Interview: Devin Liston’s “The Department of Water and Power”

by The1point8Posted on

Artist Devin Liston, perhaps best known as one half of the duo devNgosha, featured here, is recently aiming towards a singular voice. His new body of work, debuting at Los Angeles’ KP PROJECTS/MK gallery this weekend, represents a different direction for the artist who up to this point has mostly worked with collectives. Within the series, titled “Department of Water & Power”, Liston’s portraits of friends and more figurative characters merge detailed realism with expressive brushstrokes and dabs of vibrant color. We caught up with him recently in his Los Angeles studio as he was putting in the final touches. Check out the interview below.

HF: What does the show title “Department of Water & Power” mean to you?

DL: It’s basically about my personal journey through life as of recent. Ive been through a lot of changes in the last year and I really needed to talk about it in my work. It sort of translates to: The search for the power to keep swimming. This show helped me come to a lot of understanding about myself as a person, which has helped me come to a lot of understanding about humanity and life. The department is really just us as the living vessel and the water and power is the everything that comes along with that.

HF: How has your previous work and collaborations influenced your new artwork?

DL: I’ve been so lucky to work with the people Ive worked with. I got to learn so many specific techniques and have been able to see such unique perspectives in action. The new work is all of the great stuff I’ve been able to learn in the past along with the element of allowing myself to learn more. It feels like a new beginning as far as I can tell. There is also a lot of stuff that I need to unlearn. This work is a fresh perspective, its about letting go of things as well.

HF: What’s the most important element in your artwork?

DL: I believe at this point in creating that the most important element in my work is freedom. I’m learning more and more how to not let the past or the future effect the way I create things. I really want to be present and in the moment when I’m in my studio. The work is more genuine when I am able to allow my self to be vulnerable. It also needs to be fun. If I can’t see the fun in my own work than I usually feel that it was a failure.

HF: What inspired this new body of work?

DL: I felt the need to communicate what was going on on the inside. There was this need to really have a deep ass conversation with myself and the air around me. There was plenty of shit that I wanted to let go of so I could stop thinking about it and messing it all up in my psyche.

HF: Your work can sometimes have abstract elements but also focuses on realism- Do you like to work in one area over the other? And how do you approach the process?

DL: I will bring it back to freedom. Sometimes I am very focused and sometimes I am all over the fucking place, but I don’t want to let that stop me from working everyday. I have this need for art to be fun. Sometimes its all about spending two days on a portrait and I love it, while other times its about throwing paint on the canvas and the sanding the shit out of it. It’s all about flowing with the way I feel.

HF: What’s your daily routine like when you’re preparing for a show like this one?

DL: Wake up, get a really massive coffee. Try and get to the point where I am able to think straight. maybe go have a face to face conversation with somebody that’s not in the middle of making an art show so I can get a little reality in. Then I will fuck around a bit more somewhere maybe walk around. Then I will get to the studio and work late late hours. I’m on the night shift. I like the solitude. Then at some point I will be covered in paint and feeling dirty and crazy and my back will hurt and I will go to sleep.

HF: What’s next for you?

I’m going to keep exploring the work I’ve been doing lately. I feel like I have a lot more to talk about with it.

Photos by The1point8.

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