Interview with Josh Keyes for ‘Implosion”

Thinkspace is proud to present Josh Key’s first Los Angeles exhibition in a decade, Implosion in the galleries main room. The sold out exhibition explores the fears around our current political climate in Keye’s familiar dystopian future. Last year, our detailed interview with Josh Keyes covered his creative process and artistic career. For Implosion, we had a bit more fun discussing favorite colors and dinner parties. Implosion is on view now through August 26th at Thinkspace Gallery, Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 pm.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
JK: This body of work emerged from the fear and anxiety surrounding this presidency, and the possible impact it could have on the future of the world. I also like dancing horses and sunken ships.

SH: This is the first time you’ve shown in Los Angeles in about a decade and your first solo with Thinkspace Gallery, do you have any specific thoughts or feelings about showing in LA again?
JK: LA is a mysterious city, like New York, Los Angeles is a state of being, with less grinding cogs like New York, LA is fueled by plastic dreams. I think my work should feel at home in this land of fractured nightmares and dreams.

SH: To those who would argue against the importance of art in society, how would you explain what art is and the artist’s role in society?
JK: Art is like a fart, or a fragrant flower, both are necessary to express the human condition. I fail to see anything, object, app, clothing that is devoid of some aesthetic element. We breath, live, eat , and see he world in terms of design. The major change, there is no hierarchy anymore, the gods, critics, and authorities of what is good and bad taste are dead, all is and everything is equal in this ocean of static. The artist dreams, creating a hybrid of personal experience with cultural mythology, resulting in the highest form of emoji.

SH: Do you remember the first time you showed your work in public? What was the piece, and where were you?
JK: I was arrested, oh wait, my work not my privates. I was in high school, and I entered an art show with a small painting, it was a copy of one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, over Rembrandt’s shoulder was Disney’s Goofy giving a silly smile. It won first prize.

In our interview with you last year, you shared a lot about your creative process, education, and artistic growth; so our questions this time around will be a little more fun…

SH: What pop-culture item; music, movies, tv, incident etc.. that has shaped you creatively?
JK: I’m a sci-fi film junky, and soundtrack addict. Since I was a kid that genre has inspired my imagery and painting compositions. I grew up watching Harryhausen films like the original Clash of the Titans, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and also films like Brazil and The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover. They left a significant imprint on my aesthetic sensibility, ever since I have been drawn to things that slightly disturbing and also beautiful, like my wife.

 

SH: If you were reincarnated as an animal, what do you think you’d come back as and why? Is that the same as what you would want to be reincarnated as?
JK: My students said I reminded them of a meerkat from a Disney film, manic and twitchy. Naturally, of course, I would come back as a mighty lion.

SH: What was your favorite color as a kid? What is your favorite color as an adult? What is your daughter’s favorite color at the moment?
JK: Silver was my favorite color. It wasn’t really a color but the reflective quality, it held all colors. I suppose my favorite color now is bluish green, maybe subconsciously because that is what color my toddler presents me with in her diapers. Her favorite color is YELLOW and in paint form, it must be applied to every surface of both house and body.

SH: If you were to host a dinner party for five people dead or alive, who would you invite? What’s on the menu? And what would you ask them?
JK: Trump, Bob Ross, Jane Austen, James Brown, and Herman Munster.
Menu: A conveyor belt of moving food plated by Willie Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.
1. What is man?
2. What is truth?
3. What is man’s responsibility to truth?

Interview with Ken Flewellyn for “Stay Gold”

Thinkspace is proud to present Stay Gold in the project room featuring new works from Los Angeles based artist and Thinkspace veteran, Ken Flewellyn. Stay Gold is the first solo exhibition with Thinkspace Gallery from the realist painter. The works dissect the intersection of diverse cultures and Hip Hop with portraits of women that challenge our assumptions about identity and cultural homogeneity. In anticipation of the exhibition, our interview with Ken Flewellyn discusses his creative process, cultures, and best brunch places in Los Angeles.

Join us for the opening reception of Stay Gold at Thinkspace Gallery, Saturday, August 5th from 6 – 9 pm.

