Updated: Apr 20, 2020
John Halligan is a talented sculptor who, over the last year and a half or so, has developed a body of work based on wood carvings that is truly impressive. He's been a frequent contributor on our forum since the beginning and has been featured in both of digital shows. I really respect Halligan's determination as an artist, I've seen him experiment with a laundry list of mediums and materials, some successful and some not as much, but he knew the ideas were there and he's really progressed as an artist, it's been really fun to watch. The best thing is that he's not even done school yet, so I think this guy has a lot more coming and a bright future as an artist. I got a chance to ask him about his experiences in art recently and I think you all will really enjoy his answers and his work!
1. So first, I always like to start by asking about your background as an artist. What started you in art? What are you big inspirations? What made you or makes you the artist that you are today?
From an early age I could tell I was artistically inclined, but I didn’t really start taking it seriously until high school. It was my sophomore year in high school I came to the conclusion that Art was my best chance at being happy with what I do for a living. What’s funny is back then I hated the thought of making sculptures and now it’s all I’m thinking about most of my days. As for inspiration I always sound cliche when I talk about artists that inspire me because I’ll say people like Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, basically all artists from 500 years ago. But why it inspires me is with how incredible their work was, and mainly the perfection they had. I have a slight obsession with perfection, something I strive for even though my own work is nowhere close to perfect. I dream of eventually being capable to make works as beautiful as say the statue of David.
2. So in the past year, I think you've really developed an awesome series of work with your wood carving but I know you've worked in a variety of mediums prior to this. Tell me a little bit about your work prior to your wood carving, what do you think your big successes were here? Or maybe failures? What were the stepping stones that lead to the work you're currently producing.
Before my wood carving I feel I was still trying to find myself as an artist. I mainly did printmaking and metal work and I’d say they were pivotal stepping stones to get to where I am right now with my work. In Print I loved etching and did that for awhile until switching to doing woodblock prints. I was always trying to push it more then just a singular print by making large print installations. I’d also always make shaped plates because I found they’d push the dimensionality of prints so much more. Except the one thing I kept noticing was that I was way more interested in the woodblock and not the prints. Basically building my curiosity to actually carve. It’s actually an etching that ended up leading to my first wood carving which then sparked the whole series of carvings I worked on this past year. Funny to think about that a 4x6 etching that was for an intro class led me here. I like to think as an artist we never really have failures, we may make a few shitty pieces here and there, but they’re always still successful in the sense you know what worked and what didn’t for the future.
3. Onto your badass wood working. This is relatively new for you (that I know of), so how did you land on wood carving? What is the process like for each piece (both the thought process and the actual process of carving)? What's next as far as your woodwork is concerned?
I landed on woodcarving from one of my last metal works ever, I made these very mechanical hands and I had so much fun with the process of making them that i just went and made a whole piece based around wood. As they progressed though they became less and less mechanical and more natural and organic. The process is the best part for me, I love to share it with any one who will listen. The process for me starts when I’m finding the wood, I never really know where or how I’ll find it but I always do. I start building unique relationships with each piece of wood. Then when it comes to the carving aspect I just enter this zone for 5-10 hours just working away at it, first with the bandsaw, then switching the grinders until it just feels right to me. It’s an extremely hands on process, where it literally has to feel right in my hands before I stop. And most of my carving work has just been my raw emotions and what I’m feeling that day put into the carving. Even though it’s a reductive process to me it feels like I’m taking parts of myself and adding it to the wood. Typically very literal and simplistic imagery but I just am seeing phases of myself.
4. To tie together the previous two questions, I noticed that very recently you've been revisiting some other mediums (metal, print, etc.) and tying them into your wood working. What inspired this collaboration of elements? Any plans to push this further?
I do have plans to hopefully push this further! Over the past few months I was working on ways to reincorporate my print work into my sculpture work. Actually getting criticism from some people saying some of my prints weren’t actually prints they were just sculptures. I would disagree, they may not be traditional forms printmaking, but are prints none the less. And personally I’m not a fan of just printing an image on a paper I am very into the idea of giving my prints a dimensionaloty and breaking the 2 dimensional plane. I’m just really experimenting right now cause I miss metal and would love to find a way to incorporate my metal work and carving and it not seemed forced.
5. Your more recent work is relatively straight forward in imagery, but as you look a little deeper it always seems that there's a deeper emotion you're missing if you don't stick around, a hidden narrative if you will. How important is the emotion/narrative to these pieces? And is that subtlety intentional?
I would say most of my work does have hidden messages to them. And those feelings in them are all very important to all of the pieces. But i would say it’s subtitly intentional that people don’t see it because it relates to who I am as a person. Sometimes I’m a very reserved person, but there’s a deep complexity right there that most people miss because of how I just conduct myself. Which I’m actually going to be delving more into those issues in some of the work I plan on making next. I’m going to really be stepping out of my comfort zone to better myself as a person, and also use those emotions/feelings to take my work to a whole other level. These feelings are what drive me and my art to what it is today and is honestly the most important part of each piece . If I don’t feel it, then that connection with the work just isn’t there and it shows in the finished work.
6. PLUGS! What's next up for you? Any exciting projects/shows? Where can people find you? Tell us anything and everything you've got going on.
As for what’s next exactly, expect some bigger carvings and a bit of a change up with subject matter! I will be working on this 5 ft tall tree trunk for the next month or two carving until my hearts content. Also will be experimenting with casting to go along with my wood carving so will just have to wait and see what exactly will come but I’m very excited about it all! As for where you can find me, still working on my website because I’m a procrastinator, but Instagram @halligan_arts is my main outlet for my art at the moment, just love to share my art with people!
Remember Folks! Feature Friday is an awesome way to get your work seen and promoted, as well as make you eligible for other prizes! But, you’ve got to post on that forum so we can see your work and promote it! So post, comment and post some more! Let’s see and talk about all of your work!