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Artist Interview: Canyon Castator

April 22, 2020
9 min read
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Canyon Castator is a Los-Angeles based artist whose work moves through diverse mediums, but from the point of reference of figure painting. Transitioning through painting, video, digital manipulation, projection, and other forms of creation, Canyon’s work attempts to rectify the discontinuities between the image and its representation.

In an effort to introduce to our readers, different artists from various backgrounds and practice, I recently got the chance to have a fun & casual discussion with Canyon and we hosted an AMA on our Instagram stories.

Rom Levy: What have you been doing during quarantine ?

Canyon Castator: I’ve been working on digital paintings from home. While I live very close to my studio I’m trying to limit how much I leave the house. Ive always done a majority of my preliminary planning for paintings on the iPad but havnt really thought about it as a tool to make a finished work in a while. I’ve also been taking advantage of the empty streets here in LA and have been riding my motorcycle around daily.

What’s your earliest memory of picking up a paintbrush?

Ha! Maybe sitting at the table at my grandmothers doing watercolor paintings, very young.

Could you let us know what is the inspiration behind your distinctive aesthetic. Can you explain a little more about the concepts and how it is captured in your paintings?

The work is very much about our passive exposure to imagery and media. We’re drowned daily in information and imagery and I think in someways I’m trying to make a kind of key to help myself process it in a way that I find digestible. They’re meant to operate as mirrors, reflecting the warped chaos were living in.

As a skateboarder, has the street art culture been an influence in your work?

I experienced the world through skateboarding as a kid, and at times the iconography of skateboarding has deeply mirrored street art culture. Skateboarding also programs you to view a city and it’s architecture as a number of possible actions, I imagine this altered way of looking and moving through a city is very similar for street artists.

Have you ever painted a mural before?

No but someone give me a team I want to do one !

What is the reason why you are based in Los Angeles ?

LA has the things I want and need. I want the ocean, I want the sunshine, I want to never see nonconsensual snow again. I need art, I need a community of driven artists around me, I need to be here.

Could you let us know a bit more about your interest in meme-culture ?

Universal imagery. How something can be conveyed nearly instantaneous with an image and some snarky misspelled text. I like the democratic accessibility of them. The worlds a fucking mess, and anyone who takes it upon themselves to follow that mess deserves a little sardonic humor as a chaser.

In terms of your artwork, which artists have inspired you?

Some heavy hitters that come to mind: Bob Rauschenberg, Michel Majerus, Ofili, Eisenman, Kerry James Marshall, Dana gets plugged 2 times in the same Q&A, Paul McCarthy, Laura Owens, Albert Oehlen, Cecily Brown, Rafman, Peter Saul, this could change tomorrow.

Also sorry if liking some of these is equal to”liking The Beatles”.

Canyon, can you talk a little about that studio community you’ve created in LA?

I’ve been actively helping to renovate and transform an old garment industry building in downtown LA into artist studios. The spaces were designed with a focus on community and openness, something that can be lost in LA due to the scale and functional layout of the city.

It’s made conversations about art and studio visits with my friends and peers a part of my daily life. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to once isolation orders are over.

What do you think of Austyn Weiner?

Big big fan.

What is your painting process? How do you start a painting?

I usually start with a number of preliminary sketches, to figure out the composition, and what I want to include. I then make a digitally painted rendering of certain elements or characters and print those directly onto the surface. I paint in more characters in traditional mediums to fill out the composition, along with actions that kind of have to be made with traditional painting techniques…

When it’s successful, the two mediums are married together and work harmoniously. When it’s really successful the two mediums are completely at odds with one another and create this kind of chaotic visual conflict.

Would you consider yourself a post digital artist?

I’m ‘post-digital’, we are all ‘post-digital’. The internet has influenced and chanced every aspect of our lives. I think it’s kinda silly to run from that reality. Choosing to avoid that we’re making art in a ‘post-digital’ world is like playing pretend time traveler.

It’s cool if you want to fetishize analog materials but I feel art should be made in response to the time it’s made in, and I think there’s more to gain from new technologies than to ignore them.

How has self isolation orders affected your practice?

Somehow in an act of dumb luck, I moved into the apartment building next door to my studio back in January. Obviously that’s made certain aspects of shelter in place easier to handle. That being said, it’s shown me how much I rely on the community of artist I surround myself with. I miss the daily interactions with artists in my building and I really miss seeing art in person at galleries and doing studio visits 🙁

What kind of music you listening to currently? Name 5. 

Currently listening to comfort music to avoid mental breakdown during the Q. Bowie’s “LOW”, Sade, Durand Jones, Mazzy Star (thanks to @brendan_lunch’s obsession), John Prine (rip).

Who is a contemporary female artist you are constantly inspired by?

Constantly come back to Dana Schutz who is an absolute monster. She’s my #1.

Face Eater by Dana Schutz

When are you next showing in UK? 

Not sure when I’ll be showing in UK next! 👀👀 One of my favorite exhibitions I’ve worked on was in London with Carl Kostyál in 2018. Adapting to the non traditional space of the exhibition totally informed and changed my work, leading to me removing backgrounds and decontextualizing the characters from a traditional space.

When is you next show?! ⭐️

Next solo show in with Galerie Julien Cadet in Paris. It’s scheduled for late October. Everything on the books before then has been postponed!

Why do men have nipples?

Not sure my men have nipples, I’d advise you to ask this guy…

Do ideas or actions drive your work?

Actions that aren’t informed by ideas are ineffective.

How important is the political message for you personally in your works?

I don’t think my painting are no more or less political than anyone else’s. I don’t have a political message, or an agenda that I’m trying to perpetuate in these works, I’m just trying to hold up a mirror.

Do you have reoccurring characters across painting? Who are they/what they represent?

The characters in my paintings are often just actors playing a small part in a larger motif. If the theme is, oh I don’t, let’s say man made extinction then one of the actors might be playing, “willful ignorance”, another playing “systematic violence”, another “the class trading enforcer of the oppressor”, they’re all just playing a part on stage. 🙂

What do you eat when no-one’s watching?

If I fall asleep with wine next to the bed I’ll drink it in the morning when I wake up…probably wouldn’t do that if someone was keeping an eye on me.

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