Posts tagged Floral
Complexity Through Minimal Expression: Interview with Yihong Hsu

Yihong Hsu has an interesting multi-cultural background. She was born in Seoul, Korea as 3rd generation Chinese immigrants. She received American education since elementary school to college. She now lives permanently in Hong Kong.

 Yihong Hsu received her Bachelor of Art in Graphic Design at  Maryland Institute, College of Art, USA and later received her Master in Arts, Design Management, at International Design Advanced Studies Hongik University in Seoul, Korea.  

Her multi-national and cultural background lead her to have a successful career in design and branding industry for 18 years.

In 2018, she had a first break through as an artist, by being commissioned to do an art installation of 10 meter wide giant Panda and 7 meters tall Camellia tree - LOVE.FOUND. in Chongqing IFS mall (with co-artist Simone Carena of Italy). Ever since, she has found a new passion in contemporary art and have been painting for the past year. 

Artist Statement

Seed Series

The “Seed Series” was developed as a personal interpretation of nature and carries a deeper meaning of how that relates to us - humans. Flowers are portrayed as carriers of the seeds. All flowers carry female and male parts and thus self-reproductive. It is in all nature of things, a desire to reproduce and seeds are the beginning of that. My paintings are the exploration of seeds, seeds journey. Every seed will carry its own path, it may fall out sometime, it will one day be received, and it will grow.

Ball Series

Circles (balls) are very intriguing. They create movement and tension in the space and create odd spaces around them. They are so simple yet so powerful and I find myself using circles (balls) to interpret life, my own encounters, experiences, and emotion. Using the most minimal expression to interpret some complicated thoughts.

Interview by Alicia Puig


How did you first become interested in art, and can you explain a bit of how it led you to the work you create today? 

I was a graphic designer for 18 years working in branding and advertising agencies. During those years, I always felt like there was an artist in every designer.

However, designers are very restricted, as they also have to be sensitive to the project's objectives, client's needs, market trends, etc. I was longing for freedom to express myself the way I wanted to and about things I was interested in. In 2018, I was lucky to be commissioned to do an art installation piece in Chongqing, China. A 10-meter long chrome finishing panda lying on top of Chongqing IFS shopping mall complex - named LOVE.FOUND. (co-artist Simone Carena) and a 7-meter tall metal-chrome camellia tree. During the project, which lasted one year, I did a lot of research on flowers and how to express them. I sketched a lot of camellias and ways to make it more interesting. It is during this time that I fell in love with flowers and nature and decided to quit my 18 years of career in advertising and start the journey of depicting flowers and nature. I have been painting ever since and find it very therapeutic and self-satisfying. 


We love that some of your work is minimalist while other pieces have more complex layering and patterns. Can you tell us about what inspires you? 

It was a long train of thought and curiosity that led to these two very different types of paintings. I personally called them the "seed series" and "ball series." As I started to dig into and experimenting with different ways of expressing flowers, I became more curious about the anatomy of the flower. Something not everyone draws about when they draw beautiful outskirt of flowers. What I learned from the biological anatomy diagrams of flowers was that all flowers carry female and male parts and what I thought were the seeds of flowers were only pollens and that the seeds are carried deep inside the ovary and ovule. This was very intriguingand interesting to me, and it inspired me to start painting flowers always emphasizing on the seeds that they carry. I also started to imagine them all around us in nature, how they strive to survive and get transferred to other flowers, and so on. To me, it somehow reflects human life and what we go through in life. For the "ball series," it began when I started to draw a lot of circles for the "seed series." It was very fun and interesting to me how circles affect the space around it. It gives a sense of motion even in a still 2-dimensional space. It is a perfect round-edge shape but provides oddness. I was inspired to just use circles (balls) and the most minimal expression to depict this tension. When I want to tell a very complicated story and put a title to the "ball series" pieces, it makes perfect sense!


What is your process like? Do you do a lot of sketching or make work more intuitively? 

I do a few sketches before just to make sure what is already in my head looks okay on flat surface. 

Describe your current studio or creative space. What is most important about it or one thing that you definitely need in your work area?

My creative space is an extra room at my place that I transformed into my workspace. There is no most important "thing" for me. I just need absolute silence and natural sunlight. I love my big window. 

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? That I can transform my thoughts and feelings into art. I don't need to organize my thoughts into PowerPoint slides and excel sheets and use fancy words to write about it. I just draw them. I feel free!

