By Tiny Diapana
Photos: Ernest Diño
THOM Jopson isn’t just an artist – he’s a storyteller. Ornate and surreal, Jopson’s paintings captivate onlookers with the magic and mythos of the stories they try to tell. With art works that walk along the sensational lines of magic realism and fantasy, Jopson has been celebrated as one of the rising stars of
the Cebuano art scene.
Now, with another set of hypnologic pieces, Jompson arrests attention with “Atemporality,” an exhibit that tries to defy the authority of time.
Launched back in April 19 at Qube Gallery, “Atemporality” is Jopson’s third solo exhibit presenting another collection of paintings that effortlessly draws in collectors and lovers of art alike with its enchanting characters and iconography.
Taking time to chat with SunStar Weekend, Thom Jopson introduces us to the timelessness of “Atemporality.”
First of all congratulations on the recent gallery exhibit, “Atemporality”! What kind of timelessness do you hope to convey in your work? What kind of stories are you hoping to tell?
I find a lot of things interesting even though each one belongs to a different genre, era, culture, etc. I like taking elements from the Victorian age or from dreamed up futures that never came to pass. I like autopunk, cartoons, romance novels, thrillers, comedies and tragedies from all forms of media and mixing them up together to form something, at least for me personally, unique and exciting.
This process of creativity is something both new and innate to me and I still cannot find a proper way of describing it to its fullest. I even don’t think what I just told you was the proper way of presenting it. With such a limitless network of sources you cannot really create something linear. For now I’ll just continue recreating the life I was given on canvas and continue representing the other lives that I have the privilege of knowing through painted, and hopefully unpretentious, love letters.
You’re the kind of artist who immortalizes the people around you in your paintings. What does it take to become part of a Thom Jopson painting? Who are the people you’ve incorporated the most in your paintings?
Well I started painting several moments in my life that are very significant to me and of course the people as well who’ve shared those same moments. I didn’t really want to just simply paint the way they look but rather the way they made me feel, sprinkled with conversations about their dreams, hopes, desires and pains.
Through time, certain aesthetics of an individual character begin to show for, example antlers, certain color themes, whether the biology is realistic or cartoonishly distorted, some stick throughout the years and some I leave out depending on how relevant they are to the character. Relevant in terms of whether they’re aesthetically captivating or forced… I leave out the forced. If there is one thing I really don’t want it’s being pretentious with art works or character designs. As much as possible I want to keep making them come from somewhere organic and natural which is weird I’d admit since they live in a world of fantasy. But yeah everything has to come out of some very stable source and reality is the most stable source there is.
Your paintings often have a surrealist-realist quality to them. What kind of school of art do you follow? Who are the artists that influence you the most?
I follow my eye and heart… and brain haha. This may seem arrogant not knowing what established art movement or genre I follow but it was never intentional. The surrealist-realist style I guess was established by my friends and professors in college who I hold dear to my heart. I’ve been going about my style the same way I did since childhood, I saw something or someone captivating and throughout our interactions I copied and added to what I saw as my heart dictated.
One of my biggest influences, though I do not know who, were the numerous story books my mom bought me. I especially loved the books that used photographs of puppets and toys for visuals instead of hand drawn ones which I though then was the most beautiful aesthetic choice in telling stories.
As I grew older and discovered other artists I fell in love with Frank Frizettas works of shadowed curves and strong angles while engrossed by Rembrant’s emotion filled contrasted light. And at night my dreams were filled with William Blake’s enthralling archetypes.
What’s your creative process? What kind of routine do you follow when painting a piece? Pablo Picasso slept in most mornings, ate lunch and then worked on his art from the afternoon till the evening. What kind of habits have you formed?
Pretty much in line with Picasso I guess.
I’ve been working nights and sleeping during the mornings for the past couple of weeks. It’s happened most of the time when I have a show. I really prefer painting at night when the worlds asleep and dreams pop up everywhere within the dark side of the world. It takes time though before the gears start moving in my head so I usually just tinker around with lego or read a book or two or online before my hands are ready to produce. Watching movies or listening to music sometimes gets me in the mood.
When do you work on your paintings? What inspires you the most?
Inspiration comes unexpectedly most of the time. Whether I’m at home with family or with friends or just walking down the road to anywhere. And when it arrives I either paint right away if a canvas or a piece of paper is available or I just try to remember it. Sometimes I don’t sketch for days because I’m trying to solve the aesthetic problem in my head before it reaches the paper because I don’t really like making visible on a sketchpad yet until I have fully justified their aesthetics, the “why it looks that way” thing.
But once I have a good character in my head I start drawing and redrawing them until they fit their intended purpose.
What words of advice can you give aspiring artists here in Cebu?
Hmmm what advice? Well to work hard on your art and not just paint when you feel like it. The best time to paint is when you don’t have any ideas because that’s the only time you can really challenge yourself. Just keep painting when you’re sad, or when you’re in pain or just bored. Pick a schedule if you’re living a busy life and stick to it.
Try to copy as much of nature and life in general as possible from the people you meet on the street, the trees, the vendors you come across when you buy something to the buildings that surround you and the places where you drink or sleep. Watching TV shows and movies are good but observing their sources is the best.
I guess to simplify everything I’ve said, just work your ass off within every second of the day while immersing yourself with everything that life, both the bad and good, has to offer.