Interview with Anthony Clarkson for “Trail of Wandering Thoughts”

Anthony Clarkson Interview

Thinkspace is proud to present Anthony Clarkson’s latest body of work ‘Trail of Wandering Thoughts’ in our project room on view now through February 25th. The Los Angeles-based artist departed from acrylics and pushed his technique with oils in his latest body of work continuing to create surreal – dreamlike meanderings through eerily cast dimensions.  In anticipation of Clarkson’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Anthony Clarkson to discuss his creative process, growing as an artist, and sources of inspiration.

SH: Can you elaborate on the inspiration for this latest body of work and themes you’ve been exploring?
AC: This is the first group of works I’ve done not really centered around a theme. This time I just painted images that came to mind without really questioning what their meaning was, or trying to say a specific thing with them. I did find it very freeing. I think I’ve always felt in the past I really had to plan out the meaning behind each piece and have them convey a specific idea. I don’t know if I’ll keep conceiving images this way from now on or if I’ll go back to more theme-based works in the future, but I definitely feel some sort of creative wall has been torn down for me mentally.

SH: You’re a full-time artist in the fine art and digital art space? Do these mediums influence each other, are you able to explore or test ideas in one field that is adopted into a different piece?
AC: Yeah, I do both painted and digital art. I tend to keep them pretty separate in my mind, but I do sometimes come up with neat effects in my digital work that I wonder If I’d be able to replicate the look in paint.

SH: In a 2015 interview you shared that you would begin painting more with oils, will we see being seeing a lot more oils in this new body of work? What’s the differences in your ability to express yourself creatively when it comes to using acrylics versus oils?
AC: This is my first show where most everything is in oil. There has been a big learning curve with oils, but I do like them. I feel like I’m just starting to get a grasp on them, so I’m really excited to see what I’m able to do with them on future works. Some of the layering techniques I’m starting to learn are really cool that I think will allow me to do some great lighting effects and create more of a mood.

SH: Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
AC: On a typical day I usually wake up around 10 or so in the morning, and after several cups of coffee and checking e-mails, I start sketching out new painting ideas or jump right into painting if I have pieces already in the works. I usually work until about 7-8pm then take a break for dinner and relax with an hour or two of TV. Around 9pm I jump back into working and it usually goes late into the night. I tend to find I get a lot of my best work done between around 11pm-3am, when the rest of the world has gone to bed. It just feels a lot more peaceful and easier to fall into a natural creative state.

SH: What inspires you creatively? When you’re not painting what are you doing?
AC: Music has always been the biggest inspiration on my art. I can listen to a song and have images and colors come to mind that influence a lot of my paintings. I also love relaxing while watching movies both old and new. Being able to fall into different story narratives than I would have maybe normally come up with on my own can spark a lot of new ideas I can pull into my work.

SH: What would be your dream collaboration? (It can be any art form)
AC: I think it would be really cool to see my art animated and put to music in some way. Since I saw the short piece “Destino” by Salvador Dali in collaboration with Disney I’ve always thought something like that would be really great. I think my art would work for something in that vein really well too.

SH: If your artwork was a food item on a menu, how would it be described?
AC: I have no idea how it would be described, but I’m pretty sure it would be on the 99 cent menu.

SH: What were you listening to during this latest body of work, podcast? Playlist? Netflix?
AC: In the mornings I usually listen to a few different podcasts throughout the week such as Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave, Smodcast, Fat Man on Batman, The Nerdist, WTF, The Eddie Trunk Podcast.
In the afternoons I listen to music most of the time. I love heavy metal and listen to a lot of classic bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Dio, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Slayer, Black Sabbath, and Pantera. Also various other bands like Katatonia, Anathema, Tiamat, Ulver, and always some Depeche Mode and The Cure

In the evenings after dinner, I put on movies in the background. When painting I almost always play movies I’ve seen several times so I can just let the story wash over me and don’t have to focus on a new story. Just a few of the regulars that keep getting plays while I paint are Taxi Driver, Dr. Strangelove, American Beauty, Boogie Nights, Adaptation, Holy Mountain, Lost in Translation, A Clockwork Orange, and anything Alfred Hitchcock. Along with lots of old Twilight Zone episodes.

SH: What elements of other art inspires you? What artists are you fawning over right now?
AC: I tend to be drawn to artists that use really dynamic shadows and lighting. That’s always something I want to get a lot better at and get more depth and dynamics from my paintings. Also, artists who do an image design from a different view or angle than I would have thought of and is able to bring out more dynamics in the image that way.
There are so many artists I’m into right now, but I tend to be drawn to seeing works by people who do vastly different styles than my own because I can almost always find a technique or something in them that I can try to incorporate into my own works in my own way.
Right now I am really looking forward to the new show from Marco Mazzoni coming up. I love what he does with colored pencils. Back in high school, I was going through a big colored pencil phase when I was moving on from pen and ink work. I would go through boxes of Prismacolors trying to get a very painted look with them. So seeing what he does is really cool to me, like seeing the kind of thing I might have done had I kept working in that medium.