SH: Your work is inspired by bringing Hip-Hop and Japanese cultures together. At first glance or thought, these cultures seem in diametric opposition of each other, but can you outline how they might be more alike than they are different?

KF: I think it’s a natural inclination to simplify when thinking about culture. We always think similar or different which is very black and white. Cultural identity is complex and nuanced, and more malleable than similar or different. I want people to expect cultures to clash and when they don’t then question what notion led them to expect that clash in the first place. I hope that in my work there’s a harmony or balance that’s struck illustrating how subculture and traditional culture compliment each other.

SH: Can you explain a bit of your art background and education?

KF: I started as a photographer, I carried a camera with me everywhere clear into college. I eventually took a figure drawing class to fulfill a requirement and loved it. I’ve never really stopped making art. I later graduated from Cal State Northridge with a BA in Art, Media, Design and a focus in illustration. Once I graduated I popped around doing a bunch of different creative jobs, whatever I could get my hands on. I did some toy design, some graphic design and web development work; I even worked in visual effects for a while painting backgrounds back into movies. I was still painting at night but I wasn’t really doing anything with the pieces. Eventually I reached out to LC at Thinkspace for a portfolio review. He’s helped me along the way to refine my skill and make work I can be proud of. I showed my first piece ever at Cannibal Flower, his one night art event. There I was introduced to an art community that lifted us all up. The painting lessons I’ve learned from fellow artists like Ariel DeAndrea and Matthew Grabelsky have been invaluable. I think combined with what I’ve learned from Andrew, Shawn and LC about the gallery world I can definitively say the best of my education has taken place outside of school.

SH: You walked away from the paintbrush for a while and picked it up again 6 years ago. Can you share what brought you back to the canvas?

KF: About 6 years ago I injured my right hand bad enough that painting wasn’t really an option without surgery. I had injured myself at my day job and even with surgery I was looking at a long recovery before I’d be able painting again. What can you do right? So I got the surgery and just didn’t paint for a while. After a certain point I realized not painting was driving me insane and using my right hand was hell, so I started learning to paint with my left. Haha those paintings were terrible. I never gained the same dexterity or precision that my right has but it was a good exercise thinking how to solve problems from the opposite side. I kept this up and started working in galleries to immerse myself in art until the day I could paint with confidence again. Once I regained better control of my right I had all sorts of new ideas to explore and finally a way to do it accurately.

SH: If your body of work inspired a cocktail, what is the recipe and what would it taste like?

KF: I think it would be like a Vieux Carre, maybe with a Japanese twist.

Let’s say:

1 shot Suntory Whiskey
1 shot Cognac
1 shot Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Benedcitine
1 dash Peachauds bitters
1 dash Aromatic bitters

Served in a short glass with one big cube. It would be a little sweet and smooth, but with a punch.

SH: Walk us through a day in your studio?

KF: Well a Sunday painting shift starts with brunch am I right? Once I’m back I’ll grab a cup of cold brew and get myself prepped to paint. If I have a new album I want to check out or new podcast I’ll normally start that up, put my phone on silent and the get busy. I’ll mix all the paint I think will be necessary for that session before I start. Ill normally get a good 12 hours in a day on my days off only really stopping for dinner or a cocktail now and then. Once I’m at that 12 hour zone, if my brain is mush I’ll call it for painting and use the rest of the night to thumbnail new compositions while I watch sometime mindless.

SH: What is your creative process from concept to completion?

KF: They all start in my sketchbook. I think like a lot of illustration students my sketchbooks are full of thumbnails; tiny ideas for pieces jotted down as quickly as I can. I don’t really care about accuracy I just want to get an idea of down on paper. In a way the simpler image the better at this stage. I may do 50 thumbnails before I find 1 that I like. I’ll then draw it from a bunch of different angles and then crop and move things around and crop until I have an idea I think is clear. Now I can elaborate to better flesh out the narrative. Once I feel like the concept is clear and concise I set up a photo shoot to get the reference ill need. Once I’ve got all that I’m ready to get to painting. From there the piece kind of takes on a mind of its own. Even though I have a plan and reference, I’m not bound to it, this way I can allow for moments genuine inspiration. Flexibility in the plan is key.

