Interview with Frank Gonzales for “Desert Discourse”

We’re excited to be showing new work by Pheonix-based artist Frank Gonzales in our project room for his solo exhibition Desert Discourse opening Saturday, March 2nd. Gonzales’s compostions showcase his love of botany and ornithology, combining both the organic and artificial, the natural and the contrived, to produce what the artist himself has aptly coined ‘artificial realism.’

In anticipation of Desert Discourse our interview with Frank Gonzales discusses the inspiration behind this latest body or work, and his love for prickly pear and John Coltrane.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Were you exploring a specific theme or pushing yourself artistically in a certain way?

FG: I’m always trying to push myself artistically with each painting or body of work, at least I try.  The theme of my work is a continued exploration of the phenomena and sense of wonder I hold of the natural world. There’s been an introduction of aerosol in some of the works. Its been great To revisit my roots as a graff writer and play with the medium again. The quality of paint and options of colors offered these days are phenomenal. That kind of makes me sound old, haha. It’s just great to throw another medium in the mix and react to it. 

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.

FG: I really enjoyed painting Night Breed. It’s more specific imagery wise. Instead of stacking various elements I chose to illustrate a pollinating night scene of a Saguaro with Long Nosed Bats. There are so many different pollinators of the Saguaro, but a night scene with bats is just so badss. Its remarkable knowing a Saguaro doesn’t even produce flowers until its around 70 years old and can age well over 100 years old! Pollination of flowering cactus in the Sonoran Desert could be a whole series in itself. Who knows, that could be another venture to explore on the horizon!   

SH: How do you approach starting a new piece? Walk us through the process of a piece from conception to completion. 

FG: I’ll usually start by obsessing over a certain cactus or mineral or some sort of natural element as a jump-off point. Or I will just start putting down paint on a surface and react with shapes and colors, etc. Its a pretty organic process.

Once I have a surface I’m happy with I will start to research from books, pics I’ve documented, my desktop folder of images, or plants from my own collection. Once an element is chosen I’ll draw it on the surface and it grows from there. The painting will usually dictate what it needs. The hardest part is learning to step aside from yourself and let it happen without getting too heady about it.

The painting process is usually a blur of being in the moment. I love that the most. All sense of time is gone until you stop and back away. It’s an experience I think most artists can relate to. 

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

FG: It can be a love/hate relationship. Sometimes starting is the hardest part and also the most exciting. As mentioned above I think getting out of the way of yourself and moving with the process is exciting. There’s a sort of dialogue that happens I find enjoyable. 

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

FG: The times where you feel like you’ve run out of ideas or stopping yourself mentally before even starting. This is usually a sign that something needs to change. Find a different approach or just change the music. In the end the work will still be consistent, but its the mental chatter that can be a bit of a buzz kill. I definitely think the excitement and frustration balance each other out. You can’t have one without the other. 

SH: Is there a piece of knowledge or advice around being a working artist that you wish you knew 10 years ago? 

FG: Not really. Its an ongoing journey to be explored. 

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

FG: Hmmm, maybe Prickly Pear fruit! I would have to be a Paleta and all natural. HA! 

SH: If you could collaborate with any other artist (dead or alive) in any art form, such as music, film, dance etc… what would be your dream collab and what would you create?

FG: At first my thoughts would be to do live art with John Coltrane, but I wouldn’t get anything done because I would probably just stand there in awe. I would probably have to go with producing some type of super sexy and sensual botanicals for a Prince album. HAHA. 

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

FG: The role of artists in society is very vital. It’s how we communicate and express the unspeakable truths of natural phenomena. Language can only communicate so much. There are so many forms of art out there that inspire, inform and speak to me. It shows what it means to be human. It’s chaos, it’s ugly, it’s pretty, it’s functional, it’s useless, etc. It’s all out there. What matters is how we engage with it. It’s about what we choose to accept and not accept and to keep an open mind and heart regardless.

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

FG: a big sigh and some brews. ha!

Join us for the opening reception of Desert Discourse, Saturday March 2nd from 6 to 9 pm.

Interview with Kevin Peterson for “Wild”

We’re excited to be showing new work by Houston-based artist Kevin Peterson in our main room for his solo exhibition Wild opening Saturday, March 2nd.  Peterson’s hyper-realistic compositions create a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity.

In anticipation of Wild our interview with Kevin Peterson discusses the inspiration behind the exhibition, his dream collaboration, and what kind of ice cream his body of work would inspire.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Were you exploring a specific theme or pushing yourself artistically in a certain way?