SH: You’ve been showing with Thinkspace for the last ten years. As an artist, how do you push yourself artistically without compromising your unique style?
AC: I think as far as the “world” I’ve been creating and trying to dive deeper into with my images I know where I’m going. It’s just about keeping going down that path. For me, the pushing myself comes from learning new techniques or using new mediums, like going from acrylic to oil paints. Overall I think I know what my grand vision for my art is that I’m trying to achieve, it’s just experimenting to find the best ways of pulling it off and putting in the hours of work to get better at creating that vision.

View all available works from ‘Trail of Wandering Thoughts‘ on the Thinkspace Gallery website.

Interview with Jolene Lai for ‘Beside You’

Jolene Lai Banner

Thinkspace is proud to present Jolene Lai’s latest body of work ‘Beside You’ in our main room this Saturday, February 4th. The Los Angeles-based Singapore-born artist reimagines archetypal stories drawn from myth, Chinese folklore, and fairytales to create surreal compositions with rich vibrant oils. In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Jolene Lai to discuss her inspiration, the twisted nature of Asian horror films, a defining moment in her own adolescents and so much more.

Join us at the opening of ‘Beside You’ Saturday, February 4th from 6 to 9 pm. 

SH: Can you elaborate on the inspiration for this latest body of work and what inspired you to explore this narrative?
JL: Much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where the tale begins with Alice falling through the rabbit hole and into an idiosyncratic world that embraces both logic and contradiction, my new solo Beside You, attempts to draw viewers into a surrealistic world with familiar settings.

This new series of paintings explores re-enactments of stories from common experiences that are familiar to most. The relativity is reintroduced within strange and disorienting landscapes where bold characters integrate with ordinary spaces.

In one painting, a back alley in broad daylight acts as the background. An impish little girl is running in the alley, while numerous giant tentacles are approaching from behind. The commonplace back alley now becomes a platform for an interesting dialogue about a girl’s escapade. What is previously banal becomes a fantastical location where a mischievous girl has conjured a strange playmate.

In another, we see the interior of a house that is gushing with water with a pair of drowning hands reaching up from below the current. There is a girl sitting on the stairs, nonchalant and uncaring.

I want to showcase Beside You by starting off with childhood naivety and playfulness, and take the viewer on a journey that gradually intensifies to bold but woeful characters dwelling in haunting spaces. The series of paintings eventually completes with the subject of maturity, where alienating and tense settings with uneventful, uncomfortable exchanges between characters.

In each work, a different character is illustrated in a unique fantasy. Coming together as a whole, the various facets of each work allow for a more personal and unique interaction with the individual.

In this aspect, Beside You is a mirror to one’s present, a re-visitation of the past and a portal to a future.

Jolene Lai Nutcracker

SH: As the show is about adolescence, do you have a defining memory from when you were an adolescent you can share with us?
JL: When I was ten, I had an episode with the next door children at the old apartment building where I grew up. I was out at the corridor watering the plants, when my neighbors’ children – three kids who were younger than me, began hurling obscenities at me for no apparent reason. Taken aback and annoyed, I ended up squirting them with my water spray bottle, which in all honesty, didn’t even get far enough to reach them.

Minutes later, their angry mother knocked on our door and demanded my apology. My mum who learned about the ordeal, probably thought our neighbor’s unreasonable accusations and over the top tone was ridiculous and offensive, and so fought back harder.

I think I was at a frenzy state of mind at that point of time. Caught between an extremely unpleasantly conversation which I had a part in causing, I eventually burst out in tears. My mum in trying to defend me, most likely saw my crying as a form of guilty admission, and reacted by snapping at me to stop my crying.

I don’t think about that fateful afternoon too much, but I think it subconsciously resurfaces at times when I am a wreck and prompts me to be better at undertaking the hard knocks of life.

I cry lesser these days and use a super-soaker when I water my plants.

SH: It seems like you have a lot of fun when painting. What is your favorite part of creating a piece and what is the most difficult aspect of painting?
JL: I keep a folder of jotted ideas, images of interesting perspectives of the places I crossed paths with, as well as researched materials pertaining to subject matters that have caught my attention.

Each time I finish a project, I get to flip through this concise diary of thoughts. Some recorded tidbits I have forgotten over time, another fragments of information bring back familiarity. The browse is always interesting and refreshing, and reveals an insight to a moment of my life.

I think the difficult aspect of painting is trying to get past that hump during the painting process. It is that period when the work is half complete and the work in progress on the canvas still looks like an underpainting, and that eagerness that was lifting you at the start is beginning to dissipate. You marvel at the notion of owning a clone of yourself so that you could hand over the monotony, and rejuvenate your soul with a new project.

Jolene Lai

SH: Your work is very bold and colorful, and dances on the line of fanciful and dark. In a past interviews you’ve shared you were fascinated by Asian ghost stories, and bring a bit of that haunting quality into your work. Why do you think Asian cultures seem to have the most terrifying tales?
JL: I think that is certainly more true if you are born and raised in a culture that is deeply rooted in superstitions. My upbringing was constituted of adults warning about bizarre taboos. I recall being told not to whistle at night or hang wind chimes by the window because it lures evil. And being reminded to never turn around if someone calls out your name at night during the Hungry Ghost festival (a tradition where the Chinese pay homage with food and incense to the spirits let out from the underworld during the month of July).

