“You can be more inspired by the packages of shampoos in the grocery store than by three gallery visits – and that is okay!”
How to find the balance between spontaneity and control, abstraction and emotion, and art and life.
Have you ever wondered what makes creative people creative? In this series of interviews – Creative Attitudes – we dive into the tickings of those who are making the rest of us tick and see what sets their worlds ablaze.
This time round, we spoke with Hermine Patch, a photographer and art director who has an exquisite understanding of the abstract and emotional sides of life and is working to explore the link between these two realms in her work.
We went on a philosophical exploration of these themes and how exactly they meld to make life and art meaningful.
Here’s what she had to say:
How did you become Hermine Patch?
Hermine Patch takes inspiration from my family members – Hermína (Slovak) was my great-grandmother, first woman in my family that I witnessed dying. By acquiring that name as my alternative one, I wanted to further acknowledge my roots and perpetuate the female essence and wisdom.
Patch came to life as a joke in early 2000, a year in which me and my cousin kept spending in front of a computer screen playing games. I remember we used to spend hours waiting for the games to work, install, uninstall and somewhere in between he started to call me “patch”, after a bug fixer for his game to work – it was quite like a shortcut to my real name, Patricia. It was hilarious and somehow got stuck in my head.
Even though I had no idea what exactly it was, I loved the digital aspect of it. Everything around the computer at that time was so cool and fresh. So Hermine is a heritage, Patch is a “technological solution”.
A lot of people think that ‘art’ is just about expressing yourself: Before you reach the ‘expression’ stage, though, you put a lot of abstract thought into it – can you have art without the abstractions?
In the past, I usually did a lot of thinking before organising a shoot and could not work without knowing exactly what it is I am doing. This led to a huge mental crisis at the beginning of my third year at uni, when I could not get out of my room for a month and been walking around like a ghost, ready to cry any minute. I thought I need to have everything figured out straight away and it was just not coming, I was completely blocked.
It got to a painful point when out of despair and upcoming deadline, I needed to organise a shoot with just having a rough idea and feeling about the location, so I put some people and clothes I liked together. Following that shoot, I got all my ideas for Fool’s Gold series of hotels and digital altar as my final exhibition piece.
Since then, I kind of combine it. Even if I am not exactly sure what it is but I feel a pull to photograph it, I do it. I am now aware my intuition is linked to the thoughts or questions I am currently dealing with in my head, so it always somehow ends up guiding me where I want to get conceptually, too.
In general I think it is really helpful when an artist knows how to present their art and takes time to understand it – because this way it can speak directly to people and inspire them on a deeper level.
“Despite a photograph being a present moment, it automatically transfers to the past as soon as you click the button.”
What is it that you like so much about staged environments?
Apart from maybe enjoying a bit of a control over things, I Love exploring places though photography. It really is an art-form that gets you out there – you need to go meet people, organise things, create scenes so you can take a picture. You always source from reality and can shape it the way you want, which is exciting. Moreover, shooting on location that is not easily accessible positions me on the edge.
Due to extensive production and costs behind, there is usually just one chance for such a shoot. This situation is like a matter of life and death – you have the concept, vision and you need to do your best to make it work in that one moment, like there is no tomorrow.
There is a team, models, designers involved that rely on the results, and so it puts a pressure on you to be 100% present and focused in the moment. It is such love and hate, but bottom line is that it makes me feel so alive.
Would you say that creative work is the only place where most human beings get an opportunity to really control life?
I think control comes with awareness – more you are aware of your potential and power, the more you know yourself, and the more you can become in control of things. You do not know what is gonna happen to you, but you are always fully in control with the way you respond to it.
Some people respond with physical objects, conceptual and visual content or sensory experience, which we then consider art. If we look into art history, we can see a duality of the rational and intuitive – people either wanted to approach things very technically and conceptually, having all the control or they let spontaneity to show them the way without thinking too much, giving a “chance” to randomness of things.
Both have a place and importance in our lives and I think they are intertwined – you wanna do things in a certain way because that’s what you already know about yourself, that’s how you think it is right and you have the need to express it. But in the spontaneous territory is where you do that, things never go as planned. Here is where you have a chance to discover and learn something new, and that is the beauty of it.
You would be too bored to even get out of the bed in the morning if things just kept happening 100% the way you planned them. Here I would just add a quote by Scott Fleming – “I thought I made a mistake once but it turned out it was a creative moment.”
“Only through in-depth learning about the world we are able to experience more intense emotions about it. Deep feelings require deep understanding.”
Why is controlled imagery so important to you? How do you think it links to your personality as a whole?
When something sparks my imagination or I witness an interesting situation that carries a message for me, I create a scene in my own way that represents the same thing, maybe I develop it even further. I often feel like I have a lot to say, but expressing it in text, paint or graphics is not enough for me – I need to work with 3D reality and control colour palette, location, models, props. etc.
That is probably a way for me to fully experience the moment and push myself, maybe learn from it. Being patient is very challenging for me – when I get an idea, I wish I could have everything done tomorrow. But this kind of photography requires patience – the production takes time and I usually prepare things weeks before. Moreover, developing my own concepts keeps me curious about the reality and the world. It is a tool for manifestation of my ideas, desires and dreams.
