Interview with James Bullough for ‘Parallel Truths’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Parallel Truth featuring new work by James Bullough.

Bullough is a technically accomplished painter who creates with a staggering degree of detail. He begins with figurative imagery, disjointing and levitating its fragmented parts impressionistically to build dynamic surfaces that read with startling affective resonance.

In anticipation of Parallel Truth, our interview with James Bullough discusses what piece challenged him, his advice to fledgling artists, and what skill he would download into his brain.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and how you came to meet our curator and co-owner Andrew Hosner?

JB: I started my art journey a bit late in life.  I graduated from college with an Art Education degree and eventually went on to be a middle school art teacher just outside of Baltimore.  Studying to be an art teacher is much more about being a teacher than being an artist.  I took a few art classes but nothing too serious, it was mostly about teaching.  After 4 or 5 years of teaching kids how to be artists, I figured I might give it a go in my basement in the evenings after work.  A few years later, after a lot of experimenting and a little guidance from a local oil painter, I figured I knew enough to quit my job and go full time.  Obviously I didn’t, but I sold my house, my car, and pretty much everything I owned and moved to Berlin with the unrealistic goal that I’d be showing in galleries within a year.

It took me about 3 or 4 years in Berlin to find my own voice artistically and develop my skills.  Right around that same time I met Andrew Hosner at an event for the Urban Nation Museum.  I invited Andrew and Shawn to come on my newly formed podcast, VantagePoint Radio, and from there we hit it off.  He took a liking to my work and invited me to show some small paintings in a couple of group shows and before long he asked me to join the roster for the first Vitality and Verve exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art. That show ended up being a huge deal and the piece I created for it really stood out and made people take notice.  I’ve been working closely with Andrew and Thinkspace ever since.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

JB: As is the case with most of my work, my inspirations and explorations are mostly technique-driven.  I like to push myself with every painting to make something more interesting or complex or just different than the last painting.  It can be simply pushing the design and composition further, or working with more complex photos or more interesting models or just doing a better job with the actual painting of the image. 

For this show ‘Parallel Truths’ I am actually presenting three different bodies of work which I’ve been developing over the past year and a half.  The first is my traditional fractured portraits but pushed a bit further in terms of composition and delicacy of the painting and level of detail. The second is my peeling portraits which give the feeling of the painting peeling off of the wall or the wall peeling away and revealing the portrait underneath.  The third is what I’m calling ‘hidden words’ which is a spin-off from the peeling portraits but instead of revealing a portrait underneath the peeling wallpaper reveals a hidden word which you really have to work to find.  So for me, this body of work is all about trying new techniques and pushing what I’ve been doing for the past few years into new directions.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you?

JB: If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece. One of the larger paintings in this show is called ‘Morning Light’ and features a new model I’m working with named Polly Ellens from London who is one of the most interesting looking people I’ve ever seen.  I actually passed her in the Philadelphia airport and couldn’t resist walking up to her and asking if I could paint her.  I’d never done that before and haven’t done it since but Polly just had a look I couldn’t let go.  Unfortunately, the look that she has is quite tricky to paint.  She has ice blue eyes and an explosion of freckles on her face which highlight the brightness of her fiery red hair.  The combination is absolutely stunning.  She is also covered in tattoos which I left out of the paintings because, in the end, they were distracting from everything else. Painting a face with so many freckles is really challenging.  First I had to try to see her without all the freckles and tattoos so I could paint her skin as it is underneath.  Then add the freckles on at the end without making them look painted on.  It was really tricky and technically over my head but if I didn’t get it right I would have had to start the whole face all over again.  In the end, it worked out really well and is probably my best bit of oil painting I’ve ever done and that feels really good.  It’s going to be a hard painting to let go of when it sells.  

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

JB: When I come up with a new idea for a painting or a new technique I want to try I am always faced with the reality that I can plan and design all I want to ahead of time but I’ll never really know if what I want to try will work until the painting is finished.  My paintings take weeks or even months to design and paint so that uncertainty can be really crippling.  I have had to grow a thick skin and trust my instincts but also trust that if what I’m going for starts to seem like it’s not working, I’ll be able to wrestle it into something that does work.  My least favorite part of the creative process is that floating feeling when I’m not sure if things are working and how things will be received.  But the flip side of that is when I get toward the end of a painting and start to realize that the idea I had half a year ago is really going to work and this piece is going to knock people socks off when they see it.  That’s my favorite part.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

JB: My favorite genres of music are hip hop and drum and bass (a kind of slightly aggressive sub-genre of electronic music).  I don’t really think my work lends well to those types of music, although there are a few exceptions that come to mind.  My work would probably better suit some kind of indie rock band like Death Cab or LCD Soundsystem or something.  Maybe if Postal Service got back together and put out a new album my painting ‘Colide’ from this upcoming show would be a cool album cover.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

JB: Wow!  I could take this question in a million different ways.  Jonny Drama from the show Entourage, unfortunately, might have to play me because people have said we look similar before.  I’m not happy about it but it might just have to be a fact.  

As for the story, it might have to be some kind of Forest Gump or Benjamin Button kind of movie because I’ve always felt like I lived my life out of order and every 5 or 6 years I’ve completely shifted gears and done something totally different than before.  In college, I was pretty heavy in the rave scene and was a club Dj but had never really left the northeast coast of the US.  Then after graduation, I spent a year traveling the world and doing any insane thing I could think of like an out of control teenager.  When I returned to the States I got a job teaching at a suburban middle school for nearly a decade, basically living the life of a 45-year-old during my entire 20s. When I couldn’t take that anymore I moved to Berlin in my 30s and fell in with some graffiti/street art guys and next thing you know I’m hanging off an 8 story roof at 3 in the morning with a roller in handwriting a name I made up for myself like some drunk 20 year old.  

Last year I turned 40 and had my second baby in two years… so finally I feel like I’m living the appropriate life for my age for the first since I was in primary school.  Unfortunately, I look and feel like I’m in my 50s so who knows, maybe I’ve still got it all wrong.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

JB: I’d like to be fluent in German.  I’ve been living in Berlin for almost 10 years and speak just enough to get by.  I studied full time at a school in Germany for over a year and on and off for years after that but my brain just isn’t built for learning languages.  It may sound like a cop-out and maybe it is but I was never good at school and languages are just a mystery to me. It’s definitely one of my biggest regrets knowing that I can’t truly be myself and relate to people in the country I live in the same way I do with English speakers. 

SH: Some of the advice you give to other artists is to commit to consistency, and the honest self-realization of when one starts to think they are getting pretty-good it’s still not that great – so keep going. How long did it take you to develop your style, and then how many additional years to really hone your skills?

JB: I feel like I was one of the lucky ones who sort of figured things out rather quickly and even then it took me about 10 years to really find a voice and a skill set that people responded to and got excited to see.  I had been working on my craft (painting) that whole time while I experimented with lots of different things so, by the time I developed the fractured portrait style that people know me for, I was ready to really go for it.  

It’s natural for young artists to want to do many different things, and in many ways, it’s completely necessary to figure out what you want to focus on and what you’re good at.  But at some point, in my humble opinion, you need to be aware enough to notice when that “thing” comes around and then grab it and go hard with it until you are undeniably good at it and nobody else is doing it quite the way or quite as good as you are.  You can always expand and experiment later, and you definitely should, but if your goal is to get noticed you’ve got to be focused 

SH: At the beginning of your career, how many hours a day did you spend painting? And now how many hours a day are you painting?   

JB: When I first started painting in my mid 20’s I was working full time as a middle school teacher so the only time I could paint was for a few hours in the evenings. I was quite dedicated to it and painted as much as I could but it was definitely just a hobby then.  When I moved to Berlin in 2010 is when I started to take is seriously and considered painting as my job.  From then I was painting all day every day and as I started getting a bit of interest in my work and was invited to shows I was painting between 9-12 hours a day 6 days a week.  Eventually, my wife had enough of my crazy hours and now we’ve got two little girls so I keep pretty normal work hours these days but I had to hire an assistant to keep the workflow from falling off.  

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

JB: Definitely read people’s minds.  Although that seems like one of those powers that seems better than it actually is.  I bed you’d want to lose that ability pretty quickly after realizing you have it.

SH: If you could paint a mural anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

JB: My favorite part about painting murals is the family vibe between all the artists in the scene and painting alongside of all my friends.  Painting a commission wall is great and pays the bills but painting at a mural festival is so much more fun.  Any time you get 20 or so people at the top of their field together and give them a week to do what they do best and share thoughts and experiences and good times you’re going to have a super fun and creative experience.  So for me, the answer to the question is not really about where would be the best place to paint a mural but rather with whom?  If I could invite all of my mural buddies and a bunch of others who I respect but haven’t met yet and given us a week or two in a small town that would be the most ideal situation for me.  Bonus points if there’s sun every day and a beach and no wind.

Join us for the opening reception of Parallel Truths Saturday, February 29th, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Interview with Giorgiko for “Horizon Light”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Horizon Light featuring new work by duo Giorgiko.

Giorgiko’s latest body of work explores the transition and tension between seasons of life so often filled with uncertainty.  What lies in the darkness when the sun fades behind the horizon? Will the darkness flee from the morning light? What will comfort us in times of desperation? Come enter a world where wonder dwells in the mystery between light and shadow.

In anticipation of Horizon Light, our interview with Giorgiko explores their collaborative relationship, creative process, and a romantic comedy starring Jack Black.

SH: For those that are not familiar with your work, can you give us a brief look at your individual artistic backgrounds and how you came to work together?

Darren: Both Trisha and I graduated from ArtCenter College of Design, which is also where we met and started dating. During school, Trisha took a children’s book illustration class, where she wrote a story about a wayfaring little girl. I loved the story, and we talked about possibly working together in the future. Post-grad, we worked separately as illustrators doing small commissions, shows, and freelance jobs. In 2014, we finally decided to collaborate on a few post-it note paintings for GR2’s “Post-it Show” and had so much fun with it. We continued to create and develop our joint style and in late 2018 we officially became “Giorgiko”. 

SH: What’s the story behind the name you chose for your collaborative output?

G: Giorgiko started as a mashup of our middle names George and Songyi. We thought the name Georgie fit our collaborative style well, and sounded a little cuter than our other options: Darisha or Trisharren, haha. As we explored the name further, we found that “Giorgi” comes from the Greek word meaning “farmer” or “earth-worker”, and “-ko” is the Japanese suffix that means “child”. We feel that the resulting meaning of “earth-working child” represents our work very well, as we depict very human emotions and experiences through a childlike lens.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

G: The main theme we are exploring in this body of work is life transition, as well as the feelings of fear and hope associated with it, metaphorically depicted through the transition between light and dark. It explores the calm before the storm and the storm before the calm. We were inspired by our experiences in life of waiting hopefully for dawn to break in seasons of darkness, and the feelings of bracing for what is to come as the sun dips below the horizon.

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

G: In this body of work, we stretched ourselves with more involved and complex imagery, with some of the images featuring multiple characters and other images having diverse and imaginative backgrounds. Probably the most challenging piece for us was “Stampede,” which we redrew and repainted repeatedly as we tried to figure out the character’s pose and the feeling of the piece. In doing so, the image has changed substantially, and in the end we love how it turned out and feel it is a piece that really engages the viewer.

SH: What is your individual favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

Darren: “My favorite part of the process would have to be ideation. When Trisha and I start talking about an image or series we want to create, it is exhilarating and we often find ourselves building on top of each other’s ideas, making them better and better. My least favorite part of the process is drawing.”

Trisha: “My favorite part of the creative process is when we get on the same page and get all pumped up about the piece or concept. My least favorite part is when we have clashing visions and get annoyed at each other.”

SH: Tell us what you feel is your partner’s artistic strength and how he/she helps you be a better artist (a reply from each would be great here)

Darren: “Trisha has an uncanny ability to create cuteness. It’s in her nature to know how to make everyday moments sweet and convey them in imagery. She can draw with effortlessness and capture these moments in a few simple strokes of her pen. I love this, and it inspires me to pay attention to subtleties in life and work.”

Trisha: “Darren is a total big-picture person, whereas I tend to get stuck in the small details. He is always dreaming, thinking ahead, and problem-solving. He is often the catalyst that sets our exhibitions and storylines into motion.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for the two of you and what would you create?

G: The first thing that comes to mind is “Hedgehog in the Fog,” an animated short directed by Yuri Norstein. We’re not familiar with his other works, but we love this super mysterious, dreamy, and weird short of his. We’d love seeing our characters in stop-motion, encountering their fears as well as great beauty in the fog with the little hedgehog.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life / partnership, who would be cast to play each of you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? 

G: Our Netflix movie would be a romantic comedy war movie, starring Ken Watanabe as Darren and Jack Black as Trisha.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

Darren: “Piano. When I see a professional pianist playing, it feels like they are pushing the notes out of their body in the most satisfying way.”

Trisha: “How to sing like Celine Dion.”

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

Darren: “Talk to animals. I feel if I could read people’s minds, every conversation would be too tempting to manipulate.”

Trisha: “Talk to animals. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what goes on in people’s minds. Plus, I would like to be able to convince animals to not eat me if the situation were ever to arise.”

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

Trisha: “That’s a hard question because I like things like cheeseburgers and pizza. Maybe something kind of earthy and bitter, with a hint of sweetness that isn’t overpowering, like a cherry on top. Something reminiscent of 87% dark chocolate cake that mostly tastes like dirt, a la mode. Darren likes Japanese food.”

Join us for the opening reception of Horizon Light Saturday, February 29th, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Interview with Telmo Miel for “Encounters”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Encounters featuring new work by Netherlands- duo Telmo Miel.

Telmo Miel’s work is both surreal and realistically rendered, combining multiple elements into a single composition with extreme detail and fearless approach to the use of color and tone.

In anticipation of Encountered, our interview with Telmo Miel expands on our previous interview with the duo and discusses their latest body of work, most memorable meals, and advice for having a creative partnership.

Do you have a pre-studio or pre-mural routine/ritual? How do you get your butt in gear?

We need deadlines, without them, it’s more difficult to get your butt in gear. If we don’t get deadlines we’ll make them ourselves. For Murals it is not so difficult, you have a trip and within that trip, it needs to be finished. Most of the time you just have about a week. I think it helps we work together because you can kick each other on the butt when stuff needs to be done.

What is the inspiration and themes that were explored during this latest body of work?

‘Encounters’  For this show, we tried to find symbolism in the things we came across or experienced in the last years traveling and creating. It’s a series on the smaller things in life, things that make life worth living. Crossing thresholds, feelings of regret, love, and aversion. Moments captured to illustrate personal encounters or mile-stones in life.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

The last part of painting the detailing is the most fun. The least, is getting started with the under layers of a painting, necessary but not fulfilling. Especially when you see the second layer needs a third.

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

The piece with the horse took some thinking ahead, I really want to make the red/orange part pop compared to the rest. But fluor is shit paint because it loses it’s bright color quickly. So to avoid that, I painted those parts bright white and then applied multiple thin layers of the right color in Oil paint. Now it pops like fluor without using it!

If you could make a movie poster for any film, what film would it be?

Telmo: StarWars (universe)

Miel: StarWars (universe)

What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life, and is it because of or connected to your work?

Telmo: I got the chance to swim cageless amongst sharks in Hawaii, definitely one of the coolest things I ever did thanks to the Pow!Wow! Hawaii Festival

Miel: Having a son is maybe the most boring but most logical answer. And it’s connected to art in the way that I met my current partner, working for her new gallery at the time.

Your work has taken you around the world – what is one of your most memorable meals?

On a trip to Bueno Aires, they took me to a great steakhouse, it was not only an abundance of meat, but it’s still the best steaks I’ve had so far.

A lot of memorable meals come to mind. But for me, it’s always the boquerones fritos which we had in Burgos, Spain last year. It’s a kind of fried anchovies.

The work expresses a real love for color, what brand do you guys use and what is your favorite color?

Dirty reds/purples and Dirty Salmon tones are our favourites. We use a wide range of paint brands.

For Oil paint, we use Rembrandt, Winsor & Newton & Old Holland. Our favourite spray can is Montana Black.

If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would it be?

Telmo: Teleportation

Miel: Ability to fly

The two of you met in Willem de Kooning Academy and have been collaborating with each other since 2012, how has your artistic relationship developed over the years? What is the best advice you would give about having a creative partner?

It is good to go back and forth on ideas and brainstorm together. With creating new ideas you can inspire and push each other more. It’s like healthy competition in some way where we push each other to learn, be critical, grow and make our latest work even better than before.

Besides that it’s most important to balance that with the right amount of freedom, every painter has his own ideas. So we also try to separate opinions and give space to evolve.

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 1 from 6-9 pm

Interview with Josie Morway for ‘Watershed’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Watershed featuring new work by Providence-based artist Josie Morway.

Moway’s paintings are fragmented narratives, inspired by everyday words and phrases that bombard us – old signage, broken billboards, overheard conversations. Substituting animals for human characters in her visual narratives, she explores gestures, postures, and expressions that are familiar and universal but at the same time ambiguous. 

In anticipation of Watershed, our interview with Josie Morway discusses her creative process, rituals, and record audiobook consumption.

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 been painting for pretty much as long as I can remember, and my artistic background includes a lot of detours through photography, sign painting, graffiti, ceramics. For the past several years I’ve been making oil paintings with wildlife as my primary subjects, combining photorealism with bits of abstraction, lettering, and gilding. I pair a classical, Dutch Masters-ish painting style with hyper-modern color and design elements, to create somewhat surreal compositions that have been described as “votive cave paintings from the far distant future”. (I can’t overstate how much I love that description.)

I’m a wildlife lover with a deep concern for the increasing imbalances in our ecosystem, and a rising terror for nature in the face of extreme weather, climate change, habitat loss. I’m always looking to address these concerns in my work, and I’ve started to include some explicit references to threats in my more recent paintings, but I still instinctively veer away from showing my animal subjects in a state of despair or disaster. Instead, I feel compelled to invest them with this feeling of omniscience and a kind of supernatural resiliency. I hope this comes through… I hope this combination of peril and power gives my work a sort of tension, leaves the viewer feeling a bit off-kilter, sparks some thought and conversation.

My zodiac sign! I’m a Scorpio. I don’t understand or follow any things astrological, but every time I’ve accidentally read a characteristic of a Scorpio it has certainly seemed to describe me spookily well. 

What is the inspiration and themes that were explored during this latest body of work?

While making the work for “Watershed” I’ve been quite literally thinking about water. The substance that’s within all of us, the most crucial central element in our ecosystem, our bodies, etc. 

I’ve been thinking about water rights; who has them and who doesn’t, and about the movements and state changes of water. About the way ice is disappearing while floods increase in previously safe areas, about places inundated by saltwater as seas rise while even more places are suddenly without water… losing crops, losing drinking water. About pollution and diversion of bodies of water, but also about the redemptive nature of rain, of water’s capacity to heal.

As usual, I’ve turned to birds to explore all of this. They’re often among the first living things to manifest symptoms of change in the environment, in this case, the liquid environment.

Couldn’t resist the double-entendre in the name Watershed as well, since we’re at a “watershed moment” in human-caused climate change. 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

Eh, I like all of it. But I get the most uneasy when I’m planning new work. There’s a really long research period where I’m just looking, compiling references, trying and discarding sketches. Intellectually I know this is probably the most important part of the process, but I still get edgy when I’m not physically working with the paint. 

My favorite part of the process is varnishing. Does that count as creative? When I lay on a coat of varnish the black turns black, the highlights turn light and all of a sudden this piece that I’ve been flailing away at becomes real.

Do you have a pre-studio ritual? How do you get your butt in gear to paint?  

I pretty much roll straight into painting the moment I can get to the studio. You kind of have to tear me away from it, rather than motivating me to start. I hope that doesn’t sound braggy… it’s more about desperation (there’s never enough time!) than energy.  As I get older I appreciate more and more that I get to do something as potentially frivolous as drawing pictures for a living and wanting to make the most possible meaning out of that. Also, I had a kid three years ago. My husband and I are both self-employed and we had to scramble like crazy to figure out how to accommodate a baby and not lose our careers, passions, personalities. That makes me appreciate every moment of painting time too.

That said, if there wasn’t an alternating current of coffee and wine flowing, there would be no art at all coming out of this particular factory.

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

The two “Mirage” pieces were satisfying challenges. (And not because of the bubbles, I knew I’d be able to do those!) The mysterious slashes of gold, the areas of bright color, the botanicals that emerge and disappear into texture… these are the kind of intuitive, mysterious moves I want to make more of in my paintings. I get so terrified to let go of any detail, any realism. I’m glad that in this case, I was able to be a bit bolder, and I’m really happy with the result.

In a world where we are exposed to the end result, and not so much the process it takes to get to mastery, how long did it take you to master the gorgeous beauty and realness of the birds and animals you paint?  To the point, you have the confidence and skill you possess today?

It’s generous of you to use the word “master”, since I’m most certainly learning, and hopefully evolving. I definitely felt something click a few years ago though… an understanding of how paints and brushes behave finally became part of my body, and everything started flowing and happening more easily. Realistically, I’d have to say I’ve been oil painting for over 20 years, and that makes all the difference. I’ve never taken oil painting classes so there’s a decent chance that there are shortcuts I’m unaware of, but it seems to me that if you want to gain mastery over a medium like oil, you simply have to experiment for thousands of hours!

