Paul Loya Gallery

Amadeus Magazine X Matt Maust

MATT MAUST: BLURRING THE LINES OF ART-MAKING AND LIFE

 

Dazed // KINGSLEY IFILL

Using found images to create one-off works of art

Antonia Marsh visits artist Kingsley Ifill as he prepares to launch a show that reappropriates mass production printing techniques

 

In the year, or so I’ve known Kingsley Ifill, he’s had two completely different studios. The first I experienced, was a hybrid gallery-come-pool-hall where he hung his paintings around a snooker table in a little space in east London, with just enough room to squeeze in a comfy leather couch and a coffee table littered with his zines and home-made books. In his own words, all that happened was he drank beers and played pool and hardly got any work done at all. This time round, his productivity level has violently swung in the opposite direction, he’s now occupying a disused British Legion pub on the waterfront in Herne Bay where he grew up. This massive space is filled with books and printers and screens and paintings: he’s even knocked up a makeshift darkroom in one of the old loos.

“Ifill’s distinctive marrying of instantly recognisable branding, meme image, humorous pun or inside joke presents a cacophony of layers by which to approach each work”

Surrounded by his books, Penny the dog and his printers, Ifill has been slaving away on a series of paintings for an exhibition at Cob Gallery in Camden this September. Titled Stutter and curated by filmmaker and photographer Tom Beard, the exhibition sees the artist bring together a colourful mixture of existing paintings and new work. In colliding found images emblazoned with corporate trademarks, fruit machines for sale on Ebay or “mugshots” of judges scattered with tromp-l-oeil BB-gun bullet holes, Kingsley’s monolithic screen-printed canvases unite the obscure and familiar in eloquent challenges to capitalist society, consumer culture and even the ontology of the contemporary image itself.

The digital image, in its endless reproducibility, purports the capacity to develop and accumulate new meanings each time it is used. In particular, the online image glut constantly swells, enlarging its terrifying abundance of content like some sort of toxic blob enveloping entire towns in single gulps from a 1950s horror movie. While many of Ifill’s images were sourced online in an instant, he imparts a mechanical and time-consuming process to transform them into unique paintings. Developing an ongoing fascination with outdated analog technologies, Ifill’s process incorporates multifarious procedures in a combination of screen-printing, photography, xeroxing, inkjet printing, the list goes on. As if restoring the artwork its auratic faculty, Ifill takes a valueless image from the internet and manipulates it into a complex visual arrangement or direct and often colossal painting, paradoxically feeding it back through defunct mechanisms, themselves initially created to induce and support the mass-reproduction of images. Of course, while in terms of process and content, no artist is without his precursors, Ifill’s distinctive marrying of instantly recognisable branding, meme image, humorous pun or inside joke presents a cacophony of layers by which to approach each work.

“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far”

Artwork by Kingsley Ifill

You not only know more about printing than anyone I’ve ever met but you also actively engage in so many types of printing… You have a darkroom, a C-41 processor, various gigantic printers, a couple of photocopiers lingering around, the list goes on without even mentioning the hundreds of screens you have in every nook and cranny in your studio. How did you get into printing? Did it start with photography?

Kingsley Ifill: It started with faking bus passes for my friends when I was about 12. My dad had a colour fax machine which was more like a mini photocopier. Now looking back it must have been a pretty modern one for its time. I can’t remember why it was in my room as I lived in the loft, but somehow it was there and I had access to it. Maybe the phone line came through the roof of the house. I can remember the nervousness and anticipation of each print, the preciousness of the ink and the buzz of when it came out how you wanted it. Then, yes, fast forward a few years, later I found that feeling again printing photos in the darkroom and I guess it’s no different with the combination of processes I’m working with right now.

When I came to your studio I was so enthralled by your book collection. I love visiting artist studios precisely because I get to see bits and bobs around that inform their work, it makes them easier to understand, not to mention the work. Sometimes it even helps the work gain complexity. Which books do you continually revisit, and why?