The prevalent essence of most Asian horror dramatizes a lot on the uncommon nooks and crannies within common grounds. It shocks you when least expected and the content or characters told are hardly ever romanticized like what one might expect from Western horror tales. The late at night eerie tales we tell simply reflects the dead as it is – very much like you and I, just paler and quietly lurking in that darkest corner of your room.

SH: There is a cinematic quality to your paintings. If they were made into a movie, who would be the director and what would be the storyline?
JL: An in between of Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai and American cartoonist Chris Ware.

It is remarkable how these prominent figures who emphasize on ordinary aspects of the everyday, are able to tug at the heart strings of audiences and readers from all walks of life. The stories they portray are almost always relatable to any individual, despite the both of them coming from very contrasting cultural backgrounds. Creative minds who possess the ability to empower the insignificant command a lot of respect from me, and it is this unique quality that inspires my work.

Briefly on the story line – A man who is not able to smile or laugh. He goes around documenting the happy expressions of strangers, and routinely practices in front of the mirror. He obsessively imitates every facial twitch and even tries to incorporate moving gestures to enhance his act. And no matter how hard he tries, the outcome was always awkward and peculiar.

This was a short I worked on for fun some years back. I never found a befitting concluding plot, so I left it under my desk.

Jolene Lai

SH: What draws you to oils versus other mediums? How has oil paints shaped you as an artist?
JL: Are you drawn to smells? I am talking about the smell of a fresh stack of paper, the odor of sharpies or the sharp pungent fragrant of tree saps of certain botanic plants. The scent that oil paints emit attracts me like a moth flying towards the flame. No other medium does it quite like the same as oils do for me. It is an unhealthy obsession.

I had experimented with watercolors, acrylic, pastel, graphite, etc. while in art school, and thought them to be interesting in their own unique ways. There are many techniques one can explore with each media, but it was oil paints that spiked my fancy. My first attempt at oils was one that was filled with curiosity and excitement all at once. The consistency and odor of oils was distinct in comparison to the other mediums I have tried. The flexibility of this forgiving media that stay true to its pigment before and after application was delightful to me, and it is through oils that my knowledge of other art materials and techniques continues to be broadened.

SH: In a past interview you joked that you paint faster when tipsy, is this because it alleviates self-judgement? If so, do you have any advice for artists on pushing through the “awkward phase” of their work?
JL: Sometimes a combination of painting and listening to music tempts me to drink. I have very weak tolerance for alcohol, so a few sips raises my blood pressure and unwinds my persnickety tendencies. I do however enjoy that brief moment of losing a tiny bit of control over my rigorous routine, but most times, you will catch me listening to documentaries or podcasts instead of music if you step into the studio.

On the ‘awkward phase’ – Embrace the discomfort at all times. It is a crucial part and parcel of your work in progress that plays an important role in helping to motivate you to always try to construct a better remedy.

SH: Best food in Singapore? Best food in Los Angeles?
JL: I used to be a fanatic of crabs, so naturally the thing I had missed most when I moved to the US was my country’s famous chili crabs. With the main ingredient being fresh Sri Lanka crabs, it is an uncommon dish even in Asian restaurants here in Los Angeles.

But all said, cravings for the simplistic foods back home that I used to take granted for keeps resonating. Like when I wake up in the morning and all I want is that luxurious spread of butter and kaya (jam made with caramel, eggs and coconuts milk) that is sandwiched between layers of toast. The kaya toast is of course only complete (in my opinion) when you pair it with Teh Peng (Iced milk tea that is concocted of black tea and condensed milk, and is never as sweet as the Thai iced tea). When the two co-joins, there is an instant explosion of bliss that melts in one’s mouth.

Los Angeles is another upcoming mecca of great cuisine in the US. It is where varying cultural foods meet at an international plane. From Mexican to Ethiopian, Indian to Thai and American to Greek – the choices are endless. And while I love the limitless possibilities, I have to say I am a big fan of America’s burgers. The easiest, most cost efficient and taste worthy burgers where I come from was McDonald’s. I never understood the concept of what real good burgers were until I came here.

I recently tried out Culver City’s Father’s Office burgers and really enjoyed it. Tasty juicy patties cushioned in between crispy light buns. The fries came out great as well at the right crisp, width, and length. They don’t serve ketchup though, so if you can’t do without, I suggest you bring your own.

Jolene Lai

SH: Favorite thing to do in Singapore? Favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?
SG: Taking short walks late at night and stealing glimpses into someone’s lit window during my strolls.

LA: Taking short morning walks and listening to the cheery bird chirps. The early hustling and bustling vibrations always clear and refreshes my mind.

SH: What was playing in the background while creating this latest body of work?
JL: An array of Japanese 80’s music packed with nostalgia and whimsy. Comprises of artists like Mai Yamane, Junko Ohashi and Miharu Koshi.

SH: You didn’t decide to pursue a fine art profession as a painter until you were 30, how do you think you benefited from choosing to switch gears at 30 versus making the decision to paint in your early 20s?
JL: The me in my twenties was still exploring, unsettled and clueless. I wanted to dip my fingers in all the new colorful things that came along, and my restless temperament led me to never linger on an avenue for too long. The early brief encounter with different art-related assignments acted as a clear indication to myself that the creative industry was where I wanted to immerse. Trying out the various arts departments such as teaching, illustrating and designing, helped me to understand who I want to be, and what I hope to achieve and accomplish in life. So when it came to my thirties, the messy tumbleweeds that used to obstruct my path were lessened and the journey ahead so much brighter and promising.

