Interview with James Marshall “Dalek” for The Space Monkey Returns!

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present The Space Monkey Returns featuring new works by North Carolina-based artist James Marshall. Also known by his mutant cyborg epithet “Dalek,” an ode to the classic sci-fi British series Doctor Who. In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, December 2nd, we have an interview with James Marshall aka Dalek discussing the evolution of the Space Monkey and how he continues to challenge himself as an artist.

Opening Reception:
Saturday, December 2, 2017
6:00pm – 9:00pm

SH: Why do you think the Space Monkey has resonated with people so much?
JM: Maybe because it’s so representational of what is fascinating about humanity. I’d ideally hope that people can see a lot of the humor in it that is part of their own experiences through life. We sort of have to embrace the absurdity of our own stupidity as we stumble through navigating endless nuances.

SH: What is your favorite thing about being an artist? What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
JM: I just like making art. It’s fun for me. therapeutic in a way to relay a lot of my thoughts..but more so a way to keep my hands busy and mind occupied. Art/artist have always and will always be important to connect the dots of cultural shifts and the human experience. its connective tissue for the larger organism. that develops and delivers complex experiential layers into clear tangible objects.. how people relate to art is how it connects to their own lives. It gives meaning… it gives a voice… power and so on.

SH: Who has been one of the most influential people in your artistic development? Have they shared any advice with you other artists can apply to their work or journey?
JM: Me…and I only say that in so far as I need to remind myself constantly to stay motivated and push what I’m doing. Sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously…everyone’s journey is different. So I just try to keep focused on whats important to me and my own development as a person, and therefore as an artist.

SH: I know it’s old news, but for many, they were not aware at one point you were a studio assistant for Murakami. One choice story or a bit of wisdom from him that has stuck with you, that you’d care to share?
JM: No, it was a long time ago and hasn’t been relevant to my life in ages. I learned some technical stuff that helped me get organized, but ultimately I modified things to suit my needs.

SH: Who were some of your favorite punk bands when growing up?
JM: Oh man, Minor Threat for sure, The Freeze, Ill Repute, Scream, Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, The Faction.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist?
JM: I just know I need to challenge myself. I’ve never been cool with going through the motions in any aspect of life, part of why I dropped Space Monkey years ago, didn’t feel I had anywhere to take it given my skill sets. I’ve learned a lot since then and it made sense to revisit it, I got excited by it again and I’m sure it’ll wear thin again…maybe? We’ll see, I just keep trying to teach myself how to paint how to understand color better, just the basics. Maybe once I figure that out I’ll get rolling. Without a doubt, I still feel like I haven’t really learned to paint yet, too many distractions in life and making art just isn’t my main focus. So maybe one day it will be and I’ll crank out some stuff.

SH: Your work really translates a love for color. What is your favorite color, and how many paint colors do you have in your studio? Do you mix them yourself?
JM: Yeah. Just trying to learn color, mixing them helps. I have a couple hundred right now, don’t have a favorite really, they are all good. Depends on the mood, day of the week and so on.

SH: Are you detail-oriented and a geometry nerd outside of your work, or is all the neurosis tapped out on the canvas?
JM: No, I gotta have things certain ways, there is a lot of that in my day to day life.

SH: Do you remember the first sticker you created of the Space Monkey? If so, do you have an image of it you can share?
JM: It was a long time ago… Shepard Fairey helped me make stickers back in 97 or maybe it was 98, anyhow…no photos…not that I have anyways.

SH: Who do you think everyone should look up?
JM: That’s a broad question, they should look up anyone that they want. I could name a million things, relevant to different aspects of what I find interesting in the world. It probably wouldn’t be an artist. Let’s be honest, for all artist do, it’s nowhere near as fascinating as what scientist or people in other exploratory fields contribute to the growth and development of our species.

SH: What about other artists’ work excites or fascinates you?
JM: Hard to say..it’s just a reaction.. usually based on whether something is interesting or not.. so much shit in this world is boring and unoriginal.. so i just like people who actually have something striking to say. Honesty always comes through in art or anything really, so if it feels genuine, it’s good. Too many posers out there.

SH: Whom would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
JM: Walt Disney probably.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
JM: Hanging with the family, that’s all I like to do when I’m not painting and watch Duke basketball.

Interview with Icy and Sot for “Human (Nature)”

Icy and Sot’s Human (Nature) is the first solo exhibition and full gallery takeover by the internationally acclaimed Iranian, Brooklyn-based artist-activist duo. A collection of work ranging from sculptures to stencils, the duos breadth of talent shows in Human (Nature).   Below is our interview with the artists discussing the inspiration behind the exhibition, the role of art in society, and what it’s like to work and create alongside one’s brother.

Make sure to check out Human (Nature) on view now through November 25th.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
I & S: The inspiration comes from the nature where we always find peace and inspiration for our work, its so sad to see the planet crying now, with all these natural disasters happening every other week recently its trying to say something. We need to listen and respect it more than ever now, we have destroyed so much of it already that we can’t repair or even stop it. But we can give the planet a longer life, by caring more about it and by doing something, the impact can be small but if all of us try we will have [a better] chance.

We only recycle 1 of every 5 water bottles. We all should try to use less and less plastic in our life. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century its still somewhere on our planet. Plastic is killing the planet and our health, there is just too much plastic floating around in rivers, seas and oceans; our usage of plastic ends up in our food chain and back again on our plates, when eating fish and sea food.

SH: There is clearly a higher risk involved in creating street art in Iran versus America or Europe, how has that risk-informed your art?
I & S: Yes in some ways. Graffiti and Street art is illegal in Iran and America or Europe, the main difference is that there is no legal form of street art in Iran like mural festivals or legal walls, its been always underground and illegal, other difference is if you get caught they could label you as political activist even if your work is not politically charged.

All the works we did in Iran were usually painted over less than a week sometimes overnight, that made us to be even more active and start to make work about censorship and other issues in the country, that kinda activism remain in us, although we are based in country with more freedom, but there are so many issues that need to be spoken!

SH: Tell us what you feel is your brother’s artistic strength and how he helps you be a better artist (a reply from each would be great here).
I & S: We started working together, don’t think we could have continued if we didn’t have each other,
we always supported each other from the very beginning, working in Iran and Migrating to a new country.
We learned faster, we worked faster, its great to brainstorm about ideas together, we start with a simple idea, and we can build it up, its so much easier to make dissection together, we have the same thoughts, interests, we are basically one artist together.

SH: What is your collaborative process like with gallery pieces versus murals?
I & S: They are both the same, we start with the idea, and we both work on it until we complete it.

SH: Since you’re a collaborative team, how do you resolve conflicts or come together on a piece when the other person is resistant or doesn’t like the direction.
I & S: We have a drink and try to find a way that we both think is better

SH: Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
I & S: We don’t have big studio, we start work from home with catching up with emails and planing our day in the studio, we usually walk or bike to the studio and start working on whatever project we have coming up, always listing to music while working , the creative time is usually at night when we brainstorm together and work on ideas

SH: In Iran, to leave the country, you must serve in the military. You both were studying at University before deciding to join the military in order to travel and work. Was that an easy decision to make? Can you elaborate on how having to make a decision like that motivates the art and work you do?
 I & S: Yes that was a very easy decision to make, since our passion was what we were doing, and it was hard to continue and work as an artist in Iran, the hard decision was when we wanted to get asylum and stay in NY knowing that we can’t go back home, we making decision like that we proved ourself that we can always continue what we love to do and never stop.

SH: What do you think the role of the artists in society is? Why are you both artists?
I & S: Art can definitely contribute to change in society, especially public art because it has more and diverse viewers, We try to give the audience the opportunity to imagine a better world. The impact a piece has on the course of someone’s day may be small, but it’s still an impact. 
We believe the role of the artist is to advocate for the freedom and the hope of the general public and raise awareness about the issues happening in their time.

