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.