I went to college for a variety of other things, and have worked a ton of different jobs over the years, but throughout all that, I just could never stop painting. I’d skip classes to sneak home and paint, paint while I was on a conference call, etc. Eventually, painting just insisted its way to being my full-time gig, somewhat to my surprise. 

If you could make a movie poster for any film, what film would it be?

Hmmm. I was a film studies minor in college and now I essentially never watch any movies, and literally can’t think of the names of any at the moment. Gimme something with really dense dialog and a surreal plot twist and I could make something perfect for it! Just no sci-fi… I’m constitutionally incapable of following sci-fi.

What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life, and is it because of or connected to your work?

Whoa, I can’t imagine choosing one coolest thing from my life! I mean, like I said, I had a kid, and that’s obviously turned my head inside out and changed me in all sorts of ways. In a way, it does connect to my work. I suddenly have this acute awareness of myself and my choices as I’ve become an EXAMPLE to this little person, which makes me take my work both more seriously – because I want her to see what it means to stick to your passion and make something meaningful from it – and less seriously… because really, paintings, whatever.

The most memorable moments of my life have generally come from travel, though. I realize that’s a fairly predictable answer… can’t help it. My clearest and most transformative experiences have come from throwing myself into a totally unfamiliar landscape, cityscape, ecosystem. Those moments have inspired my work a ton, cleared my eyes and reminded me how to look. They’ve also been supported by my work, by the excuse to travel to visit galleries, to paint murals, deliver work, go to openings. If the only thing my painting did for me personally was to allow me some unplanned wanderings (I really like to travel without making sufficient plans, so I don’t know where I’m sleeping, etc.), then it will have done enough.

When painting what do you have playing in the background? What was the soundtrack to this body of work ( music, podcasts, tv shows etc…)

Good question! I used to listen to music all day and eventually came to feel like I’d used up all the music in the world. I moved on to podcasts, and eventually audiobooks, and now I’m blowing through something like 200 audiobooks per year. While making this work I hit a streak of REALLY good writing… 10:04 by Ben Lerner, Kudos by Rachel Cusk, the seasonal series by Ali Smith, and all of the novels about Northern Ireland I could find, for some reason. I’m sure I listened to some Wolf Parade and Young Fathers albums during this work too because I’m predictable and repetitive.

If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would it be? 

Okay, instinctively I just started picturing something really cool that would turn me into, like, The Remediation Bandit, where I’d be able to look at any polluted or damaged ecosystem and remediate it back to its natural state with beams from my eyes. But now I’m realizing that’s an imaginary superpower, and that you probably mean a skill that actually exists. It’s so hard to choose. They’re probably not the “best” skills to have, but I don’t think I’d be able to resist gaining some rad physical prowess. I’d like to be able to do every trick I’ve ever seen in a mountain biking video. Partly for the fun of it, but let’s be honest, also just to show off.

I’ve never seen the Matrix.

Opening Reception with the Artist(s):

Saturday, February 1, 2020 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Interview with Stella Im Hultberg for “Tiger Whiskers”

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? 

SIH: Hello, to those that are new to me and my work – my name is Stella Im Hultberg, I’m a Virgo fire dragon. 

I am mostly self-taught as an artist, save for some extracurricular drawing classes I took as a kid. I studied industrial design in college and worked in the field for some years designing various kinds of products. 

I began showing art 14 years ago, sharing my earliest days with Thinkspace, whom I owe the path I’m walking on to this day!

Thinkspace is pleased to present Tiger Whiskers featuring new work by Stella Im Hultberg. Her background has lent to a diverse blend of cultural influences to pull from and her works meld the figurative with the illustrative to create dreamy painterly compositions.

In anticipation of Tiger Whiskers, our interview with Stella Im Hultberg discusses the most exciting thing to happen in her life thus far, the artistic challenges she faced in this new body of work, and some solid life advice.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

SIH: I have been reading a lot of texts (online and books) and thinking about traditional rituals and belief systems/world view of Korea, as well as other cultures. One of the things that really runs through nearly all cultures is the idea of protection. Protecting one’s own children, family, tribe, etc, seems to have always been one of the top priorities since humans came to existence. 

This body of works was mostly inspired by talismanic rituals and customs that are meant to wish one the best in life and protection from evil forces.

