Interview with Atsuko Goto for “Elysium”

We’re excited to have artist Atsuko Goto’s new body of work as part of our group exhibition Elysium. Goto pushes her hauntingly melancholic images and feather like details exploring various techniques found in Asian art. Our interview with Atsuko discusses her post-show plans, highs and lows of the creative process, and studio tools.

Join us for the opening for Elysium, Saturday, November 10th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What ideas or themes were you exploring?
AG: I am recently interested by painter’s point of view and mindset of the old time. Thinking of that, I drew some elements of old Asian artworks in my paintings, “Mischief of forgotten dreams” series.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work and capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?
AG: I often draw paintings watching photos on my PC. But I start to paint before deciding about the final result.

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
AG: When I try something new and I don’t know how it will progress.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?
AG: When I feel that I do always the same things.

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?
AG: “Mischief of forgotten dreams I,” When I started this painting, I really didn’t know what I should draw. So I greatly (for me )changed the process and I continued drawing without many thinking. I was uncertain but I also felt excited, because I didn’t know what will appear in my painting.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?
AG: I dream to collaborate with someone from different fields; writer, musician, player…I also dream to be involved with the stage play (theatre).

SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?
AG: There have been many people and many events impact on me.

SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?
AG: Pigments, natural pigments, brushes, Japanese ink, glue, Arabic gum and PC (photos, music, movies)…etc. I would like to have a chair that moves automatically into all directions.

SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.
AG: I try to take some break in order to think about nothing.

SH: In one or two words, tell us something that you really like or resonates with you about the work of each artist in Elysium.

AG: Their own unique world.

Interview with Lauren Brevner for “Menagerie”

Vancouver based artist Lauren Brevner is inspired by the rich culture of growing up with a mixed heritage. A self-taught artist, her mixed media compositions explore identity and self-acceptance, with stylistic elements of Japanese art and culture and reinventing the use of gold and silver leaf within her work. We’re excited to be showing Brevner’s latest body of work Menagerie in the Thinkspace Project room this month. In anticipation of the exhibition, our interview with Lauren Brevner explores her creative process, the foods she fell in love with in Osaka, New York, and her hometown along with the greatest lesson she learned from mentor Sin Nakayamal.

Join us for the opening of Menagerie Saturday, November 10th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

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

LB: The term Menagerie is used to express my own experience as a female coming from a background of mixed heritage. I consider the portraits that I paint to be non-representational self-portraits. Each piece plays on the themes of captivity, assimilation, and seclusiveness, paired with visuals of exotic animals and patterns. I grew up with deep-rooted identity issues, the constant battle between seeking refuge within a racial group while still maintaining a true sense of self is something I think a lot of mixed race children battle. I wanted to represent these minorities as beautiful beings and portray them as strong, sensual and equal.

Kurobanai

SH: Who are the models in your pieces? Do you search for a particular look or does the model inspire the piece?

LB: Sometimes the models are real people but mostly they are an amalgamation of many different characters, pictures, and acquaintances I’ve encountered. I do have a Pinterest page where I gather images that usually spark an idea but most of the time the painting doesn’t end up looking like the reference I originally began with.

SH: Can you tell us about your apprenticeship with Sin Nakayamal? How did you acquire the apprenticeship? What is the greatest lesson you gained from the experience?

LB: I met Sin through Osaka’s version of craigslist. At the time, I was looking for a job as a barista and I found an ad that was looking for an intern at a multi-purpose cafe and gallery space. After I got the job and began working alongside Sin, I pretty much became his assistant. I helped him put together art shows, prepare for exhibitions, and just straight up make coffee. Looking back on it, the experience I gained was invaluable. Although I wasn’t learning how to paint, I was learning how to think like a creative and how to live an entrepreneurial lifestyle. The biggest thing I learned from him is that if you want to learn how to do something, don’t hesitate, just put yourself out there and try.

Ama

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work and capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?

LB: The very preliminary stages of a show are both writing and image collection, basically a mood board. Whenever I have a thought relevant to what I’m doing I will jot it down in my notes app in order to slowly build up my ideas. I also have a sketch folder on Procreate with all my preliminary thumbnail ideas for the show. It’s hard to say where the idea for a show really comes from since it’s usually something that builds over time, however, I usually have one image that leads the show. This time around the first piece I created was ‘Kurobani’ which embodies most of what I was trying to say and therefore became my title piece.

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?

