James Quigley, aka Gunsho, is a new breed of occult warrior attempting to restore the grandeur of epic mythology back into the awesome realms of the unreal. Paying homage to legends and ideas whispered down through alchemical charts and ancient texts, Gunsho materializes his vision of the other side. Many of his works tap into supernatural themes, from demonology and the Goetia to the black arts. Gunsho—first seen as a sign in the waking world, and later materialized in a dream, epitomizes his unique aesthetic, that plants one foot on the ground and a third eye gazing firmly at the stratosphere beyond. Gunsho recently created the shirt design “Chomp” for Beautiful/Decay Apparel.
Can you talk a little bit about how you first got interested in creating art?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I never made a decision to be an artist. I suppose that the many times here and there where I would quit a job and hope to live off of making art can be considered as conscious decisions to be an artist. It took years of working shitty jobs like third shift at Auto Trader magazine where I first started to learn about print production, or at screen printing shops learning how to print and separate colors on the computer. I’ve always had an industrial approach to making artwork and I think it just comes out of needing to work regular jobs to survive. I spent my entire 20’s learning nothing but the technical end of what I later turned into a “fine” art pursuit.
Many of your works deal with supernatural themes, demonology, occult references and mythological creatures from antiquity- what do you love about these epic and ancient beasts, and how do you conceptualize their appearances within your aesthetic?
I love mythology and I want to contribute to it by honoring some of it’s outsiders and bubble them up for people to experience. Old mythology had a certain nobility to it that diminishes as it gets diluted and replaced by hyper-myths. They mutate into the most ridiculous outlandish products of insane mythological inbreeding that has to create new myths to keep up with the speed that information is being exchanged by humans. When I present the demons, I want to portray them as having been continually and painfully mutating, being infested by parasites and disease, becoming backwater feral inbreeds that are scarred from the constant improper
invocations of amateur occultists who bought a copy of the Goetia off Amazon.com. My concept of the demons is as down and out, tired mutant spirits that have had their nobility stripped away from them. I’m hoping that in turn will create a sympathy for them and regenerate interest in the power of these incredibly ancient and persistent spirits and possibly return the notion of a “demon” back to where it belongs which should not in the realm of “evil”. The aesthetic I choose to apply is an attempt to do a refined version of something that is ugly, humorous, and inherently unrefined.
I love the line on your online shop, “Wolf of Metals,” it’s pretty epic/hesher/slayer….how’d you come up with this name? What about “Gunsho”….why do you go by that moniker, and what does it represent to you?
It is totally epic!
In alchemy the Wolf of Metals was a representation of the element Antimony. The alchemists symbolized the element similarly to an upside down “female” symbol and in their mystic painting and texts describing it as a wolf eating a dying king. The idea behind it is that the wolf eats the impurity from the king who will be reborn as the wolf is burned in fire. Chemically, Antimony can serve to extract impurity from gold, so to the Alchemists, it’s power was major.
I saw the words “Gun Sho” on a coventional-hall hall sign when I was a kid traveling with my father in a car down to North Carolina in 1985 and saw it again in a strange dream I had in 2000. I decided to sign the rock posters I was making as Gun Sho because it just seemed cool and it was less personal than using my name. Eventually I made it simply Gunsho.
What’s a typical day like in your studio?
Honestly, over the past couple years my studio has been various friends couches and my apartment where I sit and draw. Producing the demons is so expensive and time consuming that I had to get back to working regular jobs to get my bills paid while I do a little illustration work here and there and try to finish the demons. At the moment, I don’t have a print shop because I can’t afford the rent. It’s a slow going process and it’s a bit frustrating but it has to get done and it’s going to go at whatever pace my financial stability can accommodate no matter how long it takes.
You referenced a love for the mediums of mass production- such as silkscreen, etc, what do you love about mass production?
I love mass production because mass production produces unthoughtful mutations of ideas that serve no purpose but to make money. Most mass produced products and the methods that are used to sell them such as we see around us, commercials, toys, pop music, etc, are usually just shot-the-dark glorified overproduced brain farts made by people that are either pretending to know what will sell or are blindly ignorant and have unfaltering faith in their own bullshit.
Fine art is no refuge from that all- it’s just a realm of couture less-attainable more boutique products for a smaller number of people to conspicuously consume and beyond some obviously amazing exceptions to the rule, it’s no more thoughtful, intelligent, timely, or authentic than anything you can buy in a mall, It’s not up to me if half the people who buy my demon prints stick tape on the back and stick them to their walls or don’t get the occult significance of them or even if someone bought one because they simply liked the colors.
I’m obsessed with detritus and it informs my work. If most of my demon series ends up spread out all over the place and fairly unappreciated, it’s ok with me because I imagine that if I didn’t produce so many, there may be some people who would have never seen them.
If I had the capital to produce a higher run of prints, lower the cost of each individual print and still retain the aesthetic quality of every print, I would. I’m not concerned with where all of my prints are going to end up or if anyone will buy all of them, I enjoy not having power over it all, I can typically let the art speak for itself and if no one wants to listen then whatever will be will be but it won’t be for lack of trying on my part.
I read that you have done a lot of illustration work commercially, for clients such as Guitar Hero! What graphic did you submit to them?
I do commercial illustration here and there, usually about 1 or 2 things a month, sometimes a lot more. I actually did two things for Guitar Hero, I did a screen that asks you to replay, start a new game, etc and I also did a cartoonish thing for Guitar Hero rocks the 80’s.
You also do a lot of work for bands and record labels….which make sense, as your works tend to be influenced a little bit by heavy metal graphics, underground comix, etc….what do you like about creating graphics for musicians?
I started making rock posters for small shows in basements and bars in Boston when I lived there for a few years. I tried making some legit posters for “bigger” shows but it wasn’t something I really wanted to do so I pretty much just always stuck with making posters for small shows. It really was the friends that I had in bands that gave me confidence in my work by asking me to design artwork for their shirts, record covers, etc. I like working in that realm because just like the realm of skateboarding, the occult, etc, it’s always the visual aspects that get to me before any of the other elements of it all. I always looked at all the drawings in a
comic book in no particular order before I would read the story line and most of the records I owned as a kid were because I loved the artwork. I love seeing my work in that context, and just like other mass produced stuff, I like that it can be cherished for it’s subjective value and not it’s false consensus value. it’s very redeeming to see my own work appear in the same forms that inspire me as an artist.
I read that you have begun work on a modern interpretation of representing the demons in the occult text the Goetia- can you talk about this project, and how you came to it?
I began work a few years ago on interpreting the 72 demons of the Goetia. I intended to do it in a year and it’s taken much longer. I came into it impulsively and recklessly and instead of being something that I thought was going to be a quick fun project it’s turned into something much bigger for me.
Do you watch a lot of horror films?
I watch horror movies every day.
What are some other sources of inspiration, and why?
I work with mentally disabled and physically disabled adults in a day program where we make music and art. It is like being in a crazy cartoon during a 6 hour shift. I work there a couple days a week and my collaborations with some of the folks who go there has really effected some of approaches to creating work. That’s been a very big inspiration. Comic art, cartoons, horror movies, gross stuff, pretty much all the usual suspended adolescent male freak trappings are pretty much a nonstop
inspiration and always will be as well.
What keeps you creative and making artwork?
The confidence that my friends and family give me. I am very blessed to have an amazing group of friends and my family will never let me starve to death or not have a roof over my head. And also, making strong familiar connections with other people all over the place who love many of the same things I do.