different this time, like it felt a lot calmer. My life was very chaotic before and my relationships, like I was in horrific relationships. You know, just really destructive and...I was with a really abusive person. Anyway, I just didn’t value myself at all you know. The one thing I love about Adriel is how calm he is...He’s like 10 years older than me so it felt really sort of, like, okay, this is new.
I feel like that’s a part of being young, when you do meet people in the beginning it's so larger-than-life and all consuming, and then as you get older you learn to be a bit calmer in a way. Which is more--what’s the word? It lays a better foundation.
Yeah! It’s like, you really have to know if this person is right for you and like he really is, we’re so compatible. We're sort of like yin and yang. We’re quite different but we’re also very similar. And we’re really good friends, which I think is really important. I really trust his eye creatively. I don’t listen to anyone around me, like I’m so visual I know exactly what I like, but I really trust him. And I love his aesthetics and his references. He’s really clever. He’s watched so many films, read so many books, and I think my work has progressed so much because of him.
Do you think moving to New York also progressed your work?
So, like, I met him in Italy. We spent these five days together, then he left and I went back home and then things had started to pick up a little bit in London, and I was painting a private member’s club downstairs. I felt like things were starting to get some momentum. Maybe it’s because I had met him and I was so inspired. So, he was like, "Look, how do we do this? Come visit me in New York." So I visited him and then I ended up never leaving. And then we got married and had this like crazy love affair and then I realized, "Fuck, I’ve gotten married." So it’s been very much a personal journey.
Everything happened so quickly. What was your question?
It was just about New York specifically as a city. That stuff could have maybe also happened in London had you stayed there or whatever, so I wonder how this specific city affected you.
Do you know what? I actually have so much gratitude and admiration for New York as a city because I really feel like London did not embrace me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t trying enough, you know? And I was in a different place, but here I really feel like people understood my work, and accepted me. And I never felt accepted. And I always felt...what’s the word? Not ridiculed but...people thought my work was gimmick-y or a joke, and the same for me as a person. Because I can be very flamboyant and kind of ridiculous, and I think people just didn’t really get that in England. I don’t know but now I feel like things are changing a lot and things are becoming more sort of fluid and open. But here, New York’s been really...
Yeah, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. But I’d never been here before. I remember walking down Broadway like a month after I’d moved here and I could feel the energy of it and it was just so inspiring. And I had like eight months where I couldn’t work because of immigration and stuff, so Adriel and me, we were sitting around and he was like, “What do you want to do?” He was like, “Let’s make a small collection of clothes. I know you can paint and we’ll just see what happens.” So I spent nearly a year maybe, making all these clothes all on my bedroom floor.
So you couldn't work and had all of this time to just...make something.
Yeah, yeah. I just really started to push myself out of my comfort zone. Before, I was painting head and shoulder portraits of naked ladies. I don't know why I was doing that, I think I just gravitated towards the female form, a lot. So I decided to start drawing again and this is where the prints and whatnot came in. And Adriel would be like, "This isn't very good, do something different," and nobody had ever said that to me before, you know? It really changed me.
Well, naturally! And artists need that.
I needed that.
Do you take criticism well?
I didn’t use to, like I used to be like, “What the fuck?”
It's just human nature to get defensive.
As a creative you need to listen to other people around you and you need other people around you. Ultimately it is always going to be my thing, but I do need to listen to other people’s opinions and ideas because there are so many amazingly talented and creative people and it takes a village, it really does.
It’s also actually worse when people are...it’s not indifferent, but when someone’s like, “It’s good.” Like if someone just gives you a very mild compliment, those can become really worthless, I feel. I'd rather get read to filth than just told something pleasant, at this point.
Yeah, me too.
It's still a reaction, someone saying, “This has potential, but maybe this one thing could move..."
Do you know what I would do? I would try to do the bare minimum. I wanted to push myself to do things that could evolve because I'd just start something and then be like, what's next? This isn't good enough.
Well, maybe that's a part of why you're so prolific.
