Several years ago, in New York, I stumbled on an exhibition by Picasso at a commercial gallery on Madison Avenue. I have always been in love with Picasso, not just his work, but also his approach to art.
I learned from his willingness to study the masters who came before him and I admired how he spent time in galleries and museums, copying their work, adding their technique to his own. I have tried to do the same thing by studying the work of master magicians. I don’t just read about their exploits or technique. I try to physically recreate their work in my studio so that I can also add their technique to mine. Even more importantly, Picasso, so I am told, believed that when an artist died he himself absorbed the vision of that artist. It became part of his soul. I would like to believe the same thing happens for me.
Jump forward a few years to the Ai Weiwei retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here is an artist very much of the present who is also deeply interested in the past. He wrote, as posted high on a gallery wall:
A historical property has morals and ethics of the society that created it and can be revived. What I mean is that we can discover new possibilities from the process of dismantling, transforming and recreating.
I understood the meaning of that statement as soon as I read it, for it echoes what I have discovered through my own work. I often dismantle, transform and recreate a historical piece of magic, some of the results of which you will see in Hocus Pocus, in order to discover new possibilities.
My interpretation, however, is just that. Yours may be completely different. But that’s what we’re after: perspective.