Interview with Dan Lydersen for ‘Plasticine Dream’ | Exhibition September 2 – September 23, 2023

Photo by Birdman

Thinkspace is excited to present Dan Lydersen‘s ‘Plasticene Dream.’ Taking form as a series of absurdist portraits, sentient still lifes and fanciful visions of inanimate objects come to life, the paintings are filled with strange amalgamations of plastic, clay, and various synthetic and organic materials. They present an odd array of characters whose nature and purpose are ambiguous, open-ended, and enigmatic. Everything is anthropomorphized.

Our interview with Lydersen explores his creative influences, how he spends his time outside of the studio, and his ultimate dream collaborations.

What themes were you exploring in this body of work? Did you have a piece that was particularly challenging?

These are the most conceptually abstract, least literal paintings I’ve ever done so the themes aren’t overt. They’re bubbling a little more under the surface. A lot of the imagery is inspired by my time raising two small children and all of the creative play involved with their toys, clay sculptures, and drawings. So childhood and childlike imagination is a theme. I was also thinking a lot about the idea of a future Plasticene epoch, where synthetic materials become so ubiquitous in the environment that they’re part of the geologic and fossil record. So I started creating the work as a fantastical vision of a future filled with weird organisms made up of various plastics.
The challenge with all of the paintings was deciding when they were finished. All of them were made through a process of improvisational drawing and lots of editing – adding imagery, taking imagery out, moving things around, etc. When you work like that you could spend an eternity on a single painting so you have to constantly measure whether continued editing will be beneficial or if the painting has reached the best version of itself.

What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?

In the past couple of years all my studio time is at night, staying up late and sacrificing sleep to make art. The lack of sleep is rough but the middle of the night is actually a great time to make art. Zero distractions.

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

Music is an endless source of inspiration for me and I’m always listening to music while I paint. Other than that I just treat art-making like work. I sit down and do it whether I’m feeling creative or not. I find the best way to get your creativity going is to just start making something. A small idea or visual experiment can become a creative feedback loop and lead you to exciting new places.

What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part is the feeling of infinite possibility when starting a new piece. But that infinite possibility can also be frustrating. There are so many things I want to make that I’ll never have time to. And not just paintings but music, sculpture, animation, you name it.

Who are some of your creative influences? Why do they inspire you?

I love the sheer imagination and weirdness of some of the early Netherlandish painters like Bosch and Bruegel. I love the musical story-telling of artists like Tom Waits and Gareth Liddiard, who paint wild and vivid pictures with words and sound. I’ve also been heavily influenced by live theater which I grew up around and have also worked in recently. Theatricality is always an element in my work.

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do / be an expert at?

I’d love to be a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist. I dabble in a few instruments but to be a true expert at instruments like piano, violin, accordion, or even bagpipes would be a dream.

What do you hope viewers take away or experience while viewing your work?

I like art that transports me to another plane of reality, even if only for a moment. Art that instills in me a sense of wonder and that doesn’t hold my hand too much so that I can take my own unique experience away from it. That’s what I’m trying to provide to viewers of my work.

How do you like to enjoy your time outside of the studio? Do you celebrate the completion of a body of work?

I like exploring the countryside on my bicycle, traveling overseas, going to music shows and live theater. My favorite thing in recent years is this silly Halloween band that I play in every October. We make our own masks and costumes and stage props and write funny songs that we perform as ghoulish characters from the netherworld. It’s very fun.

If you could collaborate with any artists in any sort of medium (i.e. movies, music, painting) who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?

When it’s done right I think that theater is the highest form of art. It has the potential to encompass every art-form into one cohesive piece. I’ve been lucky enough to do scenic painting and animation for some great productions and I’d love to do more of that. My ultimate dream is some kind of pseudo-theater experience that puts as much emphasis on visual art and sound/music as it does acting and narrative. Imagine equal parts black box theater, art-installation, Disney dark ride, and punk rock circus. That’s what I wanna do, whatever that is.

Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?

Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ghengis Khan, and Joan of Arc. Just sharing a huge ice cream sundae. I guess I’d just ask them what number I was thinking of.

What was in your musical rotation during the development of this body of work?

Tropical Fuck Storm, The Lonesome Organist, The Damned, TTRRUUCES, The Sloppy Boys, Palm Springs, Calexico, Oingo Boingo, Low, Bob Dylan, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Springtime… and many many more.