Interview with Josh Keyes for ‘Inside Out’

Thinkspace is proud to present new work by Portland-based artist Josh Keyes for his latest exhibition ‘Inside Out‘.

Keyes’ highly detailed narrative paintings have evolved from their earlier iteration as closed systems, or quasi-scientific specimens drawn from some post-apocalyptic natural history museum to less confined and formulaic expressions of an imploding natural order.

We continue our conversation with Keyes and dive deeper into answers from previous interviews, how he is coping with the current pandemic, and great Sci-Fi recommendations.

What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?

I used to imagine and speculate what was coming, how the world and society was shaping and changing with technology, social media, and our impact on the environment. My work and visions at that time were always a bit exaggerated to the extreme, the fall of civilization, civil war, and environmental collapse and the world after. Not exactly a Thomas Kinkade utopian vision. My work has always arrived through personal catharsis, a way of working through ideas, and mostly feelings of anxiety and melancholy about the state of the world.

We have always lived in a world of uncertainty, and challenges, but it seems like we are really at the edge of unprecedented traumatic change, with moments and glimmers through the storm of a brighter future. My new work and path still has echos of the anxiety and desperation, manifested in a dystopian or post-human world, but instead of an intentional preachy warning of what’s to come, I am moved by exporting what possible beauty or poetry might be found in a world left behind.

With everything going on, coronavirus, social distancing, political and racial tensions, the post protest mayhem ending up looking like the horrific opening scene from the film Gangs of New York. I feel myself, the world turning inside out, there is no place to hide from oneself. All of our shadows and demons are running wild. I fear for the end of our humanitarian nature and the end of or a drastic change to mother nature.

In a previous interview, you mentioned your professor, Lynn Book, and how her world view helped to break down yours at the time. Can you share some of her wisdom with us?

She was living in the moment, long before the Power of Now movement evolved. She saw, perceived, acted outside social codes and norms, almost as if she was just visiting this reality and joining the dance. She trusted her inner voice and was quick to question political or social patterns. The ones that we have to learn how to unlearn. Deprogram what our parents and society has taught us in order to discover our true self. To seek out awareness and acceptance of the immediate moment without preconceived judgment.

I try to maneuver in this way, in my life, but my challenge and work is with an inner dialogue that sees the world falling apart, instead of realizing the cyclic nature of phenomena. Painting my imagery is a way of casting/sifting out demons and finding moments or visions of the quiet in the storm inside and out.

When viewing other artists’ work, what elements get you excited or inspire you?

I follow about 7,000 + creative people on Instagram. I would follow more if it would let me. I am amazed by pure imagination and that spark that combines technique, passion, and the unexpected. I like all things made, craft, music, performance, and those that are off the grid living like wild animals. I love the spectrum of human nature and expression. We are so much, so precious, that when you see how destructive and violent we can be to each other, it is like watching someone take a hot poker and shoving it into their own flesh.

What piece challenged you most in this body of work and why?

The main challenges I had were personal, the onset of corona and quarantine, caring and entertaining a 5-year-old, processing the endless traumatic breaking news reports. This is now a shared trauma we all carry and are processing daily. For me, I had set out to make a specific body of work and many of the images I was dreaming with were too unsettling to show. I feel disappointed in myself that I could not deliver the work I intended, and I apologize to those of you who follow and support my work and to the Thinkspace Gallery. I feel that I am still in incubation mode, processing everything that is going on, the feelings and imagery are very raw and unfiltered and have yet to take form that moves beyond personal therapy.

Who was the first artist (or work of art) that made a significant impression on you?

I remember seeing Morning Sun, a painting by Edward Hopper when I was young. I was drawn to the colors, so rich and vibrant. I could almost feel the warmth beaming into the room. There has always been something about the isolation and underlying melancholy nature of his work that captivated me and still does. I would say most of my time developing a painting or image is in playing with the composition of the image, where everything locks in and moves the eye so that it almost rests in motion.

