Interview with Telmo Miel for “Encounters”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Encounters featuring new work by Netherlands- duo Telmo Miel.

Telmo Miel’s work is both surreal and realistically rendered, combining multiple elements into a single composition with extreme detail and fearless approach to the use of color and tone.

In anticipation of Encountered, our interview with Telmo Miel expands on our previous interview with the duo and discusses their latest body of work, most memorable meals, and advice for having a creative partnership.

Do you have a pre-studio or pre-mural routine/ritual? How do you get your butt in gear?

We need deadlines, without them, it’s more difficult to get your butt in gear. If we don’t get deadlines we’ll make them ourselves. For Murals it is not so difficult, you have a trip and within that trip, it needs to be finished. Most of the time you just have about a week. I think it helps we work together because you can kick each other on the butt when stuff needs to be done.

What is the inspiration and themes that were explored during this latest body of work?

‘Encounters’  For this show, we tried to find symbolism in the things we came across or experienced in the last years traveling and creating. It’s a series on the smaller things in life, things that make life worth living. Crossing thresholds, feelings of regret, love, and aversion. Moments captured to illustrate personal encounters or mile-stones in life.

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

The last part of painting the detailing is the most fun. The least, is getting started with the under layers of a painting, necessary but not fulfilling. Especially when you see the second layer needs a third.

Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece?

The piece with the horse took some thinking ahead, I really want to make the red/orange part pop compared to the rest. But fluor is shit paint because it loses it’s bright color quickly. So to avoid that, I painted those parts bright white and then applied multiple thin layers of the right color in Oil paint. Now it pops like fluor without using it!

If you could make a movie poster for any film, what film would it be?

Telmo: StarWars (universe)

Miel: StarWars (universe)

What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life, and is it because of or connected to your work?

Telmo: I got the chance to swim cageless amongst sharks in Hawaii, definitely one of the coolest things I ever did thanks to the Pow!Wow! Hawaii Festival

Miel: Having a son is maybe the most boring but most logical answer. And it’s connected to art in the way that I met my current partner, working for her new gallery at the time.

Your work has taken you around the world – what is one of your most memorable meals?

On a trip to Bueno Aires, they took me to a great steakhouse, it was not only an abundance of meat, but it’s still the best steaks I’ve had so far.

A lot of memorable meals come to mind. But for me, it’s always the boquerones fritos which we had in Burgos, Spain last year. It’s a kind of fried anchovies.

The work expresses a real love for color, what brand do you guys use and what is your favorite color?

Dirty reds/purples and Dirty Salmon tones are our favourites. We use a wide range of paint brands.

For Oil paint, we use Rembrandt, Winsor & Newton & Old Holland. Our favourite spray can is Montana Black.

If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would it be?

Telmo: Teleportation

Miel: Ability to fly

The two of you met in Willem de Kooning Academy and have been collaborating with each other since 2012, how has your artistic relationship developed over the years? What is the best advice you would give about having a creative partner?

It is good to go back and forth on ideas and brainstorm together. With creating new ideas you can inspire and push each other more. It’s like healthy competition in some way where we push each other to learn, be critical, grow and make our latest work even better than before.

Besides that it’s most important to balance that with the right amount of freedom, every painter has his own ideas. So we also try to separate opinions and give space to evolve.

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 1 from 6-9 pm

Interview with Josie Morway for ‘Watershed’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Watershed featuring new work by Providence-based artist Josie Morway.

Moway’s paintings are fragmented narratives, inspired by everyday words and phrases that bombard us – old signage, broken billboards, overheard conversations. Substituting animals for human characters in her visual narratives, she explores gestures, postures, and expressions that are familiar and universal but at the same time ambiguous. 

In anticipation of Watershed, our interview with Josie Morway discusses her creative process, rituals, and record audiobook consumption.

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 been painting for pretty much as long as I can remember, and my artistic background includes a lot of detours through photography, sign painting, graffiti, ceramics. For the past several years I’ve been making oil paintings with wildlife as my primary subjects, combining photorealism with bits of abstraction, lettering, and gilding. I pair a classical, Dutch Masters-ish painting style with hyper-modern color and design elements, to create somewhat surreal compositions that have been described as “votive cave paintings from the far distant future”. (I can’t overstate how much I love that description.)

I’m a wildlife lover with a deep concern for the increasing imbalances in our ecosystem, and a rising terror for nature in the face of extreme weather, climate change, habitat loss. I’m always looking to address these concerns in my work, and I’ve started to include some explicit references to threats in my more recent paintings, but I still instinctively veer away from showing my animal subjects in a state of despair or disaster. Instead, I feel compelled to invest them with this feeling of omniscience and a kind of supernatural resiliency. I hope this comes through… I hope this combination of peril and power gives my work a sort of tension, leaves the viewer feeling a bit off-kilter, sparks some thought and conversation.

My zodiac sign! I’m a Scorpio. I don’t understand or follow any things astrological, but every time I’ve accidentally read a characteristic of a Scorpio it has certainly seemed to describe me spookily well. 

What is the inspiration and themes that were explored during this latest body of work?

While making the work for “Watershed” I’ve been quite literally thinking about water. The substance that’s within all of us, the most crucial central element in our ecosystem, our bodies, etc. 

I’ve been thinking about water rights; who has them and who doesn’t, and about the movements and state changes of water. About the way ice is disappearing while floods increase in previously safe areas, about places inundated by saltwater as seas rise while even more places are suddenly without water… losing crops, losing drinking water. About pollution and diversion of bodies of water, but also about the redemptive nature of rain, of water’s capacity to heal.

As usual, I’ve turned to birds to explore all of this. They’re often among the first living things to manifest symptoms of change in the environment, in this case, the liquid environment.

Couldn’t resist the double-entendre in the name Watershed as well, since we’re at a “watershed moment” in human-caused climate change. 

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

Eh, I like all of it. But I get the most uneasy when I’m planning new work. There’s a really long research period where I’m just looking, compiling references, trying and discarding sketches. Intellectually I know this is probably the most important part of the process, but I still get edgy when I’m not physically working with the paint. 

My favorite part of the process is varnishing. Does that count as creative? When I lay on a coat of varnish the black turns black, the highlights turn light and all of a sudden this piece that I’ve been flailing away at becomes real.

Do you have a pre-studio ritual? How do you get your butt in gear to paint?  

I pretty much roll straight into painting the moment I can get to the studio. You kind of have to tear me away from it, rather than motivating me to start. I hope that doesn’t sound braggy… it’s more about desperation (there’s never enough time!) than energy.  As I get older I appreciate more and more that I get to do something as potentially frivolous as drawing pictures for a living and wanting to make the most possible meaning out of that. Also, I had a kid three years ago. My husband and I are both self-employed and we had to scramble like crazy to figure out how to accommodate a baby and not lose our careers, passions, personalities. That makes me appreciate every moment of painting time too.

That said, if there wasn’t an alternating current of coffee and wine flowing, there would be no art at all coming out of this particular factory.

Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece?

The two “Mirage” pieces were satisfying challenges. (And not because of the bubbles, I knew I’d be able to do those!) The mysterious slashes of gold, the areas of bright color, the botanicals that emerge and disappear into texture… these are the kind of intuitive, mysterious moves I want to make more of in my paintings. I get so terrified to let go of any detail, any realism. I’m glad that in this case, I was able to be a bit bolder, and I’m really happy with the result.

In a world where we are exposed to the end result, and not so much the process it takes to get to mastery, how long did it take you to master the gorgeous beauty and realness of the birds and animals you paint?  To the point, you have the confidence and skill you possess today?

It’s generous of you to use the word “master”, since I’m most certainly learning, and hopefully evolving. I definitely felt something click a few years ago though… an understanding of how paints and brushes behave finally became part of my body, and everything started flowing and happening more easily. Realistically, I’d have to say I’ve been oil painting for over 20 years, and that makes all the difference. I’ve never taken oil painting classes so there’s a decent chance that there are shortcuts I’m unaware of, but it seems to me that if you want to gain mastery over a medium like oil, you simply have to experiment for thousands of hours!

I went to college for a variety of other things, and have worked a ton of different jobs over the years, but throughout all that, I just could never stop painting. I’d skip classes to sneak home and paint, paint while I was on a conference call, etc. Eventually, painting just insisted its way to being my full-time gig, somewhat to my surprise. 

If you could make a movie poster for any film, what film would it be?

