Imurj Look: "Event Horizon" * Imurj
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Imurj Look: “Event Horizon”

Paul Spinak is a visual artist in the Triangle. Spinak’s work of art, “Event Horizon”, is on exhibit in the Imurj Main Gallery exhibit, MONO a MONO. Spinak discusses his art, creative process, and specifically “Event Horizon”.


Q: Describe your artistic style.

A: My Design Language can best be described as Industrialganic.
What does Industrialganic mean??  As a long thought exercise, in an attempt to describe what I create using words, industrial and organic kept percolating to the top.  But, neither one could explain my vision by itself.  It was the dichotomy of these words used together that felt more accurate.

We all have eyes, but that doesn’t mean we all see the same things.  That intrigues me to no end.  What stimulates us and how we interpret the world visually is of course an exercise in perception, yet we often share commonalities in beauty.

I am fascinated with wood and metal, their visual contrast, their working similarities. I like textures that begged to be touched.  You won’t find perfection in my pieces, as I aim to always project made-by-hand. The next layer of my art typically involves functionality. Although not mandatory, I am intrigued by art in motion, art that has a practical use so I try to incorporate a way for people to “experience” my pieces.  Sometimes a piece must be made from scratch, born from a sketch, and built in my mind for years before fabricating it. Other times, I am motivated to repurpose, refurbish, or simply stylize something that takes a fraction of the time, but is always equally satisfying.  After all, many things have more than one purpose, and I seem to see this with clarity, often holding onto an element for years knowing it can be something else another day.

It’s also important to me, especially on the big pieces, to achieve a one-of-a-kind outcome. I quite literally sweat the details, bleed onto pieces, undo hours of work if I feel that a better idea spawns in the middle of a project. There are no hard rules here; it’s a space I can let my hands and my mind wonder in harmony. The shop is where I can truly slow my mind down to do one thing at a time (hard to do these days!!). Since this form of expression is without the collaboration of band mates, or a creative team, it’s simply the purest form of me and my creative. I am what I make.

I have come to realize that many people respond well to what I am doing. Somehow they can immediately see the complexities, the anguish, the discipline involved. In other words, the human part of my art…that’s what I think resonates.


Q: Describe “Event Horizon”.

A: My latest piece, Event Horizon, started as a closed eye aberration in the woods of North Carolina while on a camping trip with a dozen or so friends over 13 years ago. It’s hard to say why the image burned a hole in my mind so deeply, but I never forgot it. It reminded me of “Jiffy Pop” packaging (maybe I was munching on some popcorn at the time, don’t remember). However, instead of popcorn under the swirling foil, I saw a glowing lava-like interior. It was a single moment, just a flash.

I was always fascinated with metal artwork, but this visual was spawned years before I started welding or making any dedicated pieces of art. Yet, I never forgot it. Over the years, as I began my artistic journey, this image began to transform into something a bit deeper.

My love of the universe, its beauty, it’s complexity, finds its way into many of my pieces. To me, one of the cosmos’ most outrageous spectacles are black holes: their role in the birth and death of galaxies, and even more magical – is a black hole’s “point of no return” – the event horizon. In space, even light can’t escape, and it’s believed that time and space alter as we know them. In life, there are many event horizons on our paths toward our center, our singularity.

When it became clear that this image would eventually become a piece of art, I sketched it. It then stayed a sketch for the next three years as I thought about it increasingly. During that time, I created Galaxy1, Front Door and finally, Particle1. It was Particle1 that began what I planned to be a 3pc series. Event Horizon was a shoe in for the second piece.

With familiar design language, including roofing nail edges, dented wood accents, and 2” poplar with Jacobean stain, the background canvas was set for the unique metal work. Hidden under the 16 hand-curled steel blades is a square metal frame that all the blades are welded to. This was done to completely elevate the blades off the wood to give the appearance of floating, and to hide all the welds. This square metal frame sits securely in a square hole in the wood. The third layer is the innermost piece, which mounts the metal backing plate (the jiffy pop center part) and “hovering” steel ball. These elements are mounted on a small door, so there’s access to the lighting elements. For me, what’s unique to this piece for me is the full integration of LED lights. There are inner and outer loops of lights, giving independence to endless combinations of internal and external effects. With or without the lights, this piece can be enjoyed in countless ways.

Q: What inspired you to create this piece of art? What’s the process of making your work?

A: There are a number of ways I find inspiration, but what becomes a piece of art for me typically begins with the fascination of a shape, a curve, a particular treatment or detail of wood or metal, in the environment around me, or maybe just in my mind.  Once I’m “turned on” by something, I’ll then see it everywhere.  I now know this is when I am incubating an idea that has not fully come to fruition.  This can take time, sometimes years, but eventually I’ll have an ah-ha moment, and with great clarity be able to visualize a concept for a piece.  At this stage, I’ll usually sketch the idea.  Not because I’ll forget, but to let my brain move past what it looks like and start think of how I can make it. The next phase is mental construction.  I will spend countless hours in my mind building the piece, finding trouble spots, considering materials, the tools I’ll need, discipline(s) I may need to learn in the process. I will spend months in this stage until I have a great feel for what the end piece will look like and how I’m going to get there building it. When I finally get here, I’ll put a list together of enough materials so I can get started. Because once I start, I’ll never stop until complete, regardless of time required.  However, once a piece begins, there are usually twists and turns along the way which will sometimes force me to stray from the original concept a bit, but I have come to embrace this “flow” since I know these new ideas are pouring out of a fully open creative spigot.  I am the most creative when I am being creative so I try not to get in the way my instincts when I am in the zone.  From here, it’s discipline, patience and dedication until it’s complete.

Q: Does local Raleigh/NC culture inspire or influence your art?

A: When I moved here in 1991, there wasn’t much of a scene that I was aware of, and I hadn’t really found my artistic side yet, although I had been playing drums for a few years by then.  About 5 years later, I formed a local band, called “Fat Head Otis” that slowly opened me up to other local artist/musicians and clubs.  Simultaneously, around 1998, I started a marketing company that focused on branding/graphic design and began working with local graphic designers.  For years, the music scene, combined with my work creative kept my pulse a bit closer to Raleigh’s ever growing culture.  Somewhere in there, I do remember being inspired by two local Raleigh artists, Clark Hipolito, and Matt McConnell.  Not just their work (which is equally amazing), but that they completely “went for it” and art is all they do.  Hard not to admire that kind of dedication.  Now, 26 years later, it’s nice to see that Raleigh is vibrant, colorful, and full of inspiration.

Q: Why do you love what you do?

A: As far back as I can remember, being creative has always been a part of my DNA, something to figure out and something that fueled me. Until recently I never stopped to ask myself why. The answer is quite simple.  Being creative gives me a sense of balance like nothing else. When I’m in that place, a place where my mind and my hands are one (“the zone” if you will), I am at peace. That peace can only be described as a cleanly struck chord that resonates within me. And like a chord, it doesn’t ring forever.  This is where discipline has its merits, and the main reason I built “Font Door”, a piece of art that services as my front door, and a physical reminder I touch every day to remind myself what makes me happy.

But, I have always found a way to make creativity a part of my life, through my work, or through my music, and now more than ever, through my hands.  Over many years, I have learned techniques, and gathered the tools to slowly drip out a few dedicated art pieces. I have come to recognize that this from of creativity for me is the rawest form. It’s not filtered by the collaborative effort of a band, or a work team (although I love both).  In this expression, my art is me, I am my art. I am what I make.


Paul Spinak is the featured artist in the MONO a MONO exhibit in the Imurj Main Gallery.

The opening reception for the exhibit is from 6PM – 10PM during August First Friday.