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.

Opening Saturday October 13th Josh Keyes’s “Tempest”

Josh Keyes
TEMPEST
October 13, 2018 – November 3, 2018

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Portland-based artist Josh Keyes in Tempest. Keyes creates lush, hyperrealistic paintings of our civilization’s dystopian aftermath; a post-human planet left ecologically ravaged and dissipated, sits aflame, overgrown or beneath water, while a new natural order attempts to reclaim its disastrous inheritance. In recent years, Keyes has abandoned the minimalism of his precise, dioramic disaster taxonomies in favor of a more immersive and expanded pictorial frame. These works depict entire environments rather than only its cross-sections in a not-so-distant future state of ecological ruin. Keyes has mastered the satirical posturing of hyperbole as fact with a world so convincingly rendered, and so disastrously surreal, that fantasy becomes alarmingly plausible. In Tempest, Keyes conjures an insolvent wilderness facing the eye of a final storm.

Keyes’ highly detailed narrative paintings have evolved from their earlier iteration as closed systems, or quasi-scientific specimens drawn from some post-apocalyptic natural history museum to less confined and formulaic expressions of an imploding natural order. Displaced wild animals and the remnants of human architectures and monuments are all that remain, the only living witnesses to whatever final or cumulative set of events have finally tipped the scales beyond salvage. Recent works have depicted wholly submerged forests, graffiti-tagged marine life, and itinerant polar bears wandering an environmentally exhausted earth. Here, human monuments are drowned by the deluge and incongruous combinations abound as displaced rhinos run rampant beneath abandoned urban underpasses. The traces of our destructive legacy even appear in space, harkening dystopian visions of the final frontier – humanity’s last escapist fantasy of evacuating the planet it has consumed.

Animals have always appeared as the focal points of Keyes’ metaphoric, and psychologically penetrating works. He depicts them with the anatomical precision of a biologist and the poetic freedom of a storyteller. As protagonists, creatures universalize the narratives, making them indiscriminately relatable and empathically accessible. Charged with the psychic and imagistic resonance of a shared, collective subconscious, Animalia provides the artist with a symbolically valent source of iconography. This combination of the personally inflected and the culturally drawn supplies the artist with an inexhaustible source material.

Working primarily in acrylic on panel, Keyes has perfected his hyperrealistic painting technique, depicting the environmental crisis with startling representational clarity as a trope for the larger human one. It becomes clear that the imagining of this apocalyptic chaos harbors a social anxiety that extends far beyond the concerns of the ecological. In a time of great political angst and uncertainty, the artist’s works are all the more poignant as harbingers of a, now more than ever, alarmingly plausible doomsday. Keyes, the dystopian naturalist, continues to provoke our imaginations with the poetry of a cataclysmically surreal future tense.

Thinkspace Editions – Josh Keyes’s “Mad World” Print Drop Friday January 26th.

Excited to share our next special edition will be with Josh Keyes. All is in place for Mad World to be available THIS Friday, January 26 at 10AM Pacific Time (1PM Eastern).

Josh Keyes
Mad World
Edition of 300
13×16 inches / 35.5×50.8cm (full size reproduction of the original work)
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
Signed and numbered by the artist
$175

Mad World is taken from Josh’s sold out Los Angeles solo exhibition Implosion that took place this past August with us.

Photographed and printed by Static Medium

Mad World will be available THIS FRIDAY – January 26 – at 10AM Pacific at:
https://shop.thinkspaceprojects.com

Look for two new editions from Dalek (aka James Marshall) in mid-February. Full details will be shared soon on these special screen printed editions.

Shop all our latest prints & more at:
https://shop.thinkspaceprojects.com/

New Josh Keyes Print Dropping Friday, September 15th.

Josh Keyes 
‘I’ll Love You Till the End of the World’ 
Edition of 300
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
16×25.5 inches / 40.6×64.7cm
Hand-signed numbered and titled by the artist

$250 each (plus CA. tax and shipping & handling)

Available for online sale this Friday, September 15 at 10 AM Pacific at:

I’ll Love You Till the End of the World‘ is taken from Keyes’ SOLD OUT solo show ‘Implosion’ that was on view this past August at Thinkspace. This new edition was photographed and printed by the amazing team out at Static Medium. This stunning edition has been hand-titled by Keyes along with numbering and signing.

Our new web shop takes a variety of payment methods and calculates the shipping for each order. Prints usually ship out within a week of your order being received. Please note that this does not mean you will receive your print in a week, just to be crystal clear. Please allow shipping time based on where you live in the world. Details will be shared when your print is on the way. Thank you for your support.

Opening Reception of Josh Keyes’s “Implosion”, Ken Flewellyn’s “Stay Gold”, and Terry Arena’s “Swarm” exhibitions.

The opening reception of Josh Keyes’s Implosion, Ken Flewellyn’s Stay Gold, and Terry Arena’s Swarm exhibitions on Saturday, August 5th was one of the most vibrant openings of the year. Josh Keyes’s sold out exhibition drew in fans to examine his dystopian and psychologically fraught post- human universe in further detail. The works express Keyes’s fear and anxiety over the current political climate, in addition to his love of dancing horses and sunken ships.

Thinkspace veteran, Ken Flewellyn, debuted his first solo exhibition Stay Gold in the Thinkspace Gallery project room. At doors, half of the show was sold, and by the end of the night, the show was sold out. Each new red dot leading to an uproar of joyous cheer from those congregating in the project room.

Terry Arena’s “Swarm” delighted people as they held up magnifying glasses to her hyper realistic and detailed graphite drawings. The hung works very pattern itself a part of a larger narrative around swarming.

All three exhibitions are on view now through August 26th at Thinkspace Gallery, Tuesday through Saturday noon to 6 pm.