An Interview with Joshua Dunlap

Our latest feature is with Philadelphia based Joshua Dunlap AKA Chemical Messiah. We discuss the artists innate connection with nostalgia, the influences of media and religion, and the digital future of collage.

"Tell us a bit about you."

I began graphic design when I was 13 and I’m 33 now. I kinda fell into it because at the time I was playing drums in a local pop punk band; when it became time to design a logo and merchandise we all realised that none of use knew how to design anything outside of Microsoft paint. I decided to take on the task of downloading & learning photoshop spending hours and hours, and countless all-nighters to learn anything and everything I could. It was a mix of reading and watching tutorials, but mostly just messing around to develop my own creative path.

"What a brilliant start! How did you continue to develop?"

Since then i’ve gone through many different styles and motifs before the work I am producing now, but this is the first that I took a more active role with regard to social media. I started posting my art to Instagram in April of this year. It’s a great art community; the support from my followers and the feedback has been amazing! Some great opportunities have come along since then including multiple album artwork and designing a signature hotel room at the Weinmeister in Berlin.

"You reference a lot of religious iconography, can you tell us more about why this is?"

I grew up in a semi-religious household; I say semi-religious because I was forced to go to church until around 12-13 when I was allowed to decide for myself. Being a 13 year old kid I obviously had little interest in going, but as I got older I realised more & more why i didn’t want to go. I began reading more and more about philosophy, originally existentialism and progressing to absurdism. This began to shape my view on a myriad of different topics but more specifically life, death, & religion.

"Where do you source your images?"

I have a wide range of sources but usually end up relying on google image search because to filter by usage license.

"Can you tell me about your influences?"

Growing up, one of my biggest artistic influences was Rene Magritte. as I got older, I noticed that my love for literature & philosophy was bleeding over into my art. Some of my biggest influences, now, are Albert Camus (the stranger, a happy death, the plague, exile & the kingdom, the myth of sisyphus), Franz Kafka (the castle, the trial, collection of short stories), & Samuel Beckett (waiting for godot, endgame, short stories & prose).

"Taking reference from scholars and writers is visible int he way your work is so thematic and layered. Aesthetically, we can also see a vintage feel to what you're creating, can you tell us more about this?"

Up until i was 7 or 8 years old, my grandmom would watch me & my brother during the summer. She would always have vintage horror & pop movies on in the background even though I was probably too young to be watching. That started my love for the art of the past. Since then I find myself creating art that feels nostalgic, even if the content is foreign to the viewer.

"Using nostalgia in art feels so important to the 21st century, our access to the internet and new technology has made us all historians. Why make collage and not another form of visual art?"

I’m drawn to collage art because I love the juxtaposition between the source images. I love mixing dark, especially religious imagery, with bright, pop images. I feel as though the lighter images disarm the viewer at first glance before they take in the whole piece.

"Is juxtaposition at the heart of your creative process, could you tell us more?"

I usually start with a vague topic in my head & a blank canvas in front of me in photoshop. For some reason, this has always helped me visualise what I want to do & how to lay it out. Then I go through my hard drive of collected images to find what piece I can turn into what I’m envisioning. Sometimes I’ll come across an image that resonates with me at that exact moment & I have to use it. My favourite pieces are created this way. After finding the images, I import all of them into the canvas to get a feel for them in relation to each other. I usually end up removing a majority of them & going with a more simplified version. I try to design by the motto “less is more” & it’s helped me immensely. After that, I work on making the edits to shape it into what I want. Sometimes I can get it the way I want on the first try, other times I’ll make edits to a piece over & over for a week or so.

"Thank you."

Buy Chemical Messiah's artwork HERE.

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