Article originally published in issue 4 of No Cure Magazine.
Words by Anthony Thomas
Abundant in violence, bursting with detail and always dancing a fine line between heroic and villainous, this is the world of James Jirat Patradoon. He gave insight into what is happening amongst the seeming chaos, as well as some intriguing perspectives on debates surrounding the convergence of art and technology, for this issue.
“Art feels like a weird, ongoing, tandem, life-therapy thing,” the Sydney based artist tells me. “People bring assumptions to that character and people bring assumptions to me, and I think it’s interesting to play with that language of archetypes.” Patradoon is speaking about the recurring figure clad in leather kicking ass in the visual stories he narrates. Modelled aesthetically on himself and conceptually on personality traits associated with a stereotypical, macho badass, the character’s self-referential qualities have created a strange hegemony between creator and the created. Though which exerts more influence remains a mystery.
“I’ve changed with my work and my work has changed with me. It’s probably a case of me being sold on my own sales pitch. I liked the archetype so much as a basis to play around with, I eventually went for that rocker, greaser look (in real life) knowing full well that it was just a surface. A uniform.” A fitting phenomenon for an artist obsessed with exploring how our exposure to childhood fictions shape our perceptions and acclimatise us to the specific gendered roles found in the reality of adulthood.
Though much of the work is created digitally, Patradoon was trained in printmaking, a craft that versed him well in the demands of process-centric mediums. He explains, “Right before I settled into digital I remember my practice was to draw on different layers of drafting film, so I could get layers like in Photoshop. (I would) change entire areas if I felt like it, then I’d scan all the layers in and put them together like a jigsaw in Photoshop. Eventually I just cut out the middle-man and drew directly with the computer.”
He’s not alone either; the percentage of the creative community abandoning traditional pastures for more favourable digital alternatives is ever growing. Meanwhile, purists seem insistent on resisting the benefits; internally regimenting a pseudo-class system pertinent to the degree you embrace technology. The implications of this inherently dynamic digital landscape are not isolated internally to the artistic community either. Audiences are becoming increasingly reliant on the LED glow of mobile technology to consume creative outputs. But Patradoon doesn’t believe it’s a case of adapt or die.
“People will never let go of traditional stuff, they’re too scared of Skynet. In my case, I just found a medium that really gelled with how ridiculously impatient I am and how short my attention span is. I think the reason why people are a bit weird about digital is because it doesn’t seem as authentic as a real-world object. There’s still that stigma that digital artists are cheating, which is more so a belief propagated by people who have never actually tried drawing on a computer before. They think you press one button and the picture draws itself.”
An interesting sentiment to hear from an artist, given under-valued skills is an issue graphic designers have been vocal about for years. But is technology corrupting contemporary art practice? “The role of art is to engage with the context it is in, so if it does that by embracing technology or reacting against it then it’s still doing its thing. I’m obviously really into new technology. I grew up with GIFs, social media and video games, that’s my reality, and it’s natural for me to reflect on the world using those mediums.”
Patradoon’s experiences in the commercial art space have also helped him develop a taste for navigating unchartered terrain. “It forced me to draw a lot of different things so it’s definitely helped my personal work, and it also helped me understand art direction and approaching things on a per-project basis, which is why I jump around to different mediums so often now depending on what the work needs to communicate.” Though he admits reaching a point where he didn’t feel his integrity was being compromised took time.
“The commercial and the personal art side of things were really mixed up in the beginning, I was really, really confused. Before, every project would have to fulfill my personal art requirements, as well as be well paying. A tall ask if you’re trying to survive off this stuff, and for a while I wasn’t surviving, because it was so important to me to only do the work I was passionate about. Now it feels like they’ve settled into their own layers and I can approach a commercial job as just a job.”
Amongst it all, Patradoon still finds the time to keep his personal practice alive. His work is set to be shown in an exhibition curated by Ben Frost in Chicago called Paper Jam. Ironically, the works are his first on paper in a very long time. He also will also be shown in the Hellboy 20th Anniversary exhibiton in LA later in the year, a dream come true for the die-hard comic fan. As if that wasn’t enough, he has just finished work co-directing a new video for Jezzabell Doran with Angus Forbes. The rest remains a mystery but his development as artist is sure to bear fruits as unexpected as they are exciting.