Los Angeles-based artist Rob Sato is more than a painter of fantastical watercolor dreamscapes. Challenging his own magnificent talent as a masterful visual creator, Sato is also a prolific consumer of culture. Profoundly influenced by historical events, dynamic music, and piles of life-changing books, he is able to channel many diverse creative explorations into colorfully horrific and disarmingly beautiful works of art; his work is an intriguing amalgam of childhood fantasies and literary consequence, adeptly bridging the gap between fantasy and reality.
"Writing feels like it comes from a separate part of the brain than where imagery generates from, so when I'm having trouble on a painting, I can turn to the writing to think about things from a different angle." -- Rob Sato

 

Roq La Rue Gallery has spent more than the last decade bringing fine artists from Seattle and abroad into their modest space in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. But come April 28th, 2013, their Belltown location will be closed forever -- sadly dampening the appeal of the neighborhood's last favorable drag -- and will be joining Pioneer Square's First Thursday art gallery circuit with their new space at 532 1st Ave S (near King St). Kicking off their new space will be a folkloric and symbolism-laden show of the variety we've come to expect from REDEFINE favorite and watercolor master Stacey Rozich. According to Roq La Rue, this new show, entitled Within Without Me, "is a notable jump up from previous shows containing larger, more complex works rendered in her trademark mediums of watercolor and gouache, as well as a deeper, more profound exploration of contemporary global social political themes." The show opens Thursday, May 2nd, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Roq La Rue's new location. See full post for a complete preview, or read our in-depth interview with Rozich where she talks about her roots, thematic inspirations, and emphasis on visual storytelling. 6 IMAGES TOTAL

 

The childish use of color and scraggly linework of Hamden, Connecticut-based artist Christopher Mir are misleading; if these works strike you as digital MS Paint drawings made by a youngster, you'd be dead wrong. Herein lies the most well-rendered chicken scratch you've ever seen, set down with acrylic paints and enamel, and full of fascinating characters, unusual settings, and off-kilter subject matter. In the full post, Mir offers some words about the inspiration behind a select number of pieces. Despite their simple and straight-forward presentations, Mir's inspiration is often rooted in current events and older artistic works, as well as symbolic and esoteric knowledge.
(9 IMAGES TOTAL) The Alchemist "This is based on an image from a book called Alchemy and Mysticism. In the original work -- from the 17th century I believe -- the man in the foreground isn't blue, but in the painting I wanted to make him into a Krishna figure or a water being. He's there to water the trees and put out the fire. The entire image is open to interpretation, but in my mind, the symbol of the tree refers to our own feeling of being grounded -- rooted within the body -- or of being uprooted -- lost in thought or egoistic delusion."
Mir currently has a solo show at Benrimon Contemporary in NYC (514 West 24th Street, 2nd Floor) through February 23rd and another next month at TMproject in Geneva, Switzerland (2, rue des Vieux-Grenadiers).
Shaman

 

In our 2012 Album Covers of the Year feature, we once again get our hands on everyone we can. Through interviews with designers, musicians, labels, and plenty of others, we take a close look at just how many hands are in the pot when it comes to the album artwork process. Inside this feature are 98 album covers spanning a wide array of sonic and visual styles, each selected for its own unique contribution to the world. They are not ranked; instead, they are broken down into sections based on conceptual underpinnings or artistic mediums, and then are displayed on spectrums. Get started by navigating into any of these six sections: Geometric & Pattern-Based Classically-Influenced Narrative & Symbolic Photography & Manipulations Painting & Illustration Collage, Sculpture & Mixed Media You can also see last year's at 2011 Year-End Respect For Album Cover Art
 
I discovered the work of Belgian artist Arn Gyssels years ago, thanks to Flickr. At that point, he seemed like he was just beginning to hone in on a tripped out collage style full of decay, glitches, and geometries, and I was instantly captivated. Now, on May 25th, 2012, Gyssels has a solo show in Antwerp, at the H.O.T.F.O.X gallery. Binary Fluidity will showcase "a series of contrasting fluidic forms that are believed to represent, within our own streams of consciousness, certain aspects of reality. It is exactly this content of experience and discovery in all its simplicity that will give the observer a visual tour on the border of an ectoplasmic experience." Gyssels has come a long way in defining his style, and in working his worldview more and more into his visual style. Below is a short Q&A -- just an introductory preview of the artist before a more in-depth collaborative feature with Gyssels and his girlfriend, Line Oshin.

 

(R) "This is one of the creatures that came out of putting black and white acrylic paint on a paper, scanning it in, and mirroring it from one side. You can see some form of underwater intelligent entity."

 

"Love and light. Everything should be treated with the utmost respect and understanding."

 

The dream-like figure paintings of Norwegian artist Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen have been so striking to me that the above image has been my Facebook profile picture for the past half year, at least. Uldalen's blue-tinged characters may be shaded like ghostly apparitions or bloodlet cadavers, but the weightlessness and lightness of spirit they possess seem to define serenity, even as they are being whisked off of buildings and freefalling in impossible positions. As Uldalen was born only in 1986, it seems fair to say that these oil paintings are only the beginnings of a whimsical artistic career.

 

Portland artist Ian Michael Anderson's latest collection of gouache paintings contrast earth tones and light pink hues with symbolic imagery, to powerful and striking visual effect. In Anderson's own words, his paintings aim to address chaos and conflicts in life as well as order, to help him gain insight into their distinct natures. He explains by saying, "... Dualistic narratives take shape [and] opposing forces are typically revealed: Life and death, good and evil, man and beast, predator and prey, war and peace. These dreamlike and often nightmarish fables reflect an outward and subconscious view of man and his destructive role in this world. Through this lens, my own place in these mostly impossible scenarios can be triangulated, and I am on my way to resolving the confrontation and understanding the need for such destruction." You can see these pieces in person on First Thursday, May 3rd, at Backspace Gallery and Cafe (115 NW 5th Ave) in Portland, and read a brief Q&A with Anderson below.

 

With variation in degrees of shading and texture, the black and white watercolor and graphite pieces by Ottawa's Nimit Malavia seem to be caught in varying degrees of completion. The epic 26 Point Stag, above, seems like a page out of Greek mythology or a fantasy novel, while Arranged, below, bleeds and combines geometries like a page out of a manga or graphic novel. These pieces are showing now at Spoke Art (816 Sutter Street, San Francisco), through April 28th, 2012. See more colorful and poetically romantic images, such as the ones on the bottom of this post, on her website, along with more black and white whimsies.

 

Chicago-based illustrator and artist Jacob Van Loon has recently taken inspiration from the films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Two of Van Loon's latest pieces, The Moguls (Stalker) and Let Alone A Planet (Solaris) -- named after two Tarkovsky films of the same name -- are chaotic and multi-layered mixed media works inspired by the content, moods, and color palettes of those films. "I can't think of a director who has done more with film as a medium," says Van Loon of Tarkovsky. "I was dealing with the assignment of dense conceptual material during the painting process. I found it easier to speculate on the latent aspects of both films; the psychological confrontations posed by the pace, sound, and color." Though Van Loon readily admits that both films felt initially inaccessible to him, the Q&A below will show how repeat viewings led to the gelling of his artistic style with philosophical and psychological interpretations of Tarkovsky's themes.

(TOP) The Moguls (Stalker) Diptych 24"x40"; (BOTTOM) The Moguls (Stalker) Detail - Watercolor, graphite View entire Stalker Series On Jacob Van Loon's Website

 

Dictators! Love them or hate them (philosophically-speaking), it's hard to argue that a Communist aesthetic a la Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin doesn't have a compelling color palette and welcome vintage grain associated with it. Perhaps in spite of themselves -- or perhaps not -- illustrators and artists the world over are constantly reinventing these iconic images of humanity's most well-known leaders; the question is why. Andy Warhol included Mao in his collection of silkscreened works in 1972. Since then, many artists have followed in his footsteps to reimagine the dictator's face and place. In this post is a mix of classic images of China's Mao Zedong, alongside new interpretations of his distinguished mug and some philosophical ramblings.

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."

 

Seattle's Flatcolor Gallery is taking a hiatus for the summer! But before then, they will be moving out of their long-standing Pioneer Square location (528 1st Ave. S, Seattle), and are inviting you to join them for a folkloric show of Stacey Rozich's new works. The opening is tomorrow, April 5th, from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. Select pieces are displayed below, and more can be see here.

 

See our interview with Stacey Rozich, Patterns Of Renewal