Loreal Prystaj

Loreal Prystaj is a visual artist from New York now based in London. Presently she is attending the Royal College of Art, to obtain her MA in photography, and previously received her BFA in photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Surrounded by a thriving “fashion environment” she planned on becoming a commercial photographer but chose to take a Fine Art direction where she felt she could express her ideas more freely.

She has had three solo exhibitions and participated in over thirty group exhibitions, including Arles Photo Festival (2018), MIA in Milan (2016) and selected to show with LifeFramer's travelling exhibition (2017).  Her work has been seen in galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and China, and she presently has pieces included in the permanent art collection at the Erie Art Museum, Pennsylvania, since 2014.  Prystaj’s archive of work has led to guest lecturing at accredited universities, such as NYU, FIT and Columbia, in New York. She has been awarded jury prizes from more than ten photography competitions internationally, including Ashurst Art Prize (2018), ArtSlant (2017), Neutral Density (2016), and TIFA (2018), alongside with being published widely, from The Guardian (2018), The British Journal of Photography (2018), My Modern Met (2017) to multiple articles in L'oeil de la Photographie (2017, 2016, 2015).


Her work often exposes the relationship between a specific time and space, with a juxtaposition of the human form and its environment. She expresses ideas through her photography and uses the medium consistently - in installation and interactive pieces - as well as using herself as a character or form in her images, performance and video work.

Chloe Hedden

Chloe was born and raised in Utah's wild red desert, but has had the great fortune to call many amazing places around the world her home. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she is as comfortable painting large oils as she is illustrating children’s books. In 2007, She won an International Creativity award in the category of commercial illustration for “The Peaceful Warrior.” Her first children’s book, “The Illuminated Desert,” written by Terry Tempest Williams and published by the Canyonlands Natural History Association in 2008, won The Mountains and Plains Bookseller’s Award for Best Children’s Book. She currently resides in Southern Utah and makes art full time.


As an artist, Chloe looks for the unseen patterns and hidden narratives that reveal the magnificence in all things.  Robert Henri said, "Paint the spirit of the bird rather than its feathers."  There is a still point in every moment and to capture this essential luminescence is to acknowledge the ancient wisdom in all things. She makes use of archetypes from the cultural and mystical history that connects all humans and all life forms.  Joseph Campbell said that artists are the shamans of our time.  She believes that we have the ability as well as the obligation to find and share truth and offer direction to the greater community.  It is with this inspiration that She delves into the riches of the collective unconscious and the imagery and symbolism of her dreams to draw out something bigger than herself to share with the world.

The First Love: Interview with Jenni Stringleman

Interview by Sarah Mills

After twenty years of working in graphic design and animation, Jenni Stringleman has returned to her first love - working in oils.
Based in Auckland, New Zealand, she paints contemporary, bright expressionist florals, fresh, abstracted nudes and portraits.
“For me, painting is an expression of joy. I simply love the act of applying oils to canvas, and this has lead me to explore a heady mix of thick oils, and semi transparent washes of colour, high detail combined with gestural strokes.”

Jenni's recent pieces focus on the figure drawn from life in charcoal, erased, rotated, and attacked with brayers and solvents with slabs of flat colour finally applied to obscure and reveal. 

Jenni sells and exhibits at Gallery De Novo and Endemic World Gallery in New Zealand, as well as shipping pieces to international collectors.


You came back to painting after 20 years of working in graphic design and animation, what drew you back to oils?

I painted almost religiously at high school, partly to get out of PhysEd but mainly because I was obsessed with art! At our school, we had hessian or paper stapled to walls and never-ending acrylic paint, and it was heaven. I wanted to be a full-time artist but decided to go for something practical - graphic design. I assumed I’d paint in my own time after work, but I never did! Instead, I worked on a bungee jump for years, in New Zealand and the UK, then painted murals and eventually ended up in graphic design in the City in London. I was having too much fun to remember to paint (or practice the flute, but that’s another story)!

Eventually, after 11 years in London, I returned to New Zealand, got married and retrained in animation which I adored, but after falling pregnant with my eldest daughter, I decided to give up work for a while. I played a domestic goddess for some years, then sadly a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a year to live. It was absolutely tragic as she was a mum of two, and it made me reassess my life choices. I felt it was too late to retrain as a brain surgeon so instead I decided to jump back into painting to leave a legacy for my two young daughters. It was one of the bravest things I ever did, walking into a painting class under the tutelage of artist Robert Campion, however, he was nurturing and kind and downloaded his years of education and experience into my brain, and from there I had a new career!


You work with such a wide variety of subjects ranging from florals to portraits to abstract work. What do you see as the connecting factor between all your work?

