Seattle artist Joey Bates has spent the last handful of years adhering to a breakneck schedule of shows, and he's ready to slow down.I caught up with Joey during a self-imposed hiatus; he has decided to take a break from showing and spend more time exploring new directions in his work. "I'm actually feeling really lost with what I'm doing art wise," he happily admits, "and there's something invigorating about that." For all his professed uncertainty, Bates does not come across as someone who is feeling creatively lost, and the works in progress that adorn the walls of his workspace in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood are testaments to his steady productivity.
Seeing Bates' home studio is like opening a brand new pack of colored pencils: everything is satisfyingly uniform and perfectly laid out by color, and his drafting table seems too meticulously organized to be in actual use. But Bates in person is as precise as his paintings, and he keeps his studio organized to an extent that, like the photo shoot of a sparsely furnished modernist home, elicits a twinge of envy for a level of immaculate attention to detail that most of us will never be able to sustain. Bates works in graphite and gouache to segment the planes of the face and figure into a series of nestled curves, creating portraits that read almost as topographic maps. He reduces the arcs of the human form into shapes that draw the eye into a constant sense of movement, and the meticulous detail of his linework is so thoroughly exacted that it gives the deceptive impression of being effortless. His first pieces concentrated almost entirely on faces, and by honing his focus in on the minutia of his models' features, he shifted the emphasis away from his subjects as individuals and instead created psychological studies of specific expressions. Bates originally began observing the human face because of an interest in capturing variations in non-verbal communication, and his compositions are meditations on the myriad small parts that comprise the whole. His interest in expression arose from observing the ways that people communicate. "There's something universal in expressions," Bates tells me, "but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other."
There's something universal in expressions, but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other." -- Joey Bates
(L) Jillian, in collaboration with Shaun Kardinal; Helga, in collaboration with Amanda Fiebing

 

 

When Nicholas Bohac left behind the Midwest to pursue his artistic career in one of the most expensive cities in the country -- San Francisco -- the decision must have been both wise, for the connections and experience, and terrifying, for the potential financial burden. But thanks to a sympathetic landlord and a supportive wife with more gainful employment, Bohac lives in the SF's Outer Richmond neighborhood, within blocks of Golden Gate Park, and has a studio space that he shares with his landlord, free of charge. The garage studio is hardly one to lounge about comfortably in, but considering the skyrocketing housing rates of the city and its general shortage of space, Bohac is one lucky man. Bohac is one of a small percentage of artists who has the rare luxury of working on art at his leisure. His leisure, however, is not one to be taken lightly; he estimates that he created 15-18 mid-sized pieces, 165 small pieces, and participating in eight shows in 2011. 2012, though, is a new year -- and with it, comes a new approach. He has taken the time thus far in 2012 to step back and reassess his work and his direction. He is learning to be more choosy and to expect more from his work, at the same time that he is reconstructing what he wants his outwards-facing image to be.
Upon first glance, Bohac's works are complex and psychedelic in nature, full of unnatural colors and shapes. But despite how obscured, manipulated and tweaked they might be, their very cores are centered around landscapes -- one interest that is deeply-rooted and enduring in Bohac's life. After all, it is landscapes which drew Bohac from the Midwest, where he had lived his entire life, to the West Coast. "I came out here to visit a friend who had moved out here... [and] I just was like, 'Whoa, there's a lot of stuff out here happening that I've never seen before,'" he recalls. "I'd seen mountains and I'd seen oceans, but I think everything just coalesced together in this area, and it makes these really interesting landscapes." To pay homage to his new surroundings, Bohac began with painstakingly rendered tempera paintings based off of photographs he had taken of the ocean. Ultimately, though, it was attending art school and taking in critiques from others that refined Bohac's style from mere imitation to reimaginings of everyday scenery.
"I think one of the best things anyone -- any instructor -- ever said of me was when I was making two or three of these collage paintings at once, and they were all at night and you could see the blue sky and the stars. He said, 'Why don't you make the sky this pink?' and that's all he had to say, and all of a sudden everything opened up a little bit more."

 

Netherlands-based photographer Jan Reurink can't get enough of Tibet, and captures Tibetan landscape and everyday life with a dedicated selfless passion. In our brief Q&A with Reurink below, he tells us about the rainbow plethora of reasons he keeps returning to the sacred land.
Tibet - Jan Reurink The prayer flags in this image are wind horses; they are called རླུང་རྟ་ -- or lungta. They serve as an allegory for the human soul, and now ritually used as a symbol of well-being and good fortune in Tibet. Tibet - Jan Reurink The mountain range of Mount Ti Se (གངས་ཏེ་སེའི་རི་རྒྱུད or gangs te se'i ri rgyud/ gangté serigyü). Also called the Kailash Mountain Range.

Shai Kremer's Fallen Empires series shows unbiased images of Israel's decay and destruction, encouraging dialogue via archeological remnants and landscapes....

Our third-annual album cover art feature uses interviews with artists and musicians to highlight the philosophical, thematic, and conceptual significance of great album cover artwork. THE BREAKDOWN    12 Collage + 14 Digital Illustration, Drawing, Design + 19 Illustration, Painting, Drawing + 8 Black And White Photography + 22 Color Photography + 6 Deluxe Packaging + 10 Fashion,...

Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions. "I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath." After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room. "We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio. Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space. "I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells." ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW (ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery
Like many other Seattle residents, I was first introduced to the work of fabric and mixed media artist Mandy Greer at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. I remember liking her permanent installation, Library Unbound, and making a mental note to check out more of her stuff (which, of course, I completely forgot to do because I didn't write it down), but it wasn't until Greer's 2011 solo show, Honey And Lightening, at Roq La Rue Gallery, that I was moved from appreciation to awe.


mandy greer Honey And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle
Artists often describe their ideas as beginning with a seed, but with Greer the analogy is more literal: her work gives the impression of growth, and her compositions wind sinuously across both body and landscape as fractalized coral reefs that gracefully devour everything they come in contact with. Her painstaking craftsmanship involves the weaving and layering of such diverse materials as buttons, pom poms, sequins, beads, plastic trinkets, glitter, mirrors, and family members' hair. She uses "cheap materials" in such absurdly detailed, utterly chaotic excess that they they take on an aura of luminous richness. Her latest subjects involve strong, folkloric figures festooned in elaborate headdresses. They move gracefully through kaleidoscope forests and fields of trailing grass. One gets the sense of being enveloped by an epic fairy tale, but it's one that lacks a definitive plot. Greer draws from a wide spectrum of folk tales, finding inspiration in stories from Greek, Roman and Chinese cultures. "I stumble upon mythology that speaks to the struggle," she explains. There is an inherent delicacy in textile work – one that Greer both embraces and contradicts. In her works, haunting vignettes of half-told stories are littered with crocheted entrails and vines of thick, cloying mud that evoke a sense of elegant foreboding. They deal with a sense of vague narrative that, through abstraction, finds archetype; her installations whisper of timelessness – of a buried, invisible power that runs below the surface of the world that we cavalierly inhabit. At the time of our interview, Greer was still in the process of settling into her home studio, and walking into her workspace was like entering the magical dress up box every child dreams of having. Her studio is filled with giant, color-sorted plastic bins of fascinatingly patterned and textured scraps of fabric. Half of her studio is devoted to an exposed beamed staging ground for installations, and there are so many odds and ends lying around that, for someone with an attention span as short as mine, it's difficult to find a place for the eye to rest. INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW mandy greermandy greerHoney And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle

Last year's romp into Portland's First Thursday Art Walk yielded only a couple notable things. The best of them all, though, was Tokyo's OriginalStyle at Hellion Gallery. He documents his favorite skate spots around Tokyo, and overlays acrylic type on intricately-drawn backdrops, but in a way that doesn't feel trite...

Sometimes when the sunshine hits things just right, you see rainbows, and sometimes, leaves in autumn glow with an otherworldly quality. If Nicholas Bohac's depictions of landscapes are any indicator, the world he lives in is full of these moments. In his art, cobblestone walkways look more like gem-encrusted or candy-strewn...

Sometimes an artist will do something so simply wonderful that you can only think that it's, well, kind of dumb. It's dumb how creatively brilliant he or she is, kind of like ugly animals and pets sometimes appear to be adorable. That's how I feel about Andy Denzler's current body...

Jeremy Mangan makes paintings of barns. Barns are not in and of themselves fascinating subjects, and it's hard to escape the cliché imagery associated with them -- of wheat fields and bucolic pastures. But Jeremy Mangan makes barns magical.
jeremy mangan Mangan grew up in rural Washington but spent a number of years living in New York while attending graduate school at Hunter College. His interest in shantytowns and weather-worn buildings began with observations of his surroundings, and was later informed by the urban layering of New York City. "I think what [my interest] comes from is a combination of growing up here and always being attracted to these dilapidated old structures," Mangan explains over coffee. "And then in New York, the overbuilt stacking, the literal hierarchy -- where the higher up you are, the higher up you are. You look up and you see the penthouses, and then you look down and you go into a subway." When Mangan first began his explorations into rural Americana, he was working with a very unorthodox medium. "I was painting fairly realistic, naturalistic subject matter at that point, and I was frustrated, so I decided I would just use the dumbest material I could find -- something that wasn't meant for art making and wasn't so precise," Mangan explains. "So I just bought a cup of coffee from the local bodega and started painting with it."
"Music does something kind of like poetry does. We can access music and listen to music and it doesn't have the expectations on it that visual art does, to be important or meaningful or to have direct social commentary... There's just something visceral and direct about it that I want to be in my paintings also." - Jeremy Mangan
Looking at his work, it's hard to believe that Mangan managed to achieve such an impressive array of depth and tones using coffee, but he has always been a technically skilled artist. He attributes much of his painting technique to his time spent as an ice carver. While finishing his graduate degree, Mangan's studio shared a building with Okamato Studio, the ice sculpting business of Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto. "They knocked on my studio one day and said, 'Hey, I need to deliver this ice sculpture; I could use a hand with it.'" At first Mangan only helped with the deliveries, but he was gradually entrusted with more responsibilities. Eventually they let Mangan try his hand at carving. "They gave me a 300 pound block of ice and a chainsaw and said, 'Go for it.'" Mangan's experience with carving fundamentally changed the way he approached painting. "As a painter, I could look at a face as a mug shot, and then in profile, and imagine how I would render it and how the line should be, but ice sculpture made me think in terms of volume, and that took a while to learn." This sojourn as an ice sculptor led Mangan to many interesting situations, including one assignment making a giant reindeer for Martha Stewart's holiday party. "She seemed very... uh... composed. Like she was working. Very smiley, almost robotic. What you might expect." Although it was a day job that involved creating and working with his hands, Mangan ultimately felt that he needed to leave New York and make more time for the work he wanted to pursue. "I was working 40, 50 hours a week carving ice, and I didn't go that far away to become an ice carver. It was just a job. I wasn't painting... I joke that I needed to leave New York and move to Fife for things to really start coming together." jeremy mangan
If art is an extension of one's character, Seattle-based artist hydEON (Ian Ferguson) is a prime example of this statement come to life. In all aspects of his art, from its style and influences to the materials it's created with, Ferguson's pieces are rich, filled with geometric patterns and strange little characters, all of which match his slightly eccentric personality. And perhaps it is because Ferguson draws inspiration from images as old as the Renaissance, Druid civilizations, and the 1200s, but as opposed to being thoughtless, crude illustrations, his works are detailed renderings reminiscent of old woodblock prints. There are hints of symbolism in them, which remind one vaguely of alchemic days long gone.
But Ferguson even draws inspiration from the more recent past. For when he isn't creating art -- or making music, for that matter -- he works at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance thrift store, which is a non-profit thrift store benefiting an AIDS prevention and support organization. It's an occupation that might not sound glorious to some, but it serves to give Ferguson a steady stream of ideas. "I almost feel like I can make use of just about everything from there," explains Ferguson. "I've been really getting into old photos from the turn of the century -- the '20s and the '30s -- and if I can, even older than that. I've found some really old thrift store photos [and] artwork... and I like to go over them. I've been really big into transforming [and] remixing art, basically." Surprisingly, Ferguson used to work on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. As a former graphic designer who created everything from business cards to flyers, Ferguson gave up the design lifestyle to pursue art that seems to run in his family. With a mother who is an artist and art teacher, an uncle who is a photographer, and a grandfather who was a multi-disciplinary artist, Ferguson decided he'd follow suit and concentrate more on fine art than digital art. INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW