John Lanthier, born in Pakistan,wanderer of the world and currently living in Montreal, is a multi-media artist. His works consists most in colourful psychedelic doodles, surrealist landscapes and portraits, and infinite connections of images, lines and shapes that form and represent the most abstract section of our minds.
What’s your first memory related to art?
I used to draw comic strips, like super heroes beating the shit out of each other, battle scenes, lots of little people and castles. Sort of Tolkien-style, a little nerdy actually.
What do you do to get inspired when your mind is blank? Like when you have “artists block”?
Hm, I actually don’t have artists block…In all honesty, I don’t know if you want to put this down or not but I smoke weed sometimes(laughs). I guess it just helps me focus, I sit down in my chair in my little room, painting for eight hours straight without getting bored…Oh and I listen to music! I can’t draw without music.
Nice, that was the next question. What do you listen to?
What’s your favourite album?
Atom Heart Mother. I saw The Wall live and Roger Waters…After Pink Floyd broke up..bah, both David Gilmour and Roger Waters are good, it’s hard to choose between them.
If you could share a drink with anyone, living or dead, famous or not famous, who would it be?
(Hesitates)Living or dead, right? Audrey Hepburn. She’s like my favourite…I don’t know, she’s the perfect girl. I’ve seen a whole bunch of her movies, my favourite would probably be My Fair Lady. We watched it all the time when I was a kid! We didn’t have a TV because my parents weren’t into that, so we had a couple of VHS and that was one of them. We always watched the same things (laughs).
That’s amazing! I was actually in that musical when I was in high school.
I did musical theatre for a while! I was in a Pakistani version of Moulin Rouge. Yeah, I was a dancer and we practiced for like a month and a half and then we performed for a month every single night and twice on Sundays. It was always packed, they don’t have many plays there.
Very eccentric! So you’re from Pakistan?
I was born there. My dad left Montreal when he was 15, and after he met my mother he started doing social service and ended up staying in Pakistan and set up like six schools there. He’s there now, working with my mom for the past twenty years now.
So you moved back to Montreal because your parents are from here?
I was going to an art college in Pakistan, probably the only one in the country. I’d never been to school before because I was home-schooled, I had always sat in my bed with books and taught myself everything. When I ended up going I didn’t think it was that bad so I applied to schools in France and Canada, and in Canada it was easier because you didn’t need to know fluent French.
You’re used to reading a lot then, since you were home-schooled.
Yeah. I read mostly short stories and poems, Victor Hugo, Anne Brandt…The first book I tried to read in French was Le Comte de Monte–Cristo, it took me three days just to get past the first pages, checking the dictionary every couple words(laughs).
So I saw you created a new page for your “Hyperdoodle” Designs. Could you tell us more about that?
I don’t sensor myself, I don’t use an eraser. It’s easy because it’s one big picture: my favourite shapes repeated, my favourite forms turned into patterns…I also do collages with cut-outs, doodles, scraps. I did a whole black-and-white series called Entropia like that.
I love the “Hallucinogenesis” Series as well! Everybody is obsessed with that wooden wheel!
(Laughs)All of that series I’ve done in the past seven months. And about the wheel, my friend has a band, and asked me to do a cover photo shoot with them up in the mountains. When I got there, everyone was dressed in crazy costumes and they had this big wheel they had brought with them for me to paint. And I was like woah!
What made you start painting helmets, guitars and other surfaces that aren’t on canvas?
There was this moment where I was sitting down in front of my little sketchbook and I just had a sharpie with me. I just doodled over the entire page, and then the next page, and then the next eight pages. I reassembled them and put them together, coloured it all in and thought to myself that I had to make more of these. Before, I used to think a lot about what I was trying to say, I would make preparatory sketches and careful drawings and get photo references. I guess I just wanted to try something different, doodle like when I was a kid and put it all together.
What’s your next step after “Hyperdoodle”?
Well, I’ve just started this business painting guitars. We’re applying for the grant now, and there are a lot of people interested in buying them. We do commissions, but I also have a portfolio with 17 guitars, different styles and guitars. You can never create the same one twice. Some of the guitars play, some of them we actually found on the street.
At this point, our conversation went out of a tangent, completely off the map. In summary, we ended up googling John to discover that he shared a name with a doctor specialized in pediatrics medicine, we talked about his hat collection and how he was channeling a goth-jesus-batman look this week and he spoke Hindi for like three minutes to show me how the sentence structure was backwards.
All in all, it was a genuine pleasure meeting John. A super talented artist, uniquely interesting conversationalist and over all an amazing person to get to know and chat with. If you’re in Montreal don’t forget to check out his exhibition at Cafe Pi until May 6th.