Interview with Stella Im Hultberg for “Tiger Whiskers”

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign? 

SIH: Hello, to those that are new to me and my work – my name is Stella Im Hultberg, I’m a Virgo fire dragon. 

I am mostly self-taught as an artist, save for some extracurricular drawing classes I took as a kid. I studied industrial design in college and worked in the field for some years designing various kinds of products. 

I began showing art 14 years ago, sharing my earliest days with Thinkspace, whom I owe the path I’m walking on to this day!

Thinkspace is pleased to present Tiger Whiskers featuring new work by Stella Im Hultberg. Her background has lent to a diverse blend of cultural influences to pull from and her works meld the figurative with the illustrative to create dreamy painterly compositions.

In anticipation of Tiger Whiskers, our interview with Stella Im Hultberg discusses the most exciting thing to happen in her life thus far, the artistic challenges she faced in this new body of work, and some solid life advice.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

SIH: I have been reading a lot of texts (online and books) and thinking about traditional rituals and belief systems/world view of Korea, as well as other cultures. One of the things that really runs through nearly all cultures is the idea of protection. Protecting one’s own children, family, tribe, etc, seems to have always been one of the top priorities since humans came to existence. 

This body of works was mostly inspired by talismanic rituals and customs that are meant to wish one the best in life and protection from evil forces.

I read that even up until not too long ago, people in Korea used to have a painting of a tiger in the house as a talisman. They believed that having one would keep them safe and protected from other evil forces/harms or misfortunes. I have heard it’s still a custom in North Korea to this day. This was one of the inspirations for “Talisman”.

Wedding customs also gave me inspiration for this series. For example, “The Immortals” was mostly inspired by a bridal garb called “hwarot (활옷)” that is usually red with intricately detailed embroidery of 10 things from nature that symbolize long lives (including the sun and the moon). This in and of itself shows the worldview of ancient Koreans, and to embroider that with care onto a bride’s outfit was to wish them a happy, long life and marriage.

It occurred to me that these rituals and customs were maybe rooted in a mother’s wish for their children to be safe and healthy. I have a theory that all these religions and traditions in our world may not have made it to this day and age of science and technology had it not been for the desperate desires of parents that could only rely on a superpower to entrust their best wishes for their children and the children of their children.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

SIH: My favorite part is starting with an idea/vision and seeing it happen layer by layer, hour after hour. The journey itself, even the battles and fights.

My least favorite thing about being an artist is everything else not directly involving creating – business stuff, and wrapping up the paintings (scanning, shipping, packing, etc).

But if I singled out my least favorite part out of the whole creative process only, would be sharpening pencils.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

SIH: I spent much more time building up the layers and inserting details in this series compared with my previous works, so I ended up encountering challenges with each piece. 

When you’re building up so many layers, you’re essentially painting the same thing over and over. With “Talisman” and “The Immortals”, I got near nauseous painting so many layers of so many flowers. 

“The Immortals” is also a very different format than I’m used to, at 12 inches wide by 48 inches long. Figuring out a composition that would work and also wrangling the panel was quite challenging for me.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

SIH: At the moment, IU.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

SIH: Ugh sorry, that would be an utter flop, I would have to really have a long talk with Netflix execs to convince them to look elsewhere.

If they must still go through it (good luck Netflix!), whatever it is, maybe it should star ScarJo, since I’m Asian. Lol

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

SIH: Because I never had a formal art education, I can’t really remember if I ever got a piece of technical advice. Not directly anyway. 

But for being an artist – is to show up at your studio every day. Even if you’re there just reading a book, showing up is key. I know a lot of people think artists do whatever they feel like and work whenever but a lot of artists I know work diligently and to schedule. I follow the schedule and deadlines I have set for myself much more strictly now, now that I have a kid and time really is precious!

For general philosophical advice – I really like the quote that says to “be soft. Do not let the world make you hard”. 

Also personally, my mom told me (loosely translated), “if you’ve already committed do doing something, do it without complaint and with a happy heart”. I have found that attitude to be so helpful when taking the time and effort out to help others. And for parenting, of course. 

