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Artist Interview: Travis Fish

August 5, 2020
6 min read
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Contemporary American artist Travis Fish has been a rising name in the global art scene. Originally from Wisconsin, Travis lives and works in New-York City.

Travis Fish paints catchy motifs, shirts, pants, luxury sweatshirts and portraits as if he had put them on his large format canvases in no time. His art seems childish, naive, without clear lines, with watercolor colors, random spots and deliberate mistakes: “I paint as fast as I can, for fear of becoming too perfect. Spontaneity should be preserved at all costs.”

Travis fits well in the current trend of naive painting with child-like motifs. Seen in this way also with artists like Robert Nava, Oli Epp or Katherine Bernhardt.

I caught up with Travis to talk about his artistic process and the influence of fashion to it.

Jonas Wood and Travis Fish at Carl Kostyál booth in Felix, Los Angeles, 2020

Rom Levy: To begin, can you tell me a little about yourself and your background ?

Travis Fish: I was born in Wisconsin 1989. Went to art school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After that I worked as a studio assistant for some painters I really respect. Following that I lived in Hong Kong and Korea for a few years, Then moved to New York in 2015.

What’s your working process like?

My process is a bit manic. I feel manic when I paint, you can see it in my eyes. The painting is on the ground. I dance around it a bit, trying to reach the middle. I use really watered down paint so things might spill around, so gotta deal with that. Usually I’m watching one layer dry so I can put the next layer down at the right time. Watching the paint dry is a part of it for me.

Let’s talk about your current subjects. What inspired them, and what are your source materials?

Currently I’m painting jackets, sweaters, and T-shirt’s. Mainly designer and grateful dead stuff. I started doing the clothes after a year of painting portraits of Migos. It started off where I would do a portrait of Offset, then Quavo, then Takeoff, repeat. I follow a bunch of fan pages that post daily. Then I started painting the clothes they would wear. I am a super fan. Fan art.

How long have you been developing this visual language?

I’ve been painting this way for about 4 years. It has been incubating over a decade and the visual language I am working within is a result of years of bad painting.

Offset at Malmö Sessions by Travis Fish

How did your interest in fashion become such a prominent part of your creative process?

My interested in fashion and adornment have not been lifelong. For most of art school I owned a single sweater. My interest in fashion was born out of my love for Offset. These are items of adornment that signify a certain level of wealth and mobility. This fashion is so fast. The speed at which new collections are released works with the speed of my painting. Fast fashion and fast painting. I find this contrasted with the permenance of painting, a very fruitful space to work in. From the technical perspective the sweater can give me so many different things to paint. It could be a sweater with text, or a nature scene, or a print, or whatever. There is always something there to push and pull.

Have you ever been intrigued to work on a mural / public art & urban art ?

I have made some big paintings(10×15’). So I think I would have some fun with a mural.

I am interested in the ephemerity of paintings, do you view your own work as precious? If you are unhappy with a work, do you tend to destroy it or would you rather put it in storage for a while and alter them at a later date?

I’m usually pretty happy with how they turn out ha. But if I’m not happy with it, I take it off the stretcher roll it up and put it away. Ive never destroyed a painting. I never rework paintings. I just like to start a new one. They are not precious when I am working on them, I have even been know to sleep under them, but when its finished it becomes a little more precious and the work becomes preserving it.

Let’s talk about the work you are making for Carl Kostyál in September. What type of works are you preparing? Does it connect to previous works, or did you try something new?

I’ll be working on the show with Carl right up until it’s time to hang. Right now I’m painting sweaters, but a lot could change in a month.

In addition to that, Travis Fish will have an upcoming solo show at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm in September and will be showing in Carl Kostyál booth at Dallas Art Fair in April 2021.

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