Jolene Lai Beside You Ad

Stephanie Buer Interview on Mass Appeal

Mass Appeal interviewed artist Stephanie Buer who is currently showing in the Thinkspace Gallery main room. The interview explores Stephanie’s creative process and her choice to document Los Angeles in her latest body of work.

Visit the Mass Appeal website for the full interview.

Stephanie Buer’s ‘Uncommon Silence’ is now on view at Thinkspace Gallery, visit the Thinkspace website for more information and to view all available work.

Do you consider yourself a documentarian? A storyteller?

I would say a documentarian more then a storyteller. When I started painting these landscapes, I realized that these abandoned and urban spaces change rapidly, either the buildings are torn down, remodeled or continuously repainted. The works capture them in a single moment in time, which will never exist again. I feel like a documentarian when that happens, especially when the buildings are torn down. I think all of the work, in its entirety is telling a story about these spaces in our cities but, each individual piece is documenting a particular spot and a particular moment in that place’s existence.

Interview with Stephanie Buer for “Uncommon Silence”

Stephanie Buer

Thinkspace is proud to present Stephanie Buer’s newest body of work ‘Uncommon Silence’ in our main room this Saturday, January 7th. The Portland-based artist realistic paintings and charcoal drawings capture the vacant and desolate sprawl of abandoned urban spaces. In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Stephanie Buer to discuss her inspiration, exploring urban spaces, a day in the studio, and so much more.

Join us at the opening of ‘Uncommon Silence’ Saturday, January 7th from 6 to 9 pm. 

SH: What’s the inspiration behind the exhibition?
SB: Los Angeles is the inspiration. We wanted to do something a little different for this show, so I came to LA for a week about a year ago and just wandered the city, looking for inspiration. It was a really great experience.

SH: Can you describe your creative process? What does a day in the studio look like?
SB: Once I’ve gathered all the images, gone through them and picked the ones I would like to work with, its pretty straight forward. The creative part comes in when wandering and finding beautiful places to paint and then arranging the compositions. After that, it’s just putting in the hours to get it all done. I work anywhere from 6-12 hrs a day. I bike to the studio, paint or draw for awhile, head to the gym to work out or grab a meal with friends then usually head back to the studio. I can’t work more than about 6 hrs in one stretch, my focus starts to fall apart and the work gets sloppy, so that’s usually when I take a break.


SH: When not working on your art, what is your favorite thing to do?
SB: I love climbing. If I’m not working at the studio, I’m at the gym climbing, at Smith Rock climbing or off in the mountains somewhere. Its so much fun, I can’t get enough. I also spend a lot of time hiking, practicing yoga and biking. I like to stay really active.

SH: What is your favorite abandoned space? Do you have an interesting story to share from exploring different spaces?
SB: My favorite abandoned building to explore is the Packard Plant in Detroit, I think it always will be. I loved that space so much, I spent a lot of time there in college, after college, I’ve been wandering that property for the past 14 years or so. I have a lot of great memories in that space. It’s being renovated now, I haven’t been in it in over a year. It will probably never be the same as it was, so I’m very happy to have gotten to know it when I did. I remember exploring that building around Christmas once and way deep in the building we found some abandoned rooms that were rented out at one time as storage units. They were filled with so many old relics of peoples lives, it was pretty sad but also exciting. We found a bunch of boxes of old Christmas decorations and we decorated the hallways with everything we found. It was very festive and cold and snowy and amazing!!

SH: This question feels ridiculous to ask, but the world is one in which women have to be more on guard. Going into abandoned spaces for your reference photos, how do your ensure you’re safe or push pass any apprehension you had about exploring these spaces. What advice would you give other female artists who are afraid?
SB: I am a very independent woman and I feel very confident in my skills in the wilderness and on mountains but it’s true that in our world, you still have to be careful and be aware of unsafe situations. I never go alone, that’s one piece of advice I could give. Even if I know the space really well. These abandoned places attract people from all margins of our society including a lot of people with mental illnesses. There just isn’t the funding in this country to take care of people with mental issues and they end up on the streets and then in these spaces where they can hide and live and they’re just very unpredictable. Most are incredibly friendly and have great stories to share but you never know.

Also, be aware of the consequences of getting caught, and make sure you’re cool with that before going. Most of the time I can talk my way out of things but if and when I do get caught I like to know the consequence ahead of time so I’m not surprised and then angry. We have a saying in mountaineering, the number one rule in mountain climbing is, don’t fall, the second rule is, don’t fall and the third is . . .don’t fall! I’d say the same goes for this, but it’s don’t get caught! So, go out with others, carry a knife, wear running shoes, bring nothing valuable, be aware and bring snacks!