SH: What do you think the role of artists in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

SIH: I do love how there were always artists, throughout history, that contributed to the subversive culture. Something that stands up to authority and the climate of the days. Especially in the olden days when art was more of an exclusive, elite form of cultural element. I believe it still is true, and whether or not it shows on the surface, I, too, have been influenced by current political/societal climate.

I love the captured moments that could be missed otherwise, and the suspension and extension of emotional moments and snippets I can see in other artworks. Connecting with the viewer at a very human, emotional, experiential level shows me hope for humanity. It seems to tell me that someone is out there paying attention to the most detailed, tiniest slivers of other people’s emotions (through their own, perhaps) that can be verbally inexplicable.

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

SIH: Having my daughter. This is obviously not directly related to my work but everything about the way I work and the way I view things (including my work) has changed for good since she was born. 

It was a rough beginning, and in some ways I’m still trying to figure out the right balance between parenting and painting, but now that she’s a bit older (she’s 6 now) and we can have some interesting conversations and idea discussions, she has been the biggest source of enrichment in my life. 

I learn so many new things every day from her, not to mention getting ideas (and knowledge even) that have never occurred to me before. 

She and her future are my inspiration and my fuel to propel me forward as an artist now.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

SIH: I can’t really think of how this will relate to my works and all I can think of is what I want to eat now that I have this chef at my command haha 

My cooking mind isn’t creative enough to come up with new dishes for someone to invent (especially relating to my work). 

But if the said world-renowned chef happens to be an older Asian mom/grandma/auntie, I’ll happily eat, um, I mean, I’ll be happy with anything she creates.

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 9th 6-9 PM

On view: November 9, 2019 – November 30, 2019

Interview with The Perez Bros for Cruise Night

Thinkspace is pleased to present Cruise Night featuring new work by Los Angeles-based artists Alejandro and Vicente Perez, known as The Perez Bros. The duo grew up in South Gate, California where their early exposure to car culture in Los Angeles has greatly influenced their artistic expression.
Through their paintings, the brothers try to capture the moments and energy that they see when they attend car shows to welcome observers into a world they love.

In anticipation of Cruise Night, our interview with The Perez Bros discusses the power of being twins, misconceptions about car culture, and why bad paintings are good.

SH: For those that are not familiar with the two of you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background? You both went to Otis here in LA, correct?

PB: As kids, we used to draw a lot of characters from comic books and cartoons, such as X- Men and the Simpsons. During school, we would always draw on our notebooks and stuff, but it wasn’t until our junior year in High School I think, that we took our first painting class. At first, we didn’t know what we were doing, as far as mixing colors and blending and things like that. It was actually one of our friends, Jesus, that taught us how to blend. Then in our Senior year, we both took A.P Art with Ms. Tinajero and made a portfolio. We then used that portfolio to apply to Otis.

SH: Do you find being twins has given you a special connection other duos can’t speak to?

PB: Yes, of course. We actually consider ourselves more of a tag team than a collaborative duo. In a collaboration, you usually have two different people bringing in two different types of ideas or skills, whereas we don’t. We have similar ideas, which makes it easier to work together and agree on things. It’s not hard for us to tell each other that our work sucks, we’re constantly telling each other that. I guess in a way it makes us work harder. It becomes a competition to see who can paint better.

SH: You are both new to the Thinkspace family. How were you getting your work seen before you joined the fam?

PB: We would submit our work to galleries that had open submissions. Two of the galleries that we submitted work to were Art Share L.A and La Luz de Jesus. Apart from submitting work, we would also put together our own art shows. During this time we were also producing work in the studio to post on Instagram, in the hopes of getting seen by other galleries.

SH: What do you think is a common misconception about lowrider or car culture? What do you wish people understood more?

PB: That car people are a bunch, hooligans. People seem to think that they are a bunch of cholos, and like to cause chaos, but it’s totally the opposite. It’s mainly about family and passion for cars, and that’s what we try to show in our paintings.