I read that even up until not too long ago, people in Korea used to have a painting of a tiger in the house as a talisman. They believed that having one would keep them safe and protected from other evil forces/harms or misfortunes. I have heard it’s still a custom in North Korea to this day. This was one of the inspirations for “Talisman”.

Wedding customs also gave me inspiration for this series. For example, “The Immortals” was mostly inspired by a bridal garb called “hwarot (활옷)” that is usually red with intricately detailed embroidery of 10 things from nature that symbolize long lives (including the sun and the moon). This in and of itself shows the worldview of ancient Koreans, and to embroider that with care onto a bride’s outfit was to wish them a happy, long life and marriage.

It occurred to me that these rituals and customs were maybe rooted in a mother’s wish for their children to be safe and healthy. I have a theory that all these religions and traditions in our world may not have made it to this day and age of science and technology had it not been for the desperate desires of parents that could only rely on a superpower to entrust their best wishes for their children and the children of their children.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

SIH: My favorite part is starting with an idea/vision and seeing it happen layer by layer, hour after hour. The journey itself, even the battles and fights.

My least favorite thing about being an artist is everything else not directly involving creating – business stuff, and wrapping up the paintings (scanning, shipping, packing, etc).

But if I singled out my least favorite part out of the whole creative process only, would be sharpening pencils.

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.

SIH: I spent much more time building up the layers and inserting details in this series compared with my previous works, so I ended up encountering challenges with each piece. 

When you’re building up so many layers, you’re essentially painting the same thing over and over. With “Talisman” and “The Immortals”, I got near nauseous painting so many layers of so many flowers. 

“The Immortals” is also a very different format than I’m used to, at 12 inches wide by 48 inches long. Figuring out a composition that would work and also wrangling the panel was quite challenging for me.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

SIH: At the moment, IU.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

SIH: Ugh sorry, that would be an utter flop, I would have to really have a long talk with Netflix execs to convince them to look elsewhere.

If they must still go through it (good luck Netflix!), whatever it is, maybe it should star ScarJo, since I’m Asian. Lol

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

SIH: Because I never had a formal art education, I can’t really remember if I ever got a piece of technical advice. Not directly anyway. 

But for being an artist – is to show up at your studio every day. Even if you’re there just reading a book, showing up is key. I know a lot of people think artists do whatever they feel like and work whenever but a lot of artists I know work diligently and to schedule. I follow the schedule and deadlines I have set for myself much more strictly now, now that I have a kid and time really is precious!

For general philosophical advice – I really like the quote that says to “be soft. Do not let the world make you hard”. 

Also personally, my mom told me (loosely translated), “if you’ve already committed do doing something, do it without complaint and with a happy heart”. I have found that attitude to be so helpful when taking the time and effort out to help others. And for parenting, of course. 

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

SIH: I do love how there were always artists, throughout history, that contributed to the subversive culture. Something that stands up to authority and the climate of the days. Especially in the olden days when art was more of an exclusive, elite form of cultural element. I believe it still is true, and whether or not it shows on the surface, I, too, have been influenced by current political/societal climate.

I love the captured moments that could be missed otherwise, and the suspension and extension of emotional moments and snippets I can see in other artworks. Connecting with the viewer at a very human, emotional, experiential level shows me hope for humanity. It seems to tell me that someone is out there paying attention to the most detailed, tiniest slivers of other people’s emotions (through their own, perhaps) that can be verbally inexplicable.

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

SIH: Having my daughter. This is obviously not directly related to my work but everything about the way I work and the way I view things (including my work) has changed for good since she was born. 

It was a rough beginning, and in some ways I’m still trying to figure out the right balance between parenting and painting, but now that she’s a bit older (she’s 6 now) and we can have some interesting conversations and idea discussions, she has been the biggest source of enrichment in my life. 

I learn so many new things every day from her, not to mention getting ideas (and knowledge even) that have never occurred to me before. 

She and her future are my inspiration and my fuel to propel me forward as an artist now.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

SIH: I can’t really think of how this will relate to my works and all I can think of is what I want to eat now that I have this chef at my command haha 

My cooking mind isn’t creative enough to come up with new dishes for someone to invent (especially relating to my work). 

But if the said world-renowned chef happens to be an older Asian mom/grandma/auntie, I’ll happily eat, um, I mean, I’ll be happy with anything she creates.

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 9th 6-9 PM

On view: November 9, 2019 – November 30, 2019