Interview with Kathy Ager for “Golden Age” opening June 29th

Thinkspace is pleased to present Vancouver-based artist Kathy Ager’s debut solo exhibition Golden Age. Ager creates detailed, still lifes that feel simultaneously Baroque and acerbically modern. Inspired by the 17th-Century Golden Age of Dutch and Spanish painting, her imagery uses historical visual rhetoric to deliver intensely personal and emotively charged themes. A professional graphic designer-turned painter, this is Ager’s first complete body of work to date and will include ten new paintings.

In anticipation of Golden Age our interview with Kathy Ager discusses her artistic background, creative process, and desired love interest in a movie about her life.

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? 

KA: I haven’t been at it for long – I’m a late bloomer for sure! I’m originally a graphic designer from Vancouver BC, focussing mainly on corporate branding. I still like working as a designer but there came a point where I felt I had more to say and was frustrated by the limits of graphic design. I’d been living in Amsterdam for a few years and found myself feeling sick and lonely and far from home. That’s when I picked up painting for the first time since design school. I’d always been drawn to painting and creating in general, but this was the first time I started finding my own voice. I’d work on paintings in my spare time between freelance design work, making only a couple of paintings a year. Things really started rolling when I dropped myself into Lisbon for a couple of months, just to see how it would feel. It was the first time I’d showed up in a new place as an artist, not a graphic designer. I met some amazing artists who became the first champions of my work. I’m not sure if I’d have had the strength to keep going with it if it wasn’t for that experience. Life in Amsterdam had become a lonely struggle for me and painting became my life raft. Sometimes I felt it was all I had, but it felt powerful and super satisfying being able to evoke something in others through the images I’d create, inspired by my loneliness, heartache, music, books, and my endless curiosity for love and life and truth.

Did I mention I’m a Sagittarius? Apparently, we’re forever seeking adventure and the truth. Honesty above all else! In my paintings, I lay it all out there, just like I do with those who know me. I’m not comfortable unless I can truly talk about how I feel. I want people to be in on my life and I want to be in on theirs. There’ve been stretches in my life where I’ve felt like an astronaut floating in space, so far out there but not sure how to get back, and maybe this vulnerability and honesty is how I anchor myself in this universe and connect to others. My paintings have become a powerful way to do that.

SH: How do you approach starting a new body of work? What inspired this exhibition?

KA: This is the first coherent body of work I’ve produced. In the last couple of years, I’ve established a visual language and a few key elements that felt good to me. While working on these latest paintings I was able to keep that language consistent while drawing in elements from my own life and those from traditional still life paintings. I’m always amazed by how objects can be used to express such human emotions. I’ve been inspired directly by my personal life – especially love and heartbreak and the loneliness in between – and the need to grasp onto something solid in this transient world.

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.

KA: Definitely, the most challenging piece for me was ‘An Immovable Feast’. It’s the largest piece in the exhibition and also the last piece I completed. All of my paintings are deeply personal, so working on each painting means facing those feelings for as long as it takes to complete that painting. The size of this one felt like three paintings in one and felt like the final painting addressing some lingering heartache that inspired quite a lot of my current work. I didn’t feel up to the task. I’m amazed that I was able to push through a lot of self-doubt and shifts in my personal life and still create something I’m proud of. I definitely needed some encouragement from friends who stopped me from setting it on fire or throwing it out the window. LOL!

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

KA: I get such a kick out of what I do. I feel so deeply and to be able to translate that into something visually powerful has been transformative. It’s like solving a problem. If the solution makes me laugh out loud while also strumming just the right chord in me, I know I got it right. 

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

KA: It’s solitary work. I need to hear myself think and that happens best when I’m alone, doing nothing. Which is hard since my inspiration comes from the opposite – it comes from going deep with people and life. And the production phase is especially a solitary endeavor, sitting for hours, days, weeks in the studio. It’s not glamorous. It’s been the biggest challenge for me for sure. My need for connection is strong, so I’ve been learning how to ensure I’m getting what I need while maintaining my creative process. Returning to Vancouver after living in Europe for 9 years has been a huge help.

SH: If you could make the album art for any album, existing or yet to be released, what album or artists would it be for and why? 

KA: A Drake album! Damn, it would be a dream. I love how he goes so deep and dark and is so open with his insecurities and his search to understand the actions of himself and others. When Scorpion came out, it was a hot summer in Amsterdam. There you’re so far north, the daylight lingers until almost midnight. I’d sit in my apartment in the heat, in that deep blue light of the night, and listen to this album. Oof. What a time. I’d love to create something for that depth and darkness and glory. 

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

KA: I love the idea of something like ‘Peaches N Cream’. Like my work, it takes things that are seemingly innocent, but the implication of their combination can be twisted into something much more provocative. 

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies. 

