Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Artist of the Week

Tessar Lo

There is inevitably that moment in life when everything is moving around you, rushing with the unnecessary busyness and momentary chaos, but then everything stops. You glance down or step aside and painfully collect your thoughts hoping for clarity. The precious clarity that seemed to come quicker in youth, slowly breaks through the murky, lethargic routine and gives a small amount of hope. Tessar Lo lives in that moment, or at least studies that moment in great detail.

Scarborough, Canada is home to this Indonesia born artist who allows culture, peace, and complexity to intermingle in his work. He graduated from Sheridan institute’s first BAA illustration class, and quickly began to utilize the knowledge he gained to create a world new world for himself.

Recently, Tessar took some time out to answer a few of my questions regarding his work.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your paintings?
Tessar Lo (TL): My paintings are the kinds of things I find beautiful and natural to me. I try to paint things that are momentary and surreal, in suspension. I love to include elements that are sometimes tense but peaks our interest and curiosity. I am fascinated with the idea of aging and wearing- and the changing of the meaning of images over time. In terms of literal content, I like to depict nature, the idea of Eden as paradise paired with the changing sky, animals and mostly, young people.

OA: In a recent interview you used the phrase "quiet beauties" to describe the role of Asian philosophy in your work. Many of your scenes seem to fit that description perfectly, as they are quiet moments, usually troubling or uneasy moments in the lives of your subjects. Are there particular moments in your life that you are reflecting on when you create this images or are this purely dreams or fictional scenes?
TL: I think it would be unwise for me to say that my work is outside of the life I live; while that is true however, it’s important to know that my life is not always quiet, uneasy and troubling. Rather, it’s probably due to my desire for quietness, uneasiness and trouble in my own life that my work often includes them. This is because amidst difficult and troubling times, a moment of acceptance and clarity usually follows- in that comes change and more importantly, growth. That still, pensive moment of “dealing” is so honest- there is no denying its significance and beauty. Incidentally, while I am dealing with my own things in life, my work is part of the change and growth that develops out of it. While I choose to use dream-like imagery and it may not be an exact representation of what’s on my mind, it is the underlying content of the picture that keeps my work from being purely fictional.

OA: Age seems to play a big role in your work. Whether it is the sadness or loneliness of old age or the confusion and innocence of youth, how do you utilize the various stages of life in your work? You seem to focus a little more on youth, what is it about that time in life that is so interesting to you?
TL: I try to use age as an archetype tool. It is very simple most of the time; seniority is associated with positive things like wisdom and experience and negative things like, deterioration and physical weakness. Conversely, good things associated with youth are things like, innocence, passion and freedom, contrasted with bad things like impatience and hard-headiness. Depending on the context, I try to use age to communicate these human characteristics.

I focus more on youth because I am still a youth. Youth has a freshness and unexpectedness to it that is exciting and mysterious all at once. As far as I can remember I have never been an old man, so I can’t account for many of the wisdoms and experiences that I imagine and older person would possess. When I am depicting an older person, I am often trying to depict other worldliness, time and great wisdom.

OA: When setting out to create a new piece where do you typically begin? How does that process usually flow?
TL: Many times images appear in my mind, they may be a combination of my experiences, the things I’ve seen, etc. Some of these images are striking and important to me- they are the ones I feel strongly about putting on paper. Lately I have been trying to be more intuitive- starting pieces without a lot of roughs- not because I deny the importance of preliminary work, but because recently things have been changing so much as I go along that I end up drifting from the sketch anyway.

In lieu of having too tight a study, my preliminary work these days consist more of media exploration and design. I write more often- concepts and notes on composition and method; hoping to be able to apply these philosophies directly and consistently, no matter what my piece is about. It’s also because I believe in the impermanence of the work, and “happy mistakes” that bring out the best of all work- sticking to a tight rough may deter you from discovering something amazing hidden in your own abilities and the work itself.

OA: How much time do you spend on naming your pieces? I love all of the names that you have come up with, but many artists tend down play the titles of their pieces. Do you feel the names of a piece can affect the way it is viewed?
TL: Thank you. I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about titles, I think titles should come naturally. There have been times in the past, after finishing a painting/drawing I’d be at a lost for words, so it would be called, “Untitled”. While I do believe that titles and names can change the context of the work, I don’t think it’s something that should be forced.

OA: What's next for Tessar Lo?
TL: I have been involved and will be involved in group shows peppered throughout the west coast through to early next year. But my focus right now is preparing for my two-person show with Chris Devera at project: gallery in Culver City, LA for February 2008.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
TL: Yes! I love coffee. I am Canadian, so I love Second Cup coffee, Sumatran blend is one of my favourites but that’s my bias. Also, Tim Horton’s coffee late at night is just amazing.

OA: I've read that you work late at night and listen to music. Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to while working?
TL: I know a lot of people say this, but I listen to all kinds of music. Lately it has been CBC radio 3 online, it’s so fresh. I actually grew up on hip-hop and r & b, but it’s not something I can listen to too much while I’m working. When I’m painting at night, I like music that can challenge and soothe me- I love anything Sufjan Stevens, Peter Bjorn and John, Ratatat, Cornelius’ SENSUOUS is incredible, Bjork. I’m also heavy into world music- particularly latin and Brazilian jazz, Cesario Evora, Jobim, Pedro Ferrer, Caetano Veloso. I used to listen to a lot of taiko drumming..

For more information on Tessar Lo please visit his website, and while you are there check out the incredible prints he has for sale.

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