Oldham Open -Speaking to the artists

This week young people from the Gallery Oldham Collective interview Peter Yankowski about his work The Morrigan currently on display in the Oldham Open 2019.

Can you tell me a bit more about your piece?

In this painting I primarily use designer gauche, ink and pencil crayon. This image is created in about 5 layers, using latex masking fluid and overlaying paint. This is a style I developed 25 years ago as a textile designer and I have revisited it for the Ancestors Awakening body of artwork.

Is there a specific concept surrounding your piece or do you intend the viewer to add their own interpretation?

I like the viewer to add their own interpretation. Some people have sent me interpretive poems and stories connected to my artworks. Within this artwork is a mythical archetype and my narrative of a legend, or short story, for each image. This is the idea or process of thought for The Morrigan. I write down these narratives as the image evolves:
This is the ninth image in the series, with 9 being a significant number. Whilst creating this image, I was listening to alternative historical theory and audio presentations by Carl Young. Often what I listen to influences what I put within the image. I do not sketch or plan a painting in a sketchbook, but rather I create it in my mind and add to it as it evolves. I had also been listening to Joseph Campbell and his philosophy on myth, mythical philosophy Thoth’s, as well as other work relating to DNA and mythical ancestral history.
I painted the symbolism in the sky after many visits to Thornborough Henges. Once in the top wooded henge, I could almost imagine the presence of another dimension, especially looking up, into the trees. Also many of the symbols’ within this image are from two to five thousand year old rock art symbolism (petroglyphs), found in the UK and Ireland. The top henge is the best-preserved as not many people visit it due to the trees now growing there. At the time the henges were built, they would have been high with deep ditches. Thornborough is particularly interesting as it corresponds to the layout of the pyramids of Giza and the layout of Orion’s belt in the sky.

In Celtic mythology, the Irish Goddess, The Morrigan, and her sisters are fascinating. The Morrigan is a safeguard to our real identity, life and the protection of the land and water. The Morrigan is said to awaken as a warrior in times of need to protect the innocent, the land and water. She has the ability to shape-shift into a crow and be a formidable protector of the land.
In Greek mythology, the god of war, Aries, clouded the hearts and minds of mankind with greed, jealousy, violence, the need to subjugate and an all-consuming wish to end life. But luckily we also have myths and goddesses such as Morrigan, who is an honourable warrior and shape-shifter. In Norse Mythology the Valkyrie is an antidote to war and a symbolic echo of the old ways, which are to protect the land and future generations.

I like these ancient archetypes, psychology and mythology to be put within the artwork as it enables the viewer to see more within the image.

How long did it take to create this artwork?

About 28 days including research time. Sometimes I work several full days on an image then periodically. However, because my income is from being an artist I calculate the time taken to create each image by logging down time. This one took around 220 hours to create, possibly longer. Sometimes I forget to mark down hours spent especially when researching…

Has another artist or event influenced the ideas behind your artwork?

Yes, it would be fair to say that many artists have influenced me, over the years. However, I try to develop my own style and avoid mimicking other artists. For instance, my last body of artwork which I worked on for over 5 years was examining conflict and war. Many people told me what I created looked like the Chapman Brothers work, but I intentionally avoided looking at their stuff so it did not hold me back from what I created. I have stopped working in that style now and finished examining conflict. I looked at the Chapmen Brothers creations and bits of my work are similar.

Are you working as a full-time artist?

Yes, my income is all from being a full time visual artist, I average between 40 to 60 hours a week researching and creating new artworks.
For instance, this painting of The Morrigan is from a body of 13 artworks entitled Ancestors awakening. The next stage is entitled ‘The Journey North and for this, I just did a 13 day trip to Orkney to research ancient sites that will influence the new artworks.

What made you enter the Oldham Open?

I am from Oldham and the gallery is a beautiful place, also seeing so much local talent adds to a sense of belonging.

How do you seek out opportunities like the Oldham Open?

Being a full-time artist, I am often seeking ways to get my artwork seen, as creating a profile as an artist is an important opportunity to make a living and continue to create art. I seek the internet, art magazines, and social media to identify potential for evolving or selling my artworks.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

I would develop your own visual narrative, work on themes and try over time to create several different bodies of artwork.

As an artist, financial income is often very low for long periods of time. However, if you stick at it and create public interest in your work, then the potential is limitless, well I trust so. Being an artist is probably the most rewarding work I have ever done. I have been a professional visual artist for around 30 years and for me it is important to diversify and not get stuck with one particular way of creating.

Could you tell us one interesting fact about yourself? It doesn’t need to be art related.

I think everything is art, for instance, I am also an activist and photojournalist. I see this as a more realistic way of documenting a visual narrative of events from the front-line, and not from the mainstream press perspective. Capturing a visual narrative from this point is often beautifully expressive, often a very thought-provoking way of being. Well, it empowers me to think in a creative way…