Interview with Sarah Joncas for ‘Pretty, Broken Flower’

Thinkspace is pleased to present new work from Toronto-based artist Sarah Joncas for her exhibition ‘Pretty, Broken Flower.’ Sarah Joncas first exhibited with the gallery at 19 years old gallery in 2009. 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.

In anticipation of ‘Pretty, Broken Flower,’ our interview with Sarah Joncas discusses following her intuition, her playful approach to painting mediums, and being pregnant during a pandemic.

For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background? 

I’m a Canadian artist, born in 1986 and currently residing in Mississauga, Ontario – a suburb just outside the city of Toronto. Have known since a very young age that this was what I wanted to do with my life and I’m very grateful each day I get the chance to wake up and continue doing so! As far as education, I attended and graduated with a BFA from OCAD in Toronto in 2010.  

What is the inspiration behind ‘Pretty, Broken Flower.’ 

I didn’t approach this show with an over-arching theme in mind, but instead took the work piece by piece letting inspiration and each image flow more naturally. I’ve found over the years my paintings tend to turn out better when I let things happen more intuitively, maybe because I’m not forcing a vision. However, much of the inspiration behind the paintings from this show comes from expressing emotion and feeling out individual conflict, letting surreal motifs enhance each portrait by accenting those concerns. The title for the show comes from a work included, something vague enough to envelop all the pieces, but also hinting towards that internal struggle I’m suggesting in them.  

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

My favourite part is when I get about 2-3 layers into the oils and start bringing a lot of the image to life.  Usually by that point I’ve corrected any ‘issues’ I find proportionally with the figure and am just focusing on livening up the face, better rendering the form, getting into details.. It’s a lot of pleasure seeing the image you had in your head slowly approach reality. 

How has your process changed over the years? 

When I first started painting in my teens, I worked almost exclusively in acrylics and didn’t get much into oils till I started university. I found my work changed quite dramatically with the eventual shift towards oil, maybe because I was also getting lessons in traditional life and portrait drawing at the time. What was very illustrative and cartoon-based imagery at first, changed towards more realism and full rendering. However, I did come to miss how acrylics made me more experimental and playful within my work. With time I started to incorporate aspects of both those techniques in my painting. I love bringing my portraits to life and getting better each year with that realism, but letting acrylic backgrounds and motifs complement and contrast the figures created more intrigue and also just made it more enjoyable for me to create. 

How did this exhibition challenge you and your skills as an artist? 

Though I didn’t stray far from my normal with this show, I did try to explore my palette a bit more with some pieces using more yellows and ochres, a range I often ignored in the past. I also included a work in the exhibit that incorporates two figures rather than one, which is something I haven’t approached in years. Otherwise working through a global pandemic while pregnant, dealing with supply shortages, it was a good enough challenge on its own for me this time around, haha.  

What is the emotional landscape you explore within this latest body of work? 

My paintings from this show explore feelings of heartbreak and grief, personal growth and spiritualism, overcoming struggle, sexuality and identity… I can see where some of the paintings indulge a bit in the heroine’s melancholy, but also where others embrace a feeling of renewal and conquest. I like how a big show like this gives me the opportunity to play in those ranges and kind of gives my girls a place to evolve full circle. 

Who are some of your creative influences, and what about the influence inspires you? 

Many of my greatest influences growing up were other artists in the ‘pop surrealism’ field I admired from reading Juxtapoz magazine as a teen – artists like Joe Sorren, Jonathan Viner, Lori Earley, Tara Mcpherson, Mark Ryden and many, many more. When I got first introduced to these artists it was right around the time I picked up a brush myself and the range of work was both serious and playful, which really appealed to my illustrative and fine art ambitions at the time. If I got into all my big influences though, it’d be quite a thing to write – I think music, film and books have been just as impactful as much of the painters I love! 

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? 

Life has been quite different for me this year, not just because of the pandemic, but because my husband and I got pregnant with our first child only a month before the pandemic hit. Certainly not the kind of thing you predict when you’re thinking about starting a family, but after short a while coming to terms with our new normal, I’ve approached life with the same happiness and perspective I usually try to maintain! You have to remind yourself not to over stress on that which you can’t control. Despite the challenge and impact something like this inevitably has though, I feel Canada has handled things fairly well and taken care of our people as best a country could be expected. I’ll just have to keep taking life as it comes! Hope for the best and do what I can to keep safe and healthy. And I wish the same for everyone else. 

