Opening Reception of Imon Boy, STOM500, Chigozie Obi, and Z the Rat ( aka Zeinab Diomande) Exhibitions | January 8 – January 29 at Thinkspace Projects

A great way to kick off the new year! Thank you to those who joined us for the opening reception of Imon Boy’s “No Regrets“, STOM500’s “Cortez“, Z the Rat ( aka Zeinab Diomande)’s “U’ve Seen It…U Can’t Unsee It“, and recent works from Chigozie Obi. Congratulations to all exhibiting artists on their new bodies of work.

Exhibitions remain on view through January 29, 2022 at our new location in the West Adams district of LA.

Photo Tour of Imon Boy, STOM500, Chigozie Obi, and Z the Rat ( aka Zeinab Diomande) Exhibitions | January 8 – January 29 at Thinkspace Projects

Thinkspace presents a photo tour through Imon Boy’s “No Regrets“, STOM500’s “Cortez“, Zeinab Diomande’s “U’ve Seen It…U Can’t Unsee It“, and recent works from Chigozie Obi now on view through January 29th.

Interview with Z the Rat ( aka Zeinab Diomande) for ‘U’ve Seen It… U Can’t Unsee It’ | Exhibition on view January 8 – January 29 at Thinkspace Projects

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present a collection of works from artist Z the Rat (aka Zeinab Diomande), who through her work explores the theme of mental health and her experience as a black woman.

Her exhibition ‘U’ve seen it… U can’t Unsee It’ expresses the intersection between what one longs for and the struggles they have to face. The artist describes these paintings as “love letters to my child-self”. Her relatively simple, yet simultaneously complex, compositions use of bright colors give a sense of warmth and safety that at times can still feel heavy. Contrasting the pensive characters, all of these opposing forces and their conflicting nature are a byproduct of one’s desire to create safety out of chaos.

In our interview with Z the Rat she shares with us where she finds inspiration, advice she’d give her past self, and a peek into her artistic practice.  

Can you share with us a little bit about your upbringing and where you are currently creating?

I originally come from the Ivory Coast, though I was born here in Virginia! My parents moved back to the Ivory Coast when I was 4 months old so being back here in the U.S still feels very new but still a very fun journey! I am currently based in Philadelphia where I go to college and have my studio. 

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes have you been exploring in your work, lately?

The inspiration for this body of work was a reflection on the conflicting nature of some themes I was exploring such as the idea of peace within chaos. Most of these paintings are love letters to my child-self. The environment my characters are in are generally very bright and colorful which feels warm, safe, and inviting. On the other hand, the characters are very pensive. Other times the paintings are a lot more chaotic and more cluttered. I am definitely reflecting on what my child-self would’ve liked for herself, the type of environment she was longing for as opposed to what was around at the time. 

Could you share what your day-to-day looks like when working in your studio? 

My studio days are very simple. I generally like to have my jazz playlist in the background and my cat around. I don’t really sketch so I just have an idea in mind, my notebook handy with my notes and once I have the figure fully painted I just work around it. It’s the core of the painting, if it’s not good, the whole painting is ruined in advance.

What’s in your “artistic toolbox”? Are you particular about brands that you use? 

My toolbox has a lot of leftover paint, palettes that I need to clean, lots of oil pastel, color pencils and paper scraps. I like the idea of repurposing materials so I hoard a little. I use a lot of acrylic, I am not very specific on the brand mostly student grade “Blick” brand. When it comes to oil pastel though, I am very particular about the brand I like bright colors so I make sure I get the ones with the most pigment.

How do you like to unwind outside of the studio? 

On days where I am not in the studio being a hermit, I like to get together with my friends, chef it up, go to the park or just chill with my cat. 

Do you have a process for sourcing and/or keeping track of your inspiration? 

Whenever I feel like I need to be very inspired, I like to watch documentaries. There’s one specific video that I always go to when I need an extra boost and it’s the Tate’s video of Njideka Akunyili-Crosby. There is something about the way she talks about her process and experience that really feels motivating, endearing and encouraging. It works all the time. 