SH: Were any of the pieces you’re showing particularly challenging, if so, which pieces and how did they push you to grow as an artist compositionally and with technique?

KF: I try to make sure there’s a new challenge in every piece but “Triumph” definitely pushed me the furthest. That piece took a lot of patience; I worked on it for months. I’d work on it for a week or so and get frustrated and put it away. A few weeks later when I finished another piece I’d be ready to dig back into it. Now that it’s done it opens the doors for so many possible new pieces, with new imagery. I’m stoked to get back into the studio and work out some new ideas.

SH: What excites you about other artists’ work?

KF: I think technically I look at use of color the most. I admire artists that use a broad pallet and still find harmony organizing every color imaginable into one composition. I also admire artist that have mastered same finesse with a very limited pallet and range. Both show a great amount of control and foresight and make for stunning pieces.

As for subject matter, Surrealist painters that envisioned mind bending worlds with incredible beasts get me every time.

SH:  What did you have playing in the background while you painted this latest body of work, Netflix, podcasts, music?

KF: If I’m doing Netflix I’m normally watching stand up or a documentary. For a while Netflix had 3 hip hop documentaries everyone should check out:

Stretch and Bobbito(History of 2 bad ass DJ’s influence on Hip Hop)
Fresh Dressed(History of Hip Hop Fashion)
Hip-Hop Evolution (The History Of Hip Hop)
All three were fascinating with an awesome soundtrack.

I also watched a ton of Doctor Who. I’m even watching it now, while I fill out this interview.

When I was listening to music I was deeply immersed in hip-hop, funk, break beat, and trap. I’ve been hooked on Spotify’s discover weekly and daily playlist all year. I’ve probably logged 8-12 hours daily.

All of my podcast are nerdy:

Freakonomics(economist do nerd stuff)
This American life
Lavar Burton Reads(LB reads you a story!)
Ryan Posseins Nerd Poker(Ryan plays D&D with friends)
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know(nerd game show)
Lore(‘real’ ghost stories)

SH: Favorite brunch food, and second best brunch spot in Los Angeles? If you’re nice enough, you can also share your number one brunch spot.

KF: Haha you’re not getting number 2 and number 1, that’s crazy. Best brunch food? I’m thinking shrimp and grits, or maybe I’m just hungry, it’s impossible to tell.

I’ll give you my number 3 and my new fave. Number three is Metro Cafe in Culver City. It’s Serbian style food with mad delicious scrambles, sandwiches and even fresh salads for the weirdoes that have salad at brunch. They have good coffee and better wine/beer and parking is easy.

My new favorite spot though is The Mar Vista. They’ve got killer food(chilaquiles!), sangria in a glass the size of your head, and mellow vibes spun by Mr. Numberonderful while live painters work on pieces. It’s the Sunday get down.

Interview with Terry Arena for ‘Swarm’

Thinkspace is proud to exhibit artist Terry Arena in the office area this upcoming Saturday. Terry Arena’s Swarm is a series of works of detailed and delicate renderings of bees in graphite on gessoed objects. In anticipation of Swarm, we have an exclusive interview with Terry Arena to discuss the inspiration behind her work and creative process.

Swarm is on view Saturday, August 5th through August 26th.

SH: What inspired Symbiotic Crisis? Was there a singular moment that triggered this decision to explore this topic in your body of work or did it slowly evolve?
TA: I had been making work about food culture. Think homemade meal prep, processed food, gmo’s, organics, etc… One day I heard an interview on NPR that was discussing how bees were being transported across the country to pollinate various crops. The visual of hundreds of thousands of bees loaded onto an eighteen wheeler struck me as odd. I had never really thought about the bees’ role in food propagation. It’s pretty critical when you consider bees participate in producing a large part of our food supply. The almond industry alone is a billion-dollar industry and is reliant on pollination for its success. At that point, my focus shifted to bees and colony collapse disorder(CCD).

