You studied color at university, and your palette is very distinctive. What is your approach to color? What were you hoping to do with your degree in Color Studies?
Originally, I really wanted to major in painting, but due to my circumstances at the time, I majored in makeup for my undergraduate degree. In graduate school I went on to study personal color and color science. As a result, I worked in cosmetology for 10 years. Naturally, I look closely at a person's face, and over time I came to realize that color suits each person is different depending on their environment and psychological state. I also learned that color and psychology are inextricably linked. As a result, my craving for painting grew more and more, and now I have brought it into my practice - color is an important part of my paintings.
How long have you been painting? Who are your major influences?
Although I studied art as a young girl, I have been focused on painting this style for the past year and a half. At first, I was able to express my complex thoughts with face illustrations, and naturally came to a form with arms, legs, and torso. The influence of my paintings is me. I express the feeling of the moment and my condition in the most honest way, and I don’t want to hide it, so I project it into the picture.
Your paintings are heavily psychological, representing extreme emotional states, and yet they are also quite figurative and composed. It’s like there’s manifestations of the unconscious, but also a regulating order. What do you understand about the psychological aspect of your work?
A person like me changes from disorderly and complex thoughts to frame the world around them. One struggle I try to convey is to accept change and a longing for mental and physical freedom. I express this in my paintings. When I draw, I place importance on color, background, shape and emotion of the person, and layout. As a result, like the methods and rules of the Tetris game, random sticks coming down from the top are regularly fitted into the frame, and the complex background (to the world) expresses the desire to show that I stand out or coexist.
Your figures often have a dotted border and a dot on their faces? What do these accents mean for you? Are they symbolic or merely decorative?
I really like the dots and freckles on the face. I like the feeling of touching a ball. In my drawings there are always dots. Dots show differences in my drawings and signify change. Similar to the dotted line, it is an expression used to express salience and outstandingness. Even if there are no dotted lines in my drawing, there are always dots. Location or size doesn't matter. I think the thing that is unique to me, not the ordinary, stems from the desire to stand out.
You paint long, spindly hands, and a lot of your figures have only two or three limbs. This makes them somewhat abject, like maimed animals, but also adds to their appeal and mystery. What do you think about the body parts of your figures?
I want to let go of my limbs. My arms and legs symbolize heaviness, I use them by expressing different personalities and various moods by overlapping my complex thoughts on the faces I draw. There is no need to have two limbs, I want to break the rules of beauty set by the world. As long as I have just one limb to express freedom and make me known, that's enough. I think the meaning of “do what you want to do” has come to mean a lot so far as the body is concerned. I like to express motions that are impossible in reality, this results in drawing different human proportions, often those found in animals. There is a cat that appears often in my drawings, and although it has a human form, it also reflects the psychological part by comparing the inner heart and body to a cat.
Your paintings are one-dimensional and have prominent backgrounds. Some of your backgrounds are just one or two solid colors, while others are complex: patterned with checkerboard or lines or chaotic scribbles. What do backgrounds mean in your approach to composition?
The background is the world in which my present and past psychology are compressed and expressed. However, this world is not constant. Sometimes it is standardized as a single color, but when complexity fills up, it is expressed by giving variety to the color. In addition, graffiti expresses my noisy surroundings and compares the pain of my childhood to games, numbers, pyramids, dotted lines, circles, and X marks, recalling my unhappy childhood and expressing hope.
Many of your figures are half-animal or surrounded by animals, so they bring up questions of the human/animal divide. What do you want to express about the animality of humans (or vice versa)?
I never thought of separating people from animals. I want to reflect on the symbolism that stands out in the images and actions of certain animals. Cats often appear in my paintings, but in fact, I am afraid of cats. But to me, cats are queens and kings. I admire the freedom that comes from the strong, hard-to-reach, yet flexible gestures of cats. Cats have what I long for, something I am missing. I'm still obsessed with cats, but I don't know when that will change again. I change from moment to moment, and my thoughts are always on my tail, and I am also curious about what kind of creature I will meet at the end of my thoughts, and it is a task that I work to express.
Click Here ︎ to see Yool’s work.
Yool’s Instagram: @yool___kim
Interview by Christian Prince.
Your style, especially in your figures, can appear cartoonish, but it also has this rough realism, like in your depiction of Mickey Mouse, where you humanize him with small eyes and dark circles. How would you describe your style?
No clue. Trying to describe what I do, or even how or why I like something is really hard for me. I’m horrible at expressing myself verbally. That’s why I enjoy painting. I can sit there and spend a week or two on a single image or thought, taking one image I like and then painting it in the colors I think compliment it, tediously painting and repainting it until I feel like it is a coherent thought.
I wish every conversation I ever had could be more like that. The first time I try and express a thought, it always comes out all jumbled and non-sensical, like I’m just stringing together random sentences.