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

An app that would regulate stress and emotions, and math and spelling, and less fart jokes.

As a Sci-Fi junkie, are you excited about the new Dune movie that’s coming out? Any good movie recommendations?

Oh yes, I grew up reading the Dune series and loved the David Lynch version. After seeing the Jodorowsky documentary I am curious to see if the new version, drew inspiration from any of his aesthetic designs. I think the story also hits very close to home with our own political and environmental climate. My go-to watching the last year or so has been, the classic Duel by Spielberg, that movie is such a great metaphor for any unknown fear that plagues and haunts you. Just substitute the truck and driver for any fear you have, like an art show deadline. The masterpieces Get Out and Us by Jordan Peele. Mandy and Beyond the Black Rainbow by Panos Cosmatos are just so bizzare. Hereditary by Ari Aster, made me feel things I don’t have words for and I don’t think I could watch it twice.

Do you have a ritual that helps get you into the creative flow?

Medication and old episodes of Golden Girls. 

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – how are you creating a sense of normalcy or levity for your family?

My wife and I try our best not to talk too much about what’s going on with our daughter, just enough so she is not terrified of the world. It is a challenge to maintain a level of calm and peace and playfulness when almost every moment you feel like jumping to your phone to be freaked out and have a panic attack.

If your work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the ingredients and the name of the pint?

Rainbows End : tear gas, Lime Cucumber Gatorade, whale tears, neon pink sprinkles — melted 🙂

New Exhibitions from Alvaro Naddeo, Josh Keyes, Nicola Caredda, and Kobusher Coming Soon

Thinkspace Projects presents:

JOSH KEYES
Inside Out

ALVARO NADDEO
IndigNation

KOBUSHER
Come Out and Play

NICOLA CAREDDA
God Save My Sweet Pusher

All four exhibitions on view September 19 through October 10, 2020

_________________________________________________________

JOSH KEYES
Inside Out

Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Portland-based artist Josh Keyes in Inside Out. Keyes creates lush, hyperrealistic paintings of our civilization’s dystopian aftermath; a post-human planet left ecologically ravaged and dissipated, sits aflame, overgrown or beneath water, while a new natural order attempts to reclaim its disastrous inheritance. In recent years, Keyes has abandoned the minimalism of his precise, dioramic disaster taxonomies in favor of a more immersive and expanded pictorial frame. These works depict entire environments rather than only its cross-sections in a not-so-distant future state of ecological ruin. Keyes has mastered the satirical posturing of hyperbole as fact with a world so convincingly rendered, and so disastrously surreal, that fantasy becomes alarmingly plausible.

Keyes’ highly detailed narrative paintings have evolved from their earlier iteration as closed systems, or quasi-scientific specimens drawn from some post-apocalyptic natural history museum to less confined and formulaic expressions of an imploding natural order. Displaced wild animals and the remnants of human architectures and monuments are all that remain, the only living witnesses to whatever final or cumulative set of events have finally tipped the scales beyond salvage.

Animals have always appeared as the focal points of Keyes’ metaphoric, and psychologically penetrating works. He depicts them with the anatomical precision of a biologist and the poetic freedom of a storyteller. As protagonists, creatures universalize the narratives, making them indiscriminately relatable and empathically accessible. Charged with the psychic and imagistic resonance of a shared, collective subconscious, Animalia provides the artist with a symbolically valent source of iconography. This combination of the personally inflected and the culturally drawn supplies the artist with an inexhaustible source material.

Working primarily in acrylic on panel, Keyes has perfected his hyperrealistic painting technique, depicting the environmental crisis with startling representational clarity as a trope for the larger human one. It becomes clear that the imagining of this apocalyptic chaos harbors a social anxiety that extends far beyond the concerns of the ecological. In a time of great political angst and uncertainty, the artist’s works are all the more poignant as harbingers of a, now more than ever, alarmingly plausible doomsday. Keyes, the dystopian naturalist, continues to provoke our imaginations with the poetry of a cataclysmically surreal future tense.

_________________________________________________________

ALVARO NADDEO
IndigNation

Thinkspace is pleased to present IndigNation, featuring new works by Brazilian born and Los Angeles-based artist Alvaro Naddeo. Interested in the study of castaway objects and the subtle graphic nuances of urban detritus gleaned from the city sphere, the artist combines its textures and edges in compositional amalgams. His interest in the life of the unassuming object extends to billboards and signage, cast away containers and boxes, and domestic and industrial spaces, conjoined and superimposed in unexpected mashups, or cultural relics that speak of use and disposal in the contemporary city. Working primarily in watercolor on paper, Naddeo achieves an impressive level of hyperrealistic rendering, bestowing unexpected poetry to the lowly remnants of the city’s waste and urban recesses. Naddeo’s works offer a commentary on the excessive momentums of contemporary consumerism, while his imagery explores the decay and deterioration of the city-worn.

Naddeo is originally from São Paulo, Brazil and has also lived in Lima, Peru and New York City and currently. These urban environments have helped to shape the artist’s memory and permeate most of his work. The artist is partly self-taught and partly homeschooled. His father is an illustrator, and as a child Alvaro would spend many hours drawing and watching him work. His father was a constant source of inspiration and encouragement, but having an artist as your father also proved frustrating at times. At 17, Alvaro compared his work to his and thought that his own drawings and paintings were not good enough. so he quit. Naddeo went on to pursue a career in advertising as an Art Director, something that still allowed him to exercise his interest in art, but without requiring mastery with the pencil or brush. 20 years later, while living in New York City and being exposed to its many contrasts, Naddeo’s desire to pick up the brushes intensified. He is now a full-time artist, exhibiting his works around the world.

“The subject matter of my work is waste, overconsumption and social inequality. Trash and objects found in the street are valuable, and not only for aesthetic reasons. The brands, logos and packaging depicted in my work are objects with an inherent duality, both desirable and despicable, a clear byproduct of having worked in advertising for more than 20 years.”
– Alvaro Naddeo

_________________________________________________________

KOBUSHER
Come Out and Play

Thinkspace is pleased to present the debut North American solo exhibition from pop artist Kobusher, hailing from the Philippines. Being a child of the 80’s, the artist was raised on pop culture and, in turn, his visual narrative has been honed with the help of Sesame Street, Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, Run Dmc, and MTV.

Kobusher attended the University of the Philippines where he received his Fine Arts degree (majoring in painting). Sadly, like many a young art school graduate, he went into advertising and marketing to make ends meet, while never loosing site of his first love, painting.

In 2015 he literally walked out from his work and decided it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time artist. He felt that he had done everything he could as an artist during his stint as a Creative Director at one of Philippines’ top ad agencies. One by one he was able to produce a series of paintings for his debut solo show. Secret Fresh Gallery in the Philippines gave him his first break, and in January of 2016 they hosted his first solo exhibition.

Since then, Kobusher has been busy building an ever-growing legion of fans the world over. From sculptural editions to screen prints, the artist continues to explore new avenues of expression on a regular basis. For his North American debut, the artist has delved heavily into the memories of his youth and the new body of work is a celebration of pop culture in all its many forms.

_________________________________________________________

NICOLA CAREDDA
God Save My Sweet Pusher

Thinkspace is pleased to present the debut North American solo exhibition from Italian artist Nicola Caredda. The artist was born in Cagliar, Italy in 1981. Caredda studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sassari.

Caredda’s dreamlike acrylic works on canvas blend eroded landscapes and structures with playful elements of pop culture and mystical iconography. Each painting’s vague narrative is ripped from the artist’s subconscious. The artist’s aim is to transcend reality using his own dreamy, visionary language.

By creating densely layered paintings that blend elements from distant vocabularies with the metaphysical, the artist aims to exorcise his own fears and provide an escape from reality for all

Interview with Josh Keyes for “The Tempest”

The powerful work of Josh Keyes demand pause. His hyperrealistic paintings have captured a metaphorical idea of what our not so distant future would reflect which graphically straddles the line of science-fiction, fantasy, or merely a grim prediction of the path our civilization is on today.  In our previous interviews with Keyes for his first print drop with Thinkspace (1) and his show last year Implosion (2), we explored a lot about how Keyes has developed as an artist up until now, in our interview with Josh Keyes in anticipation for the Tempest we continue to explore the evolution of his creative process and a few reflections on his relationship to time.

Join us for the opening reception of  Tempest this Saturday, October 13th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

SH: What is the inspiration behind the Tempest?

JK: These images emerged from three different sources, all having a common foundation in their emotional resonance. The three sources were political, environmental, and personal.

The political climate is unbearable and most often unbelievable. Initially, I wanted to make paintings about Trump in purgatory, maybe strolling around in his underwear. But after googling his face so many times for reference, I felt ill. Environmental concerns are always present in my work and lately, some of the images I have seen in the news around the world are as bizarre as any post-apocalyptic scenario. From a personal standpoint, being a parent with a daughter has heightened my concern for a sustainable future, and to support and help empower the women in my family and community. One way to address the tortuous landscape unfolding in America is through Myth, dream, and metaphor. I did not want to create literal depiction, , but rather strive to create images that occupy symbolic, lyrical and poetic expression.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work?

JK: The only way I can describe my process for developing new ideas is like dreaming with open eyes. I go through a lot of wacky imagery before arriving at a handful of what I feel are illuminating and self-transformative images.

SH: How do you capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?

JK: I work with many reference images, my sketchbook is mostly filled with writing, single word ideas or concepts.

SH: What excites you and frustrates you about your work / creative process?

JK: I suppose I wish I had more time, I have so many ideas that I would like to paint, sometimes I wonder if I should have been a filmmaker since so many of the images in my mind constantly move.

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

JK: Siren speaks to all of these ideas on a couple levels. The statue of the angel, standing against the oncoming storm, slowly engulfed by waves, sounds a trumpet. Is it a siren? and alarm, or is it a call for help? Is it a call for environmental or political action? She stands alone, will she ever be heard. The testimony and stories of so many women who have been abused makes me rage. I see this woman in the water as a beacon, a lighthouse, a call to humanity, and the storm moving in, the shadow of the dark side of masculinity, the shadow, that for many men is their guiding light.

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

JK: I tend to think of my paintings like cinematic moments from a film, what film I don’t know, there are so many incredible filmmakers out there. Maybe working with a filmmaker would open up a new way of expressing this imagery. To be honest, some of the more recent paintings feel like perfume or cologne commercials to me. You know the ones that are over the top with a surreal environment, and then just a whisper, “Tempest, for men”

SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?

JK: I seem to always go back to a performance art professor I had at the Chicago Art Institute, Lynn Book. Her unique view of the world and how we perceive the world broke me apart and allowing me to rebuild the world in a way that made sense to me.

SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?

JK: My kneejerk reaction would be to go back and catch Trump doing something naughty. But if I could not interfere or change the event, like, you know, why in hell would I go back in time to observe that rascal. I suppose parenting has made me interested in how my own parents raised me, why I am such a freak. I would go back in time and observe my parents when they were raising me and my sister, and perhaps understand, empathize, and forgive many of the choices they made, as very young parents. I am not suggesting they were bad parents, but I am amazed at how much parenting has changed since the 1970’s!

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work.

JK: Keep on making, I see it as a continuation, like a wiggly string of dreams.

SH: If you could be a character in any movie for a day; who would you be in what film and why?

JK: Father Karras from the Exorcist. There are times when I wrestle with my own shadow and demons. For me, this conflict or collision is often an area where aesthetic inspiration comes from. Personifying fear or transforming it into a symbol or form is one way of working with and through the experience. I suppose the difference for me is, the shadow or demon is never truly exorcized and abolished, it is part of the self and has to be regulated and integrated in a healthy way, a restoration of inner balance.

Opening Saturday October 13th Josh Keyes’s “Tempest”

Josh Keyes
TEMPEST
October 13, 2018 – November 3, 2018

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Portland-based artist Josh Keyes in Tempest. Keyes creates lush, hyperrealistic paintings of our civilization’s dystopian aftermath; a post-human planet left ecologically ravaged and dissipated, sits aflame, overgrown or beneath water, while a new natural order attempts to reclaim its disastrous inheritance. In recent years, Keyes has abandoned the minimalism of his precise, dioramic disaster taxonomies in favor of a more immersive and expanded pictorial frame. These works depict entire environments rather than only its cross-sections in a not-so-distant future state of ecological ruin. Keyes has mastered the satirical posturing of hyperbole as fact with a world so convincingly rendered, and so disastrously surreal, that fantasy becomes alarmingly plausible. In Tempest, Keyes conjures an insolvent wilderness facing the eye of a final storm.

Keyes’ highly detailed narrative paintings have evolved from their earlier iteration as closed systems, or quasi-scientific specimens drawn from some post-apocalyptic natural history museum to less confined and formulaic expressions of an imploding natural order. Displaced wild animals and the remnants of human architectures and monuments are all that remain, the only living witnesses to whatever final or cumulative set of events have finally tipped the scales beyond salvage. Recent works have depicted wholly submerged forests, graffiti-tagged marine life, and itinerant polar bears wandering an environmentally exhausted earth. Here, human monuments are drowned by the deluge and incongruous combinations abound as displaced rhinos run rampant beneath abandoned urban underpasses. The traces of our destructive legacy even appear in space, harkening dystopian visions of the final frontier – humanity’s last escapist fantasy of evacuating the planet it has consumed.

Animals have always appeared as the focal points of Keyes’ metaphoric, and psychologically penetrating works. He depicts them with the anatomical precision of a biologist and the poetic freedom of a storyteller. As protagonists, creatures universalize the narratives, making them indiscriminately relatable and empathically accessible. Charged with the psychic and imagistic resonance of a shared, collective subconscious, Animalia provides the artist with a symbolically valent source of iconography. This combination of the personally inflected and the culturally drawn supplies the artist with an inexhaustible source material.

Working primarily in acrylic on panel, Keyes has perfected his hyperrealistic painting technique, depicting the environmental crisis with startling representational clarity as a trope for the larger human one. It becomes clear that the imagining of this apocalyptic chaos harbors a social anxiety that extends far beyond the concerns of the ecological. In a time of great political angst and uncertainty, the artist’s works are all the more poignant as harbingers of a, now more than ever, alarmingly plausible doomsday. Keyes, the dystopian naturalist, continues to provoke our imaginations with the poetry of a cataclysmically surreal future tense.

Thinkspace Editions – Josh Keyes’s “Mad World” Print Drop Friday January 26th.

Excited to share our next special edition will be with Josh Keyes. All is in place for Mad World to be available THIS Friday, January 26 at 10AM Pacific Time (1PM Eastern).

Josh Keyes
Mad World
Edition of 300
13×16 inches / 35.5×50.8cm (full size reproduction of the original work)
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
Signed and numbered by the artist
$175

Mad World is taken from Josh’s sold out Los Angeles solo exhibition Implosion that took place this past August with us.

Photographed and printed by Static Medium

Mad World will be available THIS FRIDAY – January 26 – at 10AM Pacific at:
https://shop.thinkspaceprojects.com

Look for two new editions from Dalek (aka James Marshall) in mid-February. Full details will be shared soon on these special screen printed editions.

Shop all our latest prints & more at:
https://shop.thinkspaceprojects.com/