SH: Which piece and why as been your most challenging piece to date? what makes you proud of this piece.

PB: We actually have two pieces that were challenging. The first one was Hopping Contest, it was a large painting, and it was the first painting that we had to complete for Thinkspace. We had it in the underpainting stage, and we had to complete it in under a month. The other one was the mural we did for the Maya Angelou Mural Festival. It was our first mural, so we had no clue what to do and on top of that, we only had two weeks to complete it. Before the mural, we only worked in the studio, so it was a kind of weird transition to now be working outdoors with spectators. Hearing from everybody that they loved the mural, made us feel really proud of it.

SH: Can you describe what the collaborative process looks like for the two of you? Like does one of you focus on the cars, and the other the people?

PB: We both go to car shows and car meets together and take pictures trying to capture the interactions of people with the cars. Like people taking pictures of cars, admiring the cars, or just standing around. After that, we both look at the pictures together and choose which ones we like. And from there we are ready to start painting. At first, we would just divide the work in half. Whereas one would paint the left side and one the right side. But after a while, we noticed that we were both better at painting certain things. So now, one of us focuses on the clothes, wheels, and chrome, while the other focuses on paint jobs and skin tones.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

PB: It’ll be a dramatic romantic comedy. It’ll star a set of Michael Cera or Andrew Garfield twins, or maybe actual twins The Lucas Bros. It’ll be like a mixture of Rocky and Whiplash. The movie would be about us working towards our first solo show or something like that. It’ll have intense scenes like when Rocky is training to fight Clubber Lang, but instead of training to box, it’ll be something artistic like Milles Teller in Whiplash.

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

PB: Our high school teacher Ms. Tinajero used to always tell us to use more contrast. Also at Otis, Nathan Ota taught us how to paint using layers. One piece of advice about being an artist that stuck with us is to just paint. The painting will either be good or bad, but it doesn’t matter, because you did it rather than just thinking about it. If the painting is bad, its ok, just make another one.

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others?

PB: We usually just paint listening to music, but sometimes we have a movie or wrestling playing in the background. During the making of “Cruise Night”, we listened to a lot of Kid Cudi radio, and The Growlers radio on Spotify, and of course Lowrider Oldies to get us in the mood.

SH: What do you think the role of artists in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

PB: We feel that the role of the artist is to inspire people, and that’s what we try to do. When we listen to Kid Cudi or walk into a gallery where artists that we like and admire are showing – it really inspires us to keep on working. We rush into the studio and continue creating.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

PB: The only chef we’ll collaborate with is Guy Fieri. We’ll make some kind of burger and pizza combo. Like a giant burger, but the top bun would be a pizza. With the sauce, cheese, pepperoni y todo. And it’ll be cut just like a pizza is cut.

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 9th 6-9 PM

On view: November 9, 2019 – November 30, 2019

Interview with Brian M. Viveros for “Tougher Than Leather”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Tougher Than Leather our fifth solo-exhibition with Brian M. Viveros. The dynamic show will present some of Viveros’s largest and most accomplished paintings to date. His phenomenally detailed and hyper-realistic paintings create a world that is a complete universe unto itself.

In anticipation of Tougher Than Leather, our interview with Brian M. Viveros discusses his new body of work, best place to get tacos, and some solid life advise.

SH: We have some solid interviews with you for past exhibitions, Matador and Dirtyland, but for those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign?

BV: Sure, my name is Brian M. Viveros. My art is rooted in a world introduced to me by my father, who was always drawing, he showed me Frazetta, fantasy art, Conan the Barbarian comics and took me to wrestling and boxing matches as a kid. Pretty much everything he introduced me to would later play out in my paintings, becoming aesthetic components for the ‘Dirtyland’ world I’ve created today. I have no formal art training, I didn’t go to art school, but all of these components from my childhood have shaped me as an artist – my childhood fixations, my open mindedness to fantasy, and my Hispanic upbringing. When I decided to pursue the fine art thing with paintings of these kick-ass Woman of Power, using all of these elements that I surrounded myself and grew up with,  things just came together.