SH: What do you love about working with graphite? And how has the medium helped to shape your work?
TA: I love that it is an ordinary low tech material, yet has the ability to be very sophisticated. Originally, it came into the work because I felt it supported the notion of simple methodologies having worth. In my research of food culture and then CCD I kept finding that maybe the best solution to problems (proliferation of varroa mites for example) might be to step back and let the natural order of things occur (swarming in spring to break the varroa life cycle). And my work is analytical, so graphite just works in that regard.

SH: What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
TA: It really depends on where I am in a project. For the Symbiotic Crisis (bee) pieces there is a lot of surface prep. I might spend time cruising thrift stores looking for cookie tins to draw on and then I get them home to clean, sand, and prime. After that, it’s many layers of gesso with sanding between each layer. While surfaces are curing I often go through my source materials or look around the garden for new subjects. I draw both from life and photo references, so I have a pretty good collection of dead things in my freezer. It’s a little odd, but my family and friends know about my work and are always saving me dead bees, interesting bugs, and birds… I have four dead birds in the freezer. They are beautiful. Once surfaces are ready, I pose my subjects in a set and take lots of photographs with various lighting. Then it’s a line drawing followed by hours of rendering under a magnifying lamp. This year my goal was to complete 100 drawings in for the series. They are all essentially done, but I have a handful that I am still editing. There is always something to do in the studio either for my current work or projects I am planning for the future.

SH: What is your favorite fruit and/or vegetable?
TA: I would be very happy eating an avocado every day…maybe even two!

SH: Your work in the past was inspired by the Slow Food movement. Do you find exploring these ideas and circumstances the world finds itself in within your work a form of analyzation or is it more of a catharsis? The work giving you a voice in the greater conversation.
TA: I must admit that I really enjoy the research from studying my subjects under the magnifying lens to learning about pesticide use. I also think I just want to feed my family delicious healthy food that will not cause harm over time. Maybe it’s a leave no trace theory…no extensive trace (I am realistic) of strange chemicals in our bodies or the environment. I want to be a part of the conversation of protecting the bees and providing better food systems. It takes a collective consciousness to make big changes socially and this subject resonates for me.

SH: What inspires you and draws you to other artists’ work?
TA: I’m a sucker for craft and wonderment. It’s a thrill and wholly satisfying when work can evoke joy or challenge you to consider ideas much greater than yourself.

SH: What do you listen to while drawing; podcasts, Netflix, music? What should we check out?
TA: I’m definitely in an information phase right now. I try to keep up with the world by listening to NPR and then lighten up with the comedic takes of Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. I often slip down the rabbit hole of Youtube and have found great interviews and documentaries on Rachel Carson of Silent Spring, Noam Chomsky for his views on just about anything, and a little Elon Musk cause rocket ship rides to Mars and 3D underground transport are pretty fascinating!

SH: If your work inspired a cocktail, what would be the recipe and what would it taste like?
TA: I’m more of a whiskey on the rocks gal, but at Campfire in Carlsbad they make amazing drinks that are so beautiful and tasty I would love to have provided inspiration for one of their creations. A real beauty with a kick is their “Roasted Beet”. The flavor is bright with a bit of spice. Think gin, ginger, honey, lemon and thyme with a vibrant magenta color.

Interview with Noségo for “Ingress”

Thinkspace is proud to present Noségo’s latest body of work Ingress’ in our project room. Noségo’s colorful and detailed paintings that reference themes like urbanism, the vulnerability of nature and the wild, mysticism, healing, mythologies, and art history are mesmerizing and hypnotizing. In anticipation of Ingress, we have an exclusive interview with Noségo to discuss philosophy and creative growth.

SH: What ideas were you exploring while creating this latest body of work?
NG: While working on the show I’ve been in a bit of a reflective period and I feel that the search of a deeper idea of who I am sparked the visual inspiration for the work.

SH: You always aim to challenge yourself with each new body of work, do you feel you experienced any breakthroughs while creating Ingress? Breakthroughs regarding technique, composition – anything.
NG: Yes most definitely, I feel overall I learned not to force what I’m creating and to have patience
with myself and the work.