Frame is like a canvas, the light is paint. But the real aspect of it is something I appreciate the most, when being present in new situations. Aesthetics is also important for me, I like design and colours and beautiful things. Together with that, I just enjoy directing something and making it real. Like dreams come true, haha.
Does art need to get some kind of a reaction to be considered art?
Art is an illusion we created to enjoy and try to understand life, it gives us meaning. Art does not exist without people. I think if it did not have a reaction or audience, it would lack its sole purpose. We share our art with others because we hope it adds some value to their existence. And anybody who keeps stuff for themselves is just shy – deep down, we all want to be heard, seen and understood. It is in our nature to connect with others.
How can we maximise the odds of ensuring that the intention behind our work is the one received by the audience?
Through developing some sort of system for your presentation that makes sense and gives people clarity of what it is you are doing. Symbolism and visual identity in general also helps a lot, because people can recognise your work among others and kind of understand complex abstract ideas though metaphors, objects you are using – in my case – also spaces where I am shooting, etc.
But in general, a combination of imagery and textual or spoken description is the best way to navigate a viewer wherever you want them to go.
Although I think its also important to leave a bit of mystery there too, or open space for interpretation – this brings the viewer to questioning and thinking for themselves. We are all different with unique experiences of life and reality so I think part of the fascination behind artworks are all its various interpretations.
I am always very curious what people think of my work, I often ask them for feedback, too – it can generate new perspectives and ideas for me. And sometimes, even my perspective of my past artworks changes after passing of time and I find myself finding new meanings in it.
How does your creative approach help you with what you described as your “search for meaning” when we spoke on the phone?
The creative process itself is something that gives my life meaning. All the rest is about bringing “the light” to myself and people, bringing forward certain vibe or knowledge that can inspire our imaginations or improve our realities in certain ways.
My creative approach is photography, which is always inherently linked to “presence”. Photograph is always a certain recording of the present moment experienced by a photographer. At the end of the day, presence is all we have as people; the past is gone and the future is not here yet.
Despite a photograph being a present moment, it automatically transfers to the past as soon as you click the button. By photographing themes that are held in sort of sci-fi fashion or by trying to portray the ideas I perceive as part of the future – I aim to step outside of the time and space by combining all of these aspects together. The place outside of time and space, that is for me, the zone where we are able to find what is really meaningful for us. That place is within us. And creativity is a tool of uncovering it.
“You would be too bored to even get out of the bed in the morning if things just kept happening 100% the way you planned them.”
Would you prefer it if the viewers of your work understood the concept behind it or just ‘felt’ something?
I think the best case scenario is making a viewer to feel something that brings them to understanding of some sort.
What’s the link between the conceptual and the emotional in your view?
Anytime I enter a gallery and see some artwork, I develop a certain assumption about it and feel certain way about it. All that is based only on my current knowledge. After that, when I approach a statement that explains the artist’s underlying intentions, or when I am having a guided tour and someone explains the concept of an artwork or the story behind it to me, my perception expands, together with emotional attachment to the work.
So Yeah, the emotional and conceptual, they are completely interconnected for me.
I believe only through in-depth learning about the world we are able to experience more intense emotions about it. Deep feelings require deep understanding.
Most of us are involved in a process of either healing or growing: How does creativity play into this?
We are all creative in our core, as we all make daily choices that create and build our own reality. This core is often blocked by a lot of unreal stuff we keep telling to ourselves, or as you like to call it, the Unholy Trinity – guilt, shame, trauma (in the book Shadow Life: Freedom from BS in an Unreal World).
Healing is all about being able to break through those illusory walls that stop us from growing into our higher selves. Creativity is a hammer that helps us to break down that wall – brick by brick.
Healing is usually not a pleasant process as it challenges everything that we believed in before and requires a lot of unlearning. But ultimately, it is the only thing that lets the creativity unfold in its full potential.
What’s the difference between ‘art’ and just ‘taking a picture’ in your view?
For me, it is the intention behind, together with the energy and attention the author gives to the work. Art is not only one picture, it is the identity of the artist, their heart, brain, their persona and ability to share and present their unique vision of the world.
“Art is an illusion we created to enjoy and try to understand life, it gives us meaning.”
Is art overrated?
Art is anything one perceives as art, or an artist states is art. Some artworks are easier to digest than others, but that does not mean they are less valuable. Many people mix up art with craft, but these are completely diﬀerent things. One can use their skills to create art, but art is a thing itself that has to do more with the emotions and ideas it generates for a viewer.
Art is about striving to understand the world and your place in it, regardless of the technique you use to express bits of your acquired knowledge. People that are informed about the art world understand why “Black square” could hang next to the “Mona Lisa”. The value is comparable, just the form of is different.
The conditioning of what art is has been challenged all over the art history, so I would just stick to whatever feels right and makes sense for you. You can be more inspired by the packages of shampoos in the grocery store than by three gallery visits – and that is okay!
If you visit an acclaimed exhibition and it left you empty and uninterested, there is nothing wrong with you. You do not have to pretend you liked it so you seem cultured and clever. You simply just need something different, that speaks to you more. I think here is where we get issues – when people pretend things are more to them than they really are.
What do you consider an artistic or creative success?
When someone tells you they remembered your work from that massive group show or when they tell you they “Love your style” and “are inspired by you”.
Describe your attitude to creativity in three words or less:
Red, Green, Bloom!