KP: Just growing up, what its like to be a kid and what its like to think about being a kid. How things change over time and how we change. I like thinking about our world in different stages. Seeing how the things we make crumble and decay. Seeing nature take over when it’s allowed to, but even nature is cyclical. A forest burns down, but it grows back stronger, it’s just a matter of time.
The settings of these always have an end of the world look to them. I don’t really believe in an apocalypse type situation, but it is a different world than what we are living in currently. A new phase I would say.  Things are crumbling, but it’s not a reason for fear. It’s a new beginning, a clean slate. It’s important to remember that change can lead to good. It can make you adjust your trajectory, reevaluate your priorities. I suppose the kids in my paintings are a reflection of a hope that I have that people will learn from past mistakes and face the future with a sense of calm reason. Part of that is re-prioritizing what we value. The work is a vision of a new generation of kids that will not rule the world like tyrants but will respect nature and the world we have.

 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.  

KP: I swear, every time I paint the portrait part of a painting (especially a kids face) its a technical challenge. It always looks like shit in the beginning and for a long time after. I just keep working it and working it and eventually I get it where I want it. It’s always a battle. I used my son as a model for a couple of these paintings and that added a whole other level of difficulty. It being my kid, I found it extra challenging to capture him perfectly. 

SH: How do you approach starting a new piece? Walk us through the process of a piece from conception to completion.

KP: Sometimes I start with a background image I like and sometimes I start with a picture of a model I want to use, it doesn’t always come about the same way. I work pretty closely with my reference photos, but the final scenes are composites of my images. I have tons of images of urban blight or abandoned places that I’ve taken over the years and I also have tons of pictures of models that I’ve taken down at my studio. I use Photoshop to lay out a composition that I will use to paint from. My pieces are pretty well planned out, but the Photoshop composites are never perfect though, they are a framework. The challenge comes in working out all the details during the actual painting process.  My goal is to create a scene that is both implausible or fantastic, but at the same time totally believable to the viewer.  Just technically speaking, my work takes many, many hours. I paint in pretty thin layers, just building up and refining over time. It takes a lot of passes to get everything how I like it. 

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

KP: My paintings are well planned out before I ever start painting. I love every bit of the painting part, but the excitement comes in the planning stage. When I add that element to a certain background or setting that I want to paint, whether it be one of my references of a model or maybe an animal. I can tell the second I put it in there, it fits, its like “bingo!” that’s it.  It sometimes takes hundreds of different attempts to find the right fit, sometimes I never find it, but when I do, its really thrilling and I cant wait to start painting at that point. 

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

KP: I put a lot of time into ideas and concepts for paintings that never actually make it to the canvas. I sometimes feel like I’m so close to something good, but I just can’t make it work in the end and I have to abandon it. It’s like having this sort of vague idea in your head and not being able to translate it to reality. That can be frustrating and it can feel like a waste of time, but its all part of the process.

SH: Is there a piece of knowledge or advice around being a working artist that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

KP: Don’t compare yourself to other artists. It’s a hard thing to do. Also, don’t just art all the time, you gotta actually live your life so you will have the stuff to paint about. 

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

KP: You would take a cone with some pure and perfect flavor and dip it in a vat of dirt and grime and shit. Sounds delicious!

SH: If you could collaborate with any other artist (dead or alive) in any art form, such as music, film, dance etc… what would be your dream collab and what would you create?

KP: I don’t really enjoy collaborating. It goes back to hating group work in school. I love film though. I guess I’d pick a director like Scorsese or Terrance Malick or Spike Lee maybe. I wouldn’t do anything though, I’d just want to watch them work. 

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

KP: I think different artists can play a lot of different roles in life. All I know is that when I find something that an artist created that expresses a feeling that I could never have put into words but nails exactly how I feel or have felt, that is a really comforting feeling. Knowing you’re not alone. It’s powerful, it’s rare, but its why I love art.

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

KP: I worked really hard on this last show, a lot of long days and late nights.  I’m actually taking it a little bit easy since I shipped the pieces off. Decompressing a little. I’m doing yard work. I actually discovered a few years back that I love gardening, even though Im crap at it and most of my plants die. I really love spring,  just looking around town at peoples yards and at the nurseries to see what different plants I can get to replace the ones I killed over the previous year. 

Join us for the opening reception of Wild, Saturday March 2nd from 6 to pm.

