Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: John Gerrard’s More in Both Directions

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. These works could range from short stories to visual art to music and more!

Today, John Gerrard (he/they) will be sharing his piece “More in Both Directions.” John took the time to participate in a Q+A with The Layered Onion, but before we share the dialogue, here’s a little bit more about John in their own words:

“I am a multidisciplinary artist, with a focus on visual art.

As a visual artist I’m currently focused on making drawings that are text based and speculative. The work is meant to be enjoyed for its form and aesthetic quality, but also invites investigations into the strands of literal meaning. The text is readable in linear and non linear ways, and is themed on subjects such as the mind, free will and how that relates to whether we discover or create identities.

Formally, the work usually consists of compositions of multiple panels. I draw each panel by hand and then invert the black and white digitally. After they are inverted and in a grid, I mirror the piece both vertically and horizontally. This symmetry gives

order to the disorderly nature of the vast and varied text. It holds the tension of a middle zone. The finished work is presented as an image that is playful with the rational and the chaotic. There is structure and randomness coexisting with design.”

John Gerrard, More in Both Directions. Fine art rag paper, archival pigment-based inks. January 2021.

Want to see it closer? John has some zoomed in views available here that are worth digging into to engage further with the piece.

Getting into the questions:

This piece is so meticulous and detailed. How did you approach creating it? What were your initial starting thoughts?

I had pieces of paper that were cut into triangles which I used to draw/write about some of my experiences in the psych ward as well as my mental health journey in general. It’s meant to be a speculative zone where I can explore ideas and memories in a way that helps me organize and reflect.

I find the use of shapes, both the diamonds and the diagrams fascinating in how they break up the piece and emphasize certain statements. What was your thought process behind these?

I think using the shapes is a good way to highlight and emphasize like you said. It’s a way to organize the content as well as give the eyes something else to look at. 

What inspired you in terms of color scheme?

I really love the aesthetic of white line on black. For me, it evokes a sort of chalkboard feel, as well as the line being like light in the dark.

I notice you kept cross outs throughout the work. Did these start out as intentional or a combination of spontaneousness?

I keep the cross outs to be honest with the process. There are some things I don’t feel comfortable keeping on the page, or places where I make mistakes. It’s human!

You repeat the title throughout the work. Is it a representation of a constant thought? A mantra?

I live with a type of bipolar, and the title represents that excessive happiness as well as sadness that I deal with sometimes. Finding a balance between the lows and the highs can be hard when you have bipolar. 

Anything else about the work that you would want to share or say?

There are a lot of painful moments that I signify in this piece. It was therapeutic for me to process them on the page, as I changed my relationship with them as I went. If people have felt similar things I hope they feel less alone looking at the drawing. 

Definitely a message that I can get behind. Thanks for sharing, John! You can see more of John’s work at their website.