Patrick Ironwood talks about his art, his process, and his inspiration
Magic is the science of the future, and the alchemy of the present is alive and well at Sequatchie Valley Institute’s Liquidambar Art Gallery. The highly advanced Prochronistic Sculptures of Patrick Ironwood will undoubtedly delight future anthropologists—these breathtaking works have a mystical quality, evoking the anachronistic, opening Pandora’s box.
We sat down with Patrick for a chat about his work and what makes him “tick” as an artist.
The Pulse: How did you get your start?
Patrick Ironwood: Most of my abilities come from 40 years of life on my four-generation family homestead and intentional community in the Sequatchie Valley, on the western edge of the Southern Appalachians. From the time I was six and running wild on the mountainside, I have cared for goats and fowl, worked with mules and llamas, and operated a wood shop and sawmill. I designed edible landscapes, a permaculture forest farm, and built epic organic structures of logs, rock, straw, and clay.
Without the experiences, skills, and access to tools that my life has provided, I would not be able to create the art that enriches my life and the lives of others. I initially learned stained glass and lampworking from my former wife, Asha Ironwood, in 1996. Lampworking sparked my scientific curiosity, which encouraged me to explore the more technical and fringe aspects of the art. Recent research into esoteric techniques has brought me to the relatively new art of electroforming, which dates back to 1804.
I am self-taught in the process, which I have been exploring since 2013. My art is from a story in the future—each piece is an anthropological clue from a future perspective of who we are now. As I assimilate these ideas, my work continues to evolve into increasingly complex and multi-layered designs.
TP: What are some of your influences?
PI: I am moved by Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Minoan art. I’m interested in Pataphysics (the nature of imaginary machines), the steam punk aesthetic, the postindustrial collapse, objectivist utopian philosophy, and pre-Raphaelite painting. Some artists who inspire me are Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Nikola Tesla, Johann Goethe, and Antoni Gaudi. I am also fascinated by the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog computer that was discovered off the coast of Greece in 1900.
TP: What is your philosophy of Art?
PI: I believe that the deliberate alteration of any material tests our abilities. From the beginning, it is an often humbling campaign to create beauty and harmony in a thing—the finding and use of materials, the tools and techniques employed, bringing into being form and color, the attention and deliberateness in the moment of creation as the medium is altered, transforming it into its new form.
It is about making wonder, intrigue, and beauty—finding the enthusiastic encouragement to always look deeper into reality for meaning and thus continue to discover reason through process—the future of meaning—a future value realized in the past and present, unleashing qualities that were unknown before—all of this because of the viewing of an object made by one’s self. We are the creators of our reality.
TP: What materials and processes do you use?
PI: I explore color and form using the high temperature flame of a GTT phantom torch which runs on an oxygen accumulator and propane. This technology makes a flame that is adjustable, allowing distinct and varying effects on the color reactions. I mostly use glass from Italy, Germany, New Zealand, and the USA.
For over 15 years, I have been experimenting with color combinations and reactions—they are elusive, tricky, playful and dangerous. Flame chemistry simultaneously finesses and forces new color combinations, possibly ones that have never been seen.
This exploration has allowed me to observe thousands of reactions and find a path with my own unique palette. These reactions are amazingly abstract and changeable…the potential in layering color and microscopic detail and dimensional depth is seemingly infinite.
Using graphite and brass tools (many of my own design), I form the glass by spinning its molten form, much as a potter does on a wheel. While blending and layering color, I paint with glass until I know balance and harmony. I often flatten 3-D forms into 2-D landscapes. I built a copper electroforming machine which allows me to atomically bond salvaged copper onto my lamp-worked glass and other sculptures.
Electrically hardened copper makes a strong and organically detailed finish, reminiscent of a very old object, one which may have been under the sea for thousands of years…