Most artists express themselves creatively as a child, but there is a moment when a shift occurs from just being creatively inclined to being more artistically minded – do you know when that moment was for you?

 I think being creative and being artistic go hand in hand when you are an artist. The skills you have built over the years whether it be painting, drawing etc are deeply connected to your creative approach. Creativity is your ability to problem solve, figure out ways to use the technical skills that you have to stand out. I don’t think there’s a point in time where they stop working together. When I realized this I was 16 and it’s still something I hold on to now. 

Have you ever worked outside creating public murals? If not, would you be interested in pursuing one day? 

I have never worked on a mural before or any public art but this is definitely something I would like to do in the future! 

What words of wisdom would you share with your past self when you were just starting to create art? Is there anything in your artistic journey that you wish you may have done differently? 

If there’s anything I would like to say to my past self is don’t rush, longevity over instant gratification. If you fly too fast, you’ll burn your wings. Keep on practicing, that drive that you have is all you need. Rejection is redirection, if the shoe doesn’t fit, there’s your size elsewhere! 

Anything in my artistic journey that I wish I’d done different is definitely taking breaks when necessary. I realized that  listening to your body and prioritizing your health whether it be physical or mental is crucial. Work can wait. I wish I learned that a little sooner.  

What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?

I think my biggest challenge in 2020 was how distant the art community felt. Since everything moved online it felt a little odd at first and as much as I enjoy online exhibitions there is something about seeing art in person that cannot be replicated virtually. 

What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)

I think it was my first gallery exhibition in my home country at the LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery. It was very emotional to have my mom, my siblings and everyone who saw me in my very first steps. The show went beyond my expectations and It just reminded me that if it weren’t for all of these people’s I wouldn’t be where I am today. Taking a step back to think about this helps me stay centered and grounded. My mom has many more shows to witness and we’ll make it happen! 

What big projects do you have coming up in 2022?

I will be starting my last year of college, so definitely my thesis exhibition and a couple of art fairs that I have coming up! 

Interview with IMON BOY for ‘No Regrets’ | Exhibition on view January 8 – January 29 at Thinkspace Projects

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Imon Boy’s latest solo show, ‘No Regrets.’ The exhibition explores the crossover between his graffiti work and studio practice, showcasing the multi-disciplinary artist’s diverse expressions of his unified style.  

While Imon Boy closely guards his identity, his work is full of personality, making even his persona immensely engaging. The Malaga-based graffiti writer has crafted a career by mocking the “graffiti establishment.” He rejects the idea of working for the purpose of impressing others or using traditionally technical skills, opting to create paintings and illustrations that are tongue-in-cheek but surprisingly tender, exploring and evoking universal themes and emotions.

Our interview with IMON BOY touches on elements that challenged him as an artist and the inspiration derived from the act of living.

What was the inspiration behind this latest work? What topics were you exploring?

In general, different types of light, different lighting and new vibrations

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

The boy breaking the brick gave me new ideas for future paintings. The moonlight in the background, a glass that separates two planes and an interior of a police car. I think it’s my favorite work on the show

Could you share what your day-to-day life is like when you work on a new body of work?

No day is the same for me. Sometimes I paint for days in a row and sometimes I rest for days in a row, but the ideal is to alternate painting with graffiti, beach, food, movies, etc. to live

What’s in your “art toolbox”? Are you particular about the brands you use?

No. I have a common box. Lots of color variety always. I don’t like to use low-quality materials or bad paint, a good brand and that’s it. Cheap is expensive.

How do you like to relax outside of the studio?

Sometimes I’m more relaxed in the studio than outside. Outside, I like to live what I have around me, the neighborhood where I live, the people around me, etc. But above all, the sun and the water

Do you have a process to search and / or track your inspiration?

I just live. The feeling and inspiration comes to me when I live happy and have good ideas. The key to my job is to draw constantly. Make sketches and ideas without obligation, just for me. to experience. Some of these experiments I also use in the show

Most artists express themselves creatively as children, but there is a time when there is a shift from a creative bent to a more artistic mindset. Do you know when that moment was for you?

