Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Brad Woodfin’s ‘Glad You’re Here,’ a solo exhibition inspired by songs from decades ago.
His portraits of creatures, rendered carefully on a rich dark background, evoke the portraits from the Dutch Golden Age. The posture of his subjects and his use of light combine to bestow each species with an almost religious reverence. With reverence for his subjects, Brad favours expression and mood over academic documentation.
In anticipation of ‘Glad You’re Here, our interview with Brad Woodfin discusses how Marion Peck has influenced his artistic journey, what he hopes the afterlife is like, and the power of patience.
For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background? How did you come to work with Thinkspace?
I studied printmaking at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. I worked almost exclusively with one teacher and also was the lab aide in the printmaking studio so I was spending close to forty hours a week doing printmaking. My last year there I switched to painting. The first time I worked with Thinkspace was in 2012 in the Wild At Heart group show. In 2019 Andrew invited me to show at the LAX/MSY group show and since then I have been doing a few group shows a year with Thinkspace.
What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
Themes in my work have been pretty consistent since the beginning and I feel like I am just digger deeper wells so to speak. Widening the circles. I wouldn’t say that I always know exactly what I’m doing and I don’t want that to sound like some woo-woo artist-speak, like I am led by some divine force, I just feel like I am still figuring it out. Some artists can speak definitively about what they do and why. I can’t. II love devotional art and at it’s best that’s what I want my work to be, as broad as that may sound.. I think about how grief buzzes along with us at all times. I’ve been listening to old songs from the twenties through the fifties, and old opera recordings and poetry from that era and I love how they talked about being blue and a certain sadness that has a soft quality to it but is also really honest and it can be so heartbreaking, simple and devastating. I don’t long for old times, as a queer man I know they are problematic, but that same blue feeling exists today and I wanted to share that in those same ways. The quietness. The antique colour palette. The silence between notes and words. This body of work begins to show some signs of symbolism and elements of what I would call “folk”. I think of the folk elements as being a bit flatter and simpler and more iconographic.
Who are a few of your creative influences? How have they inspired you and your work?
Marion Peck is a friend and a mentor. I was lucky enough to meet her years ago and she showed me what an artist is. I love her paintings, but it was also that she was the coolest person I had met. I was painting but I knew nothing about what I was doing. I saw her put-together shows in her apartment. Her amazing paintings pinned to her walls. I was in awe but also saw how it worked. The romance of it and the alchemy. She was my Patti Smith. She was punk and wild and so talented and exotic and such a force. Meeting her for sure changed my life. I love the work of Northern Renaissance, Surrealists, the Situationist International, Alexander McQueen but I think being inspired how to live, create, think and work by Marion Peck or reading Just Kids by Patti Smith has a sort of “whole package” vibe
that I really take to.
What is a day in the studio like? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative
I love riding my bike. If there is an afterlife and I end up on the right side of things I will be high on a bike riding through Montréal on a summer night for eternity. So I start and finish each day with a bike ride. I finish work in time for happy hour and I never work at night. If I find the right record to listen to while I work I will often just keep it on repeat all day. I love podcasts too.
What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you to grow as an artist?
“Heart Murmurs” was the most challenging painting in this show. It’s really literal. It is a bit like using a new language by introducing the heart and bell. It was inspired by the saying “The brain is the chasm, the heart is the bridge”. Speaking a new language can be embarrassing and it feels like that a bit. I think it helped me grow as I chose to put it in the show. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been honest about the painting’s subject, which is sort of funny that the painting put me in that predicament.
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part of the creative process?
I love when I have a painting already started and I can just go in the studio and continue. I sometimes don’t love starting a new painting.
Your CV is very prolific but doesn’t start until 2008; based on when you attended college, it implies perhaps there was 14 years of development and cultivation before momentum hit. Could you tell us about the time between college and that 2008 show at Atelier Gallery?
When I finished school I didn’t know if I would do art and I was barely painting. I was playing in bands and I worked at a record store in Seattle and this is when I really got to know Marion Peck. Right before I moved to Montréal I sent an email to Atelier Gallery in Vancouver, BC because he showed The Royal Art Lodge paintings, which I loved and he gave me a show. That’s when I started to really work on painting and I had a lot of work to do to get better. I was lucky to show lots in those first 10 years as it forced me to work.
What advice would you give to the impatient artist? Or the artist still looking for their voice and style?
I would say focus on one thing and work as much as you can. I am the least patient person and the art world moves so slow, but I have learned that things I thought I was ready for, I really wasn’t.
If you were given the power to master any skill or become an expert in any subject you wanted within a 24 hour period what would you focus on?
I would want to be a builder who could do all things like electrical, plumbing, tile work, mosaics, plaster, woodworking. I love interior design and I wish I could do all of it.
If you could have dinner with five people (fictional or real, dead or alive) who would they
be? What would be on the menu? And what is your ice breaker question?
Alexander McQueen, Salvador Dali and Gala, Yaeji, Mamma Andersson. Vegan Pizza and champagne.
What are you working on?
April 3, 2021 – April 24, 2021
Saturday, April 3, 2021
*Masks and social distancing required