SH: Your work has a very philosophical element to it. What is your personal philosophy towards life, do you follow any formal philosophical thought?
NG: Yes, I follow several things I’ve learned over time. I think my opening was in high school after reading “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Overall my personal rule is to always grow and just forever be a student.

SH: You’ve painted murals in cities around the world, I’m sure everyone is special in their own right but did any city have a particularly memorable story?
NG: Each one has a highlight or memorable moments but I don’t recall anything to stand out over another.

SH: What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in your art career thus far?
NG: Honestly… just having an art career. I try to only do the things I love and I feel being able to do that at the moment is the biggest accomplishment.

SH: What were you listening to in the background while creating this body of work?
NG: Everything from music to podcast and documentaries.

SH: What is your favorite way to unwind after a long day at the studio?
NG: Sleep.

SH: What has recently influenced your creative palate?
NG: Trusting what I think I want to see and experimenting.

 

Join us for the opening reception, Saturday, July 8th from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Interview with Drew Leshko for “The Only Constant”

Thinkspace is proud to present Drew Leshko’s latest body of work The Only Constant’ in our project room. Drew Leshko’s highly detailed sculptural works in paper and wood depict architectures and urban spaces of his beloved and changing Philadelphia. In anticipation of Leshko’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Drew Leshko to discuss copy cats, changing cityscapes, and the symbolism of iceboxes and dumpsters.

SH: In our last interview with us your went into great detail about your creative process and technique, what makes you fearless to the “copy cats” or so open to sharing your process in such detail?
DL: Well after this boom of copycats, I find myself reconsidering things for sure….I think that there is more to my sculptures than how they’re made– It’s an ongoing, cultural conversation that is communicated through my sculptures. I guess I’m fearless about sharing because I’m working with some of the best galleries in the world that have already acknowledged the innovation, I’ve been supported by amazing collectors, and am showcased by important press organizations. Copy Cats are inherently unoriginal, and it’s sad to imagine living a life like theirs — void of original ideas, scrapping from the handiwork of others, trying to use that as leverage or shortcut for “borrowed” ideas. Copy Cats are a real problem though. I’ve been working on these since 2005 and can’t believe the amount of people mimicking my work all of the sudden.

SH: What do you think is the role of an artist in society?
DL: Tough question. It seems lately that there are so many conceptually thin works created these days, where the artist is more interested in the bright colors and decorative qualities rather than the works having more to discover and communicate. If you look through the classics, so many of the great works by the masters were telling stories and speaking to cultural issues. For me, i think its important to translate what is happening in the world around you through what you’re creating in the workshop so that painting or object may live as a reference to the past.

SH: You’ve given the advice to young artists not to get frustrated, what has helps you to stay grounded and push forward with your art?
DL: Everyone gets frustrated, but this all comes naturally to me. These projects are something that I want to pursue. If I had to force myself to be grounded and push forward, it would be really tough. It would almost feel like work. haha.

SH: The sculptures document the changing landscape of your city. You’ve said you’d like to document other cities but need to have a sense of the buildings and changing neighborhoods. If you could travel through time, what cities would you want to document and what time periods?
DL: My works now are examining the re-development of the city, as people are repopulating a previously abandoned place. To me, it would be really interesting to create a series that is the inverse of this process, documenting parts of the city after “white flight”, one of the initial cultural transformations of industrial American cities. Let’s say the 1960’s. As for the city, Baltimore would great (i was born in Baltimore), but really any city with a strong heritage of blue collar industry.

SH: How has Philadelphia not only shaped you as an artist but as a person?
DL: Philadelphia is a great place. A place that I’m incredibly proud of. The city has shaped me as a person through the cultural diversity in the community. It’s quite the melting pot. In the last few years, the art scene is really changing here. Collectors seem to be popping through galleries and supporting the community all of the sudden, which is great. But before this trend, the city made me stronger— Those 8 or so years making these works without anyone noticing, without good opportunities. Without Philadelphia incubating me that through experience, I don’t think I’d be able to fairly value what I have built for myself now.