SH: In a 2012 interview you shared your love of Detroit and the Packard Plant, have you found a similar kinship with Portland or an inspiring location?
SB: I have not sadly. There are a few places I like to wander and as Portland becomes more popular and people start moving here, I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of graffiti which is fun. I like living here though, the creative community is amazing, lots of really friendly, talented people. I also like the easy access to climbing, hiking, and mountaineering. My family is all still in Michigan though, and always will be so its still home and I go there a lot. I think I’ll do more traveling to explore urban spaces in the future too. I had a great time wandering LA and look forward to getting to know other cities in that way.

SH: You’ve shared you’re not a history buff but you have a clear fascination with the past and its influence on the present if you were to have a dinner party what 3 historical figures would you invite and what would be on the menu?
SB: There would definitely be pizza, really good pizza and a couple bottles of wine. I’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately. I would love to sit and chat with John Steinbeck. One of my favorite books of all times is Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum. I’d love to chat with him about his adventures. I know I should probably list some painters or something like that, but painters are weird. We spend too much time alone painting and we get weird. It’s okay though. I climbed in the Bugaboos this summer and was reading these stories about Conrad Kain, a famous mountaineer from the early 1900’s, he climbed with a lot of badass looking pals, including a few ladies. I would love to sit down and hear their stories. I love hearing about people who adventured before it was made too convenient. Everything was difficult and they were so tough.

SH: What excites you about other artists work? What makes you a fan and can you share a few people we should look up?
SB: I really love the way people use paint. Some artists say so much with so little, and the brush strokes and light. It’s too much! There’s some amazing painters out there. I’ve really been enjoying Phil Hales paintings. I can never seem to get enough of John Singer Sargent and Andrew Wyeth either.

SH: How long does one piece take to complete? Do you work on multiple pieces at a time?
SB: I definitely work more than one piece at a time. I usually only do one drawing at a time but I’ll also have two to three paintings in rotation. I use a very limited palette and a lot of the building materials in the images are shared from one image to another so I can get a lot of mileage out of a well-mixed palette. I like switching back and forth between charcoals and paintings as well, they inform each other in really great ways. I’m never entirely certain how long they take though. I always forget to time it. I would guess anywhere from 40-100 hrs.

SH: Kicking off the year with an exhibition seems like a solid way to start the year, what are a few of your goals for 2017?
SB: It really feels great! Last year was a really tough year for me, lots of personal challenges so this feels good. I’ve been so busy the last few months, finishing up work for the show that I haven’t given much thought to my goals. I have lots of climbing goals, I’d love to go back to school and get my masters, travel somewhere new and make a body of work from the trip, there will be a lot more dancing this year, being with my family and friends . . . . after the opening I’m gonna hide in the desert for a bit, I’ll think more on it then.


Interview with So Youn Lee for “Limpid”

Thinkspace is proud to present So Youn Lee’s newest body of work ‘Limpid’ in our project room this Saturday, January 7th. The San Francisco-based artist creates a pastel-colored filled world of whimsy as her character Mango explores Lee’s analys of emotions. In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with So Youn Lee to discuss her inspiration, Mango’s fruition to being, a day in the studio, and so much more.

Join us at the opening of ‘Limpid’ Saturday, January 7th from 6 to 9 pm. 

SH: What is the inspiration behind your latest body of work?
SYL: Limpid is a body of work inspired by the concept of nostalgia. I was visualizing the emotional perceptions of nostalgia in my paintings. It molds certain moods for the character and color scheme for this body of work. Light green and soft-gelatin like clear textures which reminds me of whimsical time in youth.

SH: Can you explain who Mango is and how Mango came to be?
SYL: Mango is a fruit as you know, and I call my characters ‘Mango’ in my colored works. I got inspired by its color, texture, and taste. When I first started to draw my new character, it looked so weird to me but senselessly cute. It reminds me of my very first encounter with the taste and textures of a Mango. The texture was so foreign but so delicious at the same time.

SH: What is your creative process? Walk us through a day in the studio?
SYL: I have my regular studio time after breakfast Monday to Friday. I go out for inspiration hunting and relax on the weekends. If I have to create new work, I start from sketches on scratch paper to transfer a composition according to the images that I already have in my mind when I think of the concept or subject. It’s like I excavate visual responses from my mind about the subject on a drawing/ painting surface in physical world. When the sketch is done, I transfer it on a painting surface that I love to use whether canvas or panel.

SH: People have described your work as innocent, how do you feel about that description? What does innocence mean to you?
SYL: I consider it as compliment, when I think of the term ‘innocent’ it feels like there’s pure potential to be or to do anything we like to do. So if my work evokes those feelings to the audience, I am happy and I’m glad it gives a positive image and feeling to the audience that sees it.

SH: What is your favorite childhood memory? What aspects of childhood do you think help us to navigate the adult world?
SYL: I use to love spending time in nature by myself as a child, imagining many beautiful and weird things. Those imaginations helped me to become a person to work in a creative field. The freedom that we have had to explore things in our own ways in childhood could influence and mold us as an adult.

SH: How has your artistic style developed over the years?
SYL: I was lucky to have had many shows the past three years, I’ve learned more things about my own desires as an artist. It has affected me to try different mediums and approaches in my paintings.

SH: What do you enjoy doing when not painting?
SYL: Reading, playing with Choco and relaxing when I have a chance.

SH: What do the helmets represent in your work?
SYL: In this show, I don’t have any artwork with a helmet. I paint helmets when figures from two different worlds meet in one space in my paintings. The helmet is a symbol of being open-minded to understand someone or something beyond prejudice and perception or see things from a different perspective.

SH: What excites you about another artist’s work? What makes you a fan and can you share a few people we should look up?
SYL: I admire artists who have very distinctive visions and evoke strong emotional presence in their works. There are so many, and most of them, you must know them already. My all time favorite is Yoshitomo Nara.

SH: How long does one piece take to complete? Do you work on multiple pieces at a time?
SYL: It really depends on the size and medium. Yes, I have a tendency to work on multiple pieces at a time.

SH: Kicking off the year with an exhibition seems like a solid way to start the year, what are a few of your goals for 2017?
SYL: I will continue to do my best to improve myself as an artist and travel more.

Interview with Stella Im Hultberg for ‘Hollow Resonance’


Stella Im Hultberg has been showing with Thinkspace Gallery for as long as our doors have been open and we’ve loved being a part of her growth as an artist. For her upcoming exhibition Hollow Resonance opening this weekend our interview with Stella Im Hultberg covers her artistic process, the inspiration behind her work, and her desire to always challenge and explore creative mediums.

SH:  What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What ideas or themes were you exploring?

SIH: I’ve had about a year’s worth of meandering thoughts and ideas like stream of consciousness, but they all started with my mom having been in a coma for the past year after falling and injuring her head. She’s unconscious but seems like she does have certain responses like clutching onto my dad’s hand, or trying to open her eyes. To me, it seems as if she’s stuck inside her sleep.

Trying not to be too sad, I was imagining that maybe she’s trapped inside constant dreams, and that hopefully, she is dreaming about her favorite times of her life.

Then it evolved into lots of thoughts about the transience of time and youth, the finiteness of our lives.

Last year, I used the flowers as a metaphor for beautiful pain/burden (and/or burdensome beauty) so I wanted the flowers to be heavier looking and more raw, less beautiful. For this body of works I wanted the flowers to show those beautiful, albeit fragile, happy moments in one’s life, so I tried to keep them more delicate looking. But they are still, like last year, a conduit through which I try to connect and sympathize with my mother and motherhood in general.


SH: You’ve been working with Thinkspace for a decade now, what advice would you give to artists breaking into galleries and can you tell us about the first time you exhibited your work to the public, where was it? Do you remember the piece? (outside of school/ doesn’t have to be a Thinkspace show).

SIH: The first real gallery show was a Vice-themed and Vice magazine sponsored event at now-defunct Project: Gallery in LA. It was a huge group show and I flew out from NYC just to be there since it was my first show. I believe it was in October of 2005, so almost exactly 11 years ago.
I had 2 pieces on plywood, in charcoal and acrylic washes. They were pretty raw and unrefined, and might not even be much recognizable.

I think Andrew saw my pieces there and contacted me right after that show, so my second show and on, were at Thinkspace Gallery.

I get quite a few emails asking me for advice on getting into galleries from young artists. I do think I really lucked out in that I started my art career right when the art scene started booming and galleries were reaching out to new artists.

There seems to be this general myth about artists that they’re all about talent. That’s some of it but most artists that I know and admire are the hardest, the most prolific workers. They work and hone their skills nonstop, even when they’re already successful.

The internet plays a big roll and if you work hard and keep posting artworks and just keep at it, I’m sure it’ll be a huge help to push you forward.
Keep on drawing! That’s what I keep reminding myself.

SH: What does a day in the studio look like? How do you structure your days?

SIH: In a nutshell, I work around the kid and her schedule. When I was painting a lot, my husband would take her out for hours a day so I could work undisturbed. Most day I can only work maybe an hour or two a day. But near the show date, I usually start working around 10 am after my husband and kid either leave or start playing by themselves at home and after other chores are done. Sometimes I work until they come home for lunch or sometimes until much later around 4 pm. Then I also work after putting her to sleep or nap.


SH: What was playing in the background while creating this latest body of work; music, podcasts, Netflix?

SIH: I re-listened to 1Q84 for the 4th time, and I got to catch up with a lot of podcasts I’d missed out on in the past few months. I can only work in fits and starts now that I have a kid, so sometimes playing music makes me lose the sense of time, so unfortunately not much music lately. 🙁

SH: You said your piece “Hiding the Blue” was the first piece you approached with intention, where in the past other works flowed more spontaneously and you followed the piece. What is the balance in this show of intentioned work and spontaneous work?

SIH: This show was even more planned and thought out than ever (just compared to how I used to jump head in first in the past). Because of the time constraint of being a full-time parent, I had to make good use of the given time so I had to think ahead even when I wasn’t painting. Otherwise, it’s near impossible since a painting that used to take me a week (of long nights) now take up to a couple months!

I used to jump in head first if I had an image in mind or a loose sketch and let it develop organically like the stream of consciousness. I still don’t really start a piece with a super clear intention in mind most of the time but definitely much clearer than before because of the sheer mental incubation period away from the studio.

The one piece that was a surprise to myself is the largest piece (Age of Blooms) covered in flowers. I initially started it with a loose ink sketch, intending on filling it with watercolor. But it didn’t look right so I kept reworking it until it became what it is. It took a couple more months than I expected at first.

Next year, I’m hoping to be more planned – sketching out about 90% of the pieces instead of the current 45-50% before transferring to canvas or paper.

SH: If and when you experience creative blocks or self-doubt, what do you do to re-inspire you?

SIH:  Luckily being a parent and having much less time to create (compared to my childless days), I have had less creative blocks, because I don’t even have the time to create the things I want to. But self-doubt is something I’m very familiar with and I like to believe all artists are too – and that that’s what propels us forward as artists. And this idea in and of itself is a huge comfort. I keep questioning where I’m going, what I’m trying to convey and tell, what the whole story is and if it’s at all relevant or meaningful to me.

I think that’s actually a necessary thought process as an artist so I try to take it with humility.

SH: You’ve worked with inks, oils, wood, and even clay sculptural pieces. It would seem venturing into different mediums does not scare you. What inspires you to explore the different ways in which you express your artistic voice and how do you approach the learning curve in respect to also being a working artist?

SIH: Mostly curiosity and boredom. I often feel that aforementioned self-doubt and think maybe there’s a better way that I haven’t explored and/or what I’m doing isn’t working. Not having had formal art education and not having had exhausted all this during school might do this to you.

Learning curve of a new medium is a bit challenging while making your art the way you have. For me, I’m just trying to see if anything new sticks, but just like anything, you gotta put in your due time and effort to get the results. That’s why I haven’t showed that many sculpture pieces even though I’ve been “exploring” for years as I have not made many works I feel ok to show.


SH: What advice would you give other artists who want to explore additional mediums without losing their artistic voice or vision?

SIH: To be honest, I don’t know if I’m the right person to dole out this kind of advice. I feel like I lose my artistic voice and vision all the time. I do have to try to refocus myself otherwise I’ll be jumping around from medium to medium and just having fun. But being an artist is like any job in that you still need structure, due diligence, and self-discipline.

I try to set aside special studio days where I’m allowed to explore other things. Other times I gotta get cracking and do work!

SH: You have a lot of fans of your work, but whose work are you a fan of? What is it about an art piece that will draw you to it?

SIH: I have too many artists I admire to name them all but in general I am drawn to art that moves something inside of me by the unique way the artist has chosen to express “their stories”.

I have always felt like a blur of a person so people with strong identities and ideas really draw me in. And when they can express their unique world as art, it’s hard to not be in awe.

SH: You’ve moved around the country a few times, do the places you live influence your work? The New York years have a heavier color palate and stroke to it, whereas the Portland years seem brighter more colorful. Are we reading too much into this?

SIH: I think you’re spot on. I think also that the said geographic differences also coincided with different chapters of my life – we moved to Portland after we had a kid. So NYC was childless life and Portland is as a parent.

My life in New York was filled with incoming influences. I feel like the introvert in me always struggled to seek the quiet so I could figure out and listen to what I was trying to say with art.

Now in Portland with no family or close friends, I am able to focus and think a bit better. Becoming a parent, too, has had a huge impact on my outlook. My blurry edges as a person seem to have gotten a tad bit crisper – if that makes any sense.

I was never one to marvel so much at the flora of any given city but seeing so much of it in Portland really made me love it. My mom loved flowers and plants, and seeing so much of them here reminds me of her and her absence (or just the disconnection) a lot. Flowers that appear in my works these past couple years really is my effort to connect with my own mother as a mom myself now.

SH:  You and Audrey have shown alongside each other over the years, what is your favorite aspect of Audrey’s work and about her as a person.

SIH:  Audrey is just so talented and hardworking too. I love and admire her technical and stylistic consistency over the years, having a clear voice. Her clean, delicate lines and subtly conveyed emotions really makes you feel like you’re looking at a beautiful fragile being in a vulnerable moment.

One of the things that strike most people when they meet Audrey as a person, I think, is how humble and down to earth she is for the massive talent and following she has. She’s a very cute and adorable person with an immense talent, in my opinion.


Please join us for our opening reception of Hollow Resonance this Saturday, November 12th from 6-9pm.

Interview with Sean Mahan for ‘Rendered Problematic’

Sean Mahan Interview

In anticipation for Sean Mahan’s upcoming exhibition Rendered Problematic in Thinkspace Gallery’s project room, we interviewed the artist to discuss his artistic voice, themes of the show, and where he’d go in time.

Check out our interview with Sean Mahan below and attend the opening reception of Rendered Problematic Saturday, October 15th from 6 – 9pm.

SH: What is the inspiration behind Rendered Problematic? What ideas were you exploring during its formation?

SM: I chose the title “rendered problematic” because it was descriptive of both the rendered illustration style and the conceptual ideas I wanted to approach with the show. I was interested in problematizing how our modern environment alienates us from flourishing to our full potential. I’m interested in asking questions about human nature, about what individuates us and what enables us to be sweet and kind to each other. What is shaping our identities and to what extent are they plastic and moveable? I thought a lot about the ideas for the show and the ideas for each painting before considering how they would look. I wanted to experiment with the idea of naming each painting first and then assigning it to myself to be illustrated. It’s a little bit backwards of how I normally work, which is first dealing with the image, the colors, the visual content, which starts to suggest and reveal my feelings toward an idea. But for this show, starting with the idea in full form first and then responding to it visually was sort of like reasoning toward my feelings as opposed to feeling towards my reasoning, if that makes sense. I think painting is a good way to put these two together to give them equal voice.