LB: Currently, I’m really excited to learn more about my heritage and my experience as a person of mixed ethnicity. I want to be able to translate this into my work and hopefully, other people will feel this connection. Most of my work thus far has been a journey leading up to this point so I am excited to delve deeper into my own experiences and see what comes from it.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?

LB: Sometimes I wish I could just paint, the mixed media portion structure to my work that I would like to distance myself from sometimes. On the flip side I think it gives my work a very distinctive style but I can see myself transitioning to a more traditional approach in the years to come.

Amarna

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?

LB: The title piece Kurobani wasn’t necessarily the most challenging to paint but it was challenging to wrap my head around why I was painting it and what it meant to me. This is my first large portrait of a male, and more specifically the first portrait of someone with their back facing the viewer. I have always relied on the faces of my portraits to carry the emotional weight of whatever I was trying to convey in a piece so it was a challenge to create an emotive piece without showing his face. I’m very proud and happy with how this piece has turned out and I can see myself moving into a larger variety of compositions because of this in the near future. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to create something beautiful and different but also very meaningful to me.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?

LB: I would love the chance to collaborate with a fashion house specifically Gucci, Kenzo, Manish Aroura, Vivienne Westwood etc. A large majority of my inspiration comes from textiles and fashion culture so I would be very happy to see my work in conjunction with textiles or clothing design.

Maru

SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?

LB: SO MANY THINGS! Since I’m a mixed media artist you will find just about everything in my studio but my go-to materials are metal leaf, aqua size, brushes ( Windsor Newton for watercolor and anything that has a point for oil) Kroma paints if I’m using acrylics, a mixture of Windsor Newton, Holbein and Gamblin for oil, art resin, wooden panels, and sculpey, la doll and apoxie sculpt for sculpture. I miss sculpting and ceramics so I would love to install a kiln and an area for pottery in my studio!!

Sunflower

SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.

LB: I’m pretty exhausted after a show, and definitely the type that needs a break. This time I am traveling to Bali and Thailand for a month immediately after to get some serious R&R (although I will be painting a small mural out there!) My usual at home ritual is to switch mediums completely to fight off art block. It changes my perspective on my practice and gets me excited to create again (right now I’m playing around with quick gouache sketches for example)

SH: What is your favorite place to eat and what do you order in Osaka, New York, and Vancouver?

LB: I love to eat and try new restaurants so it’s always hard for me to pick one favorite. When I was in Osaka my host family always made delicious food but whatever Grandma was making was always my favorite. For New York, I would have to say this spot my brother took me to in midtown (though I can’t remember the name!) I love seafood and the grilled octopus salad there is to die for, pair that with their Lavender Grappa and you’re set!! In my hometown Vancouver one of my go-to’s is Guu the Japanese tapas style restaurant is a great place to grab a bite with friends. I usually order multiple items but don’t miss their daily feature as it never disappoints.

Interview with Lisa Ericson for “Border Crossing”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Border Crossing, featuring new works by Portland-based artist Lisa Ericson. Her meticulous rendered, hyperrealistic paintings are a wonderland where parasitical ecosystems are perched weightlessly on the backs of wildlife and the breathtaking details are a wonderland for the viewer. In anticipation of Border Crossing, our interview with Lisa Ericson discusses the exhibitions challenging work, reincarnation, and how she will be celebrating the completion of this new body of work.

Join us Saturday, October 13th from 6 pm to 9 pm for the opening reception of Border Crossing. 

SH: What is the inspiration behind the Border Crossing?

LE: A couple different ideas were swimming around together in my mind…migration, immigration, refugees, wildlife corridors. Often I intertwine human & animal inspiration so the final piece can be read as both a human tale or an animal one.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work?

LE: I don’t map out the entire thing from the start. I never have more than one or two pieces completely planned at a time. I start with an idea and put together images for the first couple of paintings, but leave space while I’m working on those pieces for the original idea branch out in my mind. One piece leads to the next and so on. I’ve learned to trust that.

SH: How do you capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?

LE: I don’t really work in a sketchbook. As ideas pop into my head, I jot them down or do tiny sketches on whatever piece of paper is handy. Bare bones stuff, but a kernel to start from. Later when I start putting together a composite image of a future painting, the idea either flies or dies. But even if it dies, often a new and better idea is born out of it. Some ideas come together quickly. Others I try repeatedly, but I can’t get them to work. Some of those eventually click and become paintings. Some are still just floating around in my head.

SH: What excites you and frustrates you about your work / creative process?

