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.

JACUB GAGNON
DREAM WORLD
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.

Two Stories Left from Jacub Gagnon’s “Short Stories”

If we referred to Jacob Gagnon’s work from “Short Stories” as stories themselves, then there would only be two left to read. A nearly sold out exhibition, Gagnon’s work is filled with whimsical narratives of compositional wordplay and at times translating the real world into the unreal at the delight of collectors.  Below are a few words from Jacub Gagnon regarding the available works from Short Stories.

“Polar Flare”
The flare is struck, the roar of its signal matched only by the bear’s cry for help.  The Polar Bear’s habitat is vanishing; the sea ice is melting, and as a result of the changing ecosystem the current status of the Polar Bear is vulnerable.  With this painting, I tried to express both the emotion and urgency of this situation. I want the viewer to hear the call and I want it to elicit a strong discourse.  Furthermore, I believe this painting to be a symbol to spark change.

“The Belly of the Beast”
Based on the concept of a Matryoshka doll (Russian nesting doll), I tried to represent a natural food-chain with each respective predator’s prey in its belly.  I’ve taken some liberties in doing so but enjoyed “stacking” these mammals one inside another.  The title can be interrupted in an obvious manner with the leopard being the beast, or rather in the reverse, with the rabbit being the beast consuming the blade of grass.  I like to think the latter is true and hope to reprise the role of “the beast” in a subsequent painting.

The Opening Reception of Jacub Gagnon’s “Short Stories” and Kari-Lise Alexander “WAKE”

The opening reception of Jacub Gagnon’s ‘Short Stories’ and Kari-Lise Alexander’s ‘WAKE’ lined the walls of Thinkspace Gallery’s main room with colorful depictions of the ethereal women by Kari and playful creatures with juxtaposed objects in surreal scenes of wonder by Gagnon. On view in the project room, we brought out pieces from Telmo Meil’s Lost and Not Found Fullerton Museum Center exhibition. The shows are on view now through April 22.

View available work from Jacub Gagnon and Kari-Lise Alexander on the Thinkspace website.

Interview with Jacub Gagnon for ‘Short Stories’

Thinkspace is proud to present Jacub Gagnon’s latest body of work ‘Short Stories’ which will include a departure from Gagnon’s classic black and include a few pieces that have a stark white background. This will be Canadian artist Gagnon’s third solo exhibition with us showing his work that pushes playful juxtapozition by pairing familiar animals and everyday objects to create scenes that delight and induce wonder.  In anticipation of Gagnon’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Jacub Gagnon to discuss parenthood, thoughts on the new contemporary art movement, creative process, and his desire to be a professional schmoozer. Short Stories opening reception is from 6 – 9 pm this coming Saturday, April Ist in our main room

SH: You’re a new parent! How have you been balancing parenting and painting?
JG: I’m not sure the word balance can be attributed to my effort in wrapping up work on this show and being a new parent, maybe a juggling of sort? It has been tough to say the least, the months leading up to a big show are my busiest. My wife has been amazing in stepping up and pulling her share of parenting weight and mine during this time. Neither of us have been sleeping much these past couple months, but I must say I’m looking forward to the show so that I may take spend family time with them afterward and give my wife a chance to catch up on her sleep.

SH: What themes or ideas were you exploring in this latest body?
JG: I like to tackle a wide range of themes in my work, some may seem trivial while others poignant or deeply personal. You will find unlikely tales of comradery, loss of loved ones, innocence, hard truths, and as always my imagination running amok! There is an overarching theme of the human presence though never a human present. Each painting is a a glimpse of a much greater narrative that I welcome the viewer to build upon with their own imagination.

SH: Walk us through a day in the studio?
JG: Lately I’ve been getting my best work done in the early hours of the morning, around midnight to 7AM is kind of the sweet spot, the house is quieter and there are less distractions on the whole. Coffee proceeds most things in the morning, it’s my main mission once out of bed and it’s always in hand upon entering my studio in the morning. I like to sip away while catching up on current events in both the world news and the art world. When time was a little more free I’d take this opportunity to check messages and reply to emails but this aspect of my work always slips a little while working intently to finish a show. With blinds open and blaring daylight LED bulbs on, I set up my painting area and throw on any music or current show that I’m watching. I paint all day/night and lately just stop for food breaks, to take the dog out, or to spend a few moments with my wife and son. I can easily spend 15-18 hour stretches in the studio though and that has been much of my daily routine for the past 3+ months.

SH: What excites you about another artist’s work?
JG: I have a lot of anticipation for upcoming shows of artists that I admire and follow, that always excites me. As of late I haven’t made it out to many shows, so a lot of my excitement comes from social media. I’ll see something that surprises me or catches my eye and there’s often this feeling of inspiration that immediately makes me want to start painting or working on a new idea, it’s a great feeling.

SH: How does is it feel to be an active artist who is a part of the new contemporary art movement? How do you think it will be documented in art history? Give us your one liner.
JG: Unfortunately, I don’t believe this movement in art history will be very romanticized, ingenuity and innovation aside, I think it will be remembered as a reflection of an ever-changing/growing technologically and politically distraught time where vanity is at odds with morality and we’re all drinking the kool-aid from Duchamp’s Fountain. I’m not a cynic by nature, just shy on sleep, I swear.

SH: You’ve stated your creative process tends to change and evolve. What is your current process?
JG: For this show, I made a list of animals I wanted to paint and a list of themes/stories I wanted to tell. Everything didn’t fall into place at once, I still had to work for the narrative and the image to emerge, but it helped me flesh out a number of new pieces and make sense of things. I’ll definitely try this again in the future.

SH: Do you experience creative blocks? If so how do you push through it and find new inspiration?
JG: Creative blocks happen, I try not to let them hold me back for long. I find a good way to jump-start things is to flip through my old sketchbooks – start where things first began. Old ideas, failed or not, breathe new life. Half fleshed out thoughts that didn’t amount to anything at the time help to make new connections and inspire new creations.

 

SH: If you work was translated into a cocktail what would it taste like? What would it be made of?
JG: My guess is It would taste like a magical mystery tour of the senses. It would consist of lots of bourbon, a hint of coffee bean, essence of baby bunny and tiny giraffe. And of course this cocktail would be served in a teacup balanced on top of a coyote and lit aflame by a hummingbird. Oh, and the rim of the teacup would be coated in powdered Cocoa Puffs!

SH: What were you listening to while creating this latest body of work, music, podcasts, Netflix?
JG: I jump around from music to audio books to movies/TV shows. I must say, Netflix has been very helpful to play in the background lately, it’s convenient and I love that it will just keep playing on it’s own. I find that when I need to focus I can’t watch something new on Netflix, having already seen a show allows me to still enjoy it but not pay full attention. Most recently I burned through all of the ‘X-Files’ which was a nice flashback.

SH: You’ve shared you never intended on being an artist, but applied to OCAD, was accepted, and the rest is history. For your college days, what was the most valuable information you received? What did you have to learn on your own?
JG: I’m not sure I can say the single most valuable information I received, but I had a professor that really took me to task during the critique of my work urging me to not follow in other’s footsteps, but to find my own style. At the time my work resembled Dali-esque landscapes, not original in themselves but it was the beginning of my journey into surrealism and I worked hard on them. I took her advice and found my own style, it helped bring me to where I am today artistically. As for what I learned on my own, there was not a lot of technique taught, I learned much of my style by putting in long hours and through trial and error.

SH: If you weren’t painting, what would yoube doing instead?
JG: I would like to be a professional schmoozer. I would shmooze with high profile clients with a no-holds-barred attitude, doing anything necessary to ‘make the deal’, making both client and employer happy. My wife insists that’s not the job title, but ‘I’ insist that my business card if ever I venture into the subtle and artful world of schmoozery would read in large, bold print, “Professional Shmoozer”.