But it’s also trying to keep it sacred and special. Like, the first collection I did was hand-painted. For me, I wanted to step away from fashion and go back to painting and doing my thing and let that sort of run itself for a little bit. It’s difficult because sometimes I love the fashion thing, and I’m like, "Oh my God, we should make this and this and there’s so many stories we can tell and different photoshoots we can do." There are so many layers to that.
But then sometimes I’m like, "Ugh, I just want to paint and be locked away and isolate myself. And then I watch documentaries about artists and I feel like so much more of an artist than when I’m preparing for a big shoot. It's one thing I'm really battling with. Can I do both?
I feel like you can, just because you have. It’s more a matter of if you want to. I think there’s always a weird divide with artists, between what makes you money and what makes you happy. And the overlap. In your ideal world, you'd just be alone painting all day.
Yeah, but that’s not life.
But that’s a really relatable thing, and it's why I asked about New York. Because New York, like everyone’s situation is different, but New York is like such an expensive city.
And I love to spend money...
I lived here for eight years and I left, and it’s like, now I come back and find it to be a super intimidating city in a lot of ways. It's really welcoming, but it’s also like, you know you’re with the best of the best and that can be a really intimidating thing. You know if you’re submitting to an art gallery, you're going up against some of the "best" artists in the world.
Yeah, and you are! There are so many people here, as well, that are so talented. But to me, the stuff I’m doing for the show and everything, it is just a means of survival. Like if I don’t make the work, I literally can’t go forward. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is so true, and I can’t sit here and say why I make it and like, what’s the reasons behind it. It’s just so instinctive.
Are you adding more text to your work nowadays, or?
Yeah, and I'm trying to just not be so controlled, because a lot of this work is so controlled. I just need to be more chaotic. I feel like when I came here, I was trying to be like, "Everything’s great all the time, everything’s wonderful, blah blah blah," because my life was so chaotic before, I wanted to sort of go 180. Then, I started to realize that you have to work on yourself personally as well. I don’t know. It’s just that I can be real again, well I’m trying to be more real again.
You're at that point in your career now where people sort of know you, or your work. And that's a shift form when you're just an anonymous struggling artist. Do you ever think about what people expect from you, in terms of the work, now that they are indeed expecting something from you?
I never think about that. But, maybe I should. I don’t know I just...
It's like, you know, if Ariana Grande came out with a country album people would be like, what the fuck?
Do you know what? I think it’s important to keep progressing and for it to evolve but to still feel like it's mine. To have the same...
It's just a lot of experimenting. And I don't really think a lot about what other people think. The work is like creating a character, like an extension of myself or an exaggeration of myself, and I do have to put myself in certain moods to make certain work.
It can be like masochistic.
Well yeah, I think I am definitely a masochist. I like to feel really in pain...
It's better for creativity, no?
Yeah, that or feeling intensely happy.
Right. I write, and it's all stuff that is based on my life. And on days when nothing is coming to me I'll often go back to a really difficult text message conversation and get myself upset about it...
Oh my god, that so--
I'll open an email or I'll do something to purposefully trigger myself and get myself in some sort of zone.
It’s so weird, I always tell people this. I psyche myself up, I go back to a memory where I’m like...that is so interesting.
My therapist's not a fan but...anyway, where do the words on the paintings come from?
The words come out of frustration. I don't like to say too much, but when it comes to my work, it's really like a visual diary for me. If I'm in the right mood, I can say a lot with my work. But the words, they're all personal. They just come from inside my head. I think words are so powerful and I have phrases that I'll have in my head, and I'll be obsessive and repeating them over and over again. You'll notice that some of the phrases are there more than once.
Your work is a lot about connections, relationships. But don't you feel that being an artist is actually very isolating?
Yeah. The more I do with my work and the more I make, it's like a barrier against the world. I find the world to be quite a terrifying place, and also quite a disappointing place and I don't want to be in it.
Why are so many of the words in the paintings crossed out?
I don't know. Maybe I'm afraid to say something.