William Kearney is an artist and a musician and he incorporates the two. In his persona as Sand Snowman he has made a number of musical albums and collaborated with various other artists. Will Kearney has also exhibited many of his works at exhibitions around Europe as well as using his own artwork for his album covers. Hermes spoke to Will about his art, his influences and the esoteric.
Hermes Q1-Can you tell us about your background, what brought you to art?
WK: My mother is an artist and my father was a musician (albeit in a “non-professional” capacity) and I grew up in an environment where art and aesthetics had a subtle presence – my parents were neither- heavy handed in encouragement or discouragement – creativity, humour and a skepticism in regards to authority and human folly were fostered, also a self- reliance in regards to pastimes and outlook (in both instances Art is perfectly suited).
As a child my preferred modes of play were art- related i.e. making models with plasticine or indeed anything I could lay my hands on (tin foil was a favourite; make of that what you will!), and I never quite lost that primacy of imagination- over material reality that endows childhood with its all- too brief air of magic and endless possibility.
Hermes- This set of paintings are depicting horned men and horned gods; can you tell us more about this subject.
WK: Well, there are lots of Fauns…I’m not so sure about The Horned God, though they might be closely related and/or have the same archetypal significance.
I’m fascinated by fauns and other nature sprites – especially those who seem to provide a mediating presence between the Worlds of Humanity and Nature. Fauns and Nymphs seem to be creatures utterly at ease with their nature – at once erotic and innocent, and the pastoral Arcadian settings in which they frolic and play speak to an eternal Edenic need that many of us have – not quite as simple as the hippy notion of getting- back- to- the garden , but a deep need to reconcile our reasoning/ethical faculties with our animal nature, instincts and appetites.
Hermes: Would you describe this as spiritual art, or esoteric art?
WK: I would say it’s closer to esoteric art, in that it is – I hope – suggestive of (not immediately apparent) ideas and concepts – albeit of a subjective symbolic nature – rather than a spiritual expression of a State of Being.
I’ve become a bit cautious of the term “spiritual” for, whilst I welcome anyone taking (and making) a deeper connection to their essence, examining a…well, “spiritual” aspect of themselves rather than simply being the robot in a world of needs, I think there is a danger of this being primarily product of Ego, with the “spiritual” merely being the extension of the “personality”, personal history, and predisposition into the Eternal and metaphysical realms.
We all say we want change, but demand great scene- shifts around us rather than within. Our minds are made up, we have our story and we’re sticking to it. All too often I suspect the spiritual/religious aspect is window dressing, be it in the form of the aforementioned ego- validation, cultural conformity or simply LARP-ing as a mystic, witch or devotee of some sort.
The expression “there are no atheists in a foxhole” has its counterfoil, and it’s something like “Faith that falls under fire is no faith at all”. Simply put; Is one primarily a Spirit having an experience in the material plane, or a material being carrying hope (but not necessarily Faith) in some sort of hereafter? I would say recent events – and indeed any period of crisis – sort the wheat from the chaff and reveal a lot of “spiritual” predispositions to be pretence and vanity.
Additionally, we have no reason to believe that any higher consciousness or creator agrees with our tiny, selfish perspective and/or sympathises with our petty grievances. I suspect God, The Creator, Great Spirit or whatever one wishes to call this Being, asks and expects a lot more from us than we would wish, and not necessarily out of cruelty (though how would I know?) but because said Being has a better idea of our true nature and capabilities than we ourselves do, and believes us capable of transcending any difficulty or suffering….all of which will, like everything else, pass.
Hermes: What is the medium for these pictures? Why do you work in this medium?
WK: I use oil paints on canvas – They are the most suitable that I have found, but that isn’t really saying much, as I’m too lazy and incurious to explore other mediums. Both oil paints and canvas are quite tough and durable, and can withstand some pretty harsh scraping, brush- bashing and heavy layering, not to mention being knocked about, shoved under sofas and kept in some pretty inhospitable environments…if my poor paintings could speak 😉
Hermes: Please comment on how you were influenced to make this art and about who influences you.
