It’s easy to envy the locale where artist Jeremiah Kille‘s studio is located: Northern California, at the doorstep of an oceanfront state park where the forest meets the sea. This budding artist-to-watch comes to L.A. this week for his show “Fragile Empire” at PROJECT Gallery opening April 25. In this recent interview, exclusively for CARTWHEELArt.com by Jen DiSisto, he shares how he went from shaping surfboards to painting narrative, collage-like abstracts.
You have two distinct styles of work – landscapes often featuring roaming, displaced elephants and then abstract work that’s quite different. Can you speak about the two styles and their significance?
Since the beginning of painting at San Jose State I have always painted in varying styles and content. I relate it back to music, I listen to a variety of genres and have differing music sensibilities. I think art is similar for me, it’s a form of expression and some days or periods I want to move in a different direction. As far as art goes I don’t only appreciate abstract figurative work, I’m drawn to all styles of painting, it only seems natural for me to be experimenting in different styles on my own work. The elephants I started when I was working on my BFA and I have continued to paint them since. The narrative of the disenfranchised circus elephants never has quite seemed finished, there’s always a bit more of the story that wants to be told. The paintings that are more abstracted seem to speak to another part of my brain, they’re more visceral but also narrative in nature. The two styles both touch on the idea of finality while the abstract paintings have more of an open ended possibility for me while I’m painting.
You were a surfboard shaper prior to pursuing painting full time. Can you tell us a bit about the motivation for this transition?
Yeah, I was building boards for the better part of a decade. Surfboard building relies largely on design and craft, although there are elements in the creative process that spill over into art. Early on I apprenticed under Stretch, a local shaper in Santa Cruz. One of my jobs was airbrushing the surfboards. It was time for me to transfer out of junior collage at the ripe age of 30 and I was thinking of nursing or a science degree when my wife suggested that I pursue getting a degree in art. Her reasoning was that I always loved art and although I had never picked up a brush that painting would be something that was a natural step for me. I’ve always worked with my hands, before surfboards it was pottery. I think that each of the jobs that I’ve had have led to the next and eventually to painting. I have to say I’m incredibly thankful that my wife pushed me into choosing a degree that at the time seemed ‘impractical.’
You have a studio in Aptos, which is located in beautiful Santa Cruz. How does your environment influence your work?
I’m so incredibly fortunate to live in such an ecologically diverse place, it’s so beautiful here. My studio space is across the street from a State Park which has trails leading to the ocean. I occasionally take walks down to the beach to take a break from painting. I see calla lilies that have made there way into my paintings. I incorporate waves and other natural elements that I’m surrounded by. I paint partially from personal memories which I think is why the elements from my surroundings pop up in my work.
How did this show with PROJECT Gallery come about?
I received a phone call from Sarah Gough, the owner, about five months ago asking if I would be interested in showing at her gallery, at the time the gallery was in it’s first month of opening. I’m not sure, but I think that Sarah found me through an Instagram while I was commenting on another artist that she works with, Zio Ziegler.
Tell us a little bit about your process of painting when staring at a blank canvas. Where do you begin?
Sometimes the curse of being an artist for me is that my brain never shuts off, I’m always thinking about art. I generally have ideas for my paintings while I’m laying in bed. From there I start the sketch directly onto the canvas rather then starting with a sketch, I’ve always been gifted at cutting corners. I’m returning to my studio in a few days to start a new body of work, for the first time I will be taking time to work on preliminary sketches. I’m hoping that my work will gain a stronger sense of composition through working with the preliminaries.
What else is coming up for you?
After my show at Project Gallery, which I’m really excited about, I will head back into my studio to start a new body of work that I’ve been pondering for a while now. It wont be a huge jump but the work will be a bit of a transition point for me. I also plan on pursuing more gallery showings in the near future.
You are an active outdoorsman who surfs and bikes. Any other hobbies we should know about?
I actually met my wife while we were mountain guiding in the Coastal Range of British Columbia. I was climbing a bit before moving to Santa Cruz and get out very rarely now that I’m a family man juggling a lot of things. As my kids get older I’d love to take them into the backcountry to do some climbing. Oh, I love eating donuts, I don’t know if that counts as a hobby or not? I always have and always will own a skateboard.
Jeremiah Kille: “Fragile Empire”
1553 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
April 25-May 26, 2013