SH: What do you listen to in the background while creating work?
DL: This year I’ve been listening to the “Up and Vanished” podcast (cold-case murder mystery). I listen to music mostly. The Hold Steady, Craig Finn, Tigers Jaw, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Dave Hause, Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, Jawbreaker— A lot of lyrically driven stuff. And also a lot of hip-hop. I’ve lately been listening to a lot of Cam’ron, Dipset, Big Pun, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and 2 Chainz.

SH: In an interview with Wide Walls, you expressed how the dumpsters and ice boxes symbolize addicts and drug dealers, but you don’t elaborate on this point much. Do the other objects you sculpt hold any additional symbolism?
DL: My favorite band, The Hold Steady, has a song that really resonated with me and encouraged the metaphor of the dumpsters and ice boxes as dealers and users. The song is called “Rock Problems”, but the theme is reoccurring throughout their discography.
“That one girl got me cornered in the kitchen.
I said I’ll do anything but clean.
She wants to know what I liked better
Being a trash bin or an ice machine?”

I like that metaphor a lot, but there is a bit more symbolism too. Not only are the dealers and users being pushed out of the neighborhoods I’m addressing, but the dumpsters and ice machines are being pushed out too. The new versions of the neighborhoods are too polished to have “eyesores” lining the sidewalks. New regulations, laws, and codes are forcing business owners to find new solutions for their trash, and no longer able to utilize their sidewalks, for the ice boxes, as parts of their stores

The beer distributors and cigarette shops are strewn with advertisements aren’t necessarily symbolic or metaphorical. But, they should be considered from a cultural perspective— it seems these type of businesses and advertising strategies only occur in the economically depressed areas. It’s a systemic problem that perpetuates class differences that need to be addressed.

SH: What about another artists’ work excites or fascinates you? Who do you think everyone should look up?
DL: I really like artworks that tell a story. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in some of the more depressed parts of the city. I keep coming back to a series of photographs by artists Jeffrey Stockbridge. The photographs are incredibly powerful and the accompanying texts are pretty great. He’s exploring the same parts of the city but from a more cultural anthropology scope. Check out his site! I recommend exploring the “archives” section, where you get a bit of background info per image. https://kensingtonblues.com

 

SH: If you were hosting a dinner party, who’s on the guest list, what’s on the menu, and what would be your icebreaker question?
DL: This question stresses me out. I’m not always a comfortable host.

SH: If your artwork inspired a cocktail or a beer, what would it be made of and what would it taste like?
DL: I’d have to go with a no-frills, Philadelphia classic— the “Citywide”. It is a cheap domestic beer and a shot of whiskey. perfect.

Interview with Casey Weldon for “Sentimental Deprivation”

Thinkspace is proud to present Casey Weldon’s latest body of work ‘Sentimental Deprivationin our main room. Casey Weldon’s paintings combine elements of humor, nostalgia, and the absurd; weaving pop culture and kitsch into the illuminated neon world. In anticipation of Weldon’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Casey Weldon to discuss his inspiration, creative process, and dream collaboration.

Sentimental Deprivation‘s opening reception is this Saturday, June 3rd from 6 -9 pm in our project room.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
CW: I was up way too late one night with my bestie artist pal Crystal Barbre, and she complimented me on some of my work that she deemed emotionally powerful. I laughed and reluctantly told her that everything is just based on a funny/weird idea and the color schemes are just colors I like. She puts a lot of herself into her work and is intimately connected to them, so she didn’t buy it. I was trying to persuade her that I, in fact, I was a robot devoid of emotion and have several ex-girlfriends that could testify to that. I went through a bit of rough time last year personally, and while working through that this has become an attempt of an emotionless person painting emotionally.