Kingsley Ifill: Japanese Photobooks from the 60s and 70s. I saw the show at the Photographer’s Gallery and it completely changed my interpretation of imagery and the possibilities that lie within. Prior to seeing the exhibition, I was looking at a lot of photography produced in the Soviet Union, often wondering how the external reality of that era had influenced the imaginations of the people. There’s a line I heard recently which was ‘deprivation equals appreciation.’ Going back to the Japanese photographers, I can’t imagine what it was like living in that period post-Hiroshima however, it’s inspiring to think that like in many forms of martial arts, they used the negative forces that acted against them to produce something positive.

You went to Cob last week to figure out how your work will fit in the space. How are you translating the work from your pub-studio to the gallery space? Are you gonna go big? Is the bigger the better?

Kingsley Ifill: There was a framed napkin in David Hammons’ recent retrospective where he’d used a pen to change ‘airline’ to ‘art’ and it says ‘building a better art, not just a bigger one’. Nail on the head – bigger isn’t always better. For me personally, I started to explore scale recognising the limitations I have working alone with screens that are almost as tall as me, confident that the end result would be something I hadn’t experienced before making smaller work with more control. The show is half-and-half, small and large, a couple in between. In terms of some kind of translation between spaces, I guess the proof will be in the pudding and I won’t know until everything is hung, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing everything interacting in the traditional white sterile environment of a gallery away from the distractions of the old pub I work in.

 

What ratio of found images versus your own photos appear in the work? How do the former, an image found online or in a book or magazine, whether one that’s relatively obscure – an advert selling a fruit machine for example – or one that’s gone viral like those of the soldiers abusing inmates in the military detention camp affect the work? That sounds long-winded. I guess what I am trying to ask is: does the use of found images make visual art more relatable or does it totally depersonalise it?

Kingsley Ifill: Does posting a photo of yourself publicly onto the internet make you more relatable or does it depersonalise you? I’m not sure. Generally, when selecting an image, I do so in a similar way to how a more traditional painter working from a palette might select a colour. Whatever appeals at that moment, building on what came before and what you hope will come after. With images taken from elsewhere, I generally ignore all information other than my interpretation of the image, focusing on the charge which I think it may hold and it goes from there.

“Working within several alternating systems or processes, quite simply, I add and add, combining whatever is around me, until it feels right” – Kingsley Ifill

You turn these endlessly reproducible images into one-offs, using various “outmoded” imaging techniques. But, there is something in your layering of materials and printing that reminds me of the layers in Photoshop for example. Do you intend to make any comment on our contemporary attitude towards the image, or digital imaging technologies?

Kingsley Ifill: On a whole, the answer to that would be yes. If you wanted to talk about particular comments, we’d have to talk about a particular work. And the work changes every day along with the comment. If I could write to explain it, I wouldn’t make a picture. If I could make a perfect picture, I wouldn’t need to explain it. He shells sells hells shells sells sea shore sea saw, st st stu stuu stutter stutter stutter. Some people think that they know what they want to say but they don’t know how to say it. Up until I was about 25 I spoke so fast that nobody could understand what I said. Instead of repeating myself, I just wouldn’t speak. It’s my understanding that we’re entering a period of heightened self-awareness. Along with this comes the confusion of how one expresses themselves. A stutter can sometimes sound like music.

Can you explain the relationship image and text have in the screen prints, for example in the UHU paintings. I know you’ve said UHU references a common, colloquial call to attention as well as the glue, holding everything together. What about “Stick it where the sun don’t shine,” “Hubba Bubba,” “Get a job you dirty hippy” or the subtly peeking out “You can’t win” in another painting? Does the text add humour, or is its role more ambitious, asserting a political or social commentary? What do all these have in common, basically?

