Coming to Thinkspace Gallery’s project room February 27th is new work from artist Rodrigo Luff in his latest exhibition, Nemeta. Luff works with color pencil, pastel, graphite, oil, and acrylic, and has honed his illustrative skills alongside his facility with painting media. His works are both linear and painterly, realistic and expressionistic. He explores a feeling of the otherworldly by capturing his subjects in trance-like dream states, suspended mysteriously in fairytale atmospheres. His nudes are often surrounded by kindly owls or other iridescent woodland creatures, and staged in forests or haunted woods.
Sour Harvest’s interview with Rodrigo Luff covers the inspiration behind “Nemeta”, a day in the studio, and who he’d invite to a dinner party among other fun questions.
Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the upcoming exhibition? How long have you be preparing for the show?
I’m interested in the way we have always sought a connection to the natural world, and how that liminal, mysterious and wild realm reflects those uncharted dimensions within our psyche.
I’ve been working on this show on and off since mid 2014, so it’s been a long journey.
Who are your artistic influences and a few artists you think people should know about?
My biggest influences are Alphonse Mucha, John W. Waterhouse, John S. Sargent, Moebius, Luis Falero, Hayao Miyazaki and Herbert Draper.
I recommend folks check out Luis Falero and Herbert Draper for a beautiful blend of realism and mythological fantasy. I also *highly* recommend “Cannabis Works” by Tatsuyuki Tanaka.
You really experiment with pigment mediums and layering to create a desired effect in your work, can you elaborate on a time an experiment failed and another when it was successful?
Yeah this one time I was layering acrylic washes and pencil rendering and it just got too heavy and dark, and the more I tried to lighten it, the more the paper got ruined and completely messed up.
A few years ago, I experimented with blending water, GAC 100 medium, acrylic, iridescent media and crushed oil pastel. I slowly and carefully built up the colour layers and I was surprised at how well it all came together, despite never having tried such a combination or knowing what the hell I was doing!
How did you develop your own artistic voice and visual style, when did it click?
I developed my visual style through blending all the different styles of art I like together, along with my own experiences and ideas. It really clicked one night when I was listening intently to music and realising that all these different sounds and instruments can be harmonised through a song structure. I tried to implement the same concept in my art through the drawing “Owl Song” in ‘12 by working hard to harmonise all my influences, colours, mediums, imagery and style together into one cohesive picture.
Most artists showed or have expressed creativity throughout their life, but committing to the path of a professional artist is a different story; when did you decide you wanted to be an artist and what does being an artist mean to you?
After I finished High School in ‘05, I graduated in the top 0.6% of the state with near perfect final marks. However, I had also won a full-time scholarship to go to the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney earlier that year. I knew I couldn’t do both, so I decided to really commit myself to the artist’s path, despite the pressure to go the academic route through University. To me personally, being an artist means making this commitment every day, to seek learning and improvement and to justify that choice I made after High School.
What does a day in the studio look like?
I get up at around 6-7 am, and get the train to the studio. I’ll check emails and respond on the train so I can paint as soon as I arrive at around 8 am. Strong coffee fires up my neural synapses and I try to get my most concentrated work done in the morning, despite usually posting social media updates and seeing what’s happening in the world.
I usually take a short break for lunch, and then paint as much as possible until around 9 pm. On the way home, I read a book on the train, and think about how many mistakes I made painting, feeling determined to do better the next day. I usually get home around 10-11 pm and finish any emails.
Your work is steeped in a fantasy ethereal world and could easily be the backdrop to a video game; if you were to create your own video game based on your art what would be the backstory of the protagonist and what’s their mission?
It would be a mix of Miyazaki, Avatar, Greek Mythology and dark European Fairytales. An explorer gets lost in the forest, follows mysterious green lights into a liminal realm full of neon owls that possess some kind of alien intelligence, guided by a beautiful oracle. On the other side of the portal, in the underworld, the explorer communes with the soul of the forest, an ancient tree that has been poisoned by those mining resources of the woods for profit. The explorer must undergo several trials and tribulations to find a way to save the dying forest without succumbing to the same dubious morals as those who poisoned the sacred realm.
Best advice you’ve ever received as an artist? What advice would you give someone who looked up to you?
To work hard, long hours and always try to learn and do better with each artwork. I’d pass that on to anyone who asked, it’s simple but true.
Your last show with us was 3 years ago, what changes have you and your work experienced?
I’ve tried to keep the same surreal blend of realism and fantasy with owls, but enrich the vision with more detailed backgrounds, more ambitious compositional choices and fresh colour schemes.
If you were to throw a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive; who would be on the guest list, what’s on the menu, and what would be the icebreaker question?
David Bowie, Hunter S. Thompson, Caravaggio, George R. R. Martin, Jimi Hendrix, Salvador Dali and Terence McKenna. I’d say a big southern BBQ style menu would be amazing, with lots of booze. Who needs an icebreaker with Hunter to get the party started?!!
The opening reception for “Nemeta” is Saturday, February 27th from 6 -9 pm and the show is on view till March 19th. For additional information on the exhibit please visit Thinkspace Gallery’s website; if you’d like to receive a preview of the show make sure to sign up for the Thinkspace Gallery mailing list.