Three Dee Realms is an ongoing series of anaglyphic 3D work by Halifax printmakers Paul Hammond and Seth Smith, (Yorodeo), which was started in 2009. Anaglyphic 3D is the familiar technique that utilizes red and blue glasses, and has been used since the 1950s in comic books and movies.
The Three Dee Realms series presents viewers with an ever-expanding, fantastical universe drawing from science fiction, fantasy, children’s literature, and dreams. The work fuses collaborative drawing, photography and digital collage to create glimpses of fictional lands, and the characters that occupy them. The images consider how homes are made in even the most uninviting and often bizarre environments, and how nature can reclaim previously inhabited spaces. It also presents viewers with fictional monuments, landmarks, and phenomena that might exist in these worlds. The most recent works in progress employ new mediums for Yorodeo – prints made using sculptural dioramas and 3D photography as source material, physical sculptures surfaced in 3D prints, and 3D video which fills out the growing world of Three Dee Realms.
* Artworks no longer available through IOTA
Yorodeo is the name of Halifax-based screen-printing art team Seth Smith and Paul Hammond. The two partnered in 2003 primarily to design and create screen-printed show posters for local events. Over the last 6 years they have focused their collaborative energy on fine art prints and posters, and 3D anaglyphic printmaking among other projects. They draw inspiration from comic books, science fiction, fantasy and unintentional mistakes. Their work fuses collage, doodles, carefully rendered illustration, pattern and texture.
Your partnership began 12 years ago when you were making gig and event posters for organizations, indie festivals and musicians in Halifax. The music scene in Halifax has always been a cultural force, not only for the music but also for how collaborative and interdisciplinary it can be. Artists often work with musicians to create a different sound and show experience for their audience. Can you tell me what role collaboration with each other as artist, but also with other creatives had in the early work you made together?
Collaborating with each other creatively started as a fun exercise. It was more about the fact that we just really liked each other’s work, and thought it would be fun to work together. Later, it became a really good way to push and challenge ourselves. When you’re working with someone who you admire you’re always trying to push yourself a little further, to rise to each other’s challenges. Personally, I’ve always seen Yorodeo as a way of making art that has less attachment to my own ego, which I think has been really good for us as makers of things.. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn how to work with another person, and how to compromise and allow for ideas that aren’t your own to have equal voice in something you’re working on. It’s difficult to embrace that lack of total control over an image, and I really do think that it’s made our work stronger.
Collaborating with other creative people, especially musicians I think gave us the room to really experiment, and try things visually that we might not have otherwise. Making poster after poster, or album cover after album cover, you really feel like you’re tasked with making something totally new each time. You’re trying to create an image that describes another person’s vision in a way, so each project is very different, and it really pushed us to explore new directions. I think that working on stuff for other people for years allowed us to work through a lot of ideas, and over time see what worked, what didn’t, and what felt like ours and what didn’t. I think our work is a lot more focused in some ways because of it.
Would you ever consider making art objects in addition to prints?
Absolutely. The new 3D prints that we have been working on recently actually started as large-scale diorama/models, and it was a really fun process to work on. We’ve been thinking a lot about the goals of the 3D Realms project, and the main element of it has always been creating a world that feels real, and feels more real with each new piece. The idea is that we want each new work to be more evidence of a world that feels more and more like it truly exists. We have been really excited about the idea of creating physical artifacts, objects, documents, & proofs left over or found that point to the existence of this world.
As much as you respond to each other in your duet artistic practice, you also want the audience to be drawn in and attached to each work. When they put on the 3-D glasses and stare into the piece, what are you hoping they see, beyond the trickery of the optical illusion?
We’re really hoping that people feel pulled into these landscapes, or objects, and are able to feel a story there, even if the story isn’t spelled out for them. We want to make work that is open-ended enough, so that viewers can bring their own ideas to it, and impose their own narratives onto these images. We try to give the images a richness that feels real, like these worlds exist whether you’re looking at them or not, but we’re always very careful not to inject too much concrete information so that the story is so clear that it’s only good for one reading. We like to think of these works as almost set-pieces or stages, captured in the space between the action. The idea is that with a lot of these images it feels like either something happened recently, or is about to happen, but what shape it took or will take is up for interpretation because you’re only seeing either the very early beginnings, or the traces of what may have occurred.
Pulling away from the gig poster design and more into an artistic practice over the last 7 years or so, you’ve developed your collaborative practice to a sophisticated level, often using the slow method of the exquisite corpse, a process perhaps less associated with print-making. I’d like to know how you go about your set fabrication, but also conceptual collaboration use now undertake to make your multi-layered prints, and what is the benefit of taking a slow art making approach?
Most of our work starts as doodles. We just spend time throwing out ideas for images/places/objects, and doodling very quick representations of what they might look like. It’s a lot of back and forth, idea-shaping. Seth will draw a small outline of what something could look like, and I’ll think “That would be great, but what if we removed this part with this.” Or “This element is so good that it should really exist on it’s own, and not just as a part of this other image”. Once we actually start to work on stuff, whether it’s images, dioramas, objects, etc, our usual method involves working on two projects at once, and basically just taking turns. The idea is that we each get a certain amount of time with a piece, and then we hand it over to the other, and we continue where each other left off. All of our work goes through that back and forth switching a number of times before it’s done. It takes a long time, but it’s a really nice way to work together. It allows us to have our own time with the pieces, but also forces us to give up control on a regular basis. One rule we have is that unless some part of a piece is very important to one of us, we have to trust the other completely, even if it means them redoing, reworking, or removing something we’ve worked on. Because ultimately we just have enough trust in each other to say “Even if I don’t see where he’s going with this, I know he’s going somewhere good.” What we really like about this method of working, is that the resulting images/objects/creations have been passed between us that by the time we’re finished with them, it can be really difficult to deconstruct, and know who made what. We work really hard to create images that look like they’ve been made by only one hand. We like making images that can’t easily be deconstructed into the work of two people, but feel like one cohesive vision. In a way that’s a huge part of the work.
Can you elaborate on the significance and influence of science fiction in your work, especially in the context of the hidden wonder?
We’re both just really big science fiction nerds. We love those types of stories, images, and ideas. One thing I love in particular about science fiction is the ability that it has to reframe contemporary ideas, or invite new ways of looking at issues that are relevant to our own current lives, by placing these ideas in an exotic future or an alternate reality. These types of fantastic stories are the most engaging when we can see ourselves in them – when they sort of reflect our own interests, struggles, dreams, etc. With Hidden Wonders, we were interested in creating not just fictional worlds, but landmarks, talismans, and destination points within those worlds. We wanted to try to create the types of natural, or consciously made objects and places that give us a sense of wonder. The types of constructed objects that reflect our own sense of place in the wild world we inhabit. Objects that show our connection to the world, or places that give us pause and invite us to marvel at the bizarre, accidental natural beauty of the universe.
We’re not totally sure what’s next. We have an exhibit hopefully in Cape Breton next year that we’re working toward. We’ve got a lot of new ideas that we want to explore in that time. I think this year is going to be a lot about trying to use new mediums to represent those ideas. We’re interested in playing with the optical illusion part of the 3D process. Combining it with other things like sculpture, video, etc. to see what we can come up with.