Studio visit with David Lloyd: “I take a very open view of what painting can be.”

David Llyod’s deep fascination with color and abstraction allow for his paintings to take on complex and alluring visual forms. His ability to see shape beyond the canvas, leads him to make multi-dimensional painterly expressions that are non-traditional shapes and sizes. This non-traditional format opens up painting into an exciting interdisciplinary context. His use of materials range from resins and spray paint to collage and Xerox transfers, allowing him to continuously push his practice into new uncharted territories.

The confident yet playful painterly gestures in Lloyd’s pieces produce original worlds of geometry and organic matter for each individual piece he produces. Bold combinations of structure and fluidity come together within his paintings in a way that is both beautiful and refreshing. Llyod’s extensive painting career in a dynamic city such as Los Angeles feeds his transcendent quest for the collisions of beauty, space, and structure.

We’ve been delighted to engage in a conversation with David about his day-to-day work process, career and life. Read on!

AMM: David, could you tell us about your journey into painting at and after CalArts? 

DL: Painting has always come naturally to me. I flirted with other media at CalArts but I always came back to painting. Painting wasn’t encouraged at CalArts – it was not really what I’d call a “painting school”. It was a conceptual art program which was great because it really pushed me in the idea department. But I also had to fight a little bit to paint and that was good training because it made me a better artist, and I think, a stronger artist. After CalArts, I kind of blew up. I felt like I was on my own and unconstrained. I had learned a lot at CalArts and now I felt free. So I rented a cheap house that had a garage and I started making art.

AMM: The surface and size in which you are painting on has varied greatly through your painting career, can you talk about this evolution and why it is important to you?

DL: Painting to me has always been a very elastic thing. I’ve never been interested in the idea that painting must be one thing or another. I’m more aligned with the Frank Stella approach to art-making or even someone like Albert Oehlen. My painting has varied so much because I’m fascinated by lots of things…a lot of materials, ways to make a painting and different processes. And I’ve always given myself plenty of leeway when doing it. I’m not big on editing my work. I edit in my studio before I put it out in the world but while I’m working, I don’t edit. I make things. What I consider to be the good stuff gets out in the world. The rest of it gets recycled or thrown away or whatever. I’d say I take a very open view of what painting can be.

AMM: Do you feel that there is a negotiation between your representative way of working and your abstractions?

DL: I feel like I’ve gone back and forth between representation and abstraction my whole career, although I definitely lean more toward abstract painting. I think a painting is a painting. Again I’m interested in artists who move between subject matter and ways of painting. The idea that you would make one kind of painting for your whole career seems insane to me. Although there are many artists who’ve done just that, a lot of great artists too, but that’s not me. It’s either ADD or just my relentless curiosity. But I keep coming back to abstraction because it’s incredibly free and open to different interpretations. I’m not interested in my work having just one reading. I like multiple readings. I like the idea that it’s limitless. Right now I’m making abstraction painting. I might not be in two years from now. Who knows? I’m going to see what happens because that’s how I like to roll.

AMM: Do you feel more partial to the representative sides or abstract sides of your artwork, or is this an impossible favoritism?

DL: Like I said before, abstraction is my default mode – I favor abstract painting. But again painting’s a living thing that I choose not to entirely control. At times a painting may exert itself to become something other than what I originally intended and I go with it.

AMM: What inspires your current color palette, do you think living in Los Angeles has influenced this through the years?

DL: Living in Los Angeles has had a huge effect on how I look at color. I think that LA is an incredibly diverse place and it doesn’t have the kind of history that you see in places like NY or cities in Europe or even San Francisco. There’s all this activity coming at you, architecturally and from nature, and it has a huge influence on how I use color. I think color is one of the hardest elements of painting. It’s the most complex. The amount of ways that you can put paint down seem to be infinite which makes it’s really complicated and challenging. It’s almost like math. I may never completely figure it out… but there you go.

AMM: There seems to be a harmony between geometric shapes and organic ones within your painting practice, can you tell us more about that balance?

DL: To me the world is that, geometric and organic and particularly living in LA, it seems like nature is always encroaching on architecture. It’s always been interesting to me to put together forms that don’t necessarily want to be together and try to make them live in the same space. The difficulty comes when you can get a kind of disharmony. That’s the challenging part. But when you make all these disparate forms work together you get a incredibly interesting combination of stuff.

The breadth of materials you are using varies from piece to piece, how important is it for you to move between different mediums while you are working and how do you make these decisions?

Light, shape, color, geometry, organic materials – they can create all sorts of interesting things happening in paintings. Over the years I‘ve used fiberglass, resin, oil paint, acrylic paint, Persian rugs, encaustic, velvet, Styrofoam, fabric, you name it. It’s all painting to me. A material can act like paint or it can act like different things but to me, the materials are just other elements that can be manipulated to make an interesting painting.

AMM: How important is silliness vs. seriousness when you approach a new work?

DL: A friend of mine who’s a writer said that if you’re not willing to embarrass yourself, you’ll never really make great art. So that’s my answer.

AMM: What happens if one of your paintings goes too “serious” or “silly”, is there any avenue for recovery?

DL: I’m not sure if I’m the one to decide what’s too serious or silly. The painter Carroll Dunham has been making paintings for the last few years that are absolutely fabulous and absolutely ridiculous at the same time.  So that a tough question – sometimes great art is ridiculous and silly, who’s to say.

AMM: How important is Los Angeles for you in terms of the art scene, vs elsewhere like NY, London, Berlin etc… ?

DL: I’ve always liked the LA art scene. I was born in LA and spent much of my life in Los Angeles and went to school here. But in the last five years the LA art scene is just absolutely blown up. I think NY will probably always be the epicenter. I can’t speak to someplace like Berlin because I haven’t been there. But I can say that LA is an absolutely amazing place to be an artist. I can barely keep up what’s going on here so it’s more than enough for any artist. Plus the weather is pretty great so I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Find out more about David’s work:

Text written and interview conducted by Megan St.Clair for ArtMaze Mag.

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