The world of post-art school possibilities might seem daunting to some,but not to Boston local artist Luke O’Sullivan. Luke is busy pursuingsomething between printmaking, drawing and dimensional art – aconstructive and creative approach to his evolution as a growingtalent. Follow along as Hi-Fructose correspondent Nathan Spoor gets a few moments with the very busyartist.
So Luke, tell us a little about yourself please. Where did you grow up and what was it like? Did you start out creating things with pictures, or were you a block-stacking prodigy of some sort?
I was born in Jamaica Plain, MA, and grew up in the burbs outside Boston in a town called Holliston. It was cool, I lived close to the city but still had a chance to hang out in the woods and get that whole side of things too. I also grew up with a bunch of really creative people who I still see and make art with, but yeah, I’ve kind of always been drawing. I remember actually getting sent to the principles office in first grade for drawing naked people. That was definitely the first time I realized that drawing could be a powerful thing. I have a lot of builders in my family, which is partly what led me to be a very hands on person and being an artist. I always felt a need to make things, whether it was drawings, building BMX jumps, or making comic books but at some point in high school I realized that making art was really important to me, something I needed to do a lot. Compulsively.
Your work seems to incorporate a generous dose of whimsy into it’s otherwise time consuming construction. Is the structuring of the work a natural balance or does it require tons of your brainspace?
I try to approach art making with a playful attitude, it’s part of how I draw. A lot of the whimsical stuff is heavily influenced by animations and movies like Roger Rabbit and The Phantom Tollbooth. The moments where cartoons and fiction collide with something from our world interest me a lot and are part of what I try to capture in my work. Probably one of the best ways to describe what I make is a three-dimensional drawing.
Tell us a little about the ideas behind your work if you will. What drives you to produce these screen-print on wood creations?
I think due to my background as a printmaker, process and material are very important to me. I use some of the same materials I describe in my drawings such as wood and steel, as the surfaces for the screen-printed drawings. The use of screen-printing kind of reforms the hand-made quality of my drawings, creating a slick, ubiquitous surface, which personifies and characterizes the pieces. I feel like my sculptures come from some cartoon world, or live as artifacts from a wacky alternate universe or flatland. It’s been really satisfying bringing my drawings into a more physical place, but I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of the whole process.
When you create new work, is it typically one piece or do you tackle several ideas at once?
I tend to work in series. I’ve compartmentalized some bodies of work, like chart-based drawings, or city / building based drawings into different ongoing series’. At the same time, the moment that led me to create my first wall mounted city sculpture was a totally unrelated, abstract, experimental 12-color screen-printed drawing. So even though I think of these things as being exclusive to each other, drawings have had a critical influence for the sculptures and vice versa.
Your constructions seem to be growing in their intricacy as well as scale. What do you see coming up for them in the near future?
I like to challenge myself to find new ways of building, which sometimes means hyper detailed, or making big ol’ drawings using a Rapidograph pen, but I’ve recently started a bunch of smaller works. They’re a series of wall mounted buildings, each one carrying its own statement or message‚ – a continuation of these wall mounted houses I made, but with a more blunt message. I’m really excited about them, kind of vulnerable structures trying desperately to sell their ideals. They’re smallish, so for now I’ve scaled back but eventually I’m going to have to go huge, make some epic dystopian animation or weird live action sculpture based movie. Someday.
You attended art school, culminating in your MFA from RISD. What was the art school experience like, and what do you think it added to your perspective of art?
I’m still digesting the whole art school thing, especially with RISD. I got so many different reads of my work, and being in such a saturated art experience was… pleasantly overwhelming. I think it really helped me understand different ways of seeing, and in a lot of ways it accelerated my growth as an artist. I’ve been told it takes a few years to sort it all out, which makes sense. I’m sorting it out. Right now.
As we part company for now, is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers? Perhaps hip them to your next or upcoming shows or projects to keep an eye out for?
Yeah! I got a few shows lined up this summer in Boston; I’ll be showing at the Hourglass gallery towards the end of July and the Arsenal center for the arts in Watertown in August. Otherwise, just thanks for your interest and taking the time to check out my work!