We didn’t start as an artist; we didn’t know we will be doing this for our whole life and get where we are now, so it was kinda natural.

SH: What is one of your most memorable pieces to date?
I & S: “Let Her be Free”

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
I & S: Either going to hiking and camping in nature or hanging out / parting with friends.

Interview with Andy Kehoe for “PRISMATIC”

Thinkspace is proud to present PRISMATIC from Pittsburg-based artist Andy Kehoe. PRISMATIC is a body of work that speaks to both the freedom and fear of the unknown. Through the prisms of fantasy and imagination, Kehoe considers the variegated nature of mixed perceptions that shape our endless versions of experience. In our interview with Kehoe, we discuss his evolving creative process and technique as he approaches each new piece; in addition to dreams and desire for collaboration.

Kehoe’s work is best experienced in person.
Make sure to come into the gallery during PRISMATIC‘s showing from now through October 21st.

SH: What is the inspiration behind PRISMATIC? Are you exploring a specific theme or narrative?
AK: Throughout my career, my goal has been to create a sense of wonder, mystery, and grandeur. I feel my recent work has really started to tap into those facets of emotion so with PRISMATIC, my goal was to take those themes and emotions to another level visually and conceptually.

On the surface, PRISMATIC applies an expanding color palette and use of a greater range of color than in previous work. I also used some iridescent and pearlescent paints that give the paintings a physical shimmering and glow when seen in person. Visually, I wanted this show to be bold and vibrant. Beyond the surface, I wanted the pieces to expose the hidden layers of reality that surround us.

Until the discovery of the spectrum of light using prisms, humans accepted the idea of light being white and colorlessness. It was initially accepted that the prism colored light, when in fact it separates it and reveals the entire color spectrum. This spectrum extends beyond what we can observe with the naked eye and even what we label as “color.” This makes me wonder what other layers exist around us and are neglected due to our limited understanding. What other mysteries can we not yet see?

There are very few natural things that occur in a singular or even dual reality. There is no black and white, but in fact, a multitude of gray or “in-between.” For example, there is no pure emotion, motive, or perspective. Almost everything in existence is beautifully and sometimes maddeningly layered. I have been working with layers for many years, even before the use of resin, and my work continues to progress technically and conceptually. While I don’t have the ability to explain the mysteries of the universe in a practical or scientific sense, I do possess imagination. I see imagination as a gift to help explain the mysteries of reality and expand beyond what is known. I’ve always been interested in the concept of a multiverse but my work looks at this idea through the prism of fantasy and imagination. The world I create is layers of imagined universes and though those universes are more apparent, they are no less mysterious.

Technically, I wanted to put more focus on painting for this show. I have learned a lot working with resin over the last few years but mostly I have learned I prefer working with resin primarily as a medium itself. I wanted to refocus the work to the techniques and textures I can create and not just the three-dimensional elements of resin. By applying pigments and wet paint in the uncured resin, I am able to create an organic chaos I could not bring out just working with oils. That kind of uncontrollable randomness is very hard to consciously create because no matter what, my mere human mind always tries to create order. It brings an intriguing juxtaposition when combined with the very calculated and ordered parts of my work. For this show, I made the decision to use fewer layers of resin so I could spend more time painting within each layer. This allowed me to bring more detail, attention, and care to each individual layer. It also allowed me to work larger due to the overall weight of the resin. My early resin pieces were very heavy and cumbersome. As my imagination and ideas continue to grow, the larger format allows the universes to breathe and exist. That being said, the thin resin sill adds an amazing amount of depth but I’d be wary to call it three-dimensional.

SH: Nature is a strong element in your work, have any of your pieces been inspired by a specific place?
AK: I wouldn’t say there’s any specific place. A lot of influence definitely comes from growing up in western Pennsylvania and having access to a big forest in our backyard. My brother, Ben, and I used to run around those woods like wild animals. Exploring the mystery of the woods as a kid certainly stuck with me. In 2010, I moved back to Pittsburgh from Portland. The move home was a cross-country tour of amazing national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Devils Tour, and the Badlands. I was blown away by the grandeur of it all and those sights certainly left a lasting impression.

SH: As your work tends to address the elements of the “unknown,” what unknown is most daunting to you?
AK: I don’t see the unknown as daunting. The unknown is, of course, very terrifying by nature, but it’s also equally inspirational and wondrous. The cosmos has an incomprehensible scope and magnitude that generates both fear and awe. That emotional duality will always inspire me and spark my imagination. I definitely try to evoke that feeling through my own work and it’s a major reason that I was drawn to adding cosmic elements to my paintings. (Aside from it being really fun to paint!)

SH: What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
AK: When I’m working on a show, I usually wake up, make some decaf coffee (regular coffee betrayed me and now makes me feel like death), give the dog and cats some treats, cook some eggs, and check up on emails and other mundane administrative things. Then I’ll go up to the studio and formulate some sort of game plan for the day. Because I work on several pieces at once, and each of those pieces consists of a few layers of resin, every day is a singular adventure.

A normal day can consist of working out concepts with writing and sketching, cutting masks for airbrush, applying clear base acrylic layers to new resin layers, experimenting with some new materials, taking pieces down to the basement for airbrushing, and of course, some actual oil painting. Some layers take a while to paint and sometimes I spend a whole day on one piece, but I usually end up working on a few different pieces in a single day. If there are any pieces that are ready for a new layer of resin, I’ll usually do this towards the end of my workday. I close out my night by putting on headphones and washing all the brushes I used throughout the day. That task can be pretty daunting and it’s tempting to skip, but I love waking up the next day with a fresh set of brushes to work with.

SH: We know you continue to challenge yourself as an artist with each body of work, but was there a specific piece in this exhibition you feel unexpectedly challenged you or took you on an unexpected journey?
AK: The most challenging piece for this show was Worlds Apart. I wanted to somehow create two different worlds existing at once, on different layers, and have them blend into each other. Somehow. Logistically, it took a ton planning and brainstorming. This was done mostly by staring at the piece for hours and wondering how the hell I was going to pull it off. I spent a lot time tinkering and improvising and, by the end, many of the initial conceptual elements were shifted and readjusted. It was also hard to know how things would come together until I painted the very last layer. There were some very tense and uncertain times with that piece, but I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

SH: In past interviews, you’ve shared that you have very vivid dreams. Do you have recurring dreams or locations? What is your earliest dream memory?
AK: Yes. My dreams are very epic. Haha. I have all types of dreams. Sometimes I have action packed dreams full of guns, explosions, and impossible odds of capturing a bad guy or saving the world. I also have dreams that could be considered nightmares, usually consisting of an ominous and unseen threat closing down on me, and those around me. Those dreams are pretty frightening but also very intriguing and exciting.

Mostly I find myself wandering around strange, alluring landscapes. I’ve seen so many amazing and indescribable places in my dreams and I can only remember fleeting glimpses of them. They’re impossible to verbalize and properly explain, but I do attempt to evoke the feelings these places give me. Some of these places I do revisit in dreams, and one specific landscape is what inspired the piece Reoccurring Shores. In my dream, I find myself facing a vast, quiet ocean from a snow-covered, rocky shoreline. I am always there at the very end of sunset or the very beginning of sunrise. I am not sure where this place exists but it feels like the very bottom of the world, as far as you can be from civilization. The salty ocean air is so crisp, cold, and clean and the only sound is the gentle lapping of small waves on the shore. It’s an overlap of profound tranquility and a frightening feeling of utter isolation. I feel so small and so wonderfully insignificant in this place and I reminisce of it often in my waking hours. I have wanted to capture this image for a long time and this painting feels very close but to truly capture it, I think the painting would have to been around 20 feet while keeping the character the same size. One day.

SH: How have you grown as an artist in the last 5 years and how do you hope to grow in the following 5?
AK: There has definitely been a learning curve with the resin. I feel like I’ve figured out so much by using it over the last 5 years. Being more comfortable with the resin has allowed me to focus more on the actual art and less on the process itself. This has been really energizing for me. PRISMATIC is more ambitious because it was less about experimentation with resin alone but the combination of all of my skills and tools I have learned and practiced. I am also more comfortable painting on resin and it feels great to bring back those techniques. Truly mixing my old ways with the new and continuing to learn so much with every piece I make. I hope to continue using those lessons and keep pushing my work into new territories. On top of the technical growth, I’ve also grown as a human being, and continue to expand my mental horizons. That definitely has a profound impact on the direction of my artwork.

I really want to do more collaborative work in the future. Working from home as an independent artist can get pretty isolating. I know there is no way I could work on a project and paint everything manually so I plan to take some digital painting classes. I’ve always wanted to be good at digital painting and I’ve tried to figure it out on my own, but I’m so damn used to the feel of brushes and mixing paint on a palette. I know I can persevere; I’ll just have to get some expert education. Plus I have some other personal projects that I want to spend some time on, and being able to do digital conceptual art would be very handy.

SH: What about another artists’ work excites or fascinates you? Who do you think everyone should look up?
AK: I love a mix of good craftsmanship with art that is still mysterious and imaginative. If it’s well made and makes me think, “What the hell is going on in this person’s mind?” I’ll likely be attracted to it. Having a unique visual style goes a long way, but having a distinct and defining voice is more important to me. Essentially, artwork that’s comfortable in its own skin. Some specific artists that come to mind are Aron Weisenfeld, Esao Andrews, Femke Hiemstra, AJ Fosik, and Martin Wittfooth. There are plenty more, but it would take way too long to list them.

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?
AK: It’s a constant mix of music, podcasts, and audiobooks. I really like working to music in headphones. It puts me in the zone and I become immersed in the work. I actually picked up some nice wireless headphones for this show because my corded headphones kept getting caught on things in my studio, my drafting table chair being the main culprit. Nothing tears you out of a good creative session (or inspires a quick, hot rage) like having headphones suddenly ripped off your head. In the beginning concept stage, I zone out to ambient, non-vocal music. Later on, I move on to whatever albums fit my current mood. Music can definitely add to the mood of a piece I’m working on, and sometimes it’s just something to fall into and be creatively motivated by.

Audiobooks are a huge part of my listening regimen. I usually listen to 15-20 audiobooks per show. I mostly listen to fantasy books and series with a sprinkling of non-fiction and general fiction. The fantasy genre consists of a lot of descriptive world building, which inspires my imagination and puts me in a good creative mood. It also helps me push through more tedious parts of paintings, such as endless straight hours of trees and grass painting.

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.
AK: My ultimate dream is to animate a story of my own creation, and I’ve been writing my own story, on and off, over the last few years. That being said, the ability to work with some of my current favorite authors like Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, or Patrick Rothfuss would be amazingly insightful. I’d also love to collaborate with J.K. Rowling so she could inject magic and humanity into it, and could help me name my characters. She has the best names. If I could work on a personal animation project, it would more likely be influenced by filmmaking than animation, so I’d like to pick the brains of my favorite auteurs like P.T. Anderson, Wong Kar Wai, Guillermo del Toro, Stanley Kubrick, Alfonso Cuaron, and Wes Anderson. Terrence Malick can also throw some philosophical tidbits my way and make me contemplate the war of man and nature.