I wish I could go back and layer in new words, sentences, thoughts, ideas until I get something that seems more like a clear expression of myself and my feeling on the subject, ya know?
Your colors are disarming and distinctive. You seem to take familiar, primary colors (blue, red, yellow), and alter them just enough that they become weird and unfamiliar. What role does color play in your compositions?
My style has altered in the last few months, especially in the way I use color, so it’s hard to speak on the way I use composition. I honestly just go with my gut a lot of the time.
Lately, I’ve been starting by painting everything a cool blue then layering warmer colors on top. I usually know what color I want to work around, like in the last cowboy painting I did, I knew I wanted a red shirt and that was it. After that, I just kept changing the colors around until everything seemed balanced. Sometimes in the painting I feel like the color plays a more important role then the image itself.
You paint big and small cats. There’s one painting where a big, gothic black cat is panting over the universe. Do cats hold any sort of totemic significance for you?
Ya, I love cats. I grew up with a lot of animals, dogs, cats, crows, pigeons, snakes, rabbits, lizards, even a possum for a few weeks once; you name it. But I always felt the most connection with my cats. Like when you have a cat as your friend, you know that’s a real friend. That’s your buddy. That cat can be anywhere, do anything it wants. So if it’s hanging out with you it’s because it wants to, because it really loves you. Unlike dogs, I mean I love dogs a lot, but they’re idiots. They just love you because you feed them, and they just need you most of the time. So ya I guess I put cats on a pedestal…they’re cool.
Also they have this vibe like they know something you don’t, Like their third eye is open and they’ve seen through the multi-dimensions stacked ontop of eachother like glass plates playing out every infinite scenario. So they know what could have happened and what’s going to happen and none of it really matters because we’re all just going to be reincarnated as bushes so eat and nap all you like.
Many of your scenes are distinctively American—there’s western scenes with cowboys, and a scene of a woman diving into a motel swimming pool. Do you think about Americana when you paint?
Oh yeah, for sure. I’ve really been leaning into it lately. It’s honestly kinda subliminal to me, not really a cultural criticism or anything. If anything, it’s a critique on the inner workings of my brain. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, like It’s all just so engrained into my brain like some MK ultra shit. I guess that’s a very American thing, being force-fed pop culture, and stories of grandeur. There’s always a single polarized person achieving this hero status through some arbitrary measure of greatness. In that sense, I kind of think the way I usually use a singular image is very American, almost like brand advertising. And what’s more American than advertisement? One singular conglomerate manipulating an image to suit the wants of the consumer to maximize profit. I don’t know what I’m talking about, but yeah, I guess I’m into a type of Americana. Not sure if it’s in the traditional bread and butter sense, but yeah.
Flowers seem to have a tragicomic symbolism in your work, as in the scene where bundles of flowers spill out of a totaled car. Do you see flowers as symbols?
Well, I’ve done flowers before and Im still on the fence about how they look in my paintings. Specifically in the car painting with the flowers spilling out, I wanted to paint these cars being torn inside out. Not really about the car crash itself, but the wreck it leaves behind. I see beauty in the twisted metal. I think a lot of people look at them and think they’re violent, which I didn’t intend for them to be. But yeah, the flowers are kind of symbolic for blood and guts, (haha ok, maybe it is violent), but like if the car was a living creature, as it lay there twisted and broken, the flowers spill out of the passenger side door and pool up under the car.
Watermelons appear in several of your works, and often seem to have a humorous, ironic quality. Water also appears often, although you always paint it abstractly or cartoonishly, or, in the scene with the boat, there’s no water at all. What’s behind your interest in water and watermelons?
I do paint water a lot; that’s kind of an ongoing project. It’s usually not in a fun happy way. I usually associate water with doom and gloom. I think the ocean is the most terrifying thing on the planet. I went in the ocean once and a rip tide started to pull me out then smashed me into a jetty for like 20 minutes. I felt like someone was holding onto my ankles and pulling me down and out. So yeah, I don’t fuck with the ocean anymore.
But when it appears in my paintings it usually has an all-encompassing vibe. There’s no escaping it. It’s rising up and swallowing everything in its path, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at the thing it’s destroying and the how you look at the destroyer. You might think wiping the slate clean is a good thing thing, who knows?
And for the watermelon, I just like the colors and shapes, and how when it’s cut and viewed from different perspectives, it takes completely different forms. I don’t know… it’s a very artistically versatile fruit. You throw a watermelon into any painting and it creates this ambience, I dig it.
Click Here ︎ to see Jacob’s work.
Jacob’s Instagram: @_jacob_gerard
Interview by Christian Prince.
You work between France and the UK. Do you draw from the painting traditions of both countries, or do your inﬂuences come from elsewhere?
I get inspired by many diﬀerent traditions. I collect antique vases and pots, often from ﬂea markets or antique stores from all over the world. I have a fascination for ornaments and various surrealistic objects such as leaf plates, a watermelon letter holder or a lemon salt and pepper shake, these are a few of my own objects. I get inspired a lot by what’s around me and will add a surrealistic twist to it. I also think I kept some inﬂuences that I studied in art history and archaeology. My parents were greengrocers, so I have always been drawn to food and market / garden life.
Some of the objects in your paintings are realist and others more expressionist. What eﬀect do you hope to achieve by this combination of styles?
I don’t like to obey a certain style or composition, I love the freedom I get in my work. I enjoy mixing various inspirations and styles to make it my own.
Your still lifes of ﬂowers in vases have dramatic titles and a strong sense of mood and the passage of time. How do you think the still life form can contain all this emotion and time?
I feel like the fusion between shadow and light is very powerful. The shortness of this moment, waiting for that glowing golden hour to touch the still life. You never know how it’s going to react and it’s never exactly the same. I ﬁnd that fascinating and it deﬁnitely changed the way I work and the way I see light. All my work used to be very 2D and ﬂat, since the last couple of years I’m working more in 3D, thinking of how the composition could feel more voluminous by the use of shadows and various textures.
Your paintings often have strong light sources that create shadows, and sometimes the shadows are exaggerated. What do you convey with shadows?
Depending on where the shadow is coming from, the shadow can be exaggerated or blurred naturally. I chose to interpret it in a more surrealist way. I don’t wish to copy exactly what I see but give it my own interpretation. I usually saturate the palette a lot, to give it a more dramatic aspect.
Some of your compositions have a playful, geometric architecture. Are you referring to a certain modernist architecture? Do you consider your paintings from an architectural perspective?
I play around diﬀerent themes in my work: still lifes with shadows, surrealistic stills, architectural compositions and bathroom scenes. I get inspired by many architects but I’m particularly keen on Luis Barragàn’s work that I discovered some years ago. The way he thinks of lines and colour is amazing and mesmerising. Even in my still lifes with shadows, there’s always a game of lines. The light is depicted in a very straight, angular and architectural way.
What about plant life, and its interaction with vases, interests you? And how does this relate to your interest in water and marine life?
I collect plants, I love watching them grow and the way that they seem to be constantly dancing, in movement. They can also be surprising! During the second lockdown in the UK, I started painting ﬁsh in bowls, unconsciously. I then realised the symbolism behind it. I was myself feeling like a ﬁsh in a bowl, able to see the world but not touch it. I have since been painting many diﬀerent ﬁsh and tried many diﬀerent combinations. My favourite so far remains the ﬁsh vase. This is a theme I am still in constant exploration.
Click Here ︎ to see Cathy’s work.
Cathy’s Instagram: @cathytabbakh
Interview by Christian Prince.
When did you begin painting?
I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember. I was a shy kid, and art was a way for me to express myself when I didn’t feel I had the means to do so otherwise. Although there have been times when my painting took a back seat, I’ve always considered myself an artist. Throughout my school days I carried a sketchbook and pen wherever I went, I think it was my way to escape, just as some people bury their head in a book or music. As an undergraduate, I was very keen to explore different mediums, and entirely engaged in printmaking and sculptural works. But there has always been something about painting that draws me back. It’s probably a mix of things — the surface, the many ways paint can be manipulated, and the energy and emotion that can come from a stillness of a scene or moment.
Where do you source inspiration from?
There have been some sources of inspiration that have stuck with me; it centers around the nature and the environment. I think feel most at peace in these spaces. I exhale and feel at one with nature, this is often reflected in my work. I have researched the psychology and philosophy of how the spaces we inhabit impact our mental and physical state – how our sense of ‘home’ is reflected in the places we form memories and ties. It was this research that led me to broaden my interest and to explore the environment not only as a reflection of the natural world, but also of domestic settings.
Although my paintings vary, I am consistently exploring our relationship to the environments we inhabit and how this impacts our sense of self and identity. My interest is in illustrating the speculative, contemplative times in which we are formed, informed, and reminded by our surroundings over time. I paint scenes as glimpses into a segmented reality. I’m always considering how body language and negative space works to convey such sentiments.
I see my work as sitting in the intangible expanse between the known and unknown. With paint and pattern, I want to express how feelings, experiences and understandings can shift with a change of perspective or focus. Working between the dichotomies of presence and absence, the similar and different, and the defining of space and place, my work seeks to clarify feelings of home. These dualisms manifest in my visual, physical, and psychological creative process.
What’s your artistic process?
I explore the environments and narratives we may overlook in the chaos of our daily lives. Through small sketches, and studies, I begin to formulate how to push the subject, composition, context, and color scheme. I will be grabbing paper and blocking out my next work while I’m still developing my current painting. It is in these smaller gouache paintings that I experiment and refine how much information I need to illustrate the context of my composition. There is this fine line in the abstraction of my compositions – between the flattening and redefining of space and maintaining a control and exactitude in the composition.
How has your artistic process changed over the years?
Through my continuing practice, I have become surer of my relationship with the materials I use and my abilities to communicate my ideas successfully through the canvas. I am less concerned with it not going my way, of the push and pull of the process, and of the fear of messing it up. I think that by showing up, keeping an open mind, and challenging myself, my paintings will continue to evolve. I can now step back and see the development. In terms of the paintings themselves, I was once much more concerned with accuracy and how others responded to the work than I am now. Interestingly, as I learn to prioritize what I want the work to say, I see less of myself in the process and development of some of my earlier works.
You work a lot with color repetition, and patterns within your paintings—Can you expand on this theme?
I am drawn to the scene revealing just enough information for the viewer to understand the setting or context for the scene I am painting. This pairing down of information and ambiguity has developed into a graphic style – where the sharp edges or contours can suggest some context of the space in which these figures or objects exist. It also gives room for the viewer to put their own understandings or impressions into the negative or open spaces of the works.
Color plays a large role in my work. The emotional state of a painting can be conveyed by the color scheme – be it the loudness of a certain red drawing the figures forward, or the dark subtleness of a green pushing an object into the background. Without using shadow to create a depth of perspective in the composition, the work relies more heavily on the differentiation in color and the curves and angles of the scene to create the space.
The anonymity of my figurative forms gives greater value to the environmental context and objects. The idea of my works presenting a segmented reality is heightened through my pairing of the graphical with a use of repetitive pattern. I see the creation of these patterns as a repetition with a kind of pleasant monotony in my process – a monotony that is mirrored in the routine of our daily lives. I pair down the figure and botanical forms with pattern to subvert and flatten the spatial understanding of the scene and re-imagine how an environment mirrors the psychological and physiological connections we create to our world.
How has art making impacted your life?
This is a difficult question as I can’t imagine my life without it. Through my painting I think I have certainly developed a lens through which I see things. For example, if I’m walking down the street, I’ll take photos of two colors next to each other which I think pair nicely, or of people in a well composed seating at a restaurant. I think whenever I feel stuck with my work, going to galleries or museums to see other paintings gives me new ideas onto how I might apply that freedom or that perspective into my own painting practice. If art is seen as a language, then painting has given me a vocabulary through which I can express myself most accurately. I believe art is important for everyone to experience, in that there is not right or wrong way, that subjectivity is really the most exciting thing about it.
How do you want others to feel when viewing your work?
Many of the scenes I paint come from a personal narrative – but often they are commonly held human experiences that I compose. With this, I invite the viewer to reflect on their personal associations with certain environments, experiences, objects, or relationships that inform their own understanding of place or self. I would like my work to give viewers that moment of reflection and the space to breathe. I would hope that my work would spark some of their own memories or relationships with their environment and nudge them to reevaluate those moments that bring joy into their lives.
What advice would you give to other young and emerging painters?
I remember hearing this a lot when I was a younger artist and not understanding it as fully, but really the most important thing is showing up. It’s showing up for yourself. Even when you don’t feel in the mood or you don’t feel like you have the time, it’s making space every day to work on your art. And this work comes in many different forms. Some days I go to the studio, and I read or write, or clean and stretch new canvases, but don’t pick up a paint brush. There’s a lot more to painting than the work itself, and creating the space for yourself, mentally, to be present with your work is just as important as painting itself. I think that once I was able to commit to this aspect of my profession, I saw my art take on this new focus and direction through my own mental shift.
Another big thing that helps is to always ask questions. Asking yourself questions to challenge what you’ve become comfortable with and seeking input from others. Having a community of other people who are as passionate as you are about painting can give you drive and inspiration in unexpected ways. It’s important to reach out and start a conversation with a painter whose work you like or is trying out some new technique you yourself want to explore. Most of the time, that painter will want to share and hear about your own process too. Because painting can be quite an isolating experience, it’s important to advocate for yourself and find a community that can share, discuss, and challenge your practice.
How do you see your work evolving?
I’m looking forward to continuing to explore the abstraction and subversion of space in my work. I am particularly interested in seeing how far I can push the distortion of the environment or context of the figure or objects that are the focus of my paintings. How can I bring my curiosity for the botanical into greater conversation with the domestic spaces I am drawn to? I’m also interested to push the graphical element of my work – exploring how I can bring transparency or overlays into the scene, to hint at more of the nostalgia or memory that these moments hold. By blurring the lines between these dichotomies, I hope my work will continue to develop and reflect the value I feel exists within the small moments or details we often overlook.
Click Here ︎ to see Grace’s work.
Grace’s Instagram: @gracetobinart
Interview by Margaux Halloran