Ray: How does modern society compare with earlier eras in terms of its engagement with the fantastical?
Brian: Well, the fantastical seems to have been, in earlier times, more mainstream. It was part of religious paintings. It might be depictions of hell, but they included spirits.
Spirits were seen to be very much part of the everyday world, and you were accosted by spirits all the time. It’s only really quite recently that we’ve relegated the fantastic as being just imagination and not real and having no purpose.
I feel that fantasy, the fantasy that I’m dealing with, is not a retreat from reality, but rather it’s a re-engagement with the world. I think we’re beginning to reapproach the fantastical in a proper way.
Ray: What’s causing that turn back to the imagination?
Brian: Probably the lack of imagination displayed everywhere else, in politics and other things. It seems to me that art has lost its connection to spirit. Art always used to involve spirit. Painters painted spirit. They painted by commission things to go into churches, and that was painting spirit. Or they would paint people of wealth, and they would try to show how they had power, and again, this is sort of spirit.
It has only been in the 20th century that artists decided they are the important thing — that the artist himself is the important thing and not the art, whereas this has never been so before. But we seem to be coming back into spirit via films, which are beginning to have more spiritual content, and also the people on the periphery, doing the sort of things that I do.
I’m in a peculiar world, because people always say that it is just fantasy and I make it up, or that it’s not art — my cool fairies on the edge of everything. But gradually people are beginning to see it as art. Indeed, my art is now shown in museums. We’re bringing spirituality back into a world in which it has been lacking, and I think there’s a great need for it. We’re getting thirsty for it again.