I absolutely adore the patterns and textures in Grant Wells' pigment transfers and paintings inspired by the California suburbs. The colors are just gorgeous. Influenced by photography and topography, he pulls together a background in a few different methods and creates gorgeous and diverse canvases. More information at the website link after the great interview!
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I see that you're from California and just earned your BA last year from UC-Santa Cruz. Tell me a bit more about yourself! When do you first become interested in painting?
I grew up in Santa Cruz, California and after bouncing around from a couple different schools my freshmen year ended up where I started. I'm happy it worked out the way it did because the program at UCSC was really open to interdisciplinary ideas, which helped lead me to the paintings I'm working on today.
I initially studied photography at school. I was inspired by everyone in the "New Topographics" like Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, but their work felt very painterly to me, or it seemed like they were thinking about painting when using a camera. I guess this lead to the start thinking about how painting and photography relate.
Your process is really interesting, as you work recently in "pigment transfer" in beautiful patterns and hues. Can you explain a bit about this process?
The pigment transfers are another way of mark-making for me. In some works, the act of mark making come only from the image itself, like the bleed and tear of the material and ink. Its a way to get the image from digital to physical.
You also work in traditional paint on canvas; I'm really into your landscapes. Where do the ideas for these come from?
The ideas for these landscapes come from photography and how current technology is influencing the photographic process. More broadly, how this technology influences our relationship with space.
I see a thread of landscape, particularly the suburban Californian desert, through your work. What is the significance there?
I think the Californian suburban influence comes from studying everyone in the New Topographics, but also taking an honest look at the places humans live in. I feel its extremely necessary for artists to be critical about their place in history.
What do you like most about your medium?
I like how unpredictable the my medium I use can be. The process of transferring the color from one thing to another lets me control it only to a certain point, but after that, I have to let it go. The surprises sometimes lead me to new ideas.
What is your studio space like?
My studio is half of a garage. It works for now, but I'm looking forward to having more light in my next one.
Since you're relatively fresh out of your undergraduate, may I ask if you're considering a Masters at some point?
I am actually applying for Masters programs this winter! Being in a critical and active environment is important for the way I work. Isolating myself in the studio is good at times, but I find myself needing to engage with other artists in a positive way. I feel that the critiques and studio visits can only benefit me and my process. Hopefully they can help with a better studio too!
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
I think the best advice I've gotten is to keep going because there are less forces holding you back. (or something like that). Just the mindset to continue making work with a ruthless mentality, regardless of the circumstances.
What is the biggest obstacle that you face as an artist early in your career, or in general?
The biggest obstacle has been to figure out how to balance the 9am-5pm work day with my studio practice. Working a long day and then starting a painting when I get home at night can be hard. Especially when what I'm working on is frustrating me or not exciting me. But sooner or later positive things happen that make it worth it.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working toward?
I am currently working with a team on starting a new exhibition space in Santa Cruz called ARO gallery. Its focus is to create a stronger contemporary art dialogue within the Santa Cruz community that has a lot of potential. Its in the beginning stages, but has been a huge learning experience!! @aro_gallery has some more info.
Find more at grantbwells.com!
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