It has all been very evolutionary. Like graffiti, way of thinking, etc. Nothing is suddenly

Where have you traveled to work on a mural or display your work in a gallery space? Do you have a favorite destination / wall and why?

The last one went to NY. The truth is that I like the idea of ​​creating canvases in my studio and exposing them to the rest of the world, and I reserve graffiti for myself. Paint where I want, how I want, when I want and in the format that I choose. If I am given the choice between a façade of a 20-story building and a small wall, I choose the small one.

But if they offer me to travel to a place like Hawaii (for example) where I feel comfortable and offer me a wall where I have total freedom, I would.

What words of wisdom would you share with your past self when you were just starting to show your work / create murals? Is there something on your artistic journey that you wish you had done differently?

I would say many things to my Imon from the past. It would help you choose who to work with and who not to work with. I would tell him who to this day has loved me out of interest or from the heart. If I look at the past, I have done bad things … but from the bad and from the mistakes you also learn

What seemed the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?

Being able to live in a state like Spain, infected with corruption and laws where you obey, pay, pay and pay again. Taxes, electricity, housing … I believe that living in Spain with dignity is already an achievement

What is your proudest achievement of 2021? Life until now? (may or may not be related to art)

That of all the times I have painted on the street, I have only been caught by the police once. It’s a good year

What big projects do you have in 2022?

Caring for my baby cat Benito

Interview with STOM500 for ‘Cortez’ | Exhibition on view January 8 – January 29 at Thinkspace Projects

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present STOM500 latest solo exhibition, ‘Cortez.’ The show, aptly titled after the famous shoe model Forest Gump wore during his run across the country, pays tribute to different states within the US. 

Stom500, who is based in France, wanted to travel throughout the country, despite finding it increasingly complicated due to the COVID health crisis. Determined to safely find inspiration, he planned a road trip designed to take him through as many states as possible. Drawing inspiration from this trip, Stom500 created ‘Cortez.’ With 8 pieces representing 8 different states, this exhibition plays with the notion of living together. 

Our interview with STOM500 dives deeper into the inspiration and development of this latest body of work, along with insight into his passion for murals, plus a few wise words for artists young and seasoned

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

This exhibition is called “CORTEZ” and pays homage to the United States through its different states.
This name is actually the shoe model that Forrest Gump wore while running across the country. At a time when traveling to and from the United States is very complicated, I wanted to travel a little, while living in France. For that I only had books, internet, podcasts and some movies. My vision of the country is only made from things I haven’t seen in real life and yet I had the impression to travel while doing all my research. The themes are always around animals, culture and history. The more I explored, the more I fell in love with this multi-faceted country and I can’t wait to get back there for this exhibition!

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

This is a very hard question to answer because I had to choose 8 states out of the 50 states in the country. I explored more than 20 states while researching sketches, only selecting the ones that inspired me enough to come up with a real track. Once chosen it was very pleasant to paint them. So I would say that the hardest part was making that selection! I knew I wanted to paint New York City and California, which have so many strong symbols but can also seem a bit cliché. It was quite hard, on these two paintings, to sort out the good ideas from the bad ones and so these are the two that took me the most time to think about. I work on all my ideas with the precious help of my wife who simply told me to realize them last and it was great advice! ^^

Could you share what your day-to-day looks like when working on a new body of work? 

For this exhibition, it was really a funny gymnastics. I need to have a rhythm to my week to be effective in my paintings. I start painting early around 7 am and finish around 6 pm every day. I start my reflection on the weekend often on Saturday morning to be able to exchange with my wife during breakfast, a very precious and important moment. I then have the whole weekend to flesh out our exchanges and I make my sketch on Sunday evening very quickly when I am relaxed. I think that it is there that I am effective because I am rested and my ideas are clearer. Then comes the realization part where I work early, simply because I can’t sleep once the painting is in progress.

What’s in your “artistic toolbox”? Are you particular about brands you use? 

I work mainly with paints that I buy from a manufacturer in Strasbourg, the city where I live. Then I make my own mixtures to make shades that I use throughout the exhibition. This allows me to create unity throughout the series. I then work a lot with the brand of paint Molotow. It allows me to have a certain rendering with very bright colors like the yellows that I use regularly to give light. It is extremely important for me to have quality in my paints as well as in my material. I invest a lot in all this to give the best of myself and never stop progressing. In my toolbox, there are also craftsmen who are experts in their field and I value the relationship I have with my printers and collaborators! 

How do you like to unwind outside of the studio? 

If I’m not painting in my studio, I’m painting a wall! The essence of my work comes from graffiti. So when I’m not painting with brushes, I go back to spray paint! 
My 2nd passion is food! I love to cook and gather some friends around a good vegetal meal. Most of my time is then spent visiting museums, tours, and cultural mops of all kinds to continue to educate myself and come back to the studio with new ideas!

Do you have a process for sourcing and/or keeping track of your inspiration? 

It’s the little things in everyday life that inspire me the most! My phone is filled with a wide variety of pictures from very simple illustrations to very technical paintings. I love the contrast of being able to paint something simple but with a lot of effect! Going to museums or just walking around town is a real source of inspiration.

In parallel to my work as an artist, I am the artistic director of an urban art festival that brings together about twenty artists from all over the world to create walls in unusual places for the past three years. The meetings, exchanges and sometimes collaboration are also a real source of inspiration for me! I attach a lot of importance to these exchanges which are very enriching as much on the content as on the form. 

Most artists express themselves creatively as a child, but there is a moment when a shift occurs from just being creatively inclined to being more artistically minded – do you know when that moment was for you?

Personally, I feel like I’ve kept some of my childhood soul. It’s just the toys that have grown up! I paint much bigger walls and play with pods instead of miniature trucks. And basically graffiti is the opposite of what our parents told us to do. Don’t write on the walls they said! 30 years later it has become my reason to live and what makes them proud! My work has matured and I ask myself more questions about environmental and societal issues but it is still the child in me who is in charge!

Where have you traveled to either work on a mural or showcase your work in a gallery space? Do you have a favorite destination/wall and why? 

From Kosovo to Portugal and from graffiti jams to the big mural festival I love to travel! It doesn’t matter what the destination is! But it’s definitely the trip to Washington for the POW WOW festival that will stick with me the most. I remember arriving in the city, looking for the small wall I had seen in pictures and realizing that it was 4X bigger in reality. It was quite a challenge and of course I loved it! It was definitely one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to and I’d love to do it again here!

What words of wisdom would you share with your past self when you were just starting to show your work/ create murals? Is there anything in your artistic journey that you wish you may have done differently? 

When I started painting 10 years ago I met some really great people in graffiti. I feel more like a muralist today because I do huge murals but it’s important for me to know how to do a Throw Up and I still enjoy going to paint a train at night. But I also see my elders who sometimes have fixed ideas like it was better before. I think you have to live with the times and keep doing it with passion and energy! This is the real basis of our culture. 
After, at 34 years old, I am almost 20 years older than the kids who are starting today! So finally the old one is maybe me today! It’s important to listen to what the new generations have to say to move the movement forward.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?

My biggest challenge was to paint a 34m high wall. That’s the biggest one yet! In general, I have done more murals and more paintings in my studio than in other years. It was a very rich and complete year because to feel good I need to paint outside as well as inside.

What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)

My proudest accomplishment to date is a series of postcards that I found in a store in Belgium during a trip. Most of these cards are almost 100 years old and all come from the USA. I made original paintings on each of them, paying homage to the states from which these cards originated and to the travelers who were passing through. Bringing them back to their country of origin continues the travel process and feeds the theme of my exhibition. A century or so later the maps are coming back to the US, a nice return to the sender in my opinion.  

What big projects do you have coming up in 2022?

I’ve been painting animals for years but I realize that I don’t know them all that well in the end. I haven’t met them all, so in 2022 and for the next few years I would really like to get closer to them to understand them better, to observe their gestures and their way of life in community.