Kingsley Ifill: Working within several alternating systems or processes, quite simply, I add and add, combining whatever is around me, until it feels right. Whether the content be interpreted as humorous or something more serious is ultimately up to the viewer. “You Can’t Win” is a book I read. “Hubba Bubba” is a gum I chew. I’m not even sure where the “Get A Job” image came from but I know I was playing around with pepper spray on the day I saw it. And as for UHU, it leaks all over the drawer I keep my pens in. What do all these things have in common? They’re here in front of me. What’s the point in putting them together? To look for something new.

MY DOMAINE // MATT MAUST

Artist in Residence: Inside Cold War Kids’ Matt Maust’s L.A. Studio

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Art is anything. As editors, we’re continually fascinated by both the process and physical space in which creativity is allowed to thrive. In our new Artist in Residence series, we’ll be touring the residences and studios that our top ranked tastemakers call home. Each month, we’ll select a singular and distinctive guide to take us down the rabbit hole of the American art scene. Our first subject is one of our favorite local muses.

Meet musician and mixed-media artist Matt Maust. The bassist and visual director of Southern California-based band Cold War Kids, Maust happens to be one of the most prolific, humble, and good-humored artists in the greater L.A. area. His mercurial tastes and abilities beget an adaptable style that runs the gamut from neon installations to splatter-painted VHS tapes. He’s also arguably the most gratifying person to shoot the breeze with about T-shirts and John Turturro.

Maust took us inside his artful East L.A. abode (which boasts one of the best gallery wall setups we’ve laid eyes on) and adjacent studio space—where he creates band cover art, massive mixed-media collages, murals, tees, lookbooks, postcards, paintings, and Instagram vibes for days. I sat down with him for a candid chat on artistic ambition, creative confidence, and why a sense of humor is the biggest ace up art’s sleeve. He generously agreed to let me record our musings.

JKF: Was there a specific moment in time you would pinpoint that was significant to you artistically?

MM: Probably. Let me think about that. The day I had to quit my 9-to-5 to go tour was May of 2006, I think? I was designing T-shirts for a clothing line and had to give up that job to go on tour with the band. The band was still not yet a full-time gig or anything at the time. We were only losing money with the band. When I gave up my 9-to-5 art job that was earning me money to do a job that wasn’t making money, that was that moment.

JKF: You tour quite a bit as a band, and you produce a lot of art on the road. Is your process different when you’re making art on tour than when you’re at home in your studio space?

MM: Yeah. It’s much more concentrated. It’s tinier. It’s more two pens and whatever I can find.

JKF: What kind of supplies to do you take with you?

MM: Oh, usually not much. I just buy it along the way, which is how I get so much stuff accumulated at home. I just put it in a suitcase. I usually don’t take anything with me. You know, you go to certain 99-cent stores in other states and work with whatever art-supply stores have or whatever a gas station has. You find stuff along the way. Then I’ll dump it off at home in my studio and go out and find new stuff. So a lot of it is whatever I find along the way. Which is why I love to walk so much. There’s a lot more—

JKF: Discovery?

MM: Yeah.

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JKF: What’s the greatest creative high you’ve ever had off the process of making art?

MM: I think it was one of the more underappreciated, under-attended shows we ever played. We did this long flight. It was in outer Strasberg. I don’t know if it was in Germany or France; it was around the border. We played this sort of music festival. I don’t remember the name of it. I think we were the only rock band on the bill. We played around 5 p.m., and it was a goes-till-4-a.m. kind of thing with mostly EDM stuff. It was like playing the Greek Theatre with only about 30 people watching. So the show itself wasn’t that great. Afterward, I stayed up all night. Our bus was parked there until 8 a.m. I had this big dressing room, and I had supplies with me. I made a lot of stuff that night that I was really into. That was probably the greatest high I’ve ever had. I had a great night that night.

JKF: Do you like everything you make? What’s your ratio for throwing things away you’re not happy with, or do you just sort of live with it for a while and repurpose it later?

MM: Live with it and repurpose it later. I rarely like anything right after I make it. You make something and then you forget about it. You rip it up. Then you put something on it.

If I don’t feel like I’ve found it in the vein of like, when you rip stuff out of magazines, you can say, I like this ad. This is a perfect ad. If it’s not that same feeling of finding it in my studio, I usually don’t like it—if that makes sense. I rarely have an idea, make something, and say, “I’m done!” That’s not the way I work.

I feel like you have to work really hard at something and then work really hard at forgetting about it, then finding it down the road, and then you’re like Oh!And it may take 10 years. You never know.

JKF: I’m the same with writing. The novel in my iPhone is similarly waiting to be forgotten. It’s decanting.

MM: Totally. Love it.

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JKF: If you could sum up your artistic philosophy in two words à la Bukowski’s famous “Don’t Try,” is there an artistic philosophy you prescribe to as an artist—in five words or fewer?

MM: Yeah. I think it’s probably six words, but “Put a thing on a thing!”

JKF: Ha! That’s good. It’s sort of the pizza approach to making art.

MM: Sorry, it’s six words.

JKF: All cool. It’ll fit on a bumper sticker. I have another quote for you to react to. The Greek soldier Archilochus said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” Do you ever fall short of your own expectations as a creative? Have there been times where you have set out to create something and ended up with something entirely different?

MM: Yeah, I think so. I’m processing that quote. It’s a really good quote. If anything, I’m lazy and I have low expectations of myself artistically. That’s a huge problem that I have to deal with. I don’t like it.

JKF: That’s surprising to hear you say that. You’re so disciplined in approaching your work.

MM: Well, I’m disciplined with showing up, but I don’t love most of the things I make. If it was good, I could stop. I’m not proud of that problem.

JKF: Problems I’m Proud Of: Collected Essays is a pretty good book title.

MM: Yeah, totally. I love it. To my point, today I was in the studio all day playing bass on about four songs. I didn’t walk away super happy with my performance. It will be fine. It is what it is, but I don’t know. I don’t think I have very good confidence.

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JKF: When you say lack of confidence, where do you feel that stems from?

MM: I think it has something to do with the fact that for the last 13 years, I’ve played in front of audiences. With a live performance, you know if you’re nailing something or not. When you’re doing something that doesn’t have those eyes on you, it’s a big question mark. You don’t know if you’re nailing it. It’s not normal to be in front of people most nights. I think that’s kind of warped my perception of myself.

When you’re doing things that you love and making art, it’s probably good that you have no gratification or people affirming you in the moment. You can get used to that affirmation. Even though when you’re playing in front of audiences, you could play a terrible show, it doesn’t matter. I think you get used to that kind of pat on the back. Most people at shows are half drunk or fully drunk, so they’re gonna like you no matter what.

JKF: That is true of comedy shows too.

MM: Totally.

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JKF: Do you think that’s because when playing to a live audience, there’s room to recalibrate and course-correct? It’s a bit of a continual dialogue. You’re getting feedback. Theoretically, if you’re not nailing it, you could shift something. There’s not that back-and-forth when it’s only you.

MM: Yeah, and when you’re in front of an audience, just the fact that you’re up there means you’re nailing it. Even if you’re not nailing it, you think you are because your adrenaline is going.

JKF: And they usually paid to be there. They showed up.

MM: Exactly.

JKF: It’s still surprising. Creatively, you have such discerning taste. I know you to be very decisive. You know what you like, and you don’t waste time fixating on what you don’t. The way you talk about art, if you don’t like something, you don’t want to talk about it. I think that’s something of a rarity. People love to tear things apart, especially in today’s culture. You strike me as an artist who is very positive.

MM: Yeah, I think it’s kind of pointless to spend time on things you don’t like. Why would you want to rip something apart? It’s more exciting to try to make something than it is to tear something down.

JKF: It takes more energy to create than to destroy.

MM: I think so.

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JKF: Do you think that’s because when playing to a live audience, there’s room to recalibrate and course-correct? It’s a bit of a continual dialogue. You’re getting feedback. Theoretically, if you’re not nailing it, you could shift something. There’s not that back-and-forth when it’s only you.

MM: Yeah, and when you’re in front of an audience, just the fact that you’re up there means you’re nailing it. Even if you’re not nailing it, you think you are because your adrenaline is going.

JKF: And they usually paid to be there. They showed up.

MM: Exactly.

JKF: It’s still surprising. Creatively, you have such discerning taste. I know you to be very decisive. You know what you like, and you don’t waste time fixating on what you don’t. The way you talk about art, if you don’t like something, you don’t want to talk about it. I think that’s something of a rarity. People love to tear things apart, especially in today’s culture. You strike me as an artist who is very positive.

MM: Yeah, I think it’s kind of pointless to spend time on things you don’t like. Why would you want to rip something apart? It’s more exciting to try to make something than it is to tear something down.

JKF: It takes more energy to create than to destroy.

MM: I think so.

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JKF: What would you really throw money at?

MM: T-shirts. Definitely T-shirts. Definitely framing. Those are about it.

JKF: I find framing to be one of the hardest things! I have at least 50 unframed pieces of art in my house. How do you go about choosing how to frame all the things you collect?

MM: When I was 11 or 12 years old, I just decided I was going to wear T-shirts and jeans every day. I was probably 12, maybe 14, actually. I just decided. It’s the same with framing. I probably only have two or three ways I frame. If it’s art—and I’m only talking about my own art—I float it on a white background with a white frame. If it’s a vintage poster of some sort, I frame it with a thin metal frame, not floated, no matte, no border. If you eliminate all the options, it’s too easy. You don’t have to think about it that hard.

JKF: Let’s talk about your enviable book collection. What’s the most prized title in your library?

MM: My favorite book mentality is Deiter Roth’s Tischmatten. You can find it for about $40 on Amazon. That’s my favorite book. That book had a lot of influence on me as an artist. It’s pretty rich reading.

JKF: Have you ever gone without eat, sleep, or drink to finish a piece of art?

MM: Nah.

JKF: No? [Laughs.] You’re very methodical. You treat it like a job.

MM: Yeah, art isn’t that important. That kind of just happens no matter what. I’ve definitely gone without lunch to see a movie that I want to see.

JKF: Ha! Of course you have.

MM: Like when The Hateful Eight came out. I think it was Boxing Day at 7 in the morning; I went to see it with no breakfast. I had coffee in the theater, but I definitely didn’t eat until 11:30 or so. So, yes, definitely with movies.

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JKF: Is there a particular movie that had an influence on you aesthetically as a kid? Can you name one that really imprinted on your young mind as an artist?

MM: Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

JKF: That’s a great one!

MM: It was the first realization of the idea that traveling was more important than being home. It’s about that feeling of being open to randomness and the kindness of strangers.

JKF: I never thought of it that way.

MM: That movie really holds up. It’s a really, really rich, great movie. It’s John Hughes’s masterpiece, I think. The music is maybe not timeless, but the film itself is timeless.

JKF: Agreed. So what’s the weirdest thing in your house?

MM: I don’t smoke, but I have this deer-hoof ashtray on my coffee table that is very much in the vein of the liner notes from Tattoo You. I’d say that’s the weirdest.

JKF: What’s the most challenging piece of art you’ve ever made?

MM: The most naked and challenging I ever had was probably in 2003. It was in front of the Long Beach art museum at night. It was the night I met my friend Richard Swift. Richard was playing an hour and a half on piano, just solo music. He asked me to make four pieces of artwork live on the spot in front of an audience while Richard played. I had never met Richard before, but I really respected his music. My friend Eric arranged this thing where it was like 7 to 9 p.m. to have Richard playing and have me making art. I was terribly nervous about it. That’s probably the most challenging in terms of me being like, I gotta just do it anyway. Richard and I have been friends ever since.

JKF: What themes do you explore the most in your art?

MM: In the way that like William Eggleston takes pictures of whatever’s in front of him and that’s his aesthetic, I don’t try to go out of my way to give any answers. It’s just take whatever is in front of me, mix it up in a blender, and put it out. I don’t want to ever feel contrived or as though I went out of my way to make this thing. I want to feel like it just happened in the natural course of my life. I think I want anything I put out there to feel natural and like it’s always been there. That’s why I like walking so much.

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JKF: You’re big on walking. Nobody walks enough in this city. It is my biggest complaint about Los Angeles.

MM: Yeah, exactly. It’s also like the book I mentioned, Tischmatten. If you look at that book, it’s all based on happenstance. It’s not intentional artwork. It’s more the happenstance of life. That book could probably describe it better than I could say it.

This isn’t a disservice to artists I love, but there have been many times where I’ve been more inspired by happenstance. For instance, me and my friend Nathan, we went to The Broad and MOCA in one day. We liked what we saw. Then we walked to Echo Park from The Broad, and a lot of the trash we saw on the ground in the strip malls was far more inspirational than the stuff we’d seen in the gallery. Like, a crumpled-up bodega bag a lot of times is more inspirational than a finished painting.

JKF: I likewise went to The Broad, loved what I saw, but the descriptions of the art itself blew me away the most. The Broad has incredible copywriting! It is truly the best copywriting I’ve ever enjoyed in a museum.

MM: Yeah, totally. I’ve noticed that. They use great fonts, too.

JKF: Your Instagram is one of my personal favorites. I quit social media for 40 days, and the vine on your feed was among the only things I missed. I think you have achieved the art-in-the-bodega-bag aesthetic.

MM: Love it. That’s the only social media I do besides my Twitter, which is literally a garbage can. I feel like I don’t have anything else to add to that, so I guess we’re done.

JKF: Great, you don’t have anything else to say about art—ever.

MM: Yes. I’m done.

JKF: We didn’t talk about your tees!

MM: Oh yeah! As of this month, my T-shirt line, £UV, is being carried exclusively at Maxfield in L.A. There’s an Instagram for that too. It just started: @LuvSickLuv. We have one follower, so that’s cool. I think I’m the only one.

JKF: I’ll follow you.

MM: Cool.

JKF: Too easy.

PAUL LOYA x AMADEUS MAG

Paul Loya is not just a gallery owner. Sure, his sophisticated and inventive art gallery sits amongst the best of them on La Cienega Boulevard in Culver City, but there’s much more to Paul than simply, “gallery owner”. Paul is a curator of artistic vision.

For the last three years Paul has provided a space that embraces a community of emerging and established contemporary artists. Paul Loya Gallery sets a blank canvas for each of the exhibiting artists to design -– however wild or unrealistic – his or her own creative environment that best compliments their work; giving the viewer a complete experience of the artist’s vision.

Loya spent years hustling as a creative in the art game, bouncing from art show to art show, eagerly displaying his personal works. However, he eventually realized that his true passions lie beyond the paintbrush.

“At the time I kind of realized that I didn’t want to be an artist,” admits Loya. “I enjoyed working with people that inspired me as opposed to being inspired by other people and making work. I thought, ‘If I can do a job where I can work with people who inspire me every day, and help promote their artwork, then that’s the job for me.’”

Loya has since fostered a close knit community of creatives in Los Angeles with a working philosophy of facilitating new creative relationships. We couldn’t be more excited to not only feature Paul in our upcoming issue 09 out Oct. 14th, but also host our release party for the issue at his gorgeous gallery.

For upcoming shows at Paul Loya Gallery, visit: www.paulloyagallery.com

All photos taken by Kris Evans.

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