KA:  I’d be lying if I said this scenario hadn’t crossed my mind before. First off, I’m not great at following celebrity actors, so I’d love a new, break through actor to play me (although Ryan Gosling would definitely be welcome to play a love interest). In terms of what kind of movie it would be, I’d say the running themes and significant moments in my life have been the search for love and adventure, the beautifully lonely self-discovery of travel, days and nights with friends and lovers that made me nostalgic for the moments while I was still in them. And underlying it all, a deep feeling of loss and fear and sadness that makes it all so scary and painful. And yet I’m forever drawn by my curiosity to go for it all, just to know how it feels. Imagine a combination of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Before Sunrise, Skate Kitchen, Lost in Translation. Midnight skates in the heat of Barcelona, the sparkle of beaches on the Costa Brava, the wide open spaces of Northern California. It would be a fucking trip for sure.

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

KA: I think the artist’s role is to be evocative. I get so much inspiration and power from music and books and I think that’s true for all art forms. Making something physical out of feelings and ideas and putting them back out into the world creates the beauty, both light and dark, in the world. 

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

KA: Since this is the first body of work I’ve completed, it was quite emotional. I’m still learning to let myself loose after so much focus and dedication and have been lucky to have some great friends around for support and guidance (and some damn good laughs and adventures 😉

Join us for the opening reception of Kathy Ager’s Golden Age, Saturday, June 29th from 6 – 9 pm.

Interview with Jacub Gagnon for “Dream World” opening June 29th

Thinkspace is proud to present Dream World by Canadian, Toronto-based artist Jacub Gagnon in Dream World. An artist known for the meticulous detail and realism of his luminous acrylic paintings, Gagnon creates a world in which nature and fantasy collide. 

In anticipation of the exhibition, our interview with Jacub Gagnon discusses his creative process, tackles the role of artists in society, and what his work and Spinal Tap have in common.

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? 

I’ve always had a knack for drawing; it was one of my biggest hobbies growing up. I attended OCADU (Ontario College of Art and Design University) in 2005 and fell in love with painting in my second year. Graduating in 2009, with a BFA in ‘Drawing and Painting’ under my belt, I took to creating art for myself and set out to make a career of it. My zodiac sign is Aquarius, the water bearer. I’m not big into astrology but apparently they are artistic, social justice minded, and have a determined nature – I can dig that. 

How do you approach starting a new body of work? What inspired this exhibition?

I always have a little world of ideas living in my sketchbook, many of which often stay hidden until I have a larger show like this and they finally see the light of day. A lot of ideas live in that small sketch land because I like it, but I’m not sure how to put those ideas onto canvas, so having a greater chunk of time to work on a bunch of pieces is a great opportunity to finally flesh some of them out. I had a new approach for this show, which was to get the ball rolling on as many ideas as I could right at the beginning. That was a real challenge, as it turned out. 

Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

“In Bloom,” hands down was the greatest challenge. The sheer size alone (my largest piece to date) meant not only was I trying to fill a large canvas, but I also chose to fill it with tiny things. In addition, I have this habit of turning and flipping a piece that I’m working on, and I physically wasn’t able to do that with this one. The obstacle didn’t occur to me when I first started the piece, but it made a huge impact on how I was able to work on it.  Apart from size, I also did a lot of editing and made revisions to this piece as it was coming to life (again, not something I normally do) – overlapping plants, figuring out where shadows fell, balancing colour… I found myself coming back to this piece over and over again, adding here and taking away there. I worked on this piece periodically for over a year before it was finished. 

What excites you about your work / creative process?

I love the feeling of a new idea. I get very excited about them. It just kind of hits you and you’re suddenly full of vigor and life, I write them down in my phone or quite literally run to get my sketchbook and record it before I forget it with my goldfish brain. I also love the process of overcoming challenges. So those ideas I mentioned above that live in my sketchbook for so long, the moment I figure out how to bring them to fruition is quite rewarding. It propels you to finish the piece. When a piece like that is finished, it’s kind of like seeing an old friend that had been away for years.  

What frustrates you about your work / the creative process?

A big frustration I have is with the time it takes to finish a painting; it can be quite the marathon. I’ve tried to change my painting style in the past to be a little less tight and a little more forgiving, but I’m not usually happy with my work until it is ‘just so’. Often timelines that I make for myself to complete a section of the painting are overshot by days or weeks and it’s not for a lack of time spent working…but trying to appease my OCD sensibilities. 

If you could make the album art for any album, existing or yet to be released, what album or artists would it be for and why?

That’s a tough one, maybe The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not my favorite Beatles album…but just thinking of it gives me so many ideas and I think I could have a lot of fun reinventing it.

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

I’d call it Ripple Effect. You can pick your base of vanilla or chocolate and add some bright floral flavours, cruelty-free delicacies, and maybe a hint of bourbon. It’s probably going to be served in a teacup.

A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.  

Definitely Andy Samberg would be cast to play me and it would be a mockumentary. It would be akin to “This is Spinal Tap”…I can see it now, “There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” (quote from the movie that I feel sums up a lot about my work). It’s not a movie, but I think it would also have similarities to the show “The Office”, a bit quirky and mundane at times, but it’s all part of the charm. If budget was of no consequence I’d probably have Morgan Freeman do some narrating,  give it a Shawshank feel.

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

That’s a big question to unpack. I have a lot to say, but I’ll try to keep it short. It’s easy to take art for granted. I think people tend not to notice the way art impacts their everyday life – it’s printed on our clothes, it’s the colours of our homes, our cars, it’s the way we design our spaces and every item within them. It turns our stark environment into a personal and relatable one.  And yes, at times it can also be a voice and a spotlight to provide commentary and highlight something to the world, which is what I try to do with my art. Artists have a strange dichotic reputation. Either they’re these huge icons or they’re lowly, scraping by, but those are just two small facets… like so many things, you just can’t pigeonhole who we are in society. 

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


Spending time with my family! I’ve spent the past several months tucked away in my studio, so now that work for the show is wrapped up I’m looking forward to all the little things that I’ve been missing out on. I imagine I’ll crack open a few nice bottles of whiskey, and get as much sleep as two tiny humans will let me before I’m beckoned.

Join us for the opening reception of Jacub Gagnon’s Dream World, Saturday, June 29th from 6 – 9 pm.

Interview with Rodrigo Luff for “After Glow”

Thinkspace is proud to present After Glow featuring new paintings and works on paper by Rodrigo Luff. Luff’s personally inflected figurative works blend realism and fantasy, recombining the edges of the probable with the incandescence of daydream. 

In anticipation of After Glow, our interview with Rodrigo Luff discusses the highs and lows of the creative process and the piece that was most challenging for him.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background?

RL: I studied at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney, Australia from 2006-09 where I learned life drawing and first started to catch the painting bug!

In April/May 2011, I had my first two solo exhibitions in the U.S, one of them being the Moleskine Project at Spoke Art Gallery which sold out. Since then, it has become an annual group exhibition that I co-curate with Spoke Art and we’ve published two volumes of books compiling Moleskine artwork from the exhibitions. We just had our 8th annual show!

I’ve been regularly exhibiting with Thinkspace Projects since 2012 and have developed my style of blending the natural world with surreal imagination through these shows. Afterglow marks the third solo show here and has given me the chance to take my work to the next level and show some larger and more complex depth paintings.

SH: How do you approach starting a new body of work? What inspired this exhibition?

RL: My goal was to take the style and techniques I developed in my previous 2016 “Nemeta” solo exhibition at Thinkspace to the next level with more ambitious paintings.

I’m inspired by the phenomena of radiant lighting effects that are observed in the natural world around me. I recently had the chance to see glow worms in the Australian forest and they have been incorporated into my paintings. Another example would be the afterglow of warm sunlight spilling outwards after sunset (as the title suggests) and the misty morning sunrises back home in the local blue gum forest. All of these experiences have shaped the visual themes and color palette in this new exhibition.

I hope my work will inspire some folks out there to go for a walk in the forest, experience the beauty of the natural world, as well as getting away from social media of course!

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?

RL: The painting with the deer was inspired by this beautiful pond along a hiking trail which is located within walking distance from my old home in Sydney, Australia. I always enjoy the view there and for the past few years, I’ve had this vision for a painting of a model on that rock during the early morning hours with the pond behind her and mist that is burned away by the morning sun. I finally hired a model and we hiked the trail so we’d arrive around 7.30 am, the best time for natural light and I shot the reference photos that day. The challenge was to take that reference, find the best photo that worked with my idea and blends it with my imagination to achieve that initial vision. I didn’t want to just copy a photo but transform it into a new mythological realm with its own inhabitants.

Once I had the photo, I had to add the mist, owls, and deer and make them part of this new world I was creating. One of the biggest challenges was getting those reflections to work with the forest and the deer, as well as trying to make the fur look like it was glistening and soaked from being in the pond. I also wanted to create a sense of movement and life by adding flying owls in the background and showing the ripples in the water being pushed by the deer walking forward in the pond.

It took about 2 months to finish. I’m proud of this piece because I found a place that had a lot of memories and personal meaning from my Australian home and blended it with these imaginal elements to create a new mythological realm that I could share with others.

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

RL: I like taking the time to paint all the luscious details of natural environments, such as the individual shapes of leaves, trees, and rocks and contrasting that with the otherworldly glow of supernatural creatures.

I want to create environments that feel “hyperreal”, like you could almost step foot into the painting like a lucid dream.