SH: You have a unique way of using colors that seem neon and creating a glowing illumination from within the work? What made you explore this style and develop the technique? Were you directly inspired by something to go in this direction?
CW: I’ve always had trouble keeping my work’s brightness on the level. Everything has always naturally skewed towards the darker side. To offset it, I started including small and super bright light sources. It’s a lot of fun inventing what the effects of a bright blue light will have under a setting red sun. I used to joke that my direct inspiration was Thomas Kincade, but now I’m beginning to wonder if that statement is 100% a joke.

SH: How have you grown as an artist in the last 5 years and how do you hope to grow in the following 5?
CW: Yes and yes. At least I hope. Usually, it works like we always feel the same despite those around us notice we are changing as people. I guess I’m hoping the opposite isn’t happening and I’m stuck in a rut I can’t even see.

SH: You’ve moved around a lot, do you feel your moves and various home-bases have influenced or informed your work?
CW: Yes, I think so, though it’s hard to point to any direct pieces and say why. I think it’s just more of a mindset. Like when I was in NY and depressed I painted a lot of funny pop art stuff. When I lived in the Las Vegas desert I painted a lot of lush nature. Here in gray Seattle, I paint a lot of bright colors. I guess I’m always looking for greener grass somewhere.

SH: What about another artists’ work excites or fascinates you? Who do you think everyone should look up?
CW: I get really excited anytime I feel like I don’t know what to expect from an artist. When their body works shifts often into new and unexpected directions it really inspires me to try and do the same. Although, on the other hand, I really admire artists that have developed a truly unique and identifiable voice, as often I feel like I struggle with that. Since moving to Seattle, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really fantastic new artists. Cassie Murphy is adorably batshit crazy, James Carpenter is a technical master, Jeremy Gregory is in a whole other world he has created, Angelita Martinez is always pushing experimentation and Abby Fields is somewhat green, but I am positive she will be a force to be reckoned with. I could name a 100 more because this town is full of them.

SH: What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
CW: I wake up somewhere between 5-6am with a fire in my heart. “I’m going to get up and crush this day,” I say to myself. And then I eat a nutritionally questionable breakfast and go back to sleep. Around 10 am, I drag my ass to the drawing table and work till 6-7 or so. My process is 80% waiting for a decent idea or theme to start with, 10% gathering photo reference and shooting models, and 10% mad dash to finish painting by the deadline, which rarely ever happens. It’s a weird mix of wishful thinking and high anxiety.

SH: What do you think is the biggest misconception about being an artist?
CW: That we don’t work hard. That we are ‘lucky’ and are taking the easy road. Every artist is doing everything they can to sell a product there is absolutely no demand for, and they are betting on their own personal thoughts and emotions to sell it. They spend countless hours working with no guarantee of a paycheck, putting themselves out there and getting rejected, or taken advantage of over and over hoping to find some sort of communication with an audience. But your friend at the Dodge dealership says “get a real job”.

SH: What was playing in the background during the creation of this body of work? Does what you listen to inform the mood of the pieces or are they separate?
CW: I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks and my local radio station KEXP (the best radio station ever). I’m deep into ’The First Law’ series by Joe Abercrombie, and thankfully the subject matters have kept to themselves.


SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music etc.
CW: Michel Gondry first comes to mind. It just seems like he has a boundless imagination and a DIY approach to realizing his ideas.

SH: If your artwork inspired a cocktail, what would it be made of and what would it taste like?
CW: Hmmm, how about a ‘Furball’ which is just a pint glass of Fireball with a rim dusted in cat hair? Or a ‘Glowey’, which is Ecto Hi-C and vodka with a glow stick in it? It may be obvious, but I’m not much of a cocktail guy.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
CW: Rock and roll all night, and sleep all day.

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Interview with Kisung Koh for “Long Live The Polar Treasure”

Thinkspace is proud to present Kisung Koh’s latest body of work ‘Long Live The Polar Treasurein our project room. Kisung Koh, a South Korean Toronto-based artist uses oil paints to capture beautiful and sometimes heavy reflections of the majestic polar bear, and it’s connection with human plight.  In anticipation of Koh’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Kisung Koh to discuss his fascination with polar bears, a day in the studio, and his dream collaboration.

Long Live The Polar Treasure‘s opening reception is this Saturday, June 3rd from 6 -9 pm in our project room.

SH: What inspired this latest body of work? And what made you explore the theme?
KK: Most of my works are closely related to wildlife animals, and I do love and care all animals. In the past couple years, I found a very deep connection with Polar bears especially in many ways; I moved to Canada in 2006. To me, Canada is the place that I dreamed about but never thought about residing. Everything was new and unfamiliar. There were a lot of struggles and inner conflict, and loneliness.
At first, the idea of new and unfamiliar was interesting. However, as time goes by and feeling needed to fit in a new environment, I needed to do everything harder than others. Every moment was survival that I had to challenge myself to fit in a new environment, but unfortunately, I still feel that I can never fit in this world regardless family or friends. For these reasons, I saw myself in polar bears so wanted to capture the scene that the polar bear is resting in the environment where they are not supposed to be, in a dreamy way.

SH: Why did you choose to use Polar Bears as a symbol of the change and dislocation specifically, as due to global climate change and environmental threats many animals are facing challenges?
KK: There are many other endangered species due to environmental issues, poaching, habitat loss or political conflicts but the Polar bear is the one that you can think of the first when we talk about weather warming issue. In fact, they are among the most significantly affected species by temperature and sea ice level.

SH: What makes working with oil paints your medium of choice versus acrylic paints or other mediums?
KK: I used to use Acrylic, watercolor, and gouache paint at one point. I think I had used oil in the same technique as using other mediums but these days I really like using oil when making textures such as fur or other nature parts. In addition, using oil can create deeper emotions in my opinion when needed.

SH: How have you grown as an artist in the last 5 years and how do you hope to grow in the following 5?
KK: I was not satisfied with the level of ideas or concepts a few years ago and I noticed these days that it works better when I have related not only beauty of nature but everything happening in life to my works.

My answer might not be related, but I think it could be. I was not able to read books enough the past years, so next 5 years I’m reading more books, also experiencing more and spending more times with ‘humans’, trying to be more communal and social. As I mentioned earlier, I always feel alone no matter I have friends or family, so my hope is to be happy and to bring/share the happiness and sadness at the same time to others through my works.
I hope those I mentioned above will be seen more in my works in next 5years.
I want to be a better artist and better human being.

SH: What about another artists’ work excites or fascinates you? Who do you think everyone should look up?
KK: Sorry. Too many to list, and it changes every once in while but currently, my favorite painter is Aron Wiesenfeld.

 

SH: What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
KK: I get inspirations or emotions from documentary videos, photos, and short animations. I’ve been listening podcast recently and I think it helps me too in some way. I just wish I were better in English words to understand them 100%.

It might sound weird, but when I try to get ideas or images, I close my eyes and draw overall image/ scene in my head first. Then I start doing small sketches roughly mixing with my visual image or emotions I get from my dreams (I can’t sleep well but I dream a lot, including something unnecessary. I sometimes get asked if I dream about animals. Sometimes yes (rarely) but the answer is No, at least not these days)

In addition to that, I find tons of reference photos for sketching.
I work at home, my living room with my dog ‘Dooly’.

SH: What do you think is the biggest misconception about being an artist?
KK: Well, I feel like I’m not in the position to say something because everyone has different opinions and I respect that. But here is my thought that I carefully say;

When people think of an artist, they tend to think artists have ‘free soul’; They do art because they love to do it, which is right. However, I don’t think art is not coming from just affection. The affection for art is a base coat. But it requires many processes of thinking, frustration, many experiences to create something that you would want to look at and feel deeply for a long time. You have to put your thoughts/message into your work and you need a reason at least to yourself. It is just not what you want to draw and paint yourself, obviously, depends on purpose and circumstance.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music etc.
KK: I’d like to dream big. Leonardo Dicaprio due to his environmental activism.

SH: If your artwork inspired a cocktail, what would it be made of and what would it taste like?
KK: I don’t really know about cocktails but I would say red wine + some sort of fruits. I actually drank so much wine while I was preparing this exhibition.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
KK: Spending time in nature and take photos of the scenes.