Painting in Tongues

in Culture

Go back far enough and you’ll hit the future. It’s that exact moment of impact DEFER captures. Simultaneously Paleolithic and extraterrestrial, his “spiritual language” lifts the sleep mask of reality and welcomes one into the land of the sacred and eternal. 

There’s a timelessness to it, like Rothko, mixed with a little William Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow”). But, of course, he can describe it better than I can:

“The thing is,” DEFER said, “some of it has text in it, like typography. But then again, as a kid I did graffiti. So, from that, you get ‘wildstyle,’ where you distort the letters but they still retain the form. You contort the letters, you bend ‘em, you swerve ‘em, you loop ‘em, you add arrows, crowns, you break ‘em up. But one thing I did was, um, I basically wanted to take it beyond that, which is obliterating the letter form, and I call it ‘spiritual language.’ Which is akin to, like, I guess, babble, like speaking in tongues. … So it looks like gestural abstract.”

Adversity Breeds Strength

He continued, “I try to reach a flow-state, a natural flow-state. And it’s very, I would say, at times it’s unpredictable. A lot of artists, I noticed, they want to create the same things—or the same distinct style—over and over and over, where it’s, like, advertising mentality. But every piece I do is like my own child, my own offspring, where everything’s different, you know, it has its own fingerprint. … You could see a relationship to a lot of the paintings, but there’s always a variation.”

I asked DEFER about legibility and how important (or unimportant) it is for people to understand what he’s trying to say.

“For me as an …

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Author: Cody Lee / High Times

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