I also love painting the various personalities of owls, birds, and animals!

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

RL: The long hours it takes to make all these vivid details come to life. As William Blake said, “singular and particular detail is the foundation of the sublime” and I believe that because the natural world can create an abundance of beautiful, intricate shapes to a level that the human imagination can’t recreate by itself. The amount of careful observation it takes to be faithful to what the eye sees is a slow and painful process, but it’s worth it.

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

RL: I learn the most from those who spend the time to master their craft and develop a unique aesthetic. I’m inspired by the incredible talent out there today and always feel like I’m a complete noob when scrolling through my Instagram feed. It makes me realize how little I know about painting and how much there is to learn.

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

RL: Spending time with my wife to make up for the long hours lost at the easel, going to the beach and finding some good hiking trails. It’s also going to be great to attend the opening night and having the chance to meet the people who made the effort to show up and see the work in person, which means a lot to me

Join us for the opening of Rodrigo Luff’s After Glow, Saturday, June 29th from 6 to 9 pm.

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Jacub Gagnon’s “Dream World” opens June 29th.

JACUB GAGNON
DREAM WORLD
June 29 – July 20, 2019

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Canadian, Toronto-based artist Jacub Gagnon in Dream World. An artist known for the meticulous detail and realism of his luminous acrylic paintings, Gagnon creates a world in which nature and fantasy collide. Exploring unlikely combinations of flora and fauna in imaginative scenarios with human objects and props, Gagnon proposes playful, though symbolic amalgams, reminding us of the ultimate fragility of the balances sustaining the natural world. His works are often set against dark black or stark white backgrounds and deploy contrasting light and dark hues to significant effect. By using minute brushes, Gagnon’s surfaces have an illustrative clarity and precision, while the imagery’s technical realism, usually shrouded in contexts of black, negative space, contributes to the surreal impact of these poetic visual puns.

With an interest in play and the freedom of the absurd, Gagnon creates imagistic connections to explore the intersection of human and natural elements. These ideas of interconnectivity and associative interpretation are vital to the artist’s philosophical approach. By connecting unlikely and disparate parts, new readings, possibilities, and realizations are woven and drawn from known elements, more often than not desensitized in our acclimated reception of the familiar. Gagnon revitalizes our reading of nature and inspires us to look again – stirring a sense of wonder in this temporary suspension of disbelief. The natural world is cast in artificial light and pushed to the point of the implausibly surreal.

Narrative plays a significant role in Gagnon’s work, as he is often drawing inspiration from language, turns of phrase, and puns to visualize the latency of new meanings and associations – a natural world freed from the restrictions of natural law produces unlikely poetry. In this space of disconnection and re-imagination, the artist proposes new morphologies, collusions, losses, and fictions in an endlessly potentiate space of transformation and renewal.

Rodrigo Luff’s “Afterglow” opens Saturday, June 29th.

RODRIGO LUFF
AFTERGLOW
June 29 – July 20, 2019

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new paintings and works on paper by Rodrigo Luff in Afterglow, the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery to date. Luff’s personally inflected figurative works blend realism and fantasy, recombining the edges of the probable with the incandescence of daydream. Expressing the imagined and impossible through the contours of a physically plausible world, Luff stages ambiguous borders between the spiritual and material, allowing the internal and emotive external expression through nature. This tension between the manifest and invisible haunts Luff’s intensely contrasting and vibrantly hued imagery, while a state of perpetual atmospheric dusk hosts these ghostly apparitions, both human and animal, hemmed by the fiction of otherworldly light. With edges cast in acidic, dayglow gleam, Luff levitates their edges in buoyant, fluorescent halos.

Luff’s fluorescent fairytales feature dryadic women surrounded by woodland creatures, mystic owls, and sentient birds; their powerful animateness and knowing conveyed through the chiaroscuro intensity of the work – as though the imagery itself is emanating from some ultimate interior. The light feels immaterial and increasingly hallucinatory as the works seem to burst forth from beneath. Through dynamic compositions that seem within moments of action and revelation, the artist keeps the viewer suspended in this trance of potential. With dreamy scenarios and suggestive harmonizations – the artist has often likened his process to musical composition in its balance of individual parts unified cohesively in the impression of the whole – this Narnian world powerfully channels metaphor and the stirrings of spiritual transcendence.

Luff is inspired by diverse influences, which he has synthesized into his unique aesthetic. Everything from the anime master Miyazaki and the romance of the Pre Raphaelites and their oil glazing techniques, to the otherworldly cast and contrast of the aurora borealis and the ornate art nouveau stylization of Alphonse Mucha, are cited among Luff’s sources. He has taken these inspirations and combined them into a romantically modern universe with moments of dissonance, sorrow, melancholy, and transportive nostalgia.