Interview with Booooooom’s Jeff Hamada for “Seeing Red”

For more than a decade Booooooom has championed visual artists from all over the world, presenting a unique mix of high and low brow work from both emerging and established artists. Curated by Jeff Hamada, “Seeing Red” presents all new works from a wide array of artists who’ve been featured on Booooooom over the past ten years, and with the spirit of the site in mind, there are legendary names and relatively unknown ones showing alongside each other. Each artist was given the same challenge, to work within a 12×12 inch (30×30 cm) frame and to incorporate the color red into their work. The simple visual theme serves as a common thread connecting all the works—a pathway for the viewer to travel into and out of each piece—and provides a reference point to help understand the way this diverse group sees the world around them.

Andrew Hosner interviews Jeff Hamada…

What was the initial spark that made you want to launch Booooooom?
I’ve always loved sharing the things I discover with other people. When I was younger I was always hunting around for underground hip hop music, and back then it was a lot harder to find this stuff on the internet, I had to use FTP programs and upload several albums all night to get enough credits to download a rare album. The reward for me was playing stuff in my car that my friends had never heard. I think there was a bit of a similar feeling when I started Booooooom, it was another outlet for sharing things that I thought were really interesting and the more obscure or unknown the content was, the more satisfying it was for me. This is part of the reason I’m so interested in emerging artists, people who haven’t had someone vouch for them yet—no stamp of approval—you have to decide for yourself what you think of the work.

I heard that the initial decision to launch the site with 7 o’s was due to the regular spelling of Boom already being taken. As you’ve built the site’s notoriety, any funny stories revolving around the unique spelling you’ve chosen?
The people at the bank used to hate me because Booooooom is actually the business name as well so they would have to carefully count the o’s on things like checks and I would watch them having to re-count several times. In the end I think the annoyance made it really memorable and it didn’t take long for everyone there to know who I was. It doesn’t sound like a serious business so people often ask what it is and it’s an easy way to get to tell someone about it.

Back when you started Booooooom, there really weren’t that many other art blogs of note. Now there are more than one can take the time to list, yet many still only repost the content you and a couple other key sites publish. Curious if you’ve any take on this?
I think we’re actually coming full circle right now where a lot of blogs that I used to look at have either already disappeared or will in the next year or so. So yes there are technically more than you could ever list but how many are still being updated? Tumblr is dead. I actually miss having a lot of other ones around.

I don’t really think too much about who is finding what where, if another site features an artist we’ve featured that’s awesome, that’s more exposure for that artist. Now that we have a membership, I want to always be highlighting the best work from our most talented members so getting them on the radar of other curators, editors, agencies is actually what I want to have happen. Reposting is good, it means they’re watching.

Oddest place you’ve been turned on to a new artist?
My favourite photographer in Vancouver, Vishal Marapon, was someone who served our table at White Spot (a very classic restaurant chain here) many years ago.

Where do you see yourself taking Booooooom over the decade ahead?My main focus over the next bit will be the membership program we started a year ago. It’s growing really quickly and I’m not sure how exactly it will evolve but I know right now we’re only scratching the surface of what it has the potential to be. My passion has always been the community aspect of Booooooom more than the actual art—personally connecting with people and also connecting them with each other. That’s kind of a vague answer but I think when I first started it was purely a visual catalog of art and as time goes on I see it shifting to focus way more on the people creating the art.

Is there an average day for you, running Booooooom?
My day is usually split where I work during the day and take a break and then work again late at night. Yesterday I had two meetings, one at 1pm and one at 1am (on Skype with an agency overseas). So I do have an odd schedule but it is somewhat of a routine. The stuff I’m working on is quite different day to day though  — the variety is probably the reason I haven’t got bored of it.

We’ve always been about collaboration here at Thinkspace and I know you’ve had a strong history of the same. What is it about collaborating in the arts that excites you?
I never like doing the exact same thing over and over so collaborating with different people is a way to make something you’ve already done feel new again. There’s new risks and new challenges especially when you’re working with someone for the first time and I like all of that.

As an artist yourself, if you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead… who would it be and why?
Radiohead. Even if whatever we made together never saw the light of day I think spending time with them and getting to see the world the way they see it for even a short time would be life-changing.

You have only one day to show a visiting artist around Vancouver… where does the Jeff Hamada Tour stop along the way? Please share your hometown with our readers.
It would be a mostly food related stops. Get some sandwiches to-go from Duffins and fill a growler at Brassneck then take some bikes around the sea wall that wraps around the whole down town area. Sushi for second lunch/snack at either Carp or Ajisai. Tour ‘em around Main street to see all the murals from the recent Vancouver Mural Fest. Dinner at a good dumpling spot like Dinesty or Peaceful or skip dinner and do a random activity like archery at Gum Ying in Richmond and then have late night noodles at Deer Garden.

