VAN ARNO – UPRIGHT – Opening February 3rd, 2018

VAN ARNO
UPRIGHT
February 3, 2018 – February 24, 2018

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present Upright, featuring new works by Los Angeles-based artist Van Arno. An established veteran of the New Contemporary movement, Arno has been exhibiting his dynamic figurative work since the 90s and has regularly been featured on the pages of Juxtapoz magazine, appearing there as early as 1999. Subscribing to the creed that, ‘more is more,’ Arno has always pushed the limits of the body and the narrative, challenging both to the point of rupture and distortion.

Arno has sustained an ambivalent relationship to storytelling for decades, shifting in and out of loose references to mythology, politics, pop culture and art history. These allusions have remained intentionally unfixed throughout his work, as he channels the surreal results of indiscriminate and unexpected recombinations. In Upright, Arno’s focus is re-posited on the individual figure, rather than on multiple interacting protagonists, looking to one body as a caricatural and psychological vessel for story. In a conscious move away from the overarching demands of storytelling, however, Arno returns to the fascination of the localized and the individual without abandoning the theatrics and hyperbole of his signature style.

The artist’s penchant for distortion is at the core of these iconic works. With a refusal to follow anatomical, perspectival, or gravitational laws, his paintings become titillating, dynamic, and lawless things. The surreal emerges everywhere in Arno’s deck, explosively at times even, with an orgiastic irreverence. Some have likened his pictorial style to the extreme and contorted affectations of Mannerism, the Late Renaissance stylizations that emerged in the wake of its exhausted pursuit of verisimilitude. Arno’s past images, by contrast, have been compared to the elaborate staging of history painting or the symbolic tangents of allegorical tableaux, but far from idyllic restraint, they’re cast in the sharp hues of contemporary psychotropic prolapse.

Though this new body of work marks a departure in its focus on the individual figure, the mythological, historical, pop cultural, and iconographic references Arno has long sutured together in his imagery remain. Referencing freely from our shared cultural reserves, the works incorporate everything, from the era of classic Hollywood and the crossing of the Bering Straits, to the violence of ancient Greek mythology and even Blinky the mutant three-eyed fish of Simpson’s fame. By providing the viewer with an entry point into the work, Arno uses the culturally familiar to intensify the impact of his iconoclastic gestures.

Another art historical paradigm Arno continues to engage is that of the female nude. His emphasis on the distortions of bare flesh, however, feel more in service of his unique stylization and thematic excess than on fetishism. Often bordering on the abhorrent or abject, the expressive potential of nakedness in his compositions takes on an intrigue beyond just that of erotica. The naked female body is no less present in this new body of work, intensified even, by the emphasis on a singular subject in all its contorted glory.

In Upright, Arno explores the individual figure as an expressive vessel for narrative and fiction. The works, in their selective disclosures and seemingly intensified withholdings, feel more inscrutable and cryptic than ever before. Selectively revealing, they offer entry points into the artist’s larger than life world of beautifully misshapen fictions and symbolic hooks.

Interview with Sarah Joncas for “Betwixt and Between”

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Betwixt and Between featuring new works new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco. Both artists are known for their narrative-based works that embrace the imaginative potential of the subconscious and creatively play with elements of the surreal drawings on feelings of nostalgia whether it be hopeful or melancholy.  In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, January 6th, our interview with Sarah Joncas shares her love for the anti-hero, dream collaboration, and favorite fable.

Opening reception, Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
SJ: I started working on the pieces for this show last winter. I like two-person shows because I don’t necessarily focus on one specific theme for the body, but feel out ideas as they come, connecting things here or there, but also just welcoming works to being their own thing entirely. I was exploring more of an aesthetic with this work through – more subtle, dreamy backgrounds that further push the graphic elements I’ve slowly been including in my paintings the last few years. I still have imagery focusing around cityscapes, water, animals, and flowers though, touching on urbanism and environmentalist concerns.

SH: The key to a fable is that it teaches you a lesson. What is one of your favorite fables, and have you been able to master the lesson it taught you or do you still struggle?
SJ: I haven’t thought much about fables since I was a kid, to be honest, but I do like ‘The Tortoise and The Hare’. Not just for the obvious cliché of  ‘slow and steady wins the race’, but for that arrogance was the hare’s true flaw… Never expect the world will work it’s way out for you simply because you think you’re fabulous and deserving. Expect an unfiltered reality, that often things often won’t be optimal, but give it your best anyhow! Despite the anxiety of challenges, my life has been much greater because in the end I went for it, even if I wasn’t the best.

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
SJ: My favorite part is painting the face, haha. Too obvious? I don’t know what it is, I love seeing the features come to life and look back at me. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying painting ears as well, strange folds and turns. Everyone’s ears are so unique, you hardly notice until you start painting them. My least favorite is titling the work. I’m just unconfident with words most of the time!

SH: What inspires the environment that you end up building around your composition? Does the subject come first, or the environment that the subject inhabits?
SJ: It differs, though often the figures come first. With the background, I’m usually inspired by my own surroundings. I like painting suburbia and the city, with animal and plant life creeping in, adding surreal touches. One of the works from the show, ‘Sakura’, was inspired by a trip I recently took to Japan. I ended up using photos of buildings and signs I took in Tokyo as refs for the BG. I’d like to do more paintings inspired by my travels to other places as well.

SH: The women you paint have a heroic and cinematic quality to them, what are the values your ideal heroine would possess?
SJ: Heroes generally have the values of being moral, courageous, determined and selfless. These are all great things anyone would like to see in those they look up to, they’d be qualities I’d want in my heroines too. I think the most inspirational quality for me to see in other real-life women is intelligence and kindness though. And when it comes to cinema, gotta admit I love a great anti-heroine! Someone like Lizbeth Salander or Arya Stark, not the typical crowd pleaser type.

SH: When in the studio are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you’ve been listening too?
SJ: I listen to music most of the time, especially film scores. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Max Richter compositions, kind of dramatic and moving. I love all the scores created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for David Fincher’s films, Alexander Desplat, Clint Mansell, Johan Johansson etc. I recently stumbled into music by bands like ‘Cigarettes after Sex’, ‘Rhye’ and ‘Tame Impala’ and find them really great to paint or chill to as well. But no podcasts actually! I should try them out sometime.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist and remain excited about the work you produce, without alienating your collectors and followers?
SJ: I try to change my work slightly with time, follow my heart without jumping too far from my own style. Something gradual and fluid that feels right to me! I also satisfy other painting vibes for myself by doing side work that I’ll put on my shop from time to time. Usually cute things, sometimes more grotesque, but light-hearted and not as serious in time and theme as my gallery works.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
SJ: Ugh, I’m just in love with director Denis Villeneuve lately. He’s Canadian to boot, and every Canadian loves to see another doing well and creating genuinely great stuff. I couldn’t even see myself doing anything related to his films, but he’s incredible and all of his movies have been inspiring to me.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SJ: I like getting days alone with just my guy, maybe going somewhere out of town for the day, enjoying nature and some good food/drink! Something peaceful and relaxing.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SJ: I’m not sure there is one solid role or objective as an artist. A lot of us are just following our hearts and putting it out there, hoping others might connect with it too. We’re trying to put our thoughts, feelings, and sense of beauty into the world, reflect upon it and find catharsis in the process, I think. But also being apart of the audience and enjoying the art that others make – whether it’s music, films, books or visuals – is one of the greatest parts of life, right?

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SJ: I have a bunch of group shows I’m contributing to throughout the year, and then a larger, 3 person show at Haven Gallery in the Fall. Will probably have about 8 pieces for that and will start them as soon as I’m home from this show’s opening ~

Interview with Kelly Vivanco for “Betwixt and Between”

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Betwixt and Between featuring new works new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco. Both artists are known for their narrative-based works that embrace the imaginative potential of the subconscious and creatively play with elements of the surreal drawings on feelings of nostalgia whether it be hopeful or melancholy.  In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, January 6th, our interview with Kelly Vivanco shares her insight about growing as an artist, favorite fable, and plans for 2018.

Opening reception, Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
KV: It’s hard to tell if themes come before a show or emerge during sketching and painting the pieces. Months before, I look through my collection of old photographs, random art-crafts-animal-birds-picture books and an ever-growing mass of odd bits I’ve dredged from the internet. It sits up in my noggin’ and slowly tangles, making connections and snarls like a hoarder’s dreamcatcher until I start to paint. Atmosphere, feeling and theme comes out then. Like I said, I can’t tell if it comes before or during — it’s very chicken and egg.

SH: The key to a fable is that it teaches you a lesson. What is one of your favorite fables, and have you been able to master the lesson it taught you or do you still struggle?
KV: A lot of my favorite fables teach you things like — all stepmothers are evil, grandmothers should shave lest they be confused with wolves, or a prince’s kiss is an approved method of CPR. Others teach a more general — treat people how you’d want to be treated, which is a great message. I don’t try to add any story or message to my paintings, even though my pieces can appear illustrative, it’s up to the viewer to add their own interpretation.

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
KV: The best part — getting totally lost in creating, losing track of time and space and everything. Losing who I am and all my fears and worries. The worst part — letting my fears and worries get to me afterward, second-guessing everything I’ve done, looking at other peoples’ work and success and judging myself in comparison. I guess that’s not strictly part of the creative process, but it is part of the process of putting something out there.

SH: What inspires the environment that you end up building around your composition? Does the subject come first, or the environment that the subject inhabits?
KV: Where the subject is situated is important to the whole painting, whether she is at a Dodger’s game or in a box comforting Schrodinger’s cat or in a lush garden, it changes the view of who she is. But it goes both ways, she is viewed in the context of where she is, but also her environment is viewed in the context of who she is.

SH: The girls in your paintings have a very wide-eyed childlike quality to them, what are the values and ideals they’d carry by the time they grew to be women?
SL: I just hope that they keep their wonder even through everything it takes to grow into a woman these days.

SH: When painting are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you’ve been listening too?
SL: At the beginning, at the critical stage, when I am trying to get totally lost in the pieces, I listen to music, like — Boards of Canada, Yppah, Tycho. I also listen to movie soundtracks, like — Thomas Newman, The Neon Demon by Cliff Martinez or Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones. Or whatever random music pops up on YouTube. When I’m finishing off the paintings, during the less creative stages, I listen to podcasts like The Bugle and TV shows that I can follow along without having to watch the screen. For me, some of these pieces will be inexplicably linked to The Office and Toast of London.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist and remain excited about the work you produce, without alienating your collectors and followers?
SL: I think staying the same can alienate collectors and followers as much as changing too much. I’d like to grow as much as I can, evolving in a natural way. It’s easy to paint the same thing again and again and get into that kind of pattern, it’s a lot harder to push yourself beyond that. I guess that’s why they refer to it as “push yourself” and not “laze yourself” or “drool-on-your-snuggies-while-watching-repeats-of-storage-wars yourself”. I despair sometimes when I look at my body of work that I’m repeating myself — same girls and birds and orangutang, like everyone, is doing — but despairing is part of what pushes you to do something newer and better.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
KV: I always thought it would be cool to collaborate with a costume maker. I would like to see some of the clothing my characters wear come to life.

SH: You sometimes create works with wood carvings or pieces that have a more sculptural element. Do you cut those pieces yourself or do you collaborate with someone to help create that vision?
KV: I collaborate with my husband, Peter, on those pieces. He makes such wonderful panels for me to paint on and frames to finish some work off. He always does something that is complementary to the piece or something that inspires me.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SL: A civilized day of croissants, coffee, reading or walking and exploring someplace new.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SL: It goes from the gamut of a pretty thing that matches the couch to a mirror that really makes us look at how society is acting. There are artists like Josh Keyes doing that for the environment, or writers like Margaret Atwood that have been doing it for years — or the show based off her show — The Handmaid’s Tale. I think as people, not just artists we all want to change things for the better. Anything that makes us feel something or use our brains is a good thing.

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SL: I am curating an eight-by-eight show at Distinction art gallery in February and I have a solo show this November at Rotofugi in Chicago. Other than that I plan to play around with my grown-up version of a box of crayons and a pad of paper as much as I possibly can.