A Southern California native, Seamus Conley paints arctic landscapes as a form of escapism. The artist, who is now based in San Francisco, invited us into his studio — an enclave in a shared space largely occupied by ceramicists. Conley pulled out his paintings for his upcoming show at Thinkspace in Culver City, where he will exhibit his work alongside another painter with a fascination with pensive, solitary figures: Henrik Aa. Uuldalen. The new works, he said, represent the manifestation of a fantasy. There is a slight suggestion that the vivid landscapes might be fictional when we see a glimmer of the horizon line shining through the characters’ bodies, as if they are slightly translucent.
Conley’s creative process is part espionage and part engineering. The artist goes out for hours at a time to photograph strangers with their backs to him, waiting for the right subject to present him or herself. The landscapes are the products of many Google searches. Conley frankensteins his chosen images in Photoshop, creating a new place where no one has ever been. The solitary characters looking out into the distance guide our experience. Following them into the glacial ice becomes tantalizing. The artist talked about going bigger as his next step — mural-scale, perhaps. Conscious of the rut many painters get into when they find an audience for their work, he discussed ways of pushing his subject matter forward. Conley and Uuldalen’s show, “In Limbo,” opens January 4. Take a look at some photos from our visit below.