As for painters, I don’t think I’d want to collaborate as much as be a fly on the wall and observe some masters like Bosch, Bruegel, Goya, or Caspar David Friedrich. To see their processes and techniques from conception to completion would be astoundingly fascinating and enlightening.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
AK: My studio is at home, so sometimes it feels impossible to get away from work. For that reason, I try my best to take Sunday as a day of guilt-free slacking. Those days usually consist of hanging with my wife and the animals, playing some video games or board games, watching some good TV or a movie, and ignoring email at all costs.

Interview with Alvaro Naddeo for “Not Forgotten”

Thinkspace is proud to present Not Forgotten from Alvaro Naddeo in the Project Room opening September 30th. This is Naddeo’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, only months after exhibiting a few works in the Thinkspace Gallery office. A rotating area of the gallery featuring works from new artists to the Thinkspace fold, or returning pieces from group exhibitions across the globe. Naddeo is a self-taught painter whose works explore various urban environments and the objects found in them that have shaped his memory and imagination. Autobiographical in nature, the compositions contain symbolic references to his own nomadic past and his transition through the landscapes of several different cities and countries. We interviewed Alvaro Naddeo for “Discarded” back in March where we deep dived into his creative process, today we explore more of the artist.

SH: You recently showed in our office space in March, and now a solo in the project room, what can we expect from this new body of work?
AN: This new body of work is, in my opinion, an extension and an evolution of what Thinkspace showed at the office space earlier this year. The theme, tone, voice, and medium are the same, but the ideas got pushed further and the exploration was broader. I like this new series a lot more than the previous one (which I like too!). I believe the composition of these paintings is cleaner and the concepts are clearer. I’m very happy with this body of work.

SH: What do you think is the role of the artist in society?
AN: I believe the role of the artist in society is to provoke, question, raise concerns and share thoughts about the society we live in. Most artists are very good at making observations on what’s going on in the world, pass those observations through a personal filter, and then put them back out there by sharing them with society. All of that while celebrating aesthetics.

SH: How do you approach each piece in a new way that challenges you as an artist, and motivates you to push your artistic voice?
AN: Each piece is more challenging than the previous ones because I’m looking for new ways to express a similar thought. I always want the recent pieces to look better and fresher than the previous ones, so that’s another challenge.

My motivation comes from the desire to express myself. I’m a shy person but I do have an opinion and I like to share it with others and since I don’t do it much verbally, I feel motivated to do it through painting. I’m also motivated by the connection that is formed with people who like what I paint. I feel that the group of people that my paintings connect with are really interesting. It seems that they are a very small fraction of the general public, but they are very engaged and intense.

SH: What plays in the background while you’re working on a composition?
AN: I listen to a lot of podcasts from Brazil and the US. Sometimes a little music plays, but mostly podcasts.

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.
AN: I would love to collaborate with Pixar. I hope John Lasseter has a google alert for every time his name appears somewhere and he receives this interview and checks out my art!

SH: How have you grown as an artist in the last 5 years and how do you hope to grow in the following 5?
AN: The improvement I’ve experienced in the last 5 years as an artist is huge, not necessarily because of where I am now, but mostly because of where I was then. I don’t show almost anyone what I was doing 5 years ago. It was clearly necessary to go through that and to paint those pieces to get where I am now. That’s normal. That’s the journey of most self-taught artists. It takes a while to figure out many things. There is so much to learn in terms of technique, composition, color use, scale, etc. In the next 5 years, I wish to grow, even more, improving my technique, learning to draw better, and also to be able to paint more hours than I do now.

SH: If you had a dinner party, who would be the guest of honor? What would be the menu? And what is the one question you’d ask all your guests?
AN: I would have three guests of honor: Kurt Vonnegut, Julio Cortázar, and Stanley Kubrick. Dinner would be whatever they like and sushi for me. The question would be: How would you like to improve as a person?

SH: Answer the question you would ask all your guests.
AN: I want to be able to always and constantly desire less of everything and to continue being grateful for everything good that happens to me.

Join us for the opening reception of Not Forgotten on September 30th from 6 to 9pm.

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.