MISFiT | Giles Pates. Home movies, making magic, and art as a light in dark times.
"When the cities are empty, artists fill them with light again"
After finding Giles’ work through Fariha Roisin, after he created a short film for her, I managed to renew my love for the internet. The accessibility to other creatives’ work leads me down rabbit holes of discovering new art. And I’m so grateful for this ability to be able to find someone like Giles.
We had a chat about what makes creatives want to create, the relationship between an artist, their work and their viewers, and how the pandemic has shaped the future of creativity and the world of work.
This has been one of my favourite MISFiT’s to date; Giles has a really beautiful way of articulating his experience that I found challenged my view somewhat and introduced me to new ideas. I hope you find our chat as insightful as I did.
Enjoy and see you next time,
Giles is a New York-based multidisciplinary artist, art director and editor working across painting, film, animation, photography and much more.
He studied at the Pratt Institute and has since worked with the likes of Calvin Klein, Document Journal and Cartier.
Giles’ work is bold, visceral, and has a simple mission; to inject ‘tasteful peace’ within his viewers.
I’ve found his film work to be softer and really comforting. The dynamic variety and range of his work make Giles a super exciting creative and I can’t wait to see what he creates next.
“I think initially I was drawn to the tools and the social aspect of creativity.”
D: Your work spans editing, design, photography, directing, even animation, and more. Tell me, why do you think you've ended up working across so many mediums rather than settling on one?
G: As a kid, I was always interested in being creative and the tools we use to create. I geeked out on how cameras worked and also saw it as a great way to make friends. I wasn't good at walking up to other kids and going "Hey, will you be my friend", but I was good at coming up with ideas on how to make fun home movies. So, I would ask other kids to be in my home videos and it took a lot of pressure off of me because we were achieving a goal together.
The kids from the neighbourhood and I would shoot funny skit ideas similar to what I saw watching Monty Python with my dad. Our little home videos were really well received by the kids at school and our parents. I think the positivity that radiated from making things for people really stuck with me and eventually grew to expand. I kept chasing that high and strived to make my projects better, hoping for a better response.
My friends and I started to make music for our videos, then started making sets and painting backdrops. Eventually, my friends and I became a full production home video team. This eventually led to creating weird plays for our parents. We would use brown paper and cushions to make rocks that we would fall on in the heat of battle and cut up old red shirts to make the blood fall out when we were bested by the enemy. It built me up, I felt good about myself and felt comfortable around my peers and family members. Once the passion and initiative were noticed by my parents, they only gifted me creative tools for my birthdays and they haven't stopped doing that even to this day.
I think initially I was drawn to the tools and the social aspect of creativity. I later found out that once you open a door to a new form of creating you also find a new way of expressing yourself, maybe in a way that you couldn't have with the medium you were working with before. I also just love learning new things and being able to express myself as honestly as possible; what better way than to know how to properly communicate that to others or simply do it all yourself.
It’s incredible how early on we learn to collaborate through creativity and creating art. I think it’s a driving force for children and teaches them so much about the world and sociability. And I love hearing about your home movies and plays; they’re the fondest childhood memories and evoke so many of my own memories of creating home movies with my brother and a camcorder, which is making a comeback!
“It's definitely the magic of that feeling that gets me motivated.”
Can you tell me about a moment you felt so inspired by someone else's work that it ended up motivating you to create?
Honestly, I can't point to a singular person and go, this is the person that inspired me the most. I simply have too many to count. But they all consistently give me the same feeling. It's kinda like magic. It's that moment where you go, "How did you do that?". It could be, "how did you make me feel that way?" or " How did your brain come up with all these unique motions to create something really beautiful?" It's definitely the magic of that feeling that gets me motivated.
First, because I want to figure out how they did the trick but also because I want to perform the trick for others. I'm not sure what the motivation is behind wanting to do that to other people but it's most certainly there.
That’s really beautiful; I’ve never thought about it in the way you articulate it, but creation is kind of like a magic trick - the harder it is to see how someone made something, the more fascinating it becomes, and the more you become motivated to create something that has that same effect on people. That’s probably what motivates me the most too!
You've worked on so many sets and with so many different creatives, you must have had some incredible experiences over the years. Tell me about a favourite creative experience of yours.
Honestly, I can't believe this is my answer because I never really thought about it deeply and I'm shocked at where I ended up. The best, most inspiring collaborative experience I've had thus far is my time at Chandelier Creative.
I never thought I would ever look back so fondly at working at an ad agency but it was a truly inspiring place. I wasn't always doing the work I wanted to be doing but the culture around the place, at least when I was there, was phenomenal. The founder Richard Christiansen had found a way to game the system a bit. He used the ungodly wealth that advertising brings and always put it toward culture and knowledge. It took me leaving to realize truly how special that is.
The company would regularly pay for us to educate ourselves in art and creativity. There was a weekly book allowance of a couple of grand which really helped the creatives feel worthwhile and willing to do the grunt work involved in advertising.
Additionally, myself and my production partner Alexandre Stipanovich were tasked with throwing weekly talks in the office and abroad with some of the most interesting creatives. Successful creatives with a real wealth of knowledge and perspective about their crafts. I learned so much about art and culture at that establishment. Even though it wasn't always glitz and glam it was a truly inspiring and remarkable learning experience for me. My time at Chandelier has weirdly made me a better fine artist, businessman and general creative because of the culture and the people there. Everyone was so inspired and passionate which is hard to come by strangely.
“I see a real passion for art, professional or otherwise, in these dark days.”
I'm interested to hear your thoughts on how you think the pandemic has affected creative industries and what you think the future of freelance creativity looks like. I'm personally worried that the arts will return to a slightly elitist structure since artists from less privileged backgrounds will struggle to stay afloat without a safety net. But it's not all doom and gloom, I do think the arts have an amazing ability to persevere through crises.
In my career, I have done kind of a waxing and waning motion to stay afloat. I will spend some time working heavily in the commercial field saving all my money so I can hop off and pursue less lucrative creative projects.
Fortunately for me, I was planning to leave the commercial world to pursue my painting right before the pandemic and had saved up some money to stay afloat.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has completely fucked everyone's careers up, not just creatives but especially us freelancers. At the start of the pandemic, I was simply pursuing my painting and then when I needed to get back in the job market there wasn't really anything to be found. From what I understand the creatives that were full-time held on to their jobs the best they could and are working tirelessly because they don't want to lose their jobs. And then the ones that lost their jobs or were freelance are basically blocked out for the most part.
I think all companies, creative or otherwise, are just trying to go on autopilot and stay afloat until the world opens back up again. Which can be quite a scary reality for us creatives (especially the fine artists). But I don't think I have the same perspective as you when it comes to art and the artists of the future. People have been able to take a real good look at their lives and notice that they were working day in and day out doing things they hated and can’t even go back to the lives they disliked. Art is for everyone who desires to pursue it and I see a real passion for art, professional or otherwise, in these dark days. The artists that were putting off their dreams for a 401k and health benefits are fucked right now and all they can do is pursue those dreams again. I'm also sure there's going to be an emergence of new artists that simply never considered it an option but are left with nothing else.
Also, weirdly, it's the perfect time to sell art because the people that do have jobs are no longer spending their money outside or investing in their own appearance, they are investing in their homes and interiors. Once COVID hit, the housing market boomed and investment in art, furniture and interior-upgrades skyrocketed. I think this could largely help the fine art sector; there's certainly a big glimmering light for some folks out there. After all this, there's going to be a lot of empty cities and when the cities are empty, artists fill them with light again. I’m trying to see a brighter future for all but it’s really hard these days, I must admit.
That was beautifully said, Giles, and I’m really happy to hear you contesting and challenging my perspective on the matter. I love your vision of art as a source of light in dark times, I’d completely agree with this sentiment.
“My mission is simple, I just want to inject a little peace into someone’s home.”
Your painting style is striking, made up of solid colours and has a two-dimensional effect. What do you enjoy about painting with this aesthetic? How do you want your viewer to feel?
Painting is actually pretty simple to me. I enjoy it because it's a practice in meditation. I can sit for hours on end, oftentimes the entire day, just working away on my pieces.
There is something transcendent about it, it's as if I go somewhere else. I don't have a care in the world when I paint. I'm set free of my worries. Largely that's what I want the viewers to feel as well. Very simple emotions like "this painting makes me feel good" or "this painting brings me peace". My mission is simple, I just want to inject a little peace into someone’s home. Tasteful peace.
That’s really inspiring. In these crazy, turbulent times, the more simple the mission, the better.
Lastly, I always ask my interviewees to recommend things they've been reading, watching, listening to or doing that inspires them or helps them relax. Can you recommend anything for us?! Personally, I've been enjoying UK artist Slowthai's new singles NHS and MAZZA.
Great question. I listen to a ton of experimental and ambient music to relax. Over the last year or two, Slauson Malone has been in heavy rotation. I probably have played the first album at least 200 times from start to finish.
Slauson is a very talented artist. He’s a writer, painter, architect and musical artist. His work is very hard to describe but I guess it would be soundscape. His work is something that demands complete attention but once you fall into the experience you are in complete awe. His first album is "A Quiet Farwell, 2016 - 2018 (Crater Speak)" and his second album which is kinda a continuation or an elaboration on the first project is called "Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak)". They really great pieces of work to lay in bed to or for walking a lonely city street.