Ian Hale is a visionary local artist applying his talents in a wide range of art, sculpture, and furniture. He has been repurposing materials from the ReBuilding Center in his work since he moved to Portland 12 years ago, and was happy to repay his thanks by participating in the following interview with one of our volunteer newsletter journalists here at the newsletter. Ian Hale shares his passion for infusing life with a unique history and artistic flavor that comes from this active reuse, and showcases the satisfaction that comes from saving those distinctive pieces from being wasted. Through such innovative design, Hale has developed an extraordinarily inspiring creative process and outlook.
What got you into making art?
I have been artistically inclined as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt compelled to make art; I can’t really explain the impulse behind it. My first artistic memory is a drawing I made when I was about five or six - a self portrait of me surfing in a bathtub. Something clicked and I got hooked.
How did you find out about the ReBuilding Center?
Not long after moving to Portland back in 2005 and attending The Oregon College of Art and Craft, the ReBuilding Center was referred to me as prime location to purchase wood.
Why do you use salvaged materials rather than new ones?
Salvaged materials have such a personality, I have made many sculptures where they inform the initial direction of a piece and everything else falls into place smoothly afterwards.
What other materials do you use?
In addition to wood, I love painting, working with metal and assorted mixed media. Integrating material successfully that seems incompatible is something that interests me greatly.
What does sustainability mean to you?
A balanced coexistence with our surrounding environment and the minimizing of waste and excess. This is unfortunately difficult to achieve given the many comforts and conveniences of modern civilization. I take some solace in the increased level of awareness; environmentalism isn’t some fringe concept anymore. I see the use of salvaged or reclaimed materials as a positive trend and a step in the right direction. We still have a long way to go.
Is your creative process an intuitive one?
Yes, it is an intuitive process to some extent. I don’t resign myself to complete trust in intuition - it has certainly led me down the wrong path before. There is mediation between mind and body, a combination of spontaneous and impulsiveness with more reasoned, calculated decision making as well. I often start pieces with a purely intuitive approach and gradually use more discretion as it takes shape and progresses.
Do you find that limited access to desired materials assists in the process of thinking outside the box?
For my personal artistic practice I find self imposed restrictions from forcing myself to use certain material very helpful. It is overwhelming to create something with everything at your disposal.
Do you see practicality in art as helpful in transmitting a specific message?
Yes, but not always. I’m not sure if there is a visual art equivalent to that modernist architecture expression “form follows function.” I suppose looking at a building evokes a more universal response than an abstract painting. It is very difficult to cultivate a predetermined reaction to a piece of art. People will project such a wide range of things onto it - associations you can never expect. There is only so much one can do as an artist to guide them toward a specific concept. It is tempting to explain every piece as “open to interpretation,” but I think that’s a bit lazy.
I think the average artist is honest about their goals and uniting the world might not seem the most realistic. I strongly feel that art can be a positive powerful force, but it also must be conscious of and humbled by its limitations.