My Zodiac killer sign is SCORPIO.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

BM: The show is titled ‘Tougher Than Leather,’ featuring a new body of work that is very personal to me. I’d been through a lot these past couple years losing my father, my grandmother and my dog. I wanted to do something that was dedicated to the fighter in all of us, inspired by those that are fighting for their lives, fighting inner demons and fighting cancer. This new body of work took me into new directions with themes of battle, new warriors and it’s my first time presenting elements from my world as their’ own piece like ‘Sacred Gloves’ which is a detailed rendering of boxing gloves that form an anatomical heart wrapped in rose thorns.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

BV: I think I’m gonna have to say the most challenging piece is the large-scale bullfighting piece entitled ‘Tame The Beast’ which features my iconic matador in battle with a raging bull. I’m very proud of this piece on so many levels because it has pushed me beyond the normal portraiture format I’m used to, it allowed me to create this full epic scene I’ve had in mind for some time now. I’m proud to see this piece come to life.

SH: Who are some of your favorite artists in the scene, or in a different medium altogether?

BV: I dig what Michael Reeder’s doing and his use of color and shapes. I dig what my homie Dan Quintana is doing, he’s always inspiring to me and I’m diggin’ Ken Flewellyn’s new set of work for this show, he KILLED IT!

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

BV: Hmmm, I can’t see a real person playing me but I like this question. I like the idea of a film about me being a stop motion animation in the style of the Brothers Quay films, mixed with a touch of some live action. It would be a super surreal visual journey of a little kid exploring his artistic life and mind, going through different doors in his head; a combination of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘The Holy Mountain’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ on acid HA!

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

BV: My father always told me to work hard for what you want and believe in what you’re doing. Even when others doubt you and don’t believe in you, you must always believe in yourself. He would also say “create your own worlds” and I always liked that. I also love this advice from Andy Warhol, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” That always drives me to just focus and not worry about what’s going on out in the real world.

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others?

BV: Both! I like to play movies and music at the same time. I like sounds, I like noise, I like things turned on. While working on this show I was listening to a lot of the new Tool album, some old DJ Shadow stuff, the first Interpol album, The Cactus Channel, some Ravel, classical and some weird underground sounds my friend sent to me. Podcasts I’ve been digging are Joe Rogan, The Lonely Palette, Chet Zar’s Dark Art Society, and Grilling JR that’s a wrestling one HA!

SH: What do you think the role of artists in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

BV: Through art we are connected and united, through art  we are free and not alone. Through the experience of being an artist, inspiration comes from everything and other artists all the time. It’s like a constant need or an addiction to create and want more and see more. It helps you to grow and keeps me inspired.

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

BV: The most exciting thing to happen thus far is connected to my art, it happened after my first solo exhibition in Switzerland back in 2005. It will always be and remain, the most surreal magical day of my life, being invited to spend the day with my favorite artist H.R. Giger in his home in Zurich. To this day I still can’t believe that happened. He was so nice, we traded prints and I got to sit in the alien chair and see everything in person that I had only seen in books as a kid. It will always be something very special to me and a day I will never forget.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

BV: HA! That’s a good one! Probably would have to be a taco, everyone knows my deep love for tacos so here it is ‘The DirtyTaco.’ It would be simple and tasty carnitas because I love me some good carnitas and you don’t need a lot for a good taco. It would taste like the tacos from SALUD! in San Diego, made with homemade tortillas. As a variation, we could serve a taco salad, with a crispy taco shell helmet like in my paintings. HA! I think I just jumped the shark with that one HAHA!!

Join us for the opening of Tougher Than Leather Saturday, October 12th from 6 – 9 pm.

A Quickie With Andrew Hem for Moniker International Art Fair

Andrew Hem – “Even Now” (2019)

 In three words describe your work?  

Figurative, stylized, narrative

What musician/band would you love to collaborate with on an album cover?

