We weren't the first to invade Richard Colman's studio, nor will we be the last. He grew up in Maryland and went on to live in both New York and Los Angeles before settling in San Francisco. His paintings, installations, and sculptural works, which have been exhibited internationally, are brimming with color and tension, and they seem to beg to be deciphered. We were lucky to catch up with the artist in his studio in The Mission before his skyrocketing art career makes him less accessible.
EKG: Tell us about your new show at Guerrero Gallery.
Richard Colman: "It is a huge space, so I wanted to take advantage of that. The installation builds off work I've done in the past with these very involved stage areas. I like set design and fantastical worlds, so I'm playing off of that. Some of the new work is silver, black, and white -- my work tends to be really colorful, geometric, and super detailed, so this was something new to change directions, and limit myself to working with a few colors. I'm also bringing in elements like trees that are taken from work I was doing about five years ago -- primarily ink and wash drawings with very simple palettes. I thought it would be fun to take that and infuse it with the color palette I've been developing over the years."
What traditional art forms influence your style?
"I was always drawn to Byzantine art. I like the stiffness of it and how it's very flat, but at the same time it expresses a lot. I always liked how there is a secret language to old religious paintings, whether it's the direction of the way someone is looking, or the way their hand is pointed -- little things that you can get drawn into and lost in. Also Russian miniature painting, Islamic painting, and anything that involves patterning. That's a pretty major early influence, and it's ingrained in what I do at this point."
Do you intend to make your imagery look timeless or not of the current era?
"I like to keep things more ambiguous, and I think that makes it easier for people to relate to it. I like the idea that when you make something and put it out in the world, at that point you've given it over. I have my relationship to the work when I'm making it and thinking about it, but once it's hung and it's out there, it ceases to be mine. It's for everybody else. I like to keep things open for people. I intentionally keep things very simple, like the characters. I don't feel the need to render them out too much. I tend to work from the inside out, and I think that people can pick up on that sort of thing, and maybe universal feelings or topics come up. Hopefully."
Is there a dark side to your work?
"Before, there was. Everybody's got that angsty crap they hold within them, and at first you want to make paintings about it. Now, instead of illustrating or showing an uneasy situation, I'll try to combine colors and forms and shapes that invoke that feeling. Or sometimes it's about finding colors that create a harmony or calmness."
We noticed a tribute to Alexander McQueen on your blog. What other creative fields inspire you?
"I'm interested in all creative things. I just like it when people make things. Especially something like his work, it's perfect. There are few things you can say that about. The backwards shoes? I was blown away when I saw those. But fashion is not something that I'm fully immersed in. I like having a distance from things where I don't fully understand them, so they can still remain magical and exotic."
"I collect a lot of contemporary art, but there's equally as much art in my collection that I've found at flea markets or garage sales. The things I find there are just as good as anything else that I have because somebody made them."
Do you collect anything else?
"Tons of stuff. I'm like a hoarder but a bit more organized. I collect toys. We have a lot of taxidermy and artwork, books, music, and my girlfriend collects sand from different places. If I go somewhere and she's not with me, I'll grab a little bag of sand for her."
If your paintings had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?
Richard Colman's new show, Something Better, opens at Guerrero Gallery October 16, 2010.