Dan Hiller: The Anatomy of a Psychedelic Trip

 

My work is made through collage of found Victorian imagery, mostly gleaned from Illustrated London News, The Graphic and various other periodicals of the time, as well as illustrations from books, encyclopedias and so on from the 1800s.

I started using collage to make pictures when I was at university in the 1990s studying illustration and graphic art. Using the faculty photocopier to enlarge and repeat imagery I’d turned up in the library there, which I then glued into place and painted over or used as the basis for etchings or screen prints.

I used a lot of old anatomy books then, as I loved the line-work of the engravings that were used throughout the 1800s, as found in Gray’s Anatomy and many other less well known publications.

A friend gave me a compendium of old illustrations from the 1800s shortly after leaving university, and a few years later following a year long course learning Photoshop and Illustrator I started playing around with scanning them in, mixing them up and manipulating them using Photoshop.

The work has moved on from depicting quite simple human/animal hybrids into incorporating more esoteric and elemental subjects, though essentially the interest in mankind’s relationship with nature, and the unknown, unseen and surreal, follows through from the earlier work into what is appearing now.

My process relies heavily on allowing the search for a picture’s elements to shape the end result, and though I usually have a rough idea of what I want to make, this will shift and change as I dig up the fragments that make up the piece and also discover unexpected pieces that will alter, or even completely change, the direction that the image is taking.

As a child I was fascinated by the stories of werewolves and vampires, Egyptian art and comics, all of which grew into an interest in unusual, otherworldly imagery, and since my teens I’ve been particularly interested in devotional art and religious iconography, which I’d say is probably the biggest influence on what I make, alongside the actual source material itself.

Over the last year I’ve been working with the South American shamanic plant medicine ayahuasca in Peru, a powerful visionary brew made from DMT (dimethyltriptamine)-rich chakruna leaves and the banisteriopsis caapi vine, and used for centuries, if not millennia, throughout many parts of the Amazon and beyond. Experiences whilst meditating, conversations with people who like what I do, and going through these powerful ayahuasca ceremonies has highlighted to me that the underlying drive to make my work is that of love and wonder for humanity and for the world.

You can see the full range of my work here

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