I would say Bon Iver or the Hamilton soundtrack.

Was there a moment or catalyst that inspired you to pursue the arts?  

Not really a single moment but a slow and gradual process. But the earliest I could remember was probably seeing Barry McGee on the cover of 12 oz prophet magazine. I still have that issue and it’s still a gem to me now. 

Best advice you’ve received in regards to art or life?

Be the best you can be. 

What is your favorite color? What is your zodiac sign?

Favorite color is blue and I’m a Virgo 

Andrew Hem – “Paramount” (2019)

A new body of work by Andrew Hem is currently on view at Moniker International Art Fair in the UK now through October 6th. To view available pieces from Andrew Hem please visit the Thinkspace Projects website here.

Andrew Hem – “Gang” (2019)

Interview with Huntz Liu

Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Los Angeles-based artist Huntz Liu. The intricate and detailed work of Liu is developed by layering colorful paper, creating geometric cut-outs with a straight edge and knife. Liu is able to play with literal and perceived depth.

“It is this intersection of the literal and perceived that informs the work; where the absence of material reveals form and the casting of shadow create the line.” – Huntz Liu

In anticipation of showing his newest body of work Saturday, September 14th in the Thinkspace office space, our interview with Huntz Liu discusses artistic challenges, a life philosophy, and working at the Getty Research Center.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign? 

HL: My background is in graphic design, which I think shows in my work. I started experimenting with cut paper as a way out of the digital screen and as a respite from the keyboard and mouse. Along the way, my process evolved into layering cut material that unflattens/explodes two-dimensional forms.

My astrology sign is Cancer. 

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

HL: ‘divide 27’ was the most challenging piece as it required constant balancing and rebalancing… be it a compositional balance or a color balance or a spatial/depth balance. Sometimes these things come quickly and sometimes they require so much time and retooling it makes you wonder if you’ve lost your ability to create.

SH: Where do you source inspiration? Do you jot inspiration down in a notebook or on your phone?

HL: I try to find inspiration everywhere… but particularly architecture and interior spaces. I keep a google doc of ideas/concepts that I’ll add to when inspiration strikes… but I’ll use a notebook if the idea is better expressed with a sketch.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

HL: Favorite part is when concept and execution marry perfectly. Least favorite is battling with the logistical issues around creating (namely time and finances). 

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies. 

HL: I mean, I guess Steven Yeun (with makeup to ugly him up some) would be cast to play me. The movie would be a cross between Great Expectations (the one w/ Ethan Hawke) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where instead of a past lover, I’d erase all memory of my work. My friends and family would receive letters telling them not to bring up xacto knives or cutting paper around me. But as there’s no escaping fate, I manage to rediscover/relearn my art. Also, no one would watch this movie.

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

HL: I’m not sure if this counts as advice but I’ve always found wisdom in the saying, “God is in the details.” I try to apply it to my work, both technically and philosophically.

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others?

HL: All of the above. Been into the new Bon Iver album. Was also listening to Bobby Hundreds new book (on tape).

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

HL: This is a tough question… but one of the cooler art-related things was working for the Special Collections department at the Getty Research Institute. It was one of my first jobs after graduating college and my main task was to archive/catalog their entire artists’ book collection (something like a thousand books!). I would spend entire days in a climate-controlled vault, going through books by artists like Ruscha & Baldessari, and noting their condition and status. It was like a second education for me and has since helped me understand and define my own work a little better.

SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

HL: I think artists’ roles are wide-ranging, but generally speaking they’re here to inspire and to invoke action. When I’m experiencing art, I let it suit whatever my needs are on any particular day or in any particular moment… whether it is to inspire or motivate or humble or educate.

SH: What would a perfect day outside of the studio look like for you?

HL: Just grabbing some coffee and walking around, looking at things. 

SH: Fun Hypothetical:A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

HL: Probably some sort of geometric layered cake. Maybe crab flavored… ‘cause of my sign.

Join us for the presentation of new works by Huntz Liu
Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm