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.

Interview with The Perez Bros

We’re excited to bring The Perez Bros in the Thinkspace fold, showing a few pieces from the duo in the Thinkspace office this month. The Perez Bros are identical twin brothers Alejandro and Vicente (born 1994) from South Gate, CA. After graduating from South East High School, they attended Otis College of Art and Design to pursue a degree in Fine Art focusing on painting. At Otis is where they began to work together as a collaboration duo.

They were exposed to Los Angeles’s car culture at a very young age, their father being a part of a lowrider car club for as long as they can remember. Fascinated with the culture, from the cars to the models, from the people to the music; through their paintings, they try and capture moments they witness at car shows. Larger paintings seem to invoke the mood and feeling of these car events, while smaller paintings encapsulate more intimate scenes. Through their work, they aim to bring the viewer into their world and a part of a culture that is their second home.

Get to know The Perez Bros better below…

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work?
PB: To be honest, we converse a lot daily, and within those conversations, different ideas come up and we agree and act upon them pretty quickly.

SH: Where do you source inspiration? What are some of your favorite spots to take photo reference at?
PB: We don’t really look at other artists for inspiration, instead we get inspired by music. We’re influenced by song lyrics and watching interviews of our favorite artists. We hope that our audience is able to relate to us and our work, like people relate to music and artists. We get all of our photo references at car shows; particularly Lowrider shows and Mustang events.

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
PB: Actually every part of our creative process excites us. We enjoy attending car
show events and taking pictures of the cars and people. We also enjoy every step that comes after: going through our photos and deciding which ones would make great paintings, building our canvases, applying the gesso, and then actually creating the painting. But what we enjoy the most is completing a painting and seeing our ideas come to life.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?
PB: One thing that frustrates us is when we attend a car event and we don’t find
anything interesting or inspiring to photograph. We leave the car event empty handed with no photo references for future paintings.

SH: When did the two of you first start working together as a duo?
PB: We first started to work together in our sophomore year at Otis College. We had an assignment to collaborate with someone in our painting class taught by Scott Grieger, which we naturally chose to team up together. After that, it became clear to us that this is what we should be doing.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?
PB: Definitely Kid Cudi. He inspires us every day. A dream of ours is to create the
artwork for one of his albums.

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?
PB: Our High School art teacher Ms. Tinajero influenced us to apply to art school, so we would say she definitely had a big significance in leading us to where we’re at now. She believed in our talent and always pushed us to work harder. We applied to Otis College and got accepted. Attending art school helped us find our voice and take our art seriously. Without Ms. Tinajero and Otis College, we don’t think we would be where we are at right now.

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?
PB: In our studio you would find a lot of Liquitex acrylic paint and gesso, brushes, raw canvas, stretcher bar tools. Just your basic tools to create acrylic paintings on canvas. You would also find a Bluetooth speaker, because music is a must. A tv and video games for when we need a break from painting. And a mini fridge and microwave, because artists also have to eat.

SH: Does your background noise influence the mood of the pieces? What’s on repeat in the studio at the moment?
PB: Yea, music has a big influence on our work. We can’t work on a painting without having music playing in the background. At the moment we have Kid Cudi, Mac Miller, Travis Scott, Interpol, and The Strokes playing in a constant rotation.

Interview with Benjamin Garcia for “Panacea”

We’re excited to show Venezuelan artist, Benjamin Garcia’s newest body of work Panacea in the Thinkspace Project Room. Garcia’s emotive and gestural painterly style allows him to create figurative subjects in a state of transformation or becoming. In anticipation of Panacea, we have an interview with Benjamina Garcia discussing dreams, his creative process, and artist toolbox.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work? Were there specific themes or techniques you wanted to explore in Panacea?

BG: Well, the development of this particular body of work was a kind of revision of old themes and ways of working and also experimentation with new ways and trying to combine them. I’m always on the search for a kind of balance between the completely figurative and planned aspects of painting and the emotional and primitive approach to abstraction and freedom. The perfect combination of this two aspects eludes me still but in a way, there has been sizeable progress towards discovering some facets of it.

The themes and symbols of the paintings really came to me subconsciously. I believe a big inspiration for most of it is the sense of isolation that comes from being stranded out of the country I grew up in and the sense of loss that comes with having to escape dictatorship separating from friends and family. The horrors of loss and the pain of seeing basically the worst of human nature in a sort of 1984/Soviet Union style. The real deconstruction of the basis of society is something that when experienced permeates your work whether you want it or not because it makes you question reality itself. I really did not intend for it to be about that but I can feel a taste of those emotions in the paintings.

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?

BG: There is: Dia Secreto. It was a really difficult piece for me to develop because the compositional aspects are really complicated and also it took me like a month to plan. Really got into trying to paint this regular scene like really bucolic but then there is something mysterious that happens in that story. Also, it was really difficult for me to execute.

SH: How do you plan out your compositions? Where do you source inspiration?

BG: I start looking for inspiration in movies or photography, magazines, video clips. I´m always being bombarded by stimulus from all sources and an amalgam of all of it is what basically gets painted. I try not to have a preconceived idea of what I want. I like to see it done and then go back and try to figure out what it means.

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

BG: Basically what really excites me is to get out of my confront zone all the time. To try to develop and discover how my basic pictorial language grows.

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

BG: Not connecting emotionally sometimes with the subject matter. And get stuck in trying to figure out the next steps trying to not play it safe.

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?

BG: I wish I had more people in the studio. I sometimes go paint with friends in a shared space. But my main studio is kind of lonely. Also, I paint with the cheapest brushes, I spend more on the canvas and paints mainly but I think I´ve never painted with an expensive brush in all my life.

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

BG: After a show, I try to take it easy a couple of weeks and just draw and be in like a free space outside the studio to then get right back into it.

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

BG: I really love the freedom in the strokes of Jenny Saville. Also, I love the complex social scenes of Kerry James Marshall.

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?

BG: Well, there is my brother Lucas. He is a real inspiration to me. He is a writer and illustrator. As he is my big brother I always look up to him and always thought it was possible for me to live being an artist because I saw him thrive.

SH: In a past interview you expressed your brushstrokes are a way of capturing your unique dream, “I can never focus my attention on more than one item at a time and sometimes it’s all fuzzy and disjointed, I want my paintings to be a bit of a window into that state.” As a person who remembers their dreams, can you share with us one that has a particularly interesting through-line you might remember?

BG: In dreams, one always see things in a sort of blurry way. And always everything is skipping like a broken record and scenes juxtapose in time. People are at one time one person and then other people. Reality is never still in dreams. I had a dream the other day where I was speaking with Bill Murray and also he was my father. Both persons at the same time. A dream character who is two people at the same time is something I can’t wrap my head around. Is more like the meaning of a character what you really interact within a dream. He was speaking to me about what it means to be an adult and have a family while we walked on the water of a river like Jesus.

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?

BG: I would go to the beginning of time and see if there is such a thing and come back with the answer and possibly freak everyone out.

Interview with Cinta Vidal for her exhibition “Viewpoints”

We are two weeks away from our first major solo exhibition with Cinta Vidal, “Viewpoints.” In her latest body of work Vidal continues to explore the idea of viewing the world from different perspectives and how to translate that vision. It has been two years since her last exhibition with us, Gravities,  at the Culver City gallery and we are excited to share our interview with Cinta Vidal that explores her growth as an artist, how she challenged herself with this new body of work, and her time travel destination.
SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work?

CV: The exhibit in Thinkspace gallery’s main room is my biggest challenge to date. I’ve never exhibited in such a big space, it is a big opportunity for me to present a large collection of my new work. My focus now is to explore deeper into the concept of sharing the same world but seeing it from different points of view.

SH: Were there specific themes or techniques you wanted to explore in “Viewpoints”?
CV: In this show, I wanted to explore to the maximum of all the possibilities that the gravity style can give me. Also, I wanted to develop more of the different ideas that I have evolved over the last two years. Like round detailed worlds, stairs compositions or floating furniture. I also changed the painting technique in the majority of the pieces. I use to paint in acrylic, now I paint in oils.
 
SH: Your pieces always have multiple interesting scenes and focal points, do you develop those scenes before starting and composing the complete piece or do they evolve and come to you as you’re working on one section.
CV: I’m a crazy perfectionist and I usually work in a very detailed sketch before painting the final piece. Sometimes I decide to add elements in the scenes while I’m painting them, like trees or cats. But much of the composition is always decide previously. Maybe I should start improvising more in order to give a more fresh touch to the pieces.
 
SH: Are the locations in your work inspired by real places?
CV: Sometimes yes. In ‘Viewpoints’ I present 5 pieces that are inspired by real places. 3 of them come from recent trips: Tai-O (Hong Kong), La Gomera (Canarias) and Nijo (Japan). These pieces are really special to me because they are like a summary of my experiences in those places. I really want to explore more of this line of work – that means that I need to travel a lot!
SH: You’ve traveled around the world for your mural work. What locations had one of your favorite meals?
CV: It’s hard to say, I’ve enjoyed a lot the meals from all the places I visited. Maybe I should say that Japan was one of the most splendid, culinarily speaking.
 
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?  
CV: The piece CITY is very special for me. It is a mix of stairs, people, trees and architecture, something that I had never done before. The composition is very different than I usually do because the building surrounds the painting. It was a bit complicated to me to solve this piece and I’m proud because it keeps a consistency with others, but it has a different accent.
SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
CV: The most exciting part is that everything around me could be a big inspiration. I’m always looking for new buildings, textures, trees, etc. My phone is full of ‘inspiration’ from my walks. Then I start to draw, it’s the part I enjoy the most.
 
SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?
CV: The big amount of details. I love to lose myself painting for hours, it’s like a meditation. But sometimes it is a bit frustrating when I look at the piece from afar and I’m not convinced by the overall result. It’s part of the process. Until I’m no longer uncertain about the results, I do not end it. It’s an internal fight.
 
SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.
CV: After a show, I try to relax and not to start new projects. But that’s easy to say.
I clean the study thoroughly in order to make space for the new projects and sometimes I go travel to totally disconnect.
 
SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?
CV: I love theatre, and contemporary dance. The choreographer Pina Baush is a big inspiration to me. Sadly she passed away. But one day I would love to be involved in a project with contemporary dance. 
 
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?
CV: The most important catalyst for me was working as an apprentice in Taller de Escenografia Castells Planas in St. Agnès de Malanyanes. I learned from Josep and Jordi Castells to love scenography and the backdrop trade. There I learnt how to paint and to be rigorous with work
 

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?
CV: I will go to do plein air with fauvism painters, to spend a day with Paul Cézanne, André Derain and Henri Matisse. That would be a dream come true.

Join us Saturday, September 15th from 6 – 9 pm for the opening reception of “Viewpoints”