Yes, I do! I am probably like that as a person. I want to be trying new things, learning, stretching myself. Most people call me a colorist, and I do love color, it’s hugely instinctual for me, I feel what goes where and get great joy from the marks and drips and combinations. My first love in painting is the figure... life drawing, nudes, faces. But my mum asked me to paint hydrangeas for her, and they were my first sales to friends and locals.

The nudes were put on the backburner for a while. The galleries who approached me, came to me for my semi-abstracted florals, so that’s where most of my energy went. I painted a portrait of my daughter just for fun then ended up getting commissioned to paint other kids. I love the opportunity they afford me to sit down for once! I like being challenged to capture the real essence of this child, in a more classic way that will stand the test of time. They take ages, and they give me a break from the physical effort of the large pieces. Last year I studied under Martin Campos, and he inspired me to combine my love of color and paint with my charcoal sketches of the figure. A new aspect to my work developed, and now I think of myself as working happily across these three strands.


Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

Definitely nature, usually in the small details of plants and the effects of light. Also all of human life. I store away images from magazines and TV, fashion shows, of people on the street. There’s not enough time in my day to paint the things I want to. I screengrab so much of Instagram. Today my art hero Andrew Salgado posted a shot of himself in an orange raincoat against an orange wall, and now that’s all I want to paint! As well as the pieces I sell through galleries, I paint on A3 size Arches paper and that’s where I experiment, and they’re all stacked up in a cupboard! I need to have a sale.


What is the first thing you do when you sit down to start a new oil painting?

So this depends a little on which one of my themes I’m working on. For the big textured botanical pieces, I almost always start with a fast, loose acrylic underpainting. I stand, listen to podcasts or music, move around and go on instinct. I may use a ref photo but often don’t. I start from a position of wanting to use certain colors or shapes, and this informs what I’m working towards. For the portraits and nudes, I tend to sit at the table and use a desktop easel. The nudes are from life or ref photos, I sketch multiple times in charcoal, rubbing out marks and rotating the support. Eventually, I will introduce a limited palette of oils. With the portraits, I dive in from a ref photo. I don’t grid up or anything. I paint the whole face at once and gradually refine.

Your paintings have a beautiful textural quality to them. What is your process like to achieve that texture?

Thank you! That came about mainly through laziness. I use so much saturated oil color that washing out my brushes each night was doing my head in. I tried a painting knife one day and got hooked! I rarely use a brush now except for the portraits. It helped me simplify, and I love the geometric quality.


What is your favorite part about working with fluid paints?

Oh, it’s just so fun, it’s exciting. It’s a proper thrill to squeeze paint from a tube, mix it with the knife. With the washy underpainting, I love the unexpected blends. With my oils, I enjoy the thick texture and sheer glazes. The only thing I don’t like is how messy I am. Each tube is lidless, covered in paint, etc.

What advice do you have for our readers who are struggling to change their artistic paths?

My week with Martin Campos did genuinely change my life. I’d say if you can afford it, seek out artists you love and admire and try and study with them. Even a weekend will help! Give yourself permission to play, don’t feel the need to show everything. Expect changes to take time. Your audience may take time to catch up to your new style. Imagine you had a year left, what would you do with it? What is your true passion? But be practical! You need to survive, and there’s no shame in working for money to allow yourself the luxury of time to explore.

Yvette L. Cummings

Yvette L. Cummings received her BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design and completed her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning. While still enrolled at DAAP she was director of the 840 Gallery, interned at the Contemporary Art Center of Cincinnati, and was the recipient of the Wolfstien Travel Fellowship to Spain.  Following her graduate work, Cummings became an instructor for the University of South Carolina Department of Art.  She was awarded the Stephen J. Dalton Teacher of the year from USC University in 2011. Cummings is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Arts in Painting/Drawing at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. Her work can be found in both public and private collections and has been featured in the 701 Center for Contemporary Art South Carolina Biennial in Columbia, SC as well as Contemporary South at Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC.  Cummings was the recipient of the 701 CCA Prize 2016 for South Carolina artists under 40. Her work has been exhibited in multiple group and solo exhibitions throughout the south and mid-west. Yvette L. Cummings currently resides in Conway, South Carolina where she devotes her time to her studio work, teaching, and family.  

Freedom of Expression: Interview with Valérie Butters

Valérie Butters is an artist who burst upon the art scene in Montréal, Toronto, British Columbia and Ottawa. She is fascinated by the subconscious and influenced by surