NEON CRIME SCENES OF KRISTEN LIU WONG

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

Resides: Brooklyn, NY

Work: Contemporary & Fiber

Links: Website/Tumblr/Instagram

Still Life with Pineapple_neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

I’ve been a fan since my first stumble into the messed up world of artist Kristen M. Liu. Liu makes you feel like you’re harboring a morbid sense of humor gone bad — her scenes are oddly funny, detailed in paint colors that I pray come in packs called ‘Highlighters gone to the Dark Side’.

Venture further into the mayhem and join us mid chat…

 

You have a wonderfully morbid sense of humor — artistically, it’s such a defining part of your signature style. It’s this cool blend of generational influences – a 70’s sort of tiki color palette with a 90’s underground comics/zines vibe. That’s what I see, but what styles or artists are you influenced by?

Thanks! I love that you see tiki-influences in my work. In terms of “style” (referring to how I draw, use pattern, etc.) I really love to look at American folk art in addition to the obvious cartoon and comic influences.

My mom was a textile major so she always brought us to craft exhibits. I grew up looking at Gee’s Bend quilts, Grandma Moses paintings, Native American pottery and weaving, the list could go on forever.

I love the graphic quality of work from artists like Alex Katz and David Hockney. More contemporary artists like Clare Rojas and Margaret Kilgallen are also HUGE inspirations. The first time I saw their work I knew I wanted to make paintings that could be even a fraction as visually impactful. And of course, a shout-out to my favorite artist in high school, Salvador Dali. Even though I’ve obviously strayed off course from his aesthetic approach, his work, along with all the other Surrealists I copied in my teenage years, will always continue to influence me conceptually.

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Talking about aesthetics, I noticed you’ve worked with the same color palette for some time. It catches your eye immediately and lures you in. What colors are your staples? Why those particular colors?

Well I cycle through what colors will be dominant in my works but I always tend to go for hot pinks and pale mints (even if there are just touches of it). I grew up with a lot of Polly Pocket so you can blame that.

I read somewhere that you coat your pieces with resin once they are done – first off, expensive process – but the resin gives the pieces such an effortlessly hazy effect, which I think is perfect for the imagery. It’s like waking up in a glossy dreamlike state and witnessing something that perhaps you wish you’d hadn’t seen…that’s a lie. You make those fluorescent murder scenes so bait worthy, I’d always want to open that door to mayhem and take another peek. How did the process of coating your paintings in resin come about? And is that ‘out of body’ – outside looking in perspective created intentionally?

I actually got the idea to coat my pieces from my professor, Kenichi Hoshine (who is an AMAZING artist btw and also one of the coolest dudes out there). I liked the way it looked so much the first time, that I’ve been using resin ever since. Since I flat paint, it smoothes everything out and gives it a really nice finished quality. It also helps the neon colors glow- if you ever see my pieces in person you’ll understand why I use resin!

And yes, I intentionally want to have a very voyeuristic feeling in my work. I watch a lot of bad crime shows and I’ve always been terrified of the idea of someone stalking me so I try to recreate that creepy sensation. Also, sometimes don’t you just feel like you’re looking at your own life and everything is happening separately from you? It’s interesting, it makes you feel completely detached and scared and as quickly as you noticed it, it’s gone and you’re just being paranoid.

Yet those aspects of voyeurism combined with the overt sexuality and non-threatening color palette really draw you into to this curious feeling of sensuousness as the scenes play out the violence in almost a casual after-the-fact way. What’s the story behind your consistent theme of chaos and mayhem?

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

As I mentioned earlier, I watch a lot of crime tv. I’ve always been fascinated by violence, not only from personal experiences with it but because mankind’s potential to do great evil is so interesting to me conceptually too. We’re all capable of really great things and really terrible things and because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person I’m more interested in exploring that aspect of our natures. It’s just a fact that people can be really shitty at times (and I’m no exception) so even though I paint all these terrible things I always want the people to have slightly blasé reactions to all the horror around them.

Oh, please don’t leave out the sex that is sometimes happening in the midst of murder. To which I guess is a great transition into the nudity that exist in these mini stories. I noticed that the sex isn’t always the center of the story, the nudity is sometimes just the state they’re in.

A few reasons I paint naked people a lot. First reason- it’s fun! I love to paint boobs and butts and dicks! They’re really funny and the human body is so interesting to look at that I can’t help myself. Another reason I use a lot of nudity is because it can enhance a figure’s sense of vulnerability or empowerment, depending on how they are posed. Also by making a figure nude in a situation where it is unusual for them to be naked helps add to the surreal quality of their environment.

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

neon crime scenes of kristen liu wong

A lot of that happens in your sketchbook – which is pretty amazing. I really like that in addition to posting your paintings online, you often share your sketchbook drawings. Does the process start there and then move over to the paintings? Or are they separate beasts?

They’re usually pretty separate. I actually only started keeping a sketchbook after I graduated because I knew I would get obsessive about making it look “right” but since getting one, I really appreciate it as a place to just do stupid, fun drawings where I don’t have to worry about whether or not something is good enough since it’s just for me.

You’re amazing fiber artists as well – how does that fit into your shows?

Unfortunately it hasn’t factored too much into my shows :( Since I’ve graduated, I have a lot less time to experiment and since galleries primarily want paintings all my spare time is spent doing that. I have a day job so I only have time to work on art weeknight and weekends so yeah my social life can get pretty dead. I’m hoping to eventually get more time to really play around with different mediums so we’ll see!

INTERVIEW : ALEAH CHAPIN

Resides: Brooklyn, NY
Work: Contemporary, Nude, Realism Painter
Links: Website, Facebook, Instagram

“I remind myself that getting harsh criticism means that I’m making work that is worthy of a conversation.”

Some would call the works of Aleah Chapin “tough” or “repellent”, but what do they know. The talent and brilliance behind her contemporary nude paintings make some say, “is this a photograph?”. Realism at its finest. Aleah was raised outside of Seattle, where she discovered art and has since moved to New York to study and continue making one of a kind pieces. Here we discuss being comfortable in your own skin, her small hometown, and her BP Portrait Award.

Aleah, let’s get this going. You’re currently living in the amazing and incredible New York City, but you’re a West Coaster originally. What brought you over?

I came for graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. I actually didn’t really want to move here, but after a few months I realized I loved it. I’ve been here a little over four years, but I miss the West Coast quite a bit.

Do you make it back often?

Yeah. As often as possible. Its like a re-start button for me.

What’s the art scene like in your hometown?

My hometown has 1,000 people, but all are very creative so its relatively good.

Outside of Seattle, yes?

Yes, on an island north of Seattle. It was a great place to grow up in and I was surrounded by interesting, artsy people, which was not only inspiring, but as a young child I knew that I could grow up and do anything I wanted. I had a lot of good examples of what was possible.

Is that what sparked your interest?

I think so. All kids draw, I just never stopped. My mom is also an artist, so I knew that it was possible. I was really lucky that way. I think a lot of kids love to create, but parents don’t always encourage it because they feel like it won’t be a supportive career. While I admit, it is difficult, it absolutely can be a career.

There must be a span of several years in between drawing as a child to drawing realistic nudes. What attracts you to this style of painting?

(laughs)

Yeah, true. Since I was a little kid, really since I can remember, I was fascinated by “making things look real”, and I always loved drawing people. It was pretty frustrating because there’s only so much a five year old can do in terms of realism. I remember my mom showing me how to draw a face when I was probably that age. In terms of the nude thing, there’s so much that is said through the clothes that we wear, and I was never really interested in that when it came to making work. I wanted to have a sort of timelessness, and we all have bodies.

Do you still have these creations lying around somewhere?

My parents have a box in their basement. Probably quite a few boxes.

(laughs)

You make a great point. We do all have bodies. You’ve said before that “women are not supposed to show that they have lived”. Society has seemed to create this image of the perfect man and perfect woman, and that’s all we see. You’re absolutely knocking that barrier down with your work.

Thanks. I hope so. We can also hide under clothes, but we can’t hide what our bodies show, and I don’t think we should. Of course, I don’t think we should go being naked all the time. I love clothes! I just think we should be more accepting and compassionate towards our bodies.

Comfortable in your own skin.

Exactly. We hear that term a lot, I think, but its easier said than done.

Of course. On the other side, you’ve got some tough critics out there calling your work “tough” and “repellent”. What do you say to them?

Yeah. Not sure what to say to them actually. It can be hard to hear, but then I remind myself that getting harsh criticism means that I’m making work that is worthy of a conversation. I suppose its also because of those people that I continue to make the work that I make. If our culture will call a healthy (yet not unrealistically perfect) body “repellent”, then its something we as a society need to look at.

In a way you’re creating conversation, which is always great. Get people talking, thinking about ourselves as a society. Art and criticism go hand in hand.

Yeah, they do. I think art can be a mirror to how a society thinks.

Also, in a way, you’re a photographer. What is your process from start to finish?

I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, but I love photography and I do use it in my work. I have found that a camera can be an incredible way to discover complex aspects of an individual. One of the reasons I use a camera is because I can see the person as they are, and their personality can come through instead of me imposing an idea on them by way of making them stand in a certain pose for 100+ hours. The camera lets the project be a collaboration between myself and the person I am painting. So, I will often take hundreds of photos. Then, I will choose one or two to become paintings. I then draw the composition on the canvas with paint, trying to get the under painting done in one day before it dries, which can sometimes be difficult, especially with the big ones. Then, layer after layer of color until the painting breaths.

Do you set the scene for them, or are all their movements and poses their own?

I will sometimes suggest a bit, but I like to leave a lot open to the moment and the environment.

Such a natural feel to your work, almost palpable. Let’s talk about your BP Portrait Award. How did it feel receiving that?

Amazing, and really surreal, and thank you! I was just hoping to get into that show. Getting shortlisted was insane, then being there and finding out that my painting, a naked painting of this woman I’ve known all my life (literally, she was in the room when I was born), had won. I still can’t believe it sometimes.

Thats amazing. Was she there?

No. She almost came, but decided not to. She was really supportive of the whole thing. It was a lot for both of us to handle at times, in very different ways of course. Neither of us knew how big of a deal it would be though.

What a surreal feeling. So you have a show in London coming to an end soon. How has it been?

Yeah, it ends on the 8th. It’s been amazing. Having a solo show there is a bit of a dream come true. Everyone at Flowers Gallery are such wonderful people that its been a great experience.

What are your top 3 “dream-come-trues”?

Well, besides everything that’s happened with my work already, which is more than I could have dreamed of 10 years ago, build my own house (or renovate one), have a family, and continue to make the work I want to make and have opportunities to put it out in the world.

Keep doing what you’re doing, Aleah. Any last words for readers to know?

Maybe just a sincere thank you to everyone who has supported what I’m doing. It means so much to know that my work is bigger than just me in my studio trying to make beautiful things. It helps me continue when I have doubts and when it gets difficult. So, thank you, thank you!

All work Copyright (c) Aleah Chapin. You can check out more from Aleah on her website and Facebook.

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Copyright (c) The Kind Artist. 2014.

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Contemporary Muses: Hope Gangloff

There are certain times, especially when he lays on the floor for a power nap, that I long to break out my charcoal and sketch my husband. I’m moved to capture the beauty of his face and his peaceful position. As I’ve mentioned, figure drawing took me a while to master but once I did I truly began to see the magic in the body of each person. Our expressions, our posture, our countenance is all unique to who we are. The paintings of Hope Gangloff capture every day moments of ordinary people, rendering them in an extraordinarily beautiful way.

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Her figures in repose, bear stylistic resemblance to masters such as Schiele, Matisse, Cassatt and Toulouse-Lautrec.

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But these are contemporary muses, this is the way we live now. Friends come over and take their shoes off and relax with us, the parlor has been replaced by the kitchen and the patio. Conversations remain unchanged– we talk politics, relationships, art and music.

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Gangloff’s figures are familiar. They are our friends, our neighbors, our world. To see more of Hope Gangloff’s work, please visit her website.

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Artist found via Booooooom. All images are via the artist’s website.

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Article by, Lesley Frenz of Artsy Forager.