For those who missed the opening last week of Luke Chueh’s “Inferno” show at Gallery 1988, here is a little video we put together for you to enjoy. We also had the chance to sit down with Luke for an interview regarding his thoughts behind this show among other things.
All after the jump…
Arrested Motion (AM): Can you tell us this show and how you decided to base it on “Dante’s Inferno?” Did you have the date in mind first 9/9/9 or did you come up with the concept first and fortuitously had that date available?
Luke Chueh (LC): The idea for this show actually came to me back when I still lived in San Luis Obispo (around 2001). At the time, I was toying around with an idea I called “Paintings for Children”. Inspired by the Joe Camel Cigarette controversy, I was creating paintings that featured cute childish animal characters pursuing adult activities such as smoking, drinking etc.
The idea of replacing the tortured souls of Dante’s Inferno with tortured adorable animal character seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, I quickly realized I didn’t have the skills to effectively illustrate the 9 rings of hell at the time. It wasn’t till I’d been painting for over 5 years non-stop did I develop the confidence to take on the project. As for the date, 9/9/9 was nothing more than my attempt at being clever. 9/9/9 upside down is 6/6/6, an obvious reference to Satan. That and there being exactly 9 rings of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, the coincidence was simply uncanny.
AM: In the past, much of the imagery and ideas behind your work were based largely on personal struggles and experiences. Recently, you painted something based on Francisco Goya’s “Saturn Devours His Son” and now this show was inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Are you moving towards more classical sources of inspiration or are these paintings still personal to you, but in a different way.
LC: I can definitely say that I share a deep and personal connection with those paintings. The reason why i created “Saturn Devours His Son”, was ad kind of an homage to the masterpiece. I was initially exposed to Goya’s “Saturn Devours His Son” in an art history class. I was so stimulated by the painting, I realized then and there, if i took up painting as a career, “Saturn…” was an example of the kind of work I’d love to create.
Another reason why I think I’ve been exploring these different thematic avenues is to simply expand on my stylistic repertoire.
AM: For this show, you seem to have made a shift toward, for a lack of a better word, more of a “landscape” composition where you you don’t necessary have a central character. Was this a natural progression in your work and what were you thoughts behind it? Would you say this is specific for this show or something you will explore more in the future?
LC: At the moment, I definitely consider the landscape-like quality of these paintings to be something exclusive to this body of work, but who knows? I haven’t had the time to put to much thought into future works. However, I definitely think I’ll be employing and exploring this, along with many other painterly stylizations, in the future.
AM: Tell us a little about the book you are releasing with Gallery 1988. Obviously, it should have most of your paintings produced to date, but are there some other things covered in there that we can look forward to?
LC: “Igneus Gero”, the book Gallery 1988 and I are producing will compile the paintings I’ve created after i moved to Los Angeles, ranging from 2003 to 2009. I’d also like to include the toys I’ve created, some sketches, and maybe some images illustrating my process. Who knows, if there’s space, maybe I’ll include some stuff from my days as a student!
AM: Any other shows or projects planned in the near or distant future that you can share with us?
LC: This December, Gallery 1988 will be hosting my final Vivisect Playset (VI). Asides from this, all I have lined up for 2009 are group shows. There’s a Hello Kitty themed group show, a Giant Robot anniversary show, a weird “dimensional” painting group show at Corey Helford Gallery, and a “True Self” group show curated by Gary Baseman and hosted by Jonathan LeVine.
We have another signed booklet that explains the “Inferno” show to give away. Please leave a comment telling us which piece from this show was your favorite and we will randomly pick someone to mail it to.