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.

Jacub Gagnon’s “Dream World” opens June 29th.

June 29 – July 20, 2019

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new works 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. Exploring unlikely combinations of flora and fauna in imaginative scenarios with human objects and props, Gagnon proposes playful, though symbolic amalgams, reminding us of the ultimate fragility of the balances sustaining the natural world. His works are often set against dark black or stark white backgrounds and deploy contrasting light and dark hues to significant effect. By using minute brushes, Gagnon’s surfaces have an illustrative clarity and precision, while the imagery’s technical realism, usually shrouded in contexts of black, negative space, contributes to the surreal impact of these poetic visual puns.

With an interest in play and the freedom of the absurd, Gagnon creates imagistic connections to explore the intersection of human and natural elements. These ideas of interconnectivity and associative interpretation are vital to the artist’s philosophical approach. By connecting unlikely and disparate parts, new readings, possibilities, and realizations are woven and drawn from known elements, more often than not desensitized in our acclimated reception of the familiar. Gagnon revitalizes our reading of nature and inspires us to look again – stirring a sense of wonder in this temporary suspension of disbelief. The natural world is cast in artificial light and pushed to the point of the implausibly surreal.

Narrative plays a significant role in Gagnon’s work, as he is often drawing inspiration from language, turns of phrase, and puns to visualize the latency of new meanings and associations – a natural world freed from the restrictions of natural law produces unlikely poetry. In this space of disconnection and re-imagination, the artist proposes new morphologies, collusions, losses, and fictions in an endlessly potentiate space of transformation and renewal.

Rodrigo Luff’s “Afterglow” opens Saturday, June 29th.

June 29 – July 20, 2019

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new paintings and works on paper by Rodrigo Luff in Afterglow, the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery to date. Luff’s personally inflected figurative works blend realism and fantasy, recombining the edges of the probable with the incandescence of daydream. Expressing the imagined and impossible through the contours of a physically plausible world, Luff stages ambiguous borders between the spiritual and material, allowing the internal and emotive external expression through nature. This tension between the manifest and invisible haunts Luff’s intensely contrasting and vibrantly hued imagery, while a state of perpetual atmospheric dusk hosts these ghostly apparitions, both human and animal, hemmed by the fiction of otherworldly light. With edges cast in acidic, dayglow gleam, Luff levitates their edges in buoyant, fluorescent halos.

Luff’s fluorescent fairytales feature dryadic women surrounded by woodland creatures, mystic owls, and sentient birds; their powerful animateness and knowing conveyed through the chiaroscuro intensity of the work – as though the imagery itself is emanating from some ultimate interior. The light feels immaterial and increasingly hallucinatory as the works seem to burst forth from beneath. Through dynamic compositions that seem within moments of action and revelation, the artist keeps the viewer suspended in this trance of potential. With dreamy scenarios and suggestive harmonizations – the artist has often likened his process to musical composition in its balance of individual parts unified cohesively in the impression of the whole – this Narnian world powerfully channels metaphor and the stirrings of spiritual transcendence.

Luff is inspired by diverse influences, which he has synthesized into his unique aesthetic. Everything from the anime master Miyazaki and the romance of the Pre Raphaelites and their oil glazing techniques, to the otherworldly cast and contrast of the aurora borealis and the ornate art nouveau stylization of Alphonse Mucha, are cited among Luff’s sources. He has taken these inspirations and combined them into a romantically modern universe with moments of dissonance, sorrow, melancholy, and transportive nostalgia.

Kathy Ager’s “Golden Age” opens June 29th

June 29 – July 20, 2019

Thinkspace is pleased to present Golden Age, featuring new works by Kathy Ager in the project room; the Vancouver-based artist’s debut solo exhibition. 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.

Ager begins her process with language – an idea or expression often gleaned from music, a book, or some other source that resonates personally. She then endeavors to resolve the concept visually through objects and composition, assembling a patchwork of references – some collective and shared from pop culture, others steeped in the idiosyncrasies of the personal. Both poetic and revelatory, Ager’s works feel charged with the simultaneous misery and beauty of contemporary appropriation – and express the current world through the formal repositories of the past to create anachronistic moments of resonance and delivery. Ever present amidst moments of undeniably expressed disappointment and disillusionment are redemptive linings, beautifully poignant discoveries, and playful, irreverent mirth.

The seductive darkness with which Ager reveals universal human longings is both disarming and consuming. Broken hearts are offered up as organs in a bowl, skeletal memento mori abound, and dating feels about as abject in the modern world as butchery; books are stacked with suggestive spines, and flowers wither while fruit threatens to decay. The abattoir is never far from the transcendent ambitions of classical statuary in Ager’s world, while beauty is embroiled in the vulnerability of intimacy and self-exposure.

Interview with Jaune for “Trash Talk”

Thinkspace is proud to present Trash Talk featuring new works by internationally renowned artists and street interventionists, Jaune, from Belgium, and Slinkachu, from the UK. Both critically acclaimed artists work on an atypical miniaturist scale, especially given the monumental standard demanded of public art in the deafening context of the city. Jaune and Slinkachu both challenge this paradigm of scale while incorporating the city’s refuse and garbage into their imagery as materials and themes.

In anticipation of Trash Talk, our interview with Jaune discusses his collaboration with Slinkachu, the role of artists in society, and what the perfect day outside of the studio would look like.

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.

JU: Actually not one piece in particular but the whole exhibition as I always try to bring my work one step further, so it’s an all-new generation of works, I followed the same way I started to build for the previous shows but trying to change what I “disliked”. Like my stencils, my pieces are multi-layered but I always had the problem that the final result was quite heavy (visually) to make everything hold together, but this time, without taking out that multi layer effect, I could get to a visual light result, which obviously is really satisfying for me

SH: How do you approach starting a new body of work? Walk us through the process of a piece from conception to completion.

JU: All my stencils are cut at the same scale, which makes every character, element or whatever able to be combined with any other one to create each time a new story made of the same element. A bit like when we speak, we use a limited range of vocabulary, only the position of the word in the sentence and how we accord them together make a new story.

So my challenge is to make something new and fresh with something I already used. Then I only need to create few new stencils, I don’t only create those stencil but an almost limitless number of possible new stories by combining with all the previous stencils.

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

JU: New projects, new places, new people!

The very roots of my work were born in Brussels, full of what we could call a kind of Belgian spirit: humour with self-derision and a bit of stupid nonsense. I was really curious to discover if that point which seems to me really local could work as well in other places with people that don’t specifically know this kind of work.

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

JU: Not many things actually, as I’m the only architect of my work, I try to make it only pleasant to me, trying to turn any difficulties or problem into a challenge to grow or a new adventure, any bad situation has a bright side!

The only point that could bother me seriously is when people use my work to promote themselves, without asking me any permission, what for them is a cool stuff to use, for me it’s a life’ work, then I’m really protective to it.

SH: What has the collaborative process been like with Slinkachu / Jaune? 

JU: A game! To me, it has been like a game! Inspiration, ideas, and creativity is my/our daily job if I can say it that way, create new projects, new ideas have really become a natural process, then making some work with an other artist, so an other universe, is like to open a door to on a new world. After that it’s like a ping pong game, one throw an idea, the other come back with his vision, which leads to a direction none of us could have reach alone, it’s really exciting.

SH: Speaking of collaboration, if you could collaborate with any artists (from any art form ie: movies, music, dance etc.) dead or alive who would it be and what would you create?

JU: There are so many artist I would like to collaborate with, actually I have desires to make common work with almost every artist I ever met on festival or on different project, but I can choose who I want, just to keep my humorous direction, I would have loved collaborating with Leonardo Da Vinci, first of all, because I would have left a huge impact on humanity, but mostly because the Mona Lisa would have been funnier with 3 fluo mini guys in the background trying to achieve a pointless job or a bunch of little workers drawn in his codex represented as trying to build his prototype of helicopter, it would just have been fun

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

JU: That’s a tricky question, I’m painting some bin men… I think an ice cream tasting like garbage doesn’t have a big chance to be liked…

My characters are often drinking beers, but I don’t think that an ice cream tasting like beer would be that amazing either, so I guess it would probably taste like a frozen cocktail and it would obviously have 2 fluorescent colours.

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

JU: I don’t think artists have a specific role as we are all singular personalities trying to express something, mostly something deeply personal. And as anyone is free to interpret any artwork following his own vision, it seems complicated to me to imagine artist with a defined role in this multi-directional society, the only point I believe each artist can bring is a different and creative point of view on a situation, which can allow the viewer to make a step back and have a different perspective on what is expressed by the artist, to get out of a daily routine in a way.

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

JU: There are 2 possibilities, outside of the studio but still with my stencils: then it would be on a festival in a sunny place, with other artists, having fun doodling some mini dudes everywhere I can.

If it is without my stencils, then it would be probably still in a sunny place, in the middle of nowhere, making a bbq with friends, just chilling!

SH: If you got to live in any movie or book for a day, what would it be? Would you be yourself or one of the characters?

JU: There’s a lot of movie universes I’d like to live in, but they are all pretty dangerous, so I guess living in an anime would be way safer… so I would probably live in the world of Kung Fu Panda for 3 reasons: Kung fu, noodles and humour!