In this day and age, how much does art school really matter?
As art schools become more and more expensive they become less and less relevant. There’s no point starting off your life in such a deep financial hole that you can never get out, especially when there’s so much free information available online. Having said that I do think there is tremendous value in any opportunity for some face to face conversations with really smart people. If I could go back in time I think I would still go to art school for a couple years but maybe not five, and I’d consider taking some business and marketing classes.

Your thoughts on art fairs?
Honestly, I don’t go to enough of them to have an opinion. I don’t really have any personal interest in them.

You’ve interviewed a fair number of artists over the years, anything funny that comes to mind worth sharing?
I can’t think of funny things off the top of my head but I’ve interviewed a lot of funny people who’ve shared some really interesting things with me—some of them are in this show. Julian Glander is one. When I interviewed him I asked him to describe one of his all-time favorite scenes from an animation and he talked about one from Gumby – the basic premise is that they’ve broken a mirror by playing their music too loud, so they try to fix it by playing the same song backwards.

If Booooooom was an ice cream flavor, what would be in it?
Strawberry, chocolate and vanilla in a big brick like the classic neapolitan ice cream.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
When you’re reheating spaghetti in the microwave make a space in the middle like a donut.

Who is your personal biggest influence?
Nathan Fielder

Favorite place you’ve traveled thus far?
Japan, I never get tired of it.

Five artists to watch?
Alina-Ondine Slimovschi, Kellie Orr, Drew Young, Eric Louie, Huntz Liu

Do you yourself have an art collection?
A small collection, yes.

Most memorable moments related to being the chap behind Booooooom?
I think by far the best part of creating the site has been all the opportunities to travel to different parts of the world to either speak at or attend festivals, host art shows or work on various creative projects. In the last few years Booooooom has brought me to Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Barcelona, Portugal, Vietnam, Israel, all over the US and across Canada.

The worst current trend?
Remakes of movies.

Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica?
Battlestar Galactica.

The Rock or Jason Statham?
The Rock. Jason Statham stands no chance against the People’s Elbow.

Nike or Adidas?

Interview with Kisung Koh for “Way of Life II”

Kisung Koh’s “Way of Life II” opened Saturday, February 2nd and is on view till February 23rd. The exhibition features new works by Koh that highlights the hyper-realistically rendered and yet staged animals in abstracted or imagined spaces. The creatures acting as symbols for the complexity of life that is inexpressibly human and spiritual.

Our interview with Kisung Koh for “Way of Life II” discusses the inspiration behind the exhibition, the most challenging piece in the show, and the best advise he’s every received.

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?-

KK:  I was born and raised in South Korea then moved to Canada in 2006. My childhood memories are full of exploring nature/looking for any creatures in nature. All I wanted to do was nothing but witness, study and feel their life while the majority of kids went for video games or sports. I used to bring insects home and watch them again, only to be forced to release them after my Dad told me to.. haha. Anyway, I believe these habits have led me to create their ‘world’ in my works as I got older. I feel like I went back to my childhood in my works. In addition, I see a lot of myself from nature and learn life lesson such as dealing with relationships between people many times. 

I studied illustration at Sheridan College in ON, Canada, graduating with a BAA in 2012. I work and live in Toronto now. My zodiac sign is Scorpio. 

SH: What inspired this latest body of work?

KK: The new body of work for ‘Way of life 2’ has initially started with my feeling in people’s relationships and my thoughts to the world we live in.

By meaning ‘ the world’ is the most diverse and complex society. We feel many emotions and struggles in many circumstances. I feel like we hustle everyday in our lives. Since I’ve spent a lot of time for myself with depression while preparing this show,  I thought about the emotions and struggle that people could feel such as love, hate, sadness, abandoned, loneliness, solitude, confusion, selfishness, and mercy. I dedicated entirely those feelings to the new body of work, and decided to call it ‘way of life’.

These works are very personal but i believe and hope that viewers can apply themselves to my works.

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.  

KK: Polar bear one. In fact, it was a totally different painting at first and wasn’t even a polar bear but a mountain lion. This painting got me through so much time and trouble when I started this. I can’t really explain but every process with this particular piece gave me a crazy amount of stress and depression. Not because of the fact that I wasn’t happy with the piece, I basically had painted a number of poses and faces of a mountain lion that I thought were right for the piece, but in the end, none of them worked. At some point, I gave it up and was about to destroy it but then went back to this piece again. Mountain lions just wasn’t working here.