Hmmm. I was a film studies minor in college and now I essentially never watch any movies, and literally can’t think of the names of any at the moment. Gimme something with really dense dialog and a surreal plot twist and I could make something perfect for it! Just no sci-fi… I’m constitutionally incapable of following sci-fi.

What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life, and is it because of or connected to your work?

Whoa, I can’t imagine choosing one coolest thing from my life! I mean, like I said, I had a kid, and that’s obviously turned my head inside out and changed me in all sorts of ways. In a way, it does connect to my work. I suddenly have this acute awareness of myself and my choices as I’ve become an EXAMPLE to this little person, which makes me take my work both more seriously – because I want her to see what it means to stick to your passion and make something meaningful from it – and less seriously… because really, paintings, whatever.

The most memorable moments of my life have generally come from travel, though. I realize that’s a fairly predictable answer… can’t help it. My clearest and most transformative experiences have come from throwing myself into a totally unfamiliar landscape, cityscape, ecosystem. Those moments have inspired my work a ton, cleared my eyes and reminded me how to look. They’ve also been supported by my work, by the excuse to travel to visit galleries, to paint murals, deliver work, go to openings. If the only thing my painting did for me personally was to allow me some unplanned wanderings (I really like to travel without making sufficient plans, so I don’t know where I’m sleeping, etc.), then it will have done enough.

When painting what do you have playing in the background? What was the soundtrack to this body of work ( music, podcasts, tv shows etc…)

Good question! I used to listen to music all day and eventually came to feel like I’d used up all the music in the world. I moved on to podcasts, and eventually audiobooks, and now I’m blowing through something like 200 audiobooks per year. While making this work I hit a streak of REALLY good writing… 10:04 by Ben Lerner, Kudos by Rachel Cusk, the seasonal series by Ali Smith, and all of the novels about Northern Ireland I could find, for some reason. I’m sure I listened to some Wolf Parade and Young Fathers albums during this work too because I’m predictable and repetitive.

If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would it be? 

Okay, instinctively I just started picturing something really cool that would turn me into, like, The Remediation Bandit, where I’d be able to look at any polluted or damaged ecosystem and remediate it back to its natural state with beams from my eyes. But now I’m realizing that’s an imaginary superpower, and that you probably mean a skill that actually exists. It’s so hard to choose. They’re probably not the “best” skills to have, but I don’t think I’d be able to resist gaining some rad physical prowess. I’d like to be able to do every trick I’ve ever seen in a mountain biking video. Partly for the fun of it, but let’s be honest, also just to show off.

I’ve never seen the Matrix.

Opening Reception with the Artist(s):

Saturday, February 1, 2020 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Telmo Miel’s “Encounters ” opens February 1st, 2020


Advance Collector Preview will be shared on Wednesday, January 29

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 1 from 6-9 pm 

A muralist and image-making duo from the Netherlands, Telmo Miel is Telmo Pieper and Miel Krutzmann. They have worked together since meeting at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2007, officially becoming Telmo Miel in 2012.

The duo’s murals are both surreal and realistically rendered, with a tremendous amount of detail and vibrant color. Able to work fairly seamlessly, their styles have combined to such an extent that they’re able to execute multiple areas in tandem, exchanging places and completing each other’s work.

With a respect for both visions, they found that ‘perspective’ is one of the most important & interesting aspects of art. The perspective of the maker compared to the viewer, the difference in intend, meaning and interpretation. Perspectives on concept, colors and composition and so forth. This idea of ‘multiple viewing points’ and opinions is an ongoing discovery in their work.

They often execute their pieces on a monumental scale, creating huge architecturally sized spray-paint paintings on building façades. Combining multiple elements in a single composition, they layer references to the human and animal worlds to create complex creatures and fantastic scenarios. With positivity, humor and a touch of the romantic, their work is arresting and epic.

Recent paintings contain playfulness in abstraction of reality, attempting to make the viewer see subjects with a different eye; They grew into using multiple images, layered over one another. By cutting away a top layer, another comes forward to complete the design. This provides a convenient abstraction, but the intend is more so to create a sort of marriage between figurative parts. Pieces that weren’t normally seen as one, but now complete each other in weird and beautiful ways.
Recent mural from Telmo Miel in Germany