Issue 36 - Feb 2012

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Page 7 of 55

8 THE GUESTLIST NETWORK SELF PORTRAITS UNDER THE INFLUENCE... Everybody can appreciate art to some extent right!? Bryan Saunders took a different approach to painting - he decided to do a self portrait under the influence of different drugs! But don't try this at home... Issue 36 / FEBRUARY 2012 1 Bump Crystalmeth Mushrooms BRYAN SAUNDERS How long have you been paint- ing for? On March 30th, 1995 I started doing at least one self-portrait every day for the rest of my life. It's almost been 17 years now without ever missing a day, it's getting pretty hard to believe. What is your medium of choice? It depends on who it's for. When I do paintings on commission I like to add metallic, neon and glow in the dark paint. Colors that become invisible or drasti- cally change when scanned or photographed. That way they have something truly special, something they must physi- cally be in front of still to fully appreciate. But I'll use anything from crayons to office supplies, it just depends on my feelings at the time. How did you come up with the idea of self-portraits under the influence!? It's a great idea! I guess you could say it was a combination of dark sadness and easy access. Plus, I've always had a curious drive to experience as many different things as possible in my life. There's a nostalgic tragicomic reliving of my youth aspect to the whole thing too. Had you tried all these drugs before you took them to paint? No, because over time the drugs have changed. I smoked weed, snorted heroin and cocaine, drank cough syrup, and huffed gasoline, the usual kids stuff growing up having fun with friends... There weren't so many pills back then. And drugs like Rush (butyl nitrate) and STP (DOM) were really popular when I was in elementary school and junior high but I can't find them anywhere now. They don't make 1,1,1-Trichloroethane or Quaaludes anymore either. But now there's tons of psych meds, synthetics, and the latest sweep- ing butt drug craze! Which isn't necessarily a good thing and most aren't even worth trying. There are 47 portraits in total.... I didn't even know there were 47 different drugs to take! Have you tried them all or did you leave out a few? Well some of the works are like drug 'cocktails', but there are still plenty of drugs left to experi- ence artistically on their own: Heroin, MDMA, LSD, Ketamine, DMT, Crack, Peyote, Ayahuasca and Jimson Seeds to name a few. That said, the really strong hallucinogens make it almost impossible to physically docu- ment. You can try to illustrate the experiences afterward, but it's not the same thing as being 'in the moment' at all. I prefer to be able to function enough to draw. Think of it like Jackson Pollock, but instead of house paint I'm throwing, dripping and dancing with the chemicals in my brain. And if I can't see or move within some form of grounded reality, at least enough to record it, then what's the point? What has the response been to this project? Bad or good press??! Well the interviews and articles are always fun and positive. The personal reactions have been surprisingly polarizing. Some people are extremely supportive with wonderful letters of encour- agement, while others feel com- pelled to send me death threats. And there's always the "psycho expert drug troll authority" who doesn't believe any of it's real. But either way, the popular- ity of this one experiment is pretty great. It gives people an opportunity to discover some of the other things I do or have done as well. Things that I feel are a lot more important, both socially and artistically. And it's also opened the door to commu- nicate with some other incredible people who feel that they are alone in the world, and in one way or another are suffering and having troubles. I'm older and like to think I can be of some help in that department. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. My pleasure. And I hope to be able to come and visit, finally! I'm looking at a possible UK tour after I get back from the one in South America this October. 90mg Abilify 1/2g Cocaine Hash DRUG DESCRIPTIONS 15mg Buspar Hash: Cannabis in its concentrated resin form. Huffing Gas: A method of solvent abuse. Mushrooms: A psychoactive fungus that gives users visual hallucinations. PCP: An anaesthetic used recreationally as a dissociative. Abilify: A powerful prescription anti-psychotic. Crystal meth: A potent crystalline amphetamine. Cocaine: The refined extract of the coca leaf. Buspar: An anti-depressant often used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

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