Interview with Scott Listfield for “1984”

Scott Listfield’s latest body of work of hyper-realistic oil painting inspired by Orwell’s 1984 and his own childhood memories of the 80’s kick off Thinkspace’s 2018 project room. The single astronaut who explores various landscape eliciting self-reflection from the viewer takes a time jump to a world once familiar and distant, with an unsettling familiarity. Our interview with Scott Listfield dives deeper into the inspiration behind the show, those who have influenced his artistic growth, and posthumous collaboration.

Opening reception Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm – 9 pm.

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
SL: Well, I’ve been painting astronauts since 1999 which, considering how fast things move these days, is basically the dawn of time. I’ve been thinking about this particular series, though, for probably about a year now. In January 0f 2017, the George Orwell novel 1984 jumped to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, which seemed a bit curious to me, since it was written in 1949 and all. So I’d be thinking about doing a set of paintings about what 1984 meant in 2017, which touched on themes from the book, referenced the wave of nostalgia for the 80’s that we always seem to be in, pulled from memories I had as a kid growing up in the 80’s, but also maybe talked about the world we’re living in today. That’s already kind of a lot to throw into one group of paintings, so of course, I decided to also add in some references to popular music, a recurring Lamborghini Countach, and a whole hell of a lot of stripes. And it probably took me about 3-4 months to finish all the work.

SH: What is your favorite band, movie, and TV show from the 80’s?
SL: For those of you too young to remember the 80’s, it was pretty much exactly like Stranger Things. We all had BMX bikes, bowl cuts, and there was an inter-dimensional demon in our hometowns that we had to destroy. Just like Bruce Springsteen used to sing about. Anyhow, if I’m going to pick my favorites from that era, I feel like I have to choose the things that were most important to me then. Which means you’re getting 8-year-old Scott’s favorites, not necessarily the things that still resonate with me most today. Although, now that I think about it, maybe they’re the same list.

Band: Michael Jackson. Movie: Return of the Jedi. TV Show: Transformers (the cartoon, obviously).

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
SL: My favorite part is making paintings. My least favorite part is not making paintings.

SH: When painting are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you were listening to while developing this body of work?
SL: I used to listen to music while in the studio, but as I’ve gotten older, and increasingly bewildered by young people’s tastes in music, I find myself listening to more podcasts. But I do still listen to a fair bit of music while I’m painting, and I had new albums by Cut Copy, Action Bronson, Yellow Days, LCD Soundsystem, and King Krule in circulation in the studio, alongside some 80’s hits by Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Hall and Oates, which put me in the proper 1984 type of mood. As for podcasts, I listen to The Jealous Curator’s “Art For Your Ear,” one of my favorite art podcasts, and “Beyond Yacht Rock,” a podcast about yacht rock and other made up genres of music, by the guys who first coined the term, among others.

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?
SL: Oh jeez, I know I’m supposed to name a teacher or a mentor or something, and then fill everybody in on the most profound thing they ever said, which still resonates with me years later. But I don’t have a figure like that in my life, or at least not exactly. For a brief time in college, I became very good friends with a guy who was a couple years older than me and who had, unlike me at the time, lived a little. He had seen some things. Truthfully, he wasn’t exactly a great artist, but he was an extremely smart guy, and he told me a bunch of things I’m still unpacking years later. His name was Chris Ostoj, and unfortunately, he died young, which is sadly the way a lot of the most important people go. He used to look at my paintings and tell me, very seriously, to “Be more punk rock.” At the time, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it certainly seemed pretty bad ass, so I wrote it on my studio wall and repeated it to myself every now and again. After a while, I think I got it. And then I kind of stopped getting it. But hey, do with it what you will.

A little later on in my life, when I first started painting astronauts, I met my wife. She was my girlfriend at the time, of course, which is how that works, usually. She had studied illustration in school, while I had studied fine arts. Those two things are taught very differently, as it turns out. She looked at what I was doing, which involved essentially zero prep work and zero research and zero patience and 100% fucking around, and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was stupid. And she was right. I learned to stop wasting time and get fucking serious about things.

Later still I met my friend Wes. It was at a time when I was making paintings of astronauts largely to throw in the back of a closet or perhaps to hang exclusively in my own home. Let’s just say that there was not exactly a lot of demand for my work back then. I was working a day job and it was hard to carve out the time to keep making paintings that almost nobody cared about. Every artist reaches this point, some many times, where they start thinking about hanging it up. Is it worth the time and the effort? Do I still like doing this enough to keep plugging away at it, even though it might never lead anywhere? I was at that point. My friend Wes would come over to my house, get kinda drunk, blunder into my studio, and proceed to tell me that he thought my paintings were better than the ones he had seen in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. He was wrong of course, and when he’d get into VERY DRUNK territory he had trouble pronouncing “Hermitage.” But at a time in my life that I needed someone to believe in my art, he was there.