LE: This question makes me dive right down into my psyche and confront my best/worst qualities. The same thing excites and frustrates me about my process. I start every show at a glacial pace. The first couple paintings take ages to conceptualize and execute. But as the show date come closer and the pressure crystalizes the ideas in my head, I take less and less time from idea to finished piece, I work longer and longer hours until I end at an all-consuming frenzy. After every show, I make promises about pacing myself. I make time charts. But then I repeat the same pattern. Part of me realizes that the pressure is part of what makes me tick, and in some ways, I thrive on it and even enjoy it. But I still try to tell myself I’ll be different the next time around.

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?

LE: I made “Into the Dark” in response to the horror of the policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border. A mother lemur’s babies cling to her, the way a human child would, the way my own daughter clings to me. Often when I work, I get lost in the technical aspects of painting – the color, seeing the image take shape brushstroke by brushstroke – but this subject matter was a little raw for me and I felt emotional about it all the way through.

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?

LE: I think I’d be reincarnated as something wary and shy, and happy to stay in her burrow. No doubt why I do well as a painter, spending long periods of time alone in my studio. But I’d want to be reincarnated as a bird. Because, flight! I have an irrational fear of flying in planes. I still do it, but am always filled with anxiety about it. I’d love to be free of that.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create? Maybe a muralist?

LE: I work on small, minutely detailed paintings, but I love murals and art in the public space of all kinds. I’d love to see something of mine in a huge format on a wall or side of a building.

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work.

LE: First, sleep. Oh, glorious sleep. Then I let friends know that I’m once again available to have a social life (because no doubt I’ve been in studio lockdown for months). I catch up on life. I clean my studio (and then find it sterile and empty and must make it messy again). It’s all a cycle!

Interview with Josh Keyes for “The Tempest”

The powerful work of Josh Keyes demand pause. His hyperrealistic paintings have captured a metaphorical idea of what our not so distant future would reflect which graphically straddles the line of science-fiction, fantasy, or merely a grim prediction of the path our civilization is on today.  In our previous interviews with Keyes for his first print drop with Thinkspace (1) and his show last year Implosion (2), we explored a lot about how Keyes has developed as an artist up until now, in our interview with Josh Keyes in anticipation for the Tempest we continue to explore the evolution of his creative process and a few reflections on his relationship to time.

Join us for the opening reception of  Tempest this Saturday, October 13th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

SH: What is the inspiration behind the Tempest?

JK: These images emerged from three different sources, all having a common foundation in their emotional resonance. The three sources were political, environmental, and personal.

The political climate is unbearable and most often unbelievable. Initially, I wanted to make paintings about Trump in purgatory, maybe strolling around in his underwear. But after googling his face so many times for reference, I felt ill. Environmental concerns are always present in my work and lately, some of the images I have seen in the news around the world are as bizarre as any post-apocalyptic scenario. From a personal standpoint, being a parent with a daughter has heightened my concern for a sustainable future, and to support and help empower the women in my family and community. One way to address the tortuous landscape unfolding in America is through Myth, dream, and metaphor. I did not want to create literal depiction, , but rather strive to create images that occupy symbolic, lyrical and poetic expression.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work?

JK: The only way I can describe my process for developing new ideas is like dreaming with open eyes. I go through a lot of wacky imagery before arriving at a handful of what I feel are illuminating and self-transformative images.

SH: How do you capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?

JK: I work with many reference images, my sketchbook is mostly filled with writing, single word ideas or concepts.

SH: What excites you and frustrates you about your work / creative process?

JK: I suppose I wish I had more time, I have so many ideas that I would like to paint, sometimes I wonder if I should have been a filmmaker since so many of the images in my mind constantly move.

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?

JK: Siren speaks to all of these ideas on a couple levels. The statue of the angel, standing against the oncoming storm, slowly engulfed by waves, sounds a trumpet. Is it a siren? and alarm, or is it a call for help? Is it a call for environmental or political action? She stands alone, will she ever be heard. The testimony and stories of so many women who have been abused makes me rage. I see this woman in the water as a beacon, a lighthouse, a call to humanity, and the storm moving in, the shadow of the dark side of masculinity, the shadow, that for many men is their guiding light.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?

JK: I tend to think of my paintings like cinematic moments from a film, what film I don’t know, there are so many incredible filmmakers out there. Maybe working with a filmmaker would open up a new way of expressing this imagery. To be honest, some of the more recent paintings feel like perfume or cologne commercials to me. You know the ones that are over the top with a surreal environment, and then just a whisper, “Tempest, for men”

SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?

JK: I seem to always go back to a performance art professor I had at the Chicago Art Institute, Lynn Book. Her unique view of the world and how we perceive the world broke me apart and allowing me to rebuild the world in a way that made sense to me.

SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?

JK: My kneejerk reaction would be to go back and catch Trump doing something naughty. But if I could not interfere or change the event, like, you know, why in hell would I go back in time to observe that rascal. I suppose parenting has made me interested in how my own parents raised me, why I am such a freak. I would go back in time and observe my parents when they were raising me and my sister, and perhaps understand, empathize, and forgive many of the choices they made, as very young parents. I am not suggesting they were bad parents, but I am amazed at how much parenting has changed since the 1970’s!

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work.

JK: Keep on making, I see it as a continuation, like a wiggly string of dreams.

SH: If you could be a character in any movie for a day; who would you be in what film and why?

JK: Father Karras from the Exorcist. There are times when I wrestle with my own shadow and demons. For me, this conflict or collision is often an area where aesthetic inspiration comes from. Personifying fear or transforming it into a symbol or form is one way of working with and through the experience. I suppose the difference for me is, the shadow or demon is never truly exorcized and abolished, it is part of the self and has to be regulated and integrated in a healthy way, a restoration of inner balance.

New to the Family: Interview with Kaili Smith

New to the Thinkspace Family is Netherland born and Australia raised artist Kaili Smith. We’ve shown pieces from Smith in group exhibitions at SCOPE Art Fair during Miami Art Basel and the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii, and are excited to be hosting Smith’s solo exhibition World Meets Petit Prince in London at Moniker next week, October 4th through 7th.

Kaili Smith graduated with a bachelors in Fine Arts at WDKA in Rotterdam in 2018, finished with a sold-out graduation show. Smith is now pursuing a master’s degree in New York after receiving a full scholarship at Parsons School of Design.

Kaili’s work focuses on the topics of globalization, normalization of behavior & criminality, a reflection on the increasingly integrated society of today, its beauty and its struggles.

His current series of works Le Petit Prince reflect on the bizarre conflicting reality of children growing up in an environment of crime, while at the same time showing the strength that children often find through this lifestyle, an ongoing cycle of criminality that many western countries still struggle to understand or deal with in a progressive manner.

Get to know more about Kaili Smith in anticipation for his show at Moniker.

SH: Your artistic voice spans a wide range of mediums including but not limited to video, painting, poetry etc. Does one medium inspire the development of work in another and so on and so forth, or are the concepts developed more independently of each other? What is your creative process?

KS: So I didn’t touch a paintbrush till I was at least 18 (in elementary school my teacher let me play outside during art classes because I was too distracting and never did the work). I started art school at 19 with nothing but a background in spray paint and a few months of brushwork. The turning point was when I found myself in a poetry class in the second year. Long story short I had the most amazing teacher, he wasn’t some crazy motivational speaker, he was just fun and took time to see how each student’s own life experiences could be translated into poetry, I ended up making some short pieces that to my surprise got great feedback. I something switched then and for around 2 years I wanted to try every possible form of art.

The different fields absolutely inspire each other. “The petit prince” idea first formed from a fashion installation piece which never got finished. I, however, started to see the disadvantage in spreading out too much. So for the past year and upcoming future, I’m focussing on paintings & short film work.

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

KS: For paintings, in this series, I have found a style in which I truly enjoy the process from start to finish. For a while, I would jump back and forward between hyper-realism and figurative abstract. In this style, I just take both and let them go against one another. It’s made the entire process fun as-well as unexpected as I let myself choose between applying detail & precession or working extremely expressively all in the same piece.

For short films, the script writing is the most magical part, when you start to create this world and bring life to characters and have full creative control on where it goes. About everything else after that is a complete organizational hell. Once you look back at the process of filming it becomes worth it, but the stress of having everything come together from casting, costume, scheduling, film-crew and more is extremely stress full. I just hope with the more experience as well as growing resources the process of making the film can become more fun.

SH: What inspired the !Le Petit Prince! series?

KS: Growing up with a French mother “Le petit prince” was a book often read to me. In the original novel, Le petit prince is about a young boy learning about the adult world. On a core level, my paintings are taking that same premise but with a reflection of the environment of my teenage/early adult years. Exploring small snapshot stories of children mixed into a world of “criminality” through the lens of fairytales & the royal golden age aesthetic.

My main objective is for the work to create an ongoing conversation about how we view youth criminality. A topic often misunderstand. My paintings always try to capture the control, power, and self-identity that children find in this lifestyle. Society often either victimize or in contrast demonize youth criminality. The problem is that it doesn’t give the perspective of the child. A child rarely thinks they are a victim and see themselves as taking control over their situation and surroundings. The issue with the victimization of children involved in youth criminality is that if they are given any form of a way out whether it is punishment or placement in a different area, we then expect that to be the solution, as we frame it is as getting the “victim” away from their oppressor. However when proven unsuccessful this is then used as a way to label any young repeat offenders as simply genetically “bad” children. To sum it up, if we pay more attention from the perspective of children for their decisions and also see the strength needed to survive & strive in this environment, we can then reach constructive solutions to deal with the problem.

SH: Your artwork addresses the worlds varying perspectives, how do you personally approach understanding a perspective that differs from your own?

KS: This is a tricky one to answer. I think I am just lucky that due to my extremely diverse family and different places I have lived, different perspectives was simply all I ever knew. Even before I was old enough to articulate it, I simply never questioned different peoples way of living and often would find myself adapting to it. different was just the norm I suppose. If anything, becoming an artist and an adult I have had to think hard about what my own personal Identity and perspectives are. In terms of my work, my latest series is very personal. In the past when making works about other peoples perspective I have simply tried to listen to what they are ultimately saying and not what I would want them to say.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?

KS: I love collaborating with musicians. If I have to dream… I would say getting Kanye or Kendrick to collaborate on a musical short-film and have Rei Kawakubo (Comme des garçons) & Viktor & Rolf design all the costumes. I would name some amazing filmmakers to join the process, but then I would have nothing to contribute…

SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?

KS: There was a very specific turn of events in my life which I think shifted my focus a lot. When I was 18 I worked shortly at a cafe and met this French abstract artist who owned his own gallery and sold a ton of work. I had showed him some of my graffiti murals and he wanted to do a collaboration with me for one of his works. He offered $500 + material costs and 50/50 split when the work was sold. I honestly didn’t know what to make of him, but figured I didn’t have much to lose and that even if just the spray cans were covered I would have some leftovers to go towards trains. On the day I was supposed to meet him my house got raided at 6 am and I had to spend the day in jail. It was the 5th time since 14 I had been raided for graffiti. The next day I told him I’d lost my phone, luckily enough he told me to come by his gallery and that we’d go ahead with the plans. When I walked in he was still talking to some clients so I sat down and waited when they started talking about which paintings they wanted to buy and how one of the paintings was $60,000, I released all the sudden that this whole thing wasn’t a joke. We then drove to the studio in the nicest car I’d ever been in and spend the day working on our canvas. I never did admit to him what had actually happened the day before. But it was as if he could tell I was bit lost. Being in such a rich environment definitely was impactful within itself, but the time he took and lessons he taught me about self-value and the importance of putting good thoughts and energy into the world, were truly priceless. I don’t think they could have come at a more crucial time. and due to the circumstances had an extremely powerful impact that still influences me to this day. The universe works in funny ways…

SH: What plays in the background while you are painting, podcasts, music, tv shows?

KS: Music is a must. it was not asked for but here is top 5 albums playing while I’m painting.

1.My Beautifull Dark Twisted Fantasy(Kanye West)

2. 4 Your Eyes Only (J.cole)

3. Process (Sampha)

4. To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar)

5. Coloring Book (Chance the rapper)

Also on the podcast wave, I’m very interested in psychology and human behavior, try to balance it out with some comedy though, being too “woke” will only lead to sleep deprivation…

SH: What is an aspect of other’s artwork that really excites you, what are you drawn too?

KS: My head went into error when trying to answer this. I see value in all forms of creativity. For me, storytelling in an objective manner is powerful.

SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?

KS: I feel like I can grasp the idea of the past. Let me go 500 years into the future and see what’s going on. However, I would highly argue it is impossible to go into the future and not interfere with the space-time continuum. Even if I was never allowed to talk about what I saw, that in itself would interfere with the space-time continuum. (stay woke)

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work.

KS: I’m a simple man…a tub of cookies & cream ice cream, my bed, Netflix and I’m happy.

With that being said a trip to a new place in the world every year or two, is good to recharge the creative juices and keep things in perspective.