Stefen Thelen, also known by his anti-superhero alias, Super A, is a Dutch artist that specializes in murals and studio paintings. His works frequently blur the line between fiction and non-fiction, a common theme seen within his pieces and murals. This exhibition, The Other Way Around, is part of a larger body of work called Trapped — an investigation meant to unmask the truth surrounding fantasy. An example of this can be seen in his piece, The Fifth Month, where he paints the main characters from My Neighbor Totoro. At first glance, the viewer immediately recognizes the iconic characters but upon further inspection, the illusion dissipates, revealing a hyperrealistic translation of these figures.
Super A utilizes imagery that harkens back to famous figures in fantasy, cartoon, and pop culture archetypes. In this case, an archetype can be defined as, “the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies.” His works frequently feature these representations from well-known movies or TV shows like Toy Story, Spirited Away, The Little Mermaid, and more. The Other Way Around utilizes these archetypes by comparing their physicality by splicing realistic renditions within the confines of the fantastical — revealing the threshold between reality and fiction. This visual metaphor serves as a means of dissecting the pretense behind pop culture mythology with the interest of exploring the objective history and truth behind their narrative.
About the artist: Stefen Thelen, otherwise known by his anti-superhero alter-ego, Super A, is a Dutch artist who specializes in a hyper-realistic and surrealist style. His alter ego was born out of his previous background as a graffiti artist and serves as a vessel for his more controversial interrogations of society — allowing for a more objective lens for his artistic analysis.
Super A officially started his artistic career in 2004 but before then, he would work in amusement parks where he would gain first-hand experience in the creation of fantasy for the general public. This experience would inform his future work, working to unravel the distinction between reality and illusion. The tension found between two opposing ideas is a common thread seen within his work, namely his Trapped series. The Other Way Around is a continuation of this series and demonstrates the distinction between reality and the facade, revealing the truth behind the metaphorical mask.
Stefan Thelen is a street and gallery artist based in the Netherlands who graduated from Graphic Lyceum in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Super A’s murals and works have been featured in galleries around the world including Germany, London, Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, and the United States, among others. Super A’s mural was painted as part of Antelope Valley Walls! (formerly POW!WOW! Antelope Valley) in 2018. The mural is located at Lancaster Blvd in Lancaster, California.
Thinkspace presents a photo tour pf group exhibition “Real Life is Fragile‘ co-curated by Ken Nwadiogbu, and Super A’s mini solo, ‘Trapped‘. Both exhibitions were up for one week only from July 3 – July 10.
We normally take a small break in the summertime, but as we reflected back on the past 18 months we realized we’ve already had too much downtime and that this break in our program could be better spent highlighting some of the many incredible artists we’ve been exposed to since hosting Ken Nwadiogbu’s debut North American solo exhibition earlier this year.
We’re excited to host a special U.S. launch of Super A (Stefan Thelen) art book ‘Trapped’ alongside a mini-solo exhibition opening this Saturday, July 3rd. In anticipation of the exhibition, we caught up with Super A to find out more about the process of developing ‘Trapped’ and what he’s been up to since his solo with us in December.
How have you been since the last time we connected back in December? How has 2021 been so far?
Thinking back on December I really hoped I could have joined you guys for the Apostasy show and to be part of celebrating the opening of your beautiful new space. Still can’t wait to see it and hang out.
Back then it just wasn’t possible to travel because of the situation. As time is passing it’s starting to look like it’s getting better which is good.
I’m really happy to be traveling again to paint murals and hang out with friends that I haven’t seen for such a long time.
So far all good 🙂
What was the process like for developing ‘Trapped’? How does it feel to have your first art book?
I never planned on making it such a big series. I think it’s simply because I wasn’t used to painting this way. Before i started this series i came up with stories that i wanted to tell through my work but after i told the story through one, two or max three paintings the story was told so i went on to the next story. I must say that way of working is quite exhausting.
When I came up with the idea of “Trapped” I thought of just doing a few paintings but during the process I found out that I really enjoyed it so much so I decided to stick to it for a while.
Then the idea came to release a book. Working on it was a great experience 🙂
I’m slowly exploring new ideas for the future as I don’t want to be trapped in my own series for too long.
What kind of music or musical artists have you been listening to recently in the studio?
It goes in all kinds of directions. depending on what i’m working on. First thing I do when entering my studio is get a coffee press play and go!
At the moment it’s a lot of electro but also punk, metal and hip hop. As long as it’s energetic and puts me in the right mood.
If you could live in any movie universe for a day, what movie would it be? Would you be yourself or a specific character?
Let’s go for Arnie in Total Recall.
Every person experiences that moment when they are in the middle or even at the start of something, where it feels overwhelming or isn’t going as planned – how do you personally push through those difficult moments?
I’m blessed to be surrounded by a good group of friends and family where I can rely on in case things don’t go as they should.
Next to that I can process a lot of things through my work.
Hand-bound hardcover book
24 x 32 cm (9.45″ x 12.6″), 256 pages
Offset printed inner pages on 120 grams Munken Lynx Rough paper
Offset printed cover on 120 grams Wibalin paper, with embossed details
Edition of 1000 copies (90 available signed for the U.S.)