What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out? 

There’s a little Japanese joint, Tomo Sushi, that I live near and surprisingly it’s my husbands’ and my favorite sushi restaurant in the entire city – and we’ve tried many over the years! Delicious quality, fresh and healthier than other options. Normally we eat in, but it’s been strictly take out since the pandemic started. We order from them at least once a month now. 

If your work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the ingredients and the name of the pint? 

I had to google Ben and Jerry flavors to know how they name their ice cream, but I see they’re usually clever play on word types! I guess I would go with ‘Sassafras-berry’ – an ice cream that has a feminine (sweet) and playful (tart) quality, but also a bit of sass (salty) to complement the sweet, maybe some moodiness and darker tones (rich/bitter). I’d give it a vanilla base with lots of strawberries and cherries, chunks of salted dark chocolate, and some peanuts or walnuts mixed in… I think I just conveniently described how I like my ice cream exactly, haha.   

Join us LIVE on Instagram, Saturday, August 22nd from 1 to 2 pm PST while we tour ‘Pretty, Broken Flower‘ along with new work from Anthony Clarkson and Sergio Garcia.

Interview with Anthony Clarkson for ‘All By Design’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘All By Design,’ from Los Angeles-based artist Anthony Clarkson whose work is a portal into child-like innocence, mixed with troubled spirits, broken hearts, and a sense of emptiness.

‘All By Design‘ is Anthony Clarkson’s sixth solo exhibition with Thinkspace. A painter, designer, and illustrator, Clarkson’s oil paintings are ghostly and surreal – dreamlike meanderings through eerily cast dimensions. Stylistically dark, they feel like haunted eruptions of the subconscious.

In anticipation of ‘All By Design,’ our interview with Anthony Clarkson discusses the Twighlight Zone, being made for pandemic life, and exploring elements of nature within his work.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

AC: I grew up in Kansas being that kid who was always drawing. After getting my bachelor’s degree in design from the Art Institute of Denver in 2002 I moved to Los Angeles and started working as head graphic designer for several record labels specializing in Heavy Metal. Soon after Thinkspace Projects opened and I started showing with them and have continued pursuing to further my career as an independent artist.

SH: What is the inspiration behind ‘All By Design? 

AC: Usually most of my solo shows revolve around some sort of a theme, but this time I didn’t really do that. I think I tried to push my ideas a bit further along with the overall designs of the pieces. I think my works have been getting more surreal overall and focus on nature a bit more as a theme. 

SH: Have you watched the new Jordan-Peele produced Twilight Zone? Thoughts?

AC: I’ve only seen the first episode, “The Comedian”.  I liked it overall and really intend to go back and watch the rest of the first season. The original Twilight Zone is one of my favorite shows of all time. I always love when the Syfy channel does an all-day marathon, usually on New Years and a few other days during the year. 

SH: How did this exhibition challenge you and your skills as an artist?

AC: I tried to do slightly more complex designs and add more detail into the works than I’ve done in the past. They aren’t totally different than I’ve done before, I just tried to push things a bit further this time.

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

AC: When a new idea for a piece comes to mind that’s the most excited I get. I also like once I have the basic design laid out on the canvas and first start to paint because I can see all the possibilities of where it can go.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time?

AC: Since I’ve been busy staying working on this new batch of works since the pandemic started I’ve not had a huge adjustment as far as going out socially. I’ve always kind of kept to myself so I feel like my life has all been training to socially distance. ha

SH: What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

AC: Fat Burger. I like that they have veggie burgers and are just a couple blocks from where I live, so whenever I get a craving for greasy fast food I usually end up there. 

SH: If you could download any skill, Matrix-style, into your brain – what would you want to learn/be able to do?

