Interview with Giorgiko for their upcoming exhibition “What Is (and what is not)”

Thinkspace Projects is proud to present Giorgiko’s ‘What is and what is not’ Created by husband and wife team Darren and Trisha Inouye, a pair known in the art world as Giorgiko, ‘What is (and what is not)’ is a result of the 2020 apocalypse.

A perfect pairing, Trisha brings a cuteness and sweet innocence to Giorgiko’s characters while Darren incorporates an underground influence stemming from his love of hip hop dancing and graffiti. Together, blending and juxtaposing street and cute, they create the Giorgiko universe, full of relatable images for wanderers of all ages.

In anticipation of ‘What is (and what is not)’, our interview with Giorgiko discusses shifts and reflections they made in 2020, the importance of embracing ‘ugly’, and how art is a prayer.

“Horizon Light” was the last opening before the pandemic hit. The themes you were exploring in that exhibition were light and dark, the calm before the storm. Little did we know the storm we were about to be headed into as we’d collectively experience our first pandemic. How has navigating this past year been like for you two?

We did find the theme and timing of our “Horizon Light” show very significant. It was our last show before LA went into lockdown and normalcy was completely disrupted. Navigating this past year was very difficult, as we imagine it has been for everyone else also. We found ourselves put into a position where we just had to deal with the hand we were dealt. There were so many things that we had planned and hoped for that we had to question. We weren’t sure whether to let those things go or to hold onto them all the more tightly. But all these reactions and decisions helped us to uncover deeper truths about ourselves. 2020 was challenging, but also refining.

Your art education studio, Rainbow Art, had to shift to online classes during the pandemic. What has been the response? Do you plan to continue with the virtual classes when everything opens up to full capacity?

Our journey with Rainbow Art is one of the areas of our life that has been really challenging, yet refining. Our school had been expanding, and we had so many plans for growth prior to the lockdown. Initially, we transitioned to online classes with much optimism. We believed that it was going to be well received and even an exciting new market to tap into. But due to many different factors, online classes didn’t work out for us. After several months of online classes and expending all our resources trying to keep the business afloat, we finally made the decision to close the school. At this point in time, we don’t have any solid plans for what Rainbow Art may look like if we were to restart it, or when the right timing for reopening might be. And yet, we feel like this whole past year has allowed us to reevaluate and refine so many important things: the mission of the school, the mode of teaching, the nature of our programs, and how to move forward with authenticity.

One of the characters in your work, Jay, is based on your friend and fellow artist, Jowaan Sullivan. What is the influence this character has on the world you paint, and how has Jowaan made an impact on your own lives?

We have always wanted to introduce characters based on real people and/or representing real people’s stories and experiences, and the creation of Jay is a big step in that direction. Up until we created him, Wonder was the only character that was really solidified in who she was and what she represented. Our friend Jowaan has always been a person that we have been inspired by. Jowaan is a very talented and charismatic friend, but what is most amazing about him is his heart. He somehow retains a heart of tenderness, gentleness, and purity despite the deep sadness he has experienced in his life. So much of what Jowaan inspires in us is what we hope to convey through the stories of Jay, Wonder, and our other characters.

Are all the figures in your work inspired by people you know?

Just a handful of our characters are based on people we know. Many of our characters are our explorations of ideas, representations of feelings, manifestations of our experiences, or just funny things that make us laugh.

Do you have a ritual to tap into creative flow? How do you structure (or not structure) your days in the studio?

Trisha: I work from home most days of the week, so it takes me a while to settle down my usually frenzied mind and body. A clean desk, coffee, and music are little pleasures that help me ease into that creative flow or power through administrative work. I love creating at the studio because the space already promotes that working energy.  Meanwhile, it takes effort to stop and switch gears when I’m at home. It helps me to move slowly as I gather my wits and my things, clear my workspace, and say a quick prayer before I start. 

Darren: Painting is a multi-faceted procedure. There is a ritual in planning my goals for the month, week, and day in order to facilitate the prep, setup, execution, and finish of each painting. With the plan established, I can put the pressures and stresses aside to focus on meeting my daily goals and enjoy the process of creating.

Who are a few of your creative influences? How have they inspired you and your work? (Creative influences do not have to be strictly painting/ fine art related)

Trisha: I am inspired by children’s books. I love that words and images can play off each other in a way that can be simple yet lovely, clever, and rich in meaning. When the pandemic started, I got some digital library cards, and I’ve been reading e-books regularly since then. “The Phantom Tollbooth” was one of my favorites from last year, and I still think about its silly, profound words about conflict, reason, and the importance of learning. Reading is such a pleasure, and it really gets the imagination going.

Darren: I find myself endlessly inspired by the stories and trials of humanity. I love documentaries of all sorts but find particular interest in historical documentaries as the lessons learned are just as relevant today as they were in the past.

What advice would you give to artists trying to find their voice or style?

Darren: I would highly encourage them to not be afraid of creating an “ugly” piece of artwork. When they create a piece of artwork they don’t like, they should hold onto it so that they can figure out what they don’t like about it. For me, I didn’t find my “style” of painting until after I graduated from ArtCenter. In hindsight, this is a great regret, because the main reason I didn’t find my style was that I was too preoccupied with impressing people, or at the very least avoiding creating something people would find “ugly”. I had to create a lot of “ugly” pieces in order to really figure out what I liked and didn’t like.

In various ways, a white-collar is seen throughout your work, sometimes resembling the costumes of the French clown character Pierrot or a more structured ruff used by nobility between the mid 16th – 17th century. It’s very distinct and different from the more casual street attire your figures predominately wear. Can you expand on the use of white collars in your work?

We draw a lot of inspiration from both classical paintings and street culture. We always felt like our characters were lost in space and time, or at least perceived themselves that way. We enjoy showing that through anachronistic or oddly juxtaposed elements, including ruffs and other historical clothing. We find it interesting that people throughout history have experienced and continue to experience the same inner feelings, regardless of culture or background. Neither the clown, nor the graffiti artist, nor the ruff-wearing nobleman with a cookie in hand are exempt from the experiences of love, grief, insecurity, or hope.

You’ve shared before that your artwork is a prayer. What are in your prayers currently?

Darren: The idea that creating artwork is like a physical manifestation of our personal prayers is a more recent revelation. I find that the different struggles I see in the world are reflected in myself. This naturally influences our work to where we aren’t painting definitive statements, but are rather creating images of our hopes, questions, and struggles. I find myself wrestling with what I believe as I paint the images, in the same way that I wrestle with God in my prayers. My prayers are twofold, and a representation of the things I cannot control. On one hand, I find myself praying for things like the turmoil I see in the world. And on the other hand, I find myself praying for the turmoil I see in myself. As I pray for both those things, I just get a strong sense of a need for God in all of life.

Trisha: My prayers are for gentleness in conflict, for kindness toward the small, for humbleness in the unknowing, and for love that heals.

Pretend the rules of time and space are suspended, and you can instantly have whatever you want for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert at the snap of your fingers. What’s on the menu for the day, and is it from a particular restaurant or made by a certain person?

Trisha: For breakfast, The Urth Breakfast (fresh bread, cheese, butter, and jam) and a Spanish Latte from Urth Caffe. For lunch, the Spicy Seafood Yaki Udon from Kaiba. For dinner, my mama’s homemade Korean anything. For dessert, Rose H2O ice cream from Cauldron. In a puffle cone and shaped into a rose please.

Darren: For breakfast, a lox bagel. For lunch, the steak plate and ginger brew from Tender Greens. For dinner, combined with dessert, IHOP’s Pancake combo: two chocolate chip pancakes with raspberry syrup, two eggs over easy, 1 strip of bacon, 1 sausage link, and hash browns.

April 3, 2021 – April 24, 2021

Opening Reception:
Saturday, April 3, 2021
*Masks and social distancing required

Interview with Giorgiko for “Horizon Light”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Horizon Light featuring new work by duo Giorgiko.

Giorgiko’s latest body of work explores the transition and tension between seasons of life so often filled with uncertainty.  What lies in the darkness when the sun fades behind the horizon? Will the darkness flee from the morning light? What will comfort us in times of desperation? Come enter a world where wonder dwells in the mystery between light and shadow.

In anticipation of Horizon Light, our interview with Giorgiko explores their collaborative relationship, creative process, and a romantic comedy starring Jack Black.

SH: For those that are not familiar with your work, can you give us a brief look at your individual artistic backgrounds and how you came to work together?

Darren: Both Trisha and I graduated from ArtCenter College of Design, which is also where we met and started dating. During school, Trisha took a children’s book illustration class, where she wrote a story about a wayfaring little girl. I loved the story, and we talked about possibly working together in the future. Post-grad, we worked separately as illustrators doing small commissions, shows, and freelance jobs. In 2014, we finally decided to collaborate on a few post-it note paintings for GR2’s “Post-it Show” and had so much fun with it. We continued to create and develop our joint style and in late 2018 we officially became “Giorgiko”. 

SH: What’s the story behind the name you chose for your collaborative output?

G: Giorgiko started as a mashup of our middle names George and Songyi. We thought the name Georgie fit our collaborative style well, and sounded a little cuter than our other options: Darisha or Trisharren, haha. As we explored the name further, we found that “Giorgi” comes from the Greek word meaning “farmer” or “earth-worker”, and “-ko” is the Japanese suffix that means “child”. We feel that the resulting meaning of “earth-working child” represents our work very well, as we depict very human emotions and experiences through a childlike lens.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

G: The main theme we are exploring in this body of work is life transition, as well as the feelings of fear and hope associated with it, metaphorically depicted through the transition between light and dark. It explores the calm before the storm and the storm before the calm. We were inspired by our experiences in life of waiting hopefully for dawn to break in seasons of darkness, and the feelings of bracing for what is to come as the sun dips below the horizon.

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

G: In this body of work, we stretched ourselves with more involved and complex imagery, with some of the images featuring multiple characters and other images having diverse and imaginative backgrounds. Probably the most challenging piece for us was “Stampede,” which we redrew and repainted repeatedly as we tried to figure out the character’s pose and the feeling of the piece. In doing so, the image has changed substantially, and in the end we love how it turned out and feel it is a piece that really engages the viewer.

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

Darren: “My favorite part of the process would have to be ideation. When Trisha and I start talking about an image or series we want to create, it is exhilarating and we often find ourselves building on top of each other’s ideas, making them better and better. My least favorite part of the process is drawing.”

Trisha: “My favorite part of the creative process is when we get on the same page and get all pumped up about the piece or concept. My least favorite part is when we have clashing visions and get annoyed at each other.”

SH: Tell us what you feel is your partner’s artistic strength and how he/she helps you be a better artist (a reply from each would be great here)

Darren: “Trisha has an uncanny ability to create cuteness. It’s in her nature to know how to make everyday moments sweet and convey them in imagery. She can draw with effortlessness and capture these moments in a few simple strokes of her pen. I love this, and it inspires me to pay attention to subtleties in life and work.”

Trisha: “Darren is a total big-picture person, whereas I tend to get stuck in the small details. He is always dreaming, thinking ahead, and problem-solving. He is often the catalyst that sets our exhibitions and storylines into motion.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for the two of you and what would you create?

G: The first thing that comes to mind is “Hedgehog in the Fog,” an animated short directed by Yuri Norstein. We’re not familiar with his other works, but we love this super mysterious, dreamy, and weird short of his. We’d love seeing our characters in stop-motion, encountering their fears as well as great beauty in the fog with the little hedgehog.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life / partnership, who would be cast to play each of you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? 

G: Our Netflix movie would be a romantic comedy war movie, starring Ken Watanabe as Darren and Jack Black as Trisha.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

Darren: “Piano. When I see a professional pianist playing, it feels like they are pushing the notes out of their body in the most satisfying way.”

Trisha: “How to sing like Celine Dion.”

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

Darren: “Talk to animals. I feel if I could read people’s minds, every conversation would be too tempting to manipulate.”

Trisha: “Talk to animals. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what goes on in people’s minds. Plus, I would like to be able to convince animals to not eat me if the situation were ever to arise.”

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

Trisha: “That’s a hard question because I like things like cheeseburgers and pizza. Maybe something kind of earthy and bitter, with a hint of sweetness that isn’t overpowering, like a cherry on top. Something reminiscent of 87% dark chocolate cake that mostly tastes like dirt, a la mode. Darren likes Japanese food.”

Join us for the opening reception of Horizon Light Saturday, February 29th, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.