Monday, May 17, 2010
An Interview with Peter Kempson
Gate to Malibu Pier
Acrylic on canvas 24 x 36"
While acknowledging the unconventional, Peter Kempson’s paintings pay homage to Los Angeles as a landscape subject.
Are you originally from Los Angeles? If not, what brings you here? Do you consider where you are from an influence on your artistic development?
I came to Los Angeles from New York City in 1996, to take the position of Associate Creative Director at Lois/EJL Advertising. As I paint L.A.ndscapes, I'd say that my adopted hometown has had more of an influence on my art than where I was raised. To one who grew up associating the idea of a city with the vertical thrust and paved-over urbanity of Manhattan, L.A.'s relationship to Nature and sweeping vistas are exotic, and her gifts for nonchalance and self-parody are a refreshing change from cities that take themselves a bit too seriously.
Why do you create? What excites you about painting?
What excites me about painting right now is the opportunity to share my fascination with others. What can you say about a place so blessed by mountains and sea, and yet whose iconic structure is a half-ruined real estate sign from the 1920's? Los Angeles is a city where validation may come in the form of an Oscar statuette or a stamp on your valet parking ticket, where people live in palaces, bungalows and cardboard boxes and wear cars like clothing. She spins paradox on top of paradise with unselfconscious ease. My work attempts to capture the ironies and idiosyncrasies that make her L.A. One critic referred to my paintings as "love notes to L.A." A little surprising as I paint her billboards, telephone poles and all, but I suppose the affection I feel for her comes through on my canvasses.
What is the process that you use for your paintings?
My process begins with photography of L.A. scenes I find interesting or amusing. I avoid the obvious (and much pictured) views like the Hollywood sign or the Chinese Theater. I then use Photoshop to compose an image, sometimes from as many as 20 photos, often changing the color of a house, moving a palm tree or adding and deleting elements to create a harmonious composition. I paint from my printouts, making additional changes as I go.
Acrylic on canvas 24 x 36"
Did you go to art school?
I did not go to art school, per se. My degree is in English from the University of Virginia, and I did post grad work in Communication Art & Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. I consider myself primarily self-taught as an artist.
Who are some artists that are currently producing work that you like or that you’d consider an artistic influence on you?
I appreciate abstract art, but am drawn to representational work. I admire many artists from Richard Estes and Edward Hopper to Dali and Magritte, but can't say that any have had a direct influence on my work.
What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear? I suppose it's that I will not have time to do the kind of work I want to do.
Do you think art is important?
Yes, of course I think art is important. It is the way we communicate with one another in ways that hold deeper meaning and insight than any "tweet" or "twitter." Art expresses our times, environment and ourselves, and provides a link from our souls and minds and hands to those who will come after we have gone.
Peter Kempson's upcoming exhibition at TAG Gallery opens May 25th.