SH: In the few paintings we’ve seen so far, the astronaut doesn’t seem to be as isolated as previous works. Was this a conscious choice or only our perception?
SL: Well, there are certainly more people in these paintings, although they mostly appear in the form of large billboards with the faces of Madonna and Lionel Ritchie and Huey Lewis on them. I also included, I think for the first time, a secondary recurring character – the mysterious Lamborghini Countach which appears in a number of the paintings from this show. But you never see who’s driving the car, and it’s not clear if they’re somehow aligned with our protagonist, or just lingering maliciously in the background. These also all take place in a world that feels more artificial than my normal paintings. Pink and purple skies stripes raining down from above. I don’t know, but I actually feel like the astronaut might be even more isolated in these than my previous works.

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.
SL: Wow, I can choose a dead person? Like, I’ll take dead Einstein? Oh wait, you said arts. Huh. To be honest, I don’t do a lot of collaborating, because I’m one of those creative loner types. When I do, on occasion, though, I prefer to work with someone I consider a peer. Because the work has to make sense together, right? And if I’m being honest, I would have trouble working with someone a lot more famous than me, or a lot more dead than me, or especially both. Like if I worked with zombie Picasso and the entire art world was super excited he had come back from the dead but then they were also all like “Uh, why is zombie Picasso working with this guy who paints astronauts? Was zombie Matisse available? Or living Jeff Koons at least?”

Anyhow, let’s go with Stanley Kubrick. Or Pharell. Can I say both? Wait, David Attenborough. Final answer.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SL: I mean, I like to be in the studio and, like a lot of artists, I tend to get a bit itchy when I’m not. But I also like to travel, and seeing new things and places and people do inspire me, both personally and artistically. So I’d say, flying off to someplace warm, exploring a city I know only a little bit, and grabbing an ice cream cone with my wife. Or, you know, fighting ninjas. One or the other.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SL: Well, that’s a big question. I hate to be simplistic, but isn’t our role to make some art? Do people ask accountants “What do you think the role of accounting is in society?” What about baristas, or systems analysts, or Uber drivers? Actually, maybe they do. But I feel like artists, more so than most, are always questioning our place in the world. And why is that? Do we need to play a role in society, or can we just, you know, make some art? And who am I to explain in one or two really long run on sentences what role all the other artists in the world should be playing?

I’m just a guy who paints astronauts. Sometimes an astronaut with a cool car in the background. Sometimes an astronaut with like, oh shit, is that Hall and Oates? And sometimes an astronaut, and somebody looking at it stops for a moment, in the middle of everything else that is going on right now in their life, and maybe or maybe not there’s something in that painting that makes them think about the world we’re all living in together just a tiny bit different. And they feel a little more connected to something, or someone, or the things I’m saying, or trying to say, in my paintings resonates with them, in some small or large way. And maybe they think about buying it, and taking it home with them, to live with, forever and ever. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they just smile. Or maybe they ignore it and scroll to the next thing in their Instagram feed. And hey, that’s fine. I’m just making some paintings of astronauts. I hope some people like them.

So yeah. I’m answering this question in the most roundabout way possible. Of course, we have a role to play. But I’m not the one who says what it is. That’s for each of us to figure out on our own.

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SL: So I am very excited to be kicking off 2018 with a show of my work that feels to me like it’s pushing things forward a bit. It’s kind of dark in tone but exceptionally bright in color. It’s politically timely but set in the 80’s. Working on these paintings did feel like the next step for me, and I’m excited to see how it shapes my paintings coming up. I’m sure I’ll spend 2018 painting more astronauts. I’ll be doing a little something with Spoke in San Francisco in June, and a show with the very talented painter Josie Morway at Antler Gallery in Portland in the fall.

 

 

FIRST EXHIBITIONS OF 2018 – SCOTT LISTFIELD “1984”

SCOTT LISTFIELD
1984
January 6, 2018 – January 27, 2018

Opening reception Saturday, January 6th from 6 to 9 pm. 

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room are new works by painter Scott Listfield in 1984. His hyper-realistic oil paintings depict sprawling, sparsely occupied and seemingly unpopulated landscapes, cast with the unease of an ambiguous end of days. A single astronaut appears prominently throughout Listfield’s works, wandering this timeless fugue terrain that feels at once familiar and distant, dreamy and ill-defined, strange, even, in its displaced familiarity. The artist’s works draw from a ScFi inflected imaginary in which nostalgic references to pop culture and quasi-apocalyptic cynicism playfully, if not ominously, collude.

For his new body of work, 1984, Listfield, as the title suggests, invokes the dystopian futurity of Orwell’s 1949 classic, a text which has experienced a recent surge in Amazon sales, perhaps an indication of some collective, self-reflexive admission. This incidental fact piqued the artist’s interest in the current timeliness of the Orwellian nightmare; a vision of surveilled humanity seems somehow less outlandish and far-fetched in our era of simulated falsification and mediated experience. Our culturally dictated über reliance on social media, handheld devices, and virtual platforms, all in service of some feigned human connectivity, are forged through a bizarre consensual voyeurism – not such a far cry from Big Brother’s omniscience after all.

These new works include bright saturated visions inspired by a stylized 1980s Los Angeles, hedged by a requisite amount of Listfield’s dystopian edge and barbed wire. The artist’s own 1980s childhood memories inform the paintings, as does the culturally produced aesthetic nostalgia for the decade, evidenced in recent television shows and style trends. Producing a pastiche of time and place, Listfield taps into the misleading anachronisms of memory, and nostalgia’s power of stylization, not to mention the strange ways in which our versions of the past may in fact tell us more about our conditions in the present.

SARAH JONCAS & KELLY VIVANCO “BETWIXT AND BETWEEN”

SARAH JONCAS & KELLY VIVANCO
BETWIXT AND BETWEEN
January 6, 2018 – January 27, 2018

Opening reception Saturday, January 6th from 6 to 9 pm. 

Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco in Betwixt and Between. An exhibition about the creative potential of unscripted spaces and the generative possibility of in-betweens, Joncas and Vivanco, forego the limits of the aphoristic for the contiguous freedom of the fable. Both create narrative-based works that embrace the ambiguity and imaginative potential of the subconscious. Creatively playful with elements of the surreal, they capture a feeling of melancholia and aesthetic nostalgia in their styles, Joncas with her cinematic invocation of neo-noir film and Vivanco with imagery influenced by classic fairytales and vintage illustration. Fundamentally, both artists’ work offers an intrinsic pleasure in viewing and the kind of escapism possible only in worlds that lie beyond rationally dictated limits.

Toronto-based Sarah Joncas first exhibited with the gallery in 2009 when only 19 years old. Since then, her accomplished work has developed technically and conceptually, garnering international attention for its moody stylization and emotive impact. Her portrait-based paintings focus primarily on female subjects that function as alter egos or symbolic avatars for social, psychological, and personal themes. The figurative becomes a vehicle for more existential and constructivist emphases, an armature around which to posit narrative suggestions and symbolic inferences. Always striving to create a moment of discomposure or tension in her works, Joncas aestheticizes with melancholy and melodrama, tapping into an emotionally charged visual spectrum.

Joncas began her art career intending to pursue illustration and animation, directions that clearly still inform the visual diction of her current work. Highly refined areas of figurative rendering, like the lush skin tones she achieves with oils, are combined with elements of a more graphic sensibility, executed in acrylics, to establish compelling visual tensions between realistic dimensional space and flattened stylization. An early interest in animé and manga, as well as in those neo-noir cinematic references aforementioned, helped to galvanize Joncas’ interest in character-based works. Often posited in heightened emotional contexts, her protagonists are framed by suspenseful allusions to an overarching story or caught in the midst of ambiguous or invisible unfolding scenes. This penchant for plot, mystery, and symbolism is captured in moments of dynamic stillness in which action is both suggested and seized. The surrounding elements in her works, whether animals, objects or patterns, take on concomitant meanings, further reinforcing the larger thematic intimations of her works.

Based in Escondido, California, Kelly Vivanco’s depicted world is one of fantastical tall tales and mysterious encounters. Not unlike the magical wardrobe of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or Lewis Carroll’s Alice and her rabbit hole or fugitive fleet through the looking glass, Vivanco’s paintings themselves are thresholds. Each is an aperture into an alternate world of enigmatic episodes and apocryphal creatures, at times beatific and at others unsettlingly sinister; these storied landscapes and characters are more brooding and mysterious than flippantly whimsical. Playful and nostalgic, however, her works are far from sentimental or honeyed. Like the best fairy tales and all of their allegorical apologues, a darkness lurks in the beauty of their imaginative distortions and hyperboles.

The subconscious undeniably shapes Vivanco’s images. By exploring her figurative subjects through surreal shifts in scale and shadowy casts of mood and light, her paintings feel like their drawn from the recesses of dream. Psychologically inflected, the depictions of her characters range from the lighthearted to the more somber and foreboding. Vivanco works primarily in acrylic on panel and canvas, and her stylized hand is immediately recognizable, as is her signature palette of muted and darkened vintage-inspired colors. The speculative scenes she stages remain slightly intangible; we are given moments from a more substantial story that is then left to our imaginative work to unfold. The mystery lingers in these captures, as little is explicitly unraveled but rather implied. In addition to her fine art practice, Vivanco has been commissioned to illustrate children’s books, including Snow White and the Red Rose in 2014 and her second, Thumbelina, in 2016.

Both Joncas and Vivanco, though distinctly different in their unique styles, share an interest in the tangential work of the subconscious and all of its surreal textures and, potential, looking to the symbolism of the strange and relinquishing control of these mysterious spaces to the unscripted nature of its “in-betweens.” The ambiguity of their worlds is one in which enigmatic encounters remain partially unseen, and the suspenseful irresolution of the unknown lingers; whether through allegory or avatar, both Joncas and Vivanco look to the openings rather than the seams.

 

THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES SCOPE 2017!

Thank you to everyone that came through our booth with SCOPE this past week in Miami during Art Basel. Was so nice to reconnect with past patrons and to meet so many new fans of our space and program.

A big round of applause goes out to the entire staff of SCOPE on another stellar year on Miami Beach. Many thanks as well to all our exhibiting artists for delivering such beautiful and meaningful works.

Kudos are due to both James Bullough and Michael Reeder who SOLD OUT their solo shows at our booth during the fair. We can not wait until our solo shows with both incredible talents here in LA in 2018/2019. More details on those two highly anticipated exhibitions shared soon.

Excited to share that we placed over 70 original works of art this past week in Miami, a great many to new patrons. A simply incredible week to say the least and we can not thank you all enough for your support.

Just wait until you see what we have in store for 2018. Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone!

– Andrew Hosner
Co-Owner / Curator

BLACK METAL FRIDAY at the PRINT SHOP

It’s Black Metal Friday for the Thinkspace Print Shop and it’s the perfect time to pick up some goodies for your art loving friends for the holidays.

Our sale is active now through tomorrow, Saturday, December 2nd at 7 PM PST.

Today’s coupon code is:
BLACKMETALFRIDAY
Below is the direct link to have the code added to your invoice:
EVERYTHING except our new print from Audrey Kawasaki is included in the sale. Don’t miss out on this last chance to order something in time for the holidays.

Brian M. Viveros “Viva Vaudeville” Print
$200.00

Casey Weldon “Death Valley” Print
$50.00

Josh Keyes – “I’ll Love You Till the End of the World” Print
$250.00

THINKSPACE PROJECTS IN MIAMI THIS DECEMBER

Look for Thinkspace to return to the sands of Miami Beach this coming December in Florida during Art Basel week. This will be our 8th trip down to Miami and we’re excited at the stellar lineup we’ve put together for you all to enjoy.

Look for us at SCOPE Miami Beach at booth F05 near the fair’s main entrance.

Mini-solo shows from:
Michael Reeder & James Bullough

New works from:
Wiley Wallace, Sergio Garcia, DotDotDot & Lauren Brevner

Plus our wall of over 40 12×12 inch works from our international family of artists.

Tickets and full details at:
www.scope-art.com

Honored to share that Thinkspace will be taking part once again in the JuxtapozClubhouse during Art Basel week in Miami. This second iteration is being presented in tandem with Adidas Skateboarding.

A 3-Story building in downtown Miami will be packed with art & installations from Conor Harrington, Jean Jullien, Faith 47, Lucy Sparrow, Laurence Vallieres and many more.

Thinkspace will have James Bullough and Jaune on site leaving their unmistakable marks. We will share more details on our participation shortly.
Very excited to be included again this year.

Find us in downtown Miami at:

JUXTAPOZ Clubhouse
200 East Flagler Street
Downtown Miami, FL.

Opening Reception:
Wed., December 6th from 6-10PM

Open daily from December 7-10 (details to follow soon)

Support from Mana Urban Arts Projects

Opening Reception of “LAX / JFK” at Spoke Art NYC

Thinkspace Project’s presented back to back shows at Spoke Art NYC this fall, with the opening of Bezt’s Beautiful Mess last month and then LAX / JFK this month. We loved working with our friends at Spoke Art NYC on the eleventh iteration of Thinkspace Projects traveling series bringing unique focus on the New Contemporary Art Movement.

LAX / JFK featured a mini solo exhibition by Matthew Grabelsky and showcased
over 50 new works from some of the top artists working in the New
Contemporary Movement.

Please visit Spoke Art NYC website to view all available work from the exhibition.

Photos courtesy of Lanee Bird

Instagram: @lovvr