Brian Willmont concentrates on combining digital and analog practices in his body of work. The American artist uses editing programs that incorporate forms based on the digital imagery from software such as photoshop and from traditional hand-painted techniques such as painting, spraying or drawing. In his recent series of work, Willmont infuses retrofuturistic elements into his computer-generated paintings to introduce a more intense and remarkable painting experience. The retrofuturistic aesthetics of the ‘80s contain new visual technologies that represent the nostalgia as seen from the fresh perspective of this young artist. Willmont states that in his latest works, Crybaby (2019) or Isolationist (2019), he incorporates human figures to make them more “personal” and “more about the human aspect—how the times we’re in affect your core, not just your perception of things.”
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Besides the aesthetic attributes of retrofuturism, his canvases alternatively explore disappointment with the present. He communicates these concerns in his work by suggesting darker,alienated feelings or dystopic themes. Willmont converts initially computer-based retro paintings into blurry, abstract compositions that reduce coherence—capturing both the aesthetics of abstraction and of the digital realm. Flat images of shapes or colours and a distinctive illusory depth through the use of the trompe l’oeil effect all come together in his paintings. They display an upbeat colour palette and a playful take on digital culture. His digitally reinterpreted graphic distortions, flora imagery and other abstract life forms illustrate the significance between technological and natural human interconnectivity.
Brian Willmont (b. 1983) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received his B.F.A. with High Distinction from the Massachusetts College of Art. His work has been included in exhibitions at The Hole (NY), Steinsland Berliner (Sweden), Castor Gallery (NY), Victori + Mo (NY), Park Life (CA), The Torrence Art Museum (CA), and has had solo exhibitions at Driscoll Babcock (NY), Field Projects (NY), Receiver Gallery (CA), Space 1026 (PA), LaMontagne Gallery (MA), Boston Center for the Arts (MA), and Aviary Gallery (MA). Brian is also the director and owner of Greenpoint Terminal Gallery. Willmont’s latest exhibition Mirage Mirage is on view in September 19 – October 26, 2019 at Victori +Mo.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
First I begin with an idea, an Idea I have a strong intuitive draw toward. Something I really believe in and feel in my bones. I’ll start making digital drawings in photoshop and quickly within this process I’ll start doubting myself and wonder what the fuck I’m doing. This existential dread will hopefully not hold me up for too long because I need to make a billion prep drawings before starting the painting. At this stage I’ll wonder how I was able to make my past paintings look so good and hope that I can recreate my process without screwing up – there is no room for messing up in my work, almost any mistake means starting over. I always feel like I don’t know how to make my own paintings, they’re never easy, I push my process forward so that I’m always learning and evolving. While painting, everything besides the parts that I’m working on are covered in tape so I can never see the whole thing until its done, it’s always a surprise. It’s this ride on the razors edge between certainty and doubt and success and failure that I enjoy.
How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Post Human Interface.
What can you tell us about your new works that will be on view at VICTORI + MO gallery?
I’ve been playing with ideas of fantasy vs. reality and how that relates to our relationship with digital media and our self conception. I’m incorporating figures for the first time in many years in order to make it more personal, more about the human aspect – how the times we’re in affect your core, not just your perception of things.
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Paul Thek and Georgia O’Keefe
Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
I can abandon absolutely any and all responsibilities when painting. I’ve painted while my neighborhood was being evacuated by FEMA trucks during two different hurricanes and it felt like such a calm peaceful time to be in the studio. Sure I’m right on the East River in a flood zone, but I’m also on the third floor with canned soup.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
When there’s no tape left on the surface.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
I’ve been in this studio for eight years, when I moved in it was an abandoned building on a dirt road in a forgotten corner of Brooklyn with squatters, raccoons, and no front door. I’d pee off the roof and run amok through the yet to be divided floors. The early tenants were all artists except the porn studio down the hall where you’d hear loud exaggerated fucking while walking out to get lunch. Like much of Brooklyn, the building has changed, progress has filled the halls with models and start ups, you can now buy a five dollar iced coffee downstairs. I’m sure this influences me somehow.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
A group show at Halsey McKay in the Hamptons, I’ve admired the program there for years and was happy to see the space finally.
What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
I try to make my work function on multiple levels and appeal to a variety of viewers so I don’t have one specific reading for it. I just hope they think I’m a good boy.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’ve been on a slow transition from night owl to morning person. It’s easier to do things with people when their dinner time isn’t in the middle of your work day. I’ve found that morning light and air is something worth waking up for.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Half empty is no way to live!
Which are your plans for the near future?
I have a trip to Norway and Scotland with my girlfriend next month and then will begin work on my solo show at the Albany Museum in Georgia.
©All images are courtesy of the artist and VICTORI + MO