WK: My greatest influences are musical, primarily the composers Maurice Ravel & Claude Debussy, both of whom wrote music redolent of the Twilight World of Pan, fauns, nymphs, undines and the symbolist evening- light where imagination, memory and myth coalesce and somehow reveal one’s essence. For visual art my preferences are Claude Lorrain, Moreau, Michelangelo, De Chirico and the Symbolist Art movement in general.
Hermes: How do you prepare yourself to make this type of art?
WK: By listening to the music of the above composers. Also, walking and cycling by the sea and in the countryside, meditating, attempting to reach (and sustain) hypnagogic states, sitting in silence, avoiding thoughts regarding the time, effort and inevitable disappointment (the gist always gets lost along the way!) such an undertaking involves.
Hermes: Perhaps you can tell us more about the colours, why do you use certain colours? Do they have a significance? Are the colours representing anything?
WK: The colours, in themselves, don’t have any particular significance, though I particularly love the overlap of blue and green. Colour is intoxicating and should be approached with the reverence and caution one might have for an awaiting bottle of Absinthe.
Hermes: Your paintings have a mixture of old-world new world feel about them, can you tell Hermes more about this?
WK: The idea of Arcadia is a perennially powerful and attractive one – one that re-emerges over the ages, slightly altered, it shape- shifts and Chinese- whispers into different forms, reflecting the climate it (re) appears in. Since it’s late 19th century incarnation – in the Symbolist era – it has served not only as an ideal, but a rejection of a dull materialistic World divested of its magic, correspondences and purpose.
In times of especially high hubris, the faun returns. Innocent, wise and at peace with his nature, he smiles upon the folly, ahistorical Utopianism and vanities of those who refuse to know themselves, his pipe’s notes rise to the fall of every idiot- Icarus, and every crass steal- and glass Tower of Babel. Like nature herself, and like the Tao, he endures.
Hermes: What direction is your art going for the future?
WK: I have been exploring a combination of choreography – the shapes made by the body in movement, and its surrounding space – as well as semi- geographical forms – especially Victorian designs and patterns, which I’ve always found to have an uncanny, slightly sinister sentience. I think I will continue to go along this line as I don’t think I’m quite “done” there yet. I will do the odd “straightforward” scene, such as something Arcadian, and am currently working on a large crowd scene’. I have been getting increasingly interested in the Art (and ideas) of the Italian Renaissance and the movements that grew from it, such as the Baroque and Mannerism (the latter correlates with Symbolism in many ways). I’m trying to get into the consciousness of an artist such as Michelangelo – which is impossible not just because he was a genius, but the very consciousness itself was different.
I have been thinking about how different mores/cultures/tenets are intrinsically linked to their resultant Art; consider the “forbidden love” concept so central to many great works of art – Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde simply couldn’t be composed in our “me first” age…the star- crossed lovers would meet, lock eyes ….and say to hell with consequence, get it on and that would be the end of that – no great drama, no tragedy or sublimation, no vast harmonic development….just two consumers “getting theirs”, and all living… well, perhaps not Happily Ever After, but in short-term satiety and long- term chaos until their untimely end. Of course, all of our lives are lived in chaos, compromise, error and with no sense of proper dramatic form – hence our reliance on Art (and philosophy, faith and companionship etc) to provide the coherence and structure the profound Human condition deserves….yes, this is the kind of thing I’ll be thinking about whilst painting and writing music – rather than thinking about painting and writing music ;-).
Hermes: Thank you very much for the interview. I really appreciate your paintings. Where can people find your art-do you have a website?
WK: Facebook (for music and art); https://www.facebook.com/sandsnowmanofficial
Bandcamp (for downloads); https://sandsnowman.bandcamp.com
Fine Art America (for paintings & prints); https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/gavan-kearney
Tonefloat Records (for vinyl albums and CDs) https://1185600.mijnwinkel.nl/sand-snowman/p-1a/