Mike Perry is one of those guys. You know, one of those super talented, super nice, super great style kind of guys. His skills know no boundaries. If you’ve ever wondered what the inside of your brain looks like, Mike has captured it in a detailed intricate sketch, wild with colour, or an elaborate sculpture, or on a large scale mural. I met him through the magically creative Peepshow Collective in London, and chatted to him about his work.
MC: It’s been a while since we first met at Heavy Pencil in London, which is a big collective of creatives. How important is collaboration to you?
MP: Collaboration is the best. I collaborate constantly. You can only do so much on your own. I collaborate with my wife Anna Wolf and a giant team to make Tidal Magazine. In the studio J Bell (my number one) and I collaborate every day on ideas, sculpture, how the studio is vibing. Like a marriage over the years, we have gained a trust. We pull together our different ideas, knowledge, and history to make something new. I have also been working a lot with Jim Stoten who lives in the UK. We collaborate as often as possible. Talk about intimacy–sharing a piece of paper, letting him finish my line and vice versa. That’s some trust.
Your work is really complex and free at the same time—Do you have streams of consciousness that help get you to the final version?
It depends on what I am making. I’m working on some big paintings right now where I am letting the painting make itself, and letting each stroke and colour decide its’ next move. It is freeing—I have to pull the painting out of the process. Kind of like throwing clay on a wheel. You mould it and push it, shape it, and hope it works out. To contrast that, I’ll make other work that involves a detailed sketch phase before I make a final drawing. Trying to get the tightest drawing possible.
As a man of many mediums, what trends are you predicting or ones that you totally saw coming?
I’m not sure I’m able to answer this. I have no idea what is going on out there. All I know is that we are living in a future.
I was reading recently about Warhol’s childhood and how heavily it influenced his art. Can you talk through any important first memories?
Saturday morning cartoons, Mario Brothers, MTV, Playboy Magazine. You mix that with being able to run around free in the country all day and you get my childhood. I wish I had the sketchbooks from that part of my life.
As a child I used to draw trucks with staircases in the cabin, mainly because I was surrounded by trucks but was also fascinated by staircases, as we had none. Do you find yourself being inspired by specific things?
The only piece I have ever done for The New Yorker was drawings of trucks. Trucks are awesome to draw. There is constant iconography popping up in my life and work. I don’t understand their meanings at first, or ever, but I trust them and let them be a part of me. One example is the ladder. I remember the first time I drew a proper ladder. I was in Amsterdam making work for a group show that brought American and Dutch artists together to celebrate their 400 year anniversary. The ladder just entered the work and has not gone away. Years later I’m talking to my grandfather who is a retired contractor, and he’s trying to convince me to take his ladders. He wants them to stay in the family. They are important to him. Suddenly the ladders in my work represent him. I am now the proud owner of 2 of his ladders!
You get to travel a lot with your art, have you ever been asked to paint a plane or train?
No. I would be thrilled to do that though!
Congratulations on your recent work on Broad City. Is this your first foray into motion branding / titles? And were you given free reign?
Thanks! Broad City broke my TV virginity. It’s the best job. They respect me and trust that my vision is in-sink with the show. I get to experiment and push myself. What else can you ask for?
Thanks for your time. I’m looking forward to our next meeting, beer in hand looking at projected live art above the balloon heads of Owen and the Eyeballs.
More of Mike’s work is here.