And I could’ve just gone away and started the next one. However, I strongly felt that I must get it right in this piece, it was like as if I had to win against the devil.  I know it sounds stupid. Again, I can’t explain and this might sound very foolish but somehow its got me more depressed every time. I was working on this, and it made me start thinking about who I am in relationships with people and society, why I think I’m always alone, why I think that I might have bad energy, my dog might not be normal because of my energy, and so on. As I’m writing this, I might regret later to reveal these negative thoughts but I want to be honest. In the end, I feel that I got the piece right.

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?

KK: I start to think about an animal that I like to paint. Then I create situations or stories, most of the time they are reflections of my life in a metaphorical way, then start creating the look I would be if I were this animal. And yes, I have a sketchbook on hand and sometimes I would like to take a photo or make a note in my phone.

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

KK: In my works, I spend a lot of time to create facial expressions of animals, in between dreamy and realistic. When I get it right, I’m happy. I also get excited when my final work looks the same that I had first. I’m sure many artists feel the same, but it’s a challenge for me to make the final work looking just like the image in your head because I sometimes change the entire mood of image or myself while I’m working.

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

KK: Hm, I think making a ‘right'( for me) image and mood that a piece shows is the challenge. Maybe I think I’m too picky most of the times. It’s also challenging to make the right ‘look’ on the animal’s face. 

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

KK: I can’t answer this question, because I think the role of artists in society has so many and I agree with most of them.  All I can say is it’s essential in our life. 

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

KK: I’m not sure the flavor but I just imagined in my head that someone eating a vanilla ice cream cone and looking at my works. I tried to see different ice cream in someone’s hand but it has to be vanilla ice cream cone, no syrup on. Let’s say McDonald ice cream cone but in longer cone. 

SH: What is the best advice you’ve received as an artist? The best advice you’ve received in general?

KK: “Believe in yourself”

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

KK: I want to have beautiful times with my wife and my two dogs. They are my everything in Canada. 

Interview with Jana & JS for “No Broken Promises”

We’re excited to be showing husband and wife duo Jana & JS in the Thinkspace Project room for “No Broken Promises” opening Saturday, February 2nd. The exhibition will show new stencil and acrylic spray paint works by the French/Austrian pair who have been collaborating since 2007. The two have developed a stylized stenciling practice, often using site-specificity and portrait-based interventions into a city’s architecture to produce unexpected encounters.

In anticipation of “No Broken Promises” our interview with Jana & Js discusses the inspiration behind the exhibition, their feelings towards their creative process, and what they do after completing a body of work.

SH: You’ve shared with us before how you began to work together, but for those that are not familiar with your work as a duo, can you give us three words that describe the evolution of your artistic partnership and each other’s respective zodiac sign? 
J&J: More personal, More sensitive, More introspective 
Jana is Taurus / Js is Virgo

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition that really challenged you both? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.
J&J: We can’t really think of a piece that was more challenging to create than the others. But we can say that we are very happy with the works “All I want to see is that you’re ok” and “Waiting”. 
We have been introducing some new elements lately, and we really like how these precise pieces came out! 

SH: What inspired this latest body of work?
J&J: “Memories” is the main inspiration for this body of work.
All the images that we painted were inspired by our memories, or feelings induced by past moments. The objects we painted are carrying history and memories from others. 
All the pieces we’re presenting for this show are painted on found objects, assemblages of wood fragments that we found in abandoned houses or factories. 
These objects had a previous life, all the objects have accompanied people in their everyday life or in their works. We love to think about all the history they have and use the mark of the time passing in our work.   

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?
J&J: We don’t really have a sketchbook, for that kind of work. it’s more of a notebook where we are writing ideas, phrases, lyrics… 
Our camera would be our sketchbook. The basis of our stencil work is our photographic work. We take a lot of pictures… and some of them will be transferred into paintings. 

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
J&J: We never get bored of what we are doing. We love our “job” and living something special like that together is the most exciting thing for us.  
Being able to be creative, travel, discover new environments, meet new people (and especially because we can do that together) is amazing. 
And being able to perpetually share ideas and built our work is thrilling. 

SH: What frustrates you about your work/ creative process?
J&J: Right now, what frustrates us the most is not having enough time to experiment more.  

SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?
J&J: We believe that artists are providing society with emotions, reflexions that lead to make the world a better place.  

SH: What is the best advice you’ve received as an artist? The best advice you’ve received in general? 
J&J: The best advice we’ve received as an artist is “Be true to yourself, express the things that makes sense to you” and we guess that is also the best advice we received in general. 

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work?
J&J: Spend time with the kids, and forget about the painting for a little while. 

Join us for the opening of “No Broken Promises” this Saturday,
February 2nd from 6 – 9 pm.