Roger Foley (aka Ellis D Fogg) is an artist you’re unlikely to forget. Since the sixties he’s been creating dreamlike installations using liquid light, his unique, free-form lumino-kinetic technique.
During an exclusive interview at 107 Projects, we caught up with the artist behind Cockle Bay Wharf’s 2018 Vivid interactive art show, Liquid Light. We talked all things light shows, the sixties and how art has changed since then with the ‘internationally exhibiting artist, sculptor, futurist, social entrepreneur, psychedelic explorer and creative mastermind’.
Tell me about yourself?
So, I’m Roger Foley. But there’s no need to be so formal, you can call me Mr Fogg.
I was curious about your pseudonym. Where does it come from?
When I was 12 I was in the boy scouts and I used to go out on camping trips. There, I was fascinated by the early morning mist swirling around the campsite. I was always distracted by the clouds, the swirling water, the trees and the shadows on the ground. People thought I was daydreaming, they thought I was a bit foggy so they called me Fogg.
And later on, when I was doing light shows I didn’t want to just call them Roger Foley light shows because there were a lot of other people involved. We had the best people in every field come and work with us, people who were better than me. And that’s why our shows became very successful. So, I wanted to call myself something and that encompassed everybody.
You talked about your early inspiration to create your famous psychedelic shows. But what came first, the interest in psychedelic shapes or light as a medium?
There have always been many ways that people experiencing the luminous and the spiritual. In fact, early churches in the medieval times, used stained glass windows and the passage of the sun to create a sense of spirituality and a sense there’s something greater in the world than yourself.
What kind of feeling did you want to elicit when you first started light shows?
The feeling of numinous. When you're feeling numinous, if you're not thinking about anything, in particular, that's when creativity comes to you. That's why people will go out there tonight, they’ll have a couple of glasses of wine and they’ll listen to some nice music and sit back in an easy chair and think about nothing. And that thinking about nothing is where creativity comes from. And the next day they wake up and they have an idea.
Speaking of ideas can you tell me a little bit about where the idea for liquid light came from?
For me it came from Balmoral Beach when I was a little baby, sitting down by the rocks and watching the water swirl around in perfect circles in those rocks. It always fascinated me why there were perfect circles and the sand goes around and the little crabs and starfish and that sort of stuff. And then, I really loved a Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings of water. I thought these are amazing. They capture that vibrancy and the motions of the water. So, I was always fascinated by natural things.
But, the very first wet show I ever saw was in Byron Bay in about 1970. It was during the Vietnam war and a lot of Americans had come to Australia to escape from the draft. And one group who came was a band who played in Byron and we went to see them. I think it might have been the first Byron Bay Blues Festival. And they had an overhead projector and a square dish with different coloured liquids that wouldn’t mix – oil based and water based – and they were moving it around to the music they were playing. That was the first time I'd seen that.
But, I liked the idea of having two liquids that didn’t mix squeezed between two clock faces. A big one and a small one so you can get a shape and then manipulate that.
They are beautiful.
Yes, we used to do these live light shows. And we tried all different kinds of chemicals, we tried everything and we gave it all a go. We'd end up with stuff all over our hands and then during the light show, I mean this was the sixties, the girls would come out of the audience and want to take their clothes off and go dance with the band and use their bodies as a screen.
You've been doing this for 50 years and technology has changed so much. Why is it that you continue to use these beautiful old overhead projectors?
My mother was a highly intelligent woman, she encouraged me, took me to art galleries and she brought me books. And one of these books, on the leaf of this book it had a quote from the authors' grandmother. The author was highly influenced by his grandmother advice and she told him “don’t do anything anybody else does”. And that struck a chord with me.
What advice would you give to young artists who want to do something different?
Well, just listen to your heart’s desire. I like the author’s grandmother’s advice, “don't do anything anybody else does”. And, don't give up. It’s pretty simple really.
If you’d like to see Mr Fogg’s work in action and even try your hand at it, you’re in luck. You and your mates can try your hands at live liquid light shows t at Cockle Bay Wharf during Vivid.
We have onsite artists ready to help you learn the basics and in no time you’ll be creating your very own Liquid Light artwork. There’ll be three separate stations in Town Square with one station being accessible friendly and all stations being creativity-friendly. Give it your best shot and watch in wonder as your art is projected in real-time onto a giant jellyfish high above the crowd.