SH: An artist explores different styles before coming upon their unique artistic voice, how did you develop your voice? When did it click?

SM: I started painting on wood in the early nineties. My dad is an architect and wood worker, so I think that had an influence. I’ve always had an interest in technical drawing which is probably inspired by my dad as well. One of the first jobs in Florida that he had was doing technical illustrations for NASA for the first space shuttle. In his studio he has all these cool blue print drawings of the shuttle and the platforms surrounding it during its construction. I remember using his drafting tools when I was little to try and render my plans for the ultimate skate ramp.

Skateboard graphics from my childhood in the 80’s were also a big stylistic influence. I must have drawn and redrawn all the early Powell graphics ten times over when I was young. Looking back at some of those early skate graphics I can see similarities in how I like to compose a painting with a central subject surrounded by objects encoded with a secret meaning.

There were other influences as well, but I think I settled on the style I’ve been working on after doing several album covers for the post-hardcore band “Twelve Hour Turn” in the early 2000’s. I liked having my art positioned into a context of dissent and social critique. It’s also great to have a soundtrack that accompanies your painting.

SH: Expression is very important in your work, how do you find your faces/emotion? What kind of reference material do you use?

SM: I like to depict a pause in normal thought, an interruption of expectation. I like the way that reflects in facial expression. For this series of paintings I built complex references to paint from; a kind of photo montage that is then carefully painted. I take some photos, find some photos, and take them apart and reassemble them into the image. For example, a face might be built from eyes from one photo, hair from another, nose from another, etc. I’ve always been a fan of the photo montage artists, Linder in particular. The way she took images from how femininity was being portrayed in women’s magazines and how it was being portrayed in men’s magazines and combined them into one troubling image is great. I’m doing something similar to make a reference, but then the final image is painted so the source images become irrelevant to the finished painting.


SH: What’s your creative process? How does a piece go from inspiration to conceptualization, and then final work?

SM: I plan a lot before beginning a painting. I like to assemble ideas and put together a reference. Then I make a drawing on tracing paper and transfer it to be painted. I mix most of the main colors I’ll use and keep them in numbered glass jars. Then, I usually paint one section at a time, start to finish, and at the end add any final colors to pull things together.

SH: What were you listening to while creating this body of work?

SM: I like to listen to lectures on philosophy, critical theory, cognitive science, ethics, etc. I also listened to several classes on cultural studies and political philosophy during this series.

I listen to music some while painting too. While painting this series I listened to some Norwegian/Swedish indie pop like Soda Fountain Rag, Avind, Je Suis Animal, Frida & Ale. I also listened to Spook School, Trust Fund, Color Me Wednesday, My Little Airport, and the record channeled from the mind of Lil’ Bub, that one’s really good.

SH: What is your studio space look like, clean or messy?

SM: My studio space is in my house and it’s organized and very clean. I have a drawing table from my dad’s architecture office in the 60’s and a record player and lots of records.


SH: What do you do with your day/time when taking a break from painting?

SM: I live at the beach in Florida, I grew up surfing and still surf a lot. I like growing papayas. At our house the papaya flowers are pollinated by hummingbird moths, which I love to see each evening. I also really love swimming in the springs. Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs anywhere in the world and there are so many beautiful springs nearby.

SH: You’ve shared you’re inspired by the works of Käthe Kollwitz, how did you discover her work? What is your favorite piece by her?

SM: We had a library of art history books in our house growing up. I think that’s where I first saw Käthe Kollwitz’s printmaking. I loved the stark and sad imagery and how there was still a beauty sitting there along side it. I later discovered I wasn’t alone in appreciation of her art as I started to see her prints on hardcore records in the early nineties – like Floodgate and others.

I like to call what I paint “social realism” in the same way she made social realism. There is something sweet in us that persists despite our suffering and alienation and I think she captured that well. I really like her woodcuts “Visit to the Hospital” and “The Widow, I” for example.

SH: What is the significance of the vintage appliances in your work, ie: sewing machine, radios, can opener?

SM: In “rendered problematic” I’m exploring the relationship of the subject and their objects, how we form our identities around objects. We identify with things we own and allow that identity to be shaped for us. There is a mediation in our identity formation, a control and direction imposed. There are also some natural objects in the paintings, like flowers, that are being compromised, suggesting an imposition on flourishing to our full potential. I also like using vintage objects because I’d like to fetishize the obsolete. Kind of like doing an anti-advertisement for anything new to interrupt our compulsion to keep buying and disposing.

For “rendered problematic” I also wanted to present objects in a way so that they become the real subject of the painting. A subject/object reversal of sorts, suggesting how we objectify each other, make each other instrumental, and how we romanticize the objects we buy.

SH: If you could go any place in time and not disrupt current events or future events, just to participate in the world and observe it – where would you go and what would you do?

SM: Maybe go hang out with Carl Sagan. We could go get some vegan boba teas and hang out next to a waterfall and see where the afternoon takes us.

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