Ken Garduno (Vol. 29) is an artist who sketches tirelessly for the pure enjoyment and therapeutic nature of creating. His collection of sketchbooks boasts hundreds of drawings that he never shows. Since we featured his drawings on our blog over a year ago, he’s retreated to his Los Angeles studio to develop an exciting new style of work. His mid-century inspired paintings previously addressed themes of romance, sexual desire, and modern relationships with vibrant intensity. Recently, Garduno has taken a hint from Calder and Kandinsky, while employing tribal-like patterns to create a new narrative. His 60s-esque subjects take a more active role in their abstract environments full of personal, spiritual symbolism. He’s combined modern aesthetics with classical compositions and the rawness of prehistoric cave drawings. Garduno previewed these at San Diego Comic-Con last week and will exhibit next in Nathan Spoor’s “Suggestivism” at Copro Gallery this month. We visited his studio to talk about his new inspiration in this exclusive interview.
HF: Your work space is inside a print studio where you have access to some of the best emerging contemporary artists. Often, artist’s personalities become inseparable from their environment. What affect do your surroundings have on your work?
KG: There’s so much coming through the print studio! I usually don’t pay much attention to it, though. I get plenty of inspiration from everything else in the world around me. By the time I get into my studio, I’m filled with ideas and ready to let it out. My studio room is filled with books of my favorite artists that have inspired me along the way. I’m probably inspired much more by works from the past than I am by contemporary works.
HF: You do a sketch at least once daily. Does this exercise provide you with new ideas and have any surprised you?
KG: I’m always surprised by new ideas. I try to keep things fresh to keep myself entertained. At this point, I’m mostly doing process pieces and very little in terms of finished pieces because I feel I’m learning so much from the experimentation.
HF: When I think of sketches, the first thing that pops into my head is black and white pen drawings, charcoal and graphite, but your sketches are so colorful. Is color important to you?
KG: I try to do both. I love just black and white ink drawings, but lately I’ve been sketching a lot with gouache or markers. Color is just as important to me as black and white.
HF: I can tell you’re a fan of Calder. I see his mobiles in the abstract shapes in your paintings. How did you come to be influenced by kinetic art? Are you interested in motion or change as a theme?
KG: I’ve never really considered motion. I am a fan of Calder’s general aesthetic. I’m really into Kandinsky’s work for the same reason. Maybe there’s something about the movement in their works that appeals to me. It’s just something I haven’t thought about… until now.
HF: Your new work also mixes tribal and animal motifs that remind me of cave drawings- a mid-century modern cave. Where are you sourcing your imagery?
KG: Lately, I’ve been into artwork from ancient cultures. There were so many stories to tell and things to figure out with early civilizations, and I’m glad that we have some of these records in image form. I’m really into the ideas and imagery that people came up with to explain things that were mysterious at the time. I don’t like telling anyone what the “meaning” of any of my pieces is. I’d rather they are interpreted and the true meanings left up to each individual viewer.
HF: You’ve mentioned this still life (above) is your favorite. Do you have a hard time letting go of your work, or was it just this one in particular?
KG: I don’t usually. I’d rather my art find a nice home. I never really get attached. I’m not really too attached to this piece, but I wasn’t upset when it didn’t sell. I’ll keep it company until it finds a new home.
HF: What is coming up for you in the near future?
KG: I’ve taken on some amazing projects along the way, and I can only hope that they continue to be as diverse. It keeps my career interesting. I’m excited about “Suggestivism”. Nathan Spoor has asked me to be in some great shows in the past, and this one is a real winner with the lineup. I’ve really been enjoying painting these abstract landscapes. This is my largest one so far, and I want to keep going larger. They’re an escape from reality for me and quite therapeutic.