Brendan Monroe: “My work has some influence from science, recently leaning more toward physics and cosmology, but also sometimes touching on bits of neurology. I’m interested in the information that identifies us as people individually and as a population. I start with that and then begin on making things. Painting and sculpture is just one part of that and seems to be the most natural way for me to communicate ideas.”
Evah Fan: “My works tend to make fuss on small things in ordinary situations. I like to highlight some of that and collage from my personal word and story archives. It’s comforting to paint or sculpt out these internal quests and puzzles, because otherwise I would annoy too many dear ones around me with questions that they have no answers to.”
Cathy Lo, Scene 360: How did the two of you meet?
Evah: We met in the spring of 2004, we were both participating in a group show at Giant Robot in Los Angeles. Brendan was kind and asked if I needed a ride to go setup the show, since I didn’t really drive because I just moved back from Brooklyn. I guess our “dates” in the past involved a lot of going to the post office, banks, copy stores and shopping for frames.
How would you both describe your work?
Evah: Hmm… for me, deadpan? I hope to deliver some Buster Keaton-ness in my work, however quiet or revolting, I don’t know…
Brendan: Mostly it’s rooted in science, but then drifts away on its own tangent into something more imagined. It’s a made up world of organic and natural things, landscape, figure and object, which don’t actually exist anywhere except in the paintings and sculptures.
Brendan, what is your process for creating one of your wooden sculptures from conception to completion?
Brendan: I start with simple and loose drawings, and then I start at cutting wood. I cut the shapes layer-by-layer with a band saw, and then I glue them together to get a really rough sculpt. At this point, it has a rough texture similar to a topographic architectural model. From there, I cut more down with the saw and then go to the sander. There’s a lot of random orbital sanding involved. After that, it’s pretty much finished, there is usually some touch up and sanding by hand, then it gets the finishing coat.
What techniques do you use to create the dreamy, wave-like patterns in your work? For example, the hairy figure in “Awakening?”
Brendan: That’s just a lot of painting of the same thing over and over. It turns out like that with the use of similar colors and a line brush. I tend to get lost in it sometimes. I just keep going and going until it feels like it’s done.
Evah, I love the whimsical nature of your work. Where do you get your inspiration?
Evah: That’s really cool that you thought they were whimsical, because I was thinking my work is way stiff. Inspirations are like nice distractions for me, they are everywhere! I appreciate a lot of nonsense, wordsmiths, useless information, and the autopilot to over complicate matters, tiny pancakes, contortionists and the list goes on…
Are you fascinated with tiny things?
Evah: Oh yeah, they are incredibly versatile. You can build upon them which is the constructive part, but tiny things often turn whacky on me. I have destructive impulses when faced with food. Six dime-sized pancakes aligned on my front teeth make a really neat smile and then… I’ve done them in for good.
In addition to Oakland, you have lived in Los Angeles and Stockholm. What are some of the things you’ve enjoyed about living and working in these cities?
Evah: Sweden forever will be a special place for me and I have to go back, I never saw the Northern Lights. I miss living in Stockholm, where it was in close proximity to nature and the language always had a good ring to me. Los Angeles is where my family is and you can count on the ample invitations to binge eat down there!
Brendan: Stockholm is a really close to nature place, it’s also very organized and functional. Los Angeles for me is kind of a symbol of a fast-paced, make it big, west coast city. The Bay Area has the image of being more laid back by comparison, but at the same time more considerate for some reason. I think they all have an effect on our work in some way or another.
Have you ever collaborated on any projects?
Evah: Yes we did! Well, I had to convince Brendan that it was a great idea though. I often want to paint on his backgrounds or moody scenes, but those don’t necessarily need any funny figures from me. We have done a few collaborative pieces for the “Bed and Breakfast” show with Little Cakes Gallery in 2008, and most recently an illustration piece about black holes.
Brendan: Evah always wants to paint on my paintings. I think if I let her though, I have to go into it knowing that’s what’s going to happen with it. I get protective when I’ve got my own ideas for a piece. It would probably be a good idea to loosen up and do more collaborative stuff. Learn to let things go a little more. I think we both tend to try and hold onto control in our work a lot.
What is your experience working with galleries?
Evah: Super. I have worked with a few galleries and am grateful to have opportunities to exhibit. Still, I could use some tips on integrating the space and tying it in with my work more. It’s really cool to have “gallerists” that are on top of things and push your work, not just to sell works but give good guidance. Sometimes I need that kick in the back.
Brendan: Good. It’s really nice to have someone promoting your work for you, not to mention someone who is good with the money side of things. We have had bad experiences with some galleries, but it’s easy enough not to work with them again. It’s best to continue with the ones you work best with and develop the partnership into a kind of long-term relationship.
Any advice to young artists who are trying to start their art career?
Evah: Go nuts, stock up on paper, draw everyday, go outside, don’t hold back, laugh a lot, entertain yourself and work with constraints, yep.
Brendan: Just work all the time and try to improve all the time. Finding out what that means to each individual is really important. Make sure you are making work that you are really excited about making.
Links Brendan Monroe's Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Evah Fan's Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Gallery Representation, Los Angeles Gallery Representation, Paris Credits Top cover image: Brendan Monroe, "Reach," 2011, acrylic on paper, 22 x 18 inches. All artwork © Brendan Monroe and Evah Fan. All rights reserved.