Interview with Mwanel Pierre-Louis for “Alchemy”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Alchemy featuring new works by New Jersey-based artist Mwanel Pierre-Louis. His colorful and layered worked portrays scenarios that express duality and emotions. Louis connects with everyday people who are willing to shed off their daily stories and allow him to capture them through his paintings.

In anticipation of Alchemy, our interview with Mwanel Pierre-Louis discusses the creative process, best artistic advise, and Footlocker.

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? 

MPL: Hi! I’m Mwanel Pierre- Louis, everyone calls me One- L lol. I’m originally from New York City and Jersey City, but I was raised most of my life in Miami, FL.  My Haitian influences mixed with Miami’s vibrancy transformed my personal interest to create. Went art school most of my life, such New World School of the Arts for high school and Art Center College of Design for Illustration Design. Worked in the entertainment and fashion industries out in LA for a few years after leaving Art Center. Came back to Miami to really pursue the career as a Fine Artist/ Illustrator/Artist. Got very inspired by my environment with its color, people and energy.  If you’re wondering what zodiac sign I am, I’m a Gemini. 

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.

MPL: Well, many of these pieces were challenging for me. Due to the fact of time and complexity with some pieces. During this time of creating, I was really pushing my limits with all aspects of the new work. This really humbled me throughout the process.  In this case, there was one piece I can say made me go to think I wasn’t sure if I’ll be done with. That was “Aura” (FIRE), even though it was fairly sized, the details made me tap out a few times. Before starting this piece, I was in a marathon, knocking out paintings with great time and better process. I’m was glad I pushed myself throughout that piece. Many hours of love and built up hand cramps came into play lol. 

SH: Where do you source inspiration? Do you jot inspiration down in a notebook or on your phone?

 MPL: This last couple of years have been ups and downs, highs and lows. Definitely let the universe take its course on me and I can say it was an adventure. I really had me think clearer than I ever did. Every time I crossed an individual I can tell that we’re going through similar things in life. We all take part in this walk of life, but we’re willing to grow further by allowing ourselves to walk through our periods of life. I made sure that I forced my introverted self to be more extrovert and start conversations.  It came clear we all have common situations. It took me back to when I read “The Alchemist”. Even a conversation with my dad. He said “your next body of work should be called “Alchemy”. Your work really shows evolution within the people you paint and portray.” 

While traveling most of 2018, I’d carry my sketchbook and/or iPhone to write down words that lead up to ideas, then finally to scribbles. Heading into 2019, I moved to Jersey City to isolate myself from everyone to work on this new body of work. I do remember bouncing off ideas with other fellow artists that were in my building of Mana Contemporary. I’d ask if I can record on my phone or steal some context from them to imply it into the new works.

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

MPL: Favorite part of the creative process is being submerged into the moments of the piece and also finding the mistakes within the piece. The least favorite part of the creative process is getting cramps in my hands and the last leg of the day while painting for more than 12 hours out the day. I have a tendency of either pushing myself or dosing off and messing up my palette. And the very least favorite thing is when I have to match paint in areas of leaked paint that got stuck under the tape.      

I also appreciate the process when I’m designing out the composition, either by a drawing or if it’s digital. It’s just me and my thoughts while I explore my horizons. Gives me great solitude and I stay on my toes. Not caring what the outcome would be. I’ve grown to be more open to that process. 

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. 

MPL: Haha, I never got to think about that, but in the past, I’ve always been mistaken for the singer/dancer/actor/friend of mine, Omarion. I trust his skill lol. Maybe even Micheal B. Jordan as well, I definitely see him with my essence in the Black Panther movie haha. Like a comedy, drama or biopic movie would be a scenario. Who would want to see an aesthetic of “Moonlight” meets Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat”?  I think there’s content within that.

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?

MPL: One piece of advice I’ve received from fellow artist as a painter was to not jump around from one area to another without finishing the one area. If you feel that you’ve completely finished that area then go to the next thing.  As for the philosophical advice, here’s one or two,“Balance yourself during your process, you have all of the time to create, but enable to create, you must live life as well.” Another universal quote I took in dearly is “Focus on you, so they can focus on you!” 

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others? 

MPL: As for my listening sessions, I’m all three. I’ll have my Netflix days, my Apple Music or SoundCloud days, and even my podcast days.  The top podcasts that I’m listening to are Joe Rogan Experience, TigerBelly, The Savvy Painter, Bodega Boys and of course, Clean Break Podcast.  On my iTunes/ Apple Music, I’ve ranged from Kaytranada to N.E.R.D. to Burna Boy. Netflix is where I’m definitely listening to comedies like the latest Dave Chapelle stand up to Marvel/ Star Wars movies. Also got caught up on Netflix originals such as “She Gotta Have It” and “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”.  Very simple, but gets my days going. 

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?

MPL: These last few years have been a rollercoaster for me. I can actually tell you that 2018 was my busiest and yet most transitional year I’ve ever been in yet. I’d worked on multiple projects with commercial backing, traveled much and networked more than ever due to my work. March 1 was a pentacle day for me, I’d received a commercial gig with Adidas and Footlocker. That was one of the best experiences I’ve been apart of. The agency that reached out found my work through Booooooom.com from the previous body of work I put out. They wanted to fly me out to LA for a video shoot where I would be starring. 

The project entailed, that I would make a video-based around this shoe “The Deerupt” and my life but with a sportswear treatment. This included me to paint a piece featuring the Deerupt for one of the Footlocker stores in Miami. After, donate that painting to one organization of my choice. For the video shoot, I was asked to do a monologue and bring out a painting of mine for them to be featured. Also, each location, I was wearing a different outfit from and riding on a fixed gear bike. Overall, I had the best time just being me and networking with other creatives throughout the project. 

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

MPL: Without art, I wouldn’t think that the world would function the way we would now. Without the artists, we can’t uplift nor make a culture to function within an organized society. It would be grays all around, not even black and white. I’m more so a colorful person just by the way I use the colors within my work. I draw others into a portal just by the colors that I’ve placed as context. 

SH: What would a perfect day outside of the studio look like for you?

MPL: Well being in New Jersey, there are many things that I can do while being out of the studio. But a perfect day for me would be at the waterfront in Hoboken, sitting at the boardwalk staring at the New York City line. Then head to the path train, over to Soho area and just venture off to different streetwear boutiques, vintage t-shirt stores and of course head over to Midtown Comics. Guarantee, you can also find me walking around New Museum or the Whitney Museum as well. That can be considered a perfect day for me. I rather spend time being invested with the culture around me from time to time.

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?

MPL: Damn, this is such a great question. I never thought about seeing my artwork inspire a dish. Well, I have a weakness for pizza or any flaky pastry. To be realistic, the pastry might be it. Like an empanada or Haitian Pâté. A Haitian pâté consists of thin layered dough skins with a middle opening with a different type of meat or vegetable.    Maybe each layer had a different color dye to it. But the top would be its normal color. The type of meat that I can see in it is either ground turkey meat or shrimp. Better yet, I don’t even mind seeing Cauliflower and other veggies within the middle area. The reason for having those elements is that is transferred into the way I peel off layers to my subjects. Each color represents the energy that is portrayed at the moment while eating the pastry. It fully translates with an individual that you come across within my paintings. 

Join us for the opening reception of “Alchemy”
Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Interview with Matthew Grabelsky for “Jungle Train”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Jungle Train featuring new oil paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Grabelsky. Raised in New York, he uses the subway’s underground world as the setting for his hyperrealistic painting technique that possesses a penchant for the surreal.

In anticipation of Jungle Train, our interview with Matthew Grabelsky discusses the creative process, audiobooks, and what would be a very boring art film.

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

MG: This one was very organic. I have a running list of ideas for paintings I want to do. I started off by picking a few that really excited me. Then, as I went along, I added more than I thought would fit with the work I had already started. 

SH: Last year you moved your work off of the subway, and onto the streets of New York. Do you think you will move your subjects to other cities of significance in your life?

MG: Yes, I have definitely been thinking about that. I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas in my head but I want the evolution to be organic. I find that my best ideas come to me when I’m not actively trying to come up with them. My concept is that these characters started on the subway and then go out into the wider world. I certainly want to do paintings set in different locations in New York. I was born and am currently living in Los Angels and so I expect that my characters will make it out to LA at some point.

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.

MG: Yes, the largest painting in my show (30 x 48 inches) features a father and son standing on the subway platform at the Museum of Natural History station. They both have red panda heads. The father is dressed in a dapper suit on his way to work and the boy is dressed for school with an outer space-themed shirt and holding a red panda stuffed animal. There are a ton of complicated details in the patterns on the clothing as well in the mosaics and tiles on the wall behind them.

I always like to push myself and paint things that are technically challenging and this piece fits the bill. Whenever I paint something, whether a texture or object, that I haven’t painted before there is always a sense of discovery while I’m working on the piece. I have to figure out how best to execute it and that keeps the process new and interesting.

Aside from the technical oil painting challenges involved in this piece, it is an image that I particularly love. My friend and his son modeled for it and the pose they took gave the characters a real sense of connection and intimacy. Scattered throughout are fun little references to red pandas and details that let you create a story surrounding where these characters are coming from and where they are going next when they get on the subway train.

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

MG: I have a ton of fun working out compositions. I start with an idea and then do a photoshoot with friends or family members. Next, I work up a composite in photoshop where I start to visualize what the painting will look like. I spend most of this stage laughing. I find that when the image cracks me up I know it will make a good painting. The rest of the time is spent executing the actual painting. This entails many hours of intense concentration and it is very satisfying to see the image start to emerge over the weeks that I am working on the piece.

At the end I get to share my paintings with other people and their engagement and interest makes it all worth it.

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

MG: What frustrates me is also what I love about the creative process – that I am never totally satisfied by how I am painting and there is an endless quest to find ways to paint better. 

I have this obsessive desire to create the perfect painting, almost like Ahab chasing his whale. I am always coming up with new ideas for both my concepts and my technique and every time I finish a painting I get new ideas for what to change in my process on the next one.

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.  

MG: It would be a documentary akin to Andy Warhol’s film of a man sleeping except it would be me in front of my easel with a painting slowly developing over many many hours. It would be very boring to watch.

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?

MG: This isn’t advice that I have received from someone, but have found – there are no shortcuts. 
Philosophical advice: find your voice. Figure out what the art is you really want to make. Find what is interesting and personal to you and express that with your art. 

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others?

MG: Most of the time I listen to audiobooks while I’m painting. When I’m composing a piece I need it to be quiet but when I’m painting listening to a story helps me concentrate. I love that painting allows me to listen to books all day long. I can’t imagine ever having had the time to sit down and get through War and Peace but by listening it only took me a couple of weeks. All of these stories then feed me creative ideas all day which I can then incorporate into my work.  

Often when I find an author I love I go through everything they have written. Some favorites include James Clavell, Neil Gaiman, James Heller, Alexandre Dumas, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Larry McMurtry, and Marcel Proust.

My favorite author of late is Neil Stevenson. During the preparation for this show, I have listened to Snowcrash, The  Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Seveneves, and Reamde. His stories include a great mix of science, culture, history, technology and his writing is fluid, witty, and insightful.

SH: Dead or alive, who would you most like to collaborate with on a piece? What do you imagine the piece would look like or be?

MG: I would be really interested in collaborating with an artist who works in a  different medium, not necessarily a painter. Perhaps one of my favorite filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam or David Lynch. They all have a mix of realism with surrealism/fantasy in their films which are elements that I always try to include in my work. I have no idea what it would look like but it would be interesting to see what would develop through the process of collaborating.

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

MG: I fell in love with realistic oil paintings when I was in college. I saw these incredible pieces in museums and I had a powerful urge to learn how to paint like that. I started off by buying some oil paints and brushes and tried to make something like what I had been admiring but I wasn’t able to even come close. Now after years of study and practice, I have gotten to the point where I am able to make oil paint match the images I see in my head and that is immensely satisfying and a great sense of accomplishment. While I’m sure I will spend the rest of my life trying to refine my technique I have finally gotten to a point where I can express myself through oil.

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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