AC: It would be nice to have all the skills of the great painters throughout history. There are tons of other things I’d like to know, but upgrading my artistic skills comes to mind right now.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

AC: I grew up loving comic books and heavy metal album covers. So along with artists like H.R. Giger and Salvador Dali, I was really into comic book artists like Jim Lee and Todd Mcfarlane along with heavy metal album cover artists such as Derek Riggs, Ed Repka, Andreas Marschall, Kristian Wåhlin and Dan Seagrave.

Join us LIVE on Instagram, Saturday, August 22nd from 1 to 2 pm PST while we tour ‘All By Design‘ along with new work from Sarah Joncas and Sergio Garcia.

Interview with Sergio Garcia for ‘Infinite Circles’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Infinite Circles‘ from Dallas based artist Sergio Garcia. For this newest body of work, Garcia has created oversized sculptures of skateboard wheels to pay a playful homage to the defining adolescent subculture of the 1990s and 2000s.

Garcia views the skateboard wheel as an integral, yet often overlooked symbol of the skateboarding ethos. To Garcia, once a set of wheels has been used, they assume a new significance, representing the places (and surfaces) skated, like a trophy or badge of honor for teenage rites of passage.

In anticipation of ‘Infinite Circles,’ our interview with Sergio Garcia discusses skateboard culture’s influence on his creative voice, how he pushes himself as an artist, and the most rewarding moment of his career thus far.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

SG: I started in graffiti and then I got into murals and automotive airbrushing, where I airbrushed cars and motorcycles. That then evolved into my contemporary work.

SH: What is the inspiration behind ‘Infinite Circles’?  

SG: This group of work is a bunch of skateboard wheels, infinite circles the title is a play on initials “IC”(infinite crew), a graffiti crew I’m a part of. One of my first solo shows was titled Infinite Chapters, I’ve always liked the play on the initials “IC” and how it pertains to skateboard wheels, I feel that there are an infinite selection and combinations for skateboarders to choose from.

SH: How did you determine what wheels/skate brands you were going to create wheels for? Is there a significance behind the chosen brands?

SG: With skateboarding, there’s a core group of brands. I kind of chose these more for the graphics and ones that I really liked. I felt that they would aesthetically look good as a sculpture. I’m a big fan of skateboarding and skateboarding graphics, the hardest part is narrowing down which ones I want to do because there are so many others I’d love to do.

SH: How did this exhibition challenge you and your skills as an artist?

SG: I’ve done the wheels before in different sizes. Some of these are 10in which is the smallest ones I’ve done. I’ve tried to make some of these really aged and some of them coned and ridden. The way my work normally goes is I learn while I go with materials and paint sheens and oxidized colors for aging. This group challenged me to make them look more aged.

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

SG: I feel I have the most fun creating them when they’re really thrashed out.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time?

SG: Honestly living in Texas I’ve been getting a lot of sun, skateboarding, and working in the studio a lot…so nothing has changed really on that aspect. When it first started I was kind of wrapped up in learning about it and how it hit the U.S. I still somewhat read up on it but not as much. I never really was a going out to bars type of person anyway so my lifestyle didn’t change a whole lot in that tip.

SH: What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

SG: There’s a Krishna temple/restaurant called Kalachandjis, I’ve been going to that place since I was a teenager. I really love that place.

SH: What has been one of the most rewarding or exciting moments of your art career thus far?

SG: I got asked to do a traveling show with Santa Cruz Skateboards. It’s a traveling show of all of the original drawing concepts from the 80s. That and I had George Powell of Powell Peralta commission a piece for the new  Powell Peralta headquarters.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

SG: I’m really influenced by everyday objects, skateboard graphics, graffiti, and music, and subcultures.

SH: If your work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the ingredients and the name of the pint?

SG: I know there’s a Cherry Garcia, so I would try to not include my last name. I would call it Infinite Coconut it would be Coconut ice cream mixed with real strawberries and toasted coconut flakes. I’ve always liked coconut custard.

SH: How old were you when you first got a skateboard? Was it a real board or a toy board?

SG: I was like 8 or 9.  I got a G&S Neil Blender Coffee Break Mini Board. It had tracker trucks and Bullet wheels. I got it from a place called Skate Time by Bauchman Lake. Home of the legendary Blue Ramp/Clown Ramp. I love how Jeff Grosso (r.i.p) would show love to that ramp and Texas in his Love Letter episodes. Jeff was a real one.

SH: Do you feel skate culture has influenced your artistic voice?

SG: Big time. Not just these, but my next group of sculptures as well.

Join us LIVE on Instagram, Saturday, August 22nd from 1 to 2 pm PST while we tour ‘Infinite Circles‘ along with new work from Sarah Joncas and Anthony Clarkson.

Interview with Spenser Little for ‘Illumination Devices’

Spenser Little’s ‘Illumination Devices‘ at MOAH Cedar presented in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects is currently on view and available to enjoy from the comfort at your home through a video, photo, or virtual tour.

Little is a self-taught artist who has been bending wire and carving wood for almost 20 years, allowing his creativity to morph into sculptures and images that range from simple wordplay to complex portraits.

To celebrate the opening of ‘Illumination Devices,’ our interview with Spenser Little discusses misconceptions, creative process, and his talent for satire.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

SL: My background in the arts can’t be talked about without discussing my parents’ influence on my life. My father was a master metal fabricator, mechanical engineer, and all-around tinkerer. My mother was an English professor and a lover of the drunk Irish classics, mainly James Joyce. So my childhood was filled with critical analysis mixed with an engineer’s outlook to the manipulation of elements. Other then my parents’ influence, which was huge, I have had zero training and I am a high school drop out never returning to academia after the age of 15. 

SH: The pieces in this exhibition represent the layers we develop throughout our lives, and what we show or hide from people. What do you think is an assumption or misinterpretation of one of your outer layers? And what is a layer of yourself that you most enjoy sharing with people (outside of your work)?

SL: People often think I’m angry. I have a sincere case of resting bitch face. And many times when I’m daydreaming or calculating future ideas people will ask me ‘are you ok?’ ‘Everything all right?’ when I am perfectly happy and just thinking!

SH: How long did it take you to create the pieces for Illumination Devices? Do you work on multiple pieces at once, or are you a one sculpture at a time kind of man?

SL: I worked on the pieces for Illumination Devices on and off for a year, split up by traveling for art exhibitions and festivals.  In all, I would say I spent a solid six months building the show. I always work on multiple pieces at once. Helps my flow to bounce back and forth. Especially between mediums.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

SL: By far the Inner Defense Mechanism Lamp! Fucking look at that thing!  Damn. So happy that war is over.

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

SL: My least favorite part of building the show was by far the bending, welding’ snd grinding of the leg bases of the two largest lamps. Each leg is about 8 hours of solid grinding to get the effect I want. Torture. My favorite part is wire bending. Comes the most naturally to me.

SH: Lewis Latimer, the inventor of the carbon filament for incandescent lightbulbs, rarely gets the notable credit he deserves in regards to his impact on modern electricity. Who is another inventor or creator you think deserves more credit and or notoriety?

SL: Hhhhmmmmm….. without using the internet I can’t think of any. So I have no honest answer to that other then I’m sure there are many!

SH: How would describe the power and importance of art / the arts in society to an alien who has just touched down to our planet?

SL: I would look that alien straight in the eye and say ‘welcome to earth friend, enjoy the food!’.

SH: You are a satirical mastermind and 2020 keeps rolling out moments ripe for humorous commentary, what would be your slogan for January 2020, July 2020, and December 2020.

SL: Satirical mastermind! Shit! Pressure is on!

January 2020 – I’ll have to steal Joni Mitchell’s line ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’

July 2020 – where we going and why am I in this hand basket!

December 2020 – Being home is better than being in Miami surrounded by people grinding their teeth!

I feel I didn’t prove my slogan skills!

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – I know you’ve been very active locally in terms of marching/protesting and witnessed first-hand some intense police brutality. What is your approach to life during this time? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

SL: My approach to dealing with this hard time is what my approach to life always is. Make Art. I’d probably draw a picture in my blood as the state oppressors beat me to death!  Underbelly Ramen here in San Diego is delicious.

Interview with Max Sansing for ‘Lost & Found’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Lost & Found,’ from Chicago based visual artist Max Sansing whose distinct aesthetic fuses the color-drenched dynamism of street art with the technical elegance of photorealism.

In anticipation of ‘Lost & Found,’ our interview with Max Sansing discusses the symbolism in his work, mentorship, and childhood nostalgia.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

MS: I’m from the south-side of Chicago and my work is portraiture-based but infused with heavy elements of design and symbolism pulling from my neighborhood culture, Afro- American culture, 80s-90s pop, comic book and graffiti. In my painting career I’ve been involved with the black mural movement of Chicago, the graffiti scene and the south-side black art scene, all of which has led to the work I’m currently producing.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work for “Lost & Found”?

MS: Lost and found has been a titled I’ve used to describe a series of works I’ve been doing for years in which the subject or subject of the work are caught in a moment of great transition in their lives. I’ve had moments in my life where I believed I was at an all-time low and it became a flashpoint for change that made me who I am today. The key symbolism is just a totem of sorts to remind yourself that you have the power to find a door to a goal that may have been lost to you.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

MS: Possibly Rapture, it speaks to the ideas of (my) childhood nostalgia and how we sometimes tend to romanticize it or even look upon it as a reason for one’s shortcomings. But in this piece, I wanted to show how quick all it could have been gone just by the trajectory of a bullet. While the bullet does speak to the crime in my neighborhood when I was young, it also speaks to the lost ideas and goals of a youth. Things you knew you were gonna do and shit you were gonna have. All this surrounded by the soundtrack of Anita Baker. Why her? Besides the obvious nod to the album title. Her music and other like it was the type of music played in our (black) homes in the 80-90s and it was the type of mainstream music that represented the idea of the black middle class and a lot of families struggles to stay there.

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

MS: My favorite honestly is the experimentation that comes after the portrait is done. It the moment to show what going on the subjects head or maybe the repression of the subjects spirit. Least favorite? These days maybe the portrait, while I love the practice, it’s a stop on the road to the greater work of art for me. Plus I’ve been painting them for 25 years. I find myself getting looser with my technique as I get older. Maybe that’s because concept is weighing more on the scales for me these days, who knows.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

MS: My father works still haunts me to this day, it has a soul to it that speaks to where I come from.

For the rest it’s been many but these days it’s a mix of my friends and or fellow artist. Calvin Jones (Chicago muralist), Charles White, Kara Walker, Jordan Nickel (Pose MSK), Amuse 126 and WAK Kevin A Williams.

SH: Your work demonstrates strength and command of color with bright strokes and bold lines. A bravery that eliminates preciousness of a really well-rendered portrait. Is there a deeper meaning behind the strokes of color on the portraits, or even how feathers punctate the area beneath one’s eye?

MS: Most of those colors and such are elements I pull from the sky during my favorite time of day which is the magic hour. The blues oranges and purples make me feel at ease after a long day. It’s like the earth saying “well done”. I love wrapping up my subjects in it to convey an emotion. The strokes of color under the eye are a form of game face for the world and a call back to the sports I played as youth and how we put extra eye block on to combat the anxiety of performing well. The feathers are a build on the eye block symbolism. Feathers have many meanings in indigenous cultures and I want them to mean fearlessness in these pieces.

SH: You work with programs that expand art opportunities to kids in underserved communities, could you share the impact the kids have had on you?

MS: Working with the youth was hard at first because I wasn’t that much older than them when I started. I taught for about 11yrs and as I got older I became less cynical about their nature and truly saw the importance of being a fixture to them. I’ve actually kind of taken a mentor role to all these younger artists in Chicago and I feel it’s helped me be more patient, it reminds me that I’m just a practitioner in a tradition and letting the youth step up is the natural order of the game.

SH: How would describe the power and importance of art / the arts in society to an alien who has just touched down on our planet?

MS: I’d tell an Alien that the arts are a way to document culture for future generations.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out? 

MS: I’m trying my best to be of purpose and not lose my head.

Damn, too many. Taurus Subs, Mary Taqueria and Kimski.

SH: If your work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the ingredients and the name of the pint?

MS: I’ll just go with my favorite Strawberry cheesecake, a traditional strawberry ice cream (portraiture) with the graham cracker swirl adding the hint of saltiness and texture — that would be the opposing colors and symbolism.

Maxberry. Lol.