A convergence of achingly beautiful realism with dark themes, the work of artist David Stoupakis (Vol 5) has captivated a wide audience with his intense paintings. The proximity of horror and beauty is meticulously balanced within the collected works, simultaneously revealing a tender innocence, others recalling the flimsy veil between worlds . We recently spoke to David after he opened his most recent show, ‘Walking Within These Shadows’ at Corey Helford Gallery. View more images and read the interview below.
Can you pinpoint the moment you decided to become an artist? Do you have any childhood memories of being moved by a piece(s) of art?
I don’t recall ever wanting to do anything but art. It was the one thing I felt I could do well and it helped me out of trouble as a kid. Nobody really wanted to beat up the kid that could draw cool monsters. My dad and his insane building skills were inspiring to me as a kid. I learned so much from him. He would just get an idea and right away know how to build it. He’s a true artist. I’ve watched him make everything from Snoopy’s plane to a hydraulic lift all on his own. I’m absolutely moved by his mad scientist skills and achievements at building by hand what most factory machines do.
How do you chose your subjects? I’ve noticed you sometimes paint your wife Aprella and at other times you paint young children. Can you talk about the effect of these choices may have on the tone of the work?
I paint what I feel drawn to and close to. Aprella and I have been as close as any two people can be for over 11 years now. She’s a part of my everyday life and world and so it is natural to work with her and have her in my work. I often paint children in my work to represent a pure heart, beauty, innocence and also as souls that are wise beyond their years. They are all messengers of another time from another world.
While the work has a dark feel bordering on horror, this is balanced by an incredible beauty in them, especially in the details. What do you think attracts people/you to horror, especially when it is in such close proximity to beauty?
I think there’s just those that enjoy horror and those that don’t and don’t want to. Just that black and white really. If you do enjoy horror you probably also enjoy comedy cause in a sense that is really all horror is. It’s just a different style. Ever laughed when you were scared out of your mind? Like a friend surprises you around the corner, you jump out of your skin, but then laugh hysterically cause you realize how silly it was to be scared? That’s the humor of horror. It’s supposed to be fun. Anyway, I digress, but, I say that because it’s the same for beauty. Beauty balanced by horror is mixed the same type of way that comedy is. Some people get a sense of the antique ageless beauty with it and some are just never going to open there eyes in that direction because they make a choice not to. The people that are attracted to my work are probably the ones that have an openness to all forms of beauty and have not made a choice to close doors on what they think they see and know. It’s about how you choose to read between the lines.
How long did it take you to compose your newest show? What is a “typical” working day for you like?
My most recent show for Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles took me nearly a year to complete. A typical work day consist of me getting up, taking a walk with some coffee and sometimes Aprella in my neighborhood, then heading into my studio turning on NPR and either getting back to what I’m painting, sketching out a new idea, or writing a new idea down to investigate and research it. My brain in a wacky place I don’t really think there is a typical work day. Everyday is somewhere between a daydream and a deadline.
What do you believe is the true heart of your work?
Actually, the answer is in the question. A true heart or a message that ask the question, Where is your true heart?
There are many mythological/religious aspects to your work. Can you talk about these choices?
I grew up Catholic. It was never overly forced but, that was the religion of choice made by my family during my growing up years. I think I reflect back on some of the stories I heard then and also, I’m just drawn to things that cause questions about what is real and what is not. The positive and the negative and what makes them different and how they can be viewed different by so many people in so many contrasting ways. It’s a puzzle. No one I know can solve it for a certainty but so many it seems like to pretend they know how. I find it all interesting and inspiring. Like a giant secret everyone swears they know but won’t talk about. I like a good unsolved mystery.
Can you name any current inspirations or obsessions that you had while preparing for your show?
The overall of this new body of work was working through the passing of my big brother Alexander Stoupakis. It got me thinking about how we send off our loved ones and the separate journeys we are forced to take after they have gone. There’s a beauty I wanted to capture in celebrating someone’s life, death, and the travels between the two worlds. There’s a message that has a secret that everyone knows but no one will say. There’s so much unanswered and still there’s a love of survival, so important that no matter the amount of inspiration and obsession to know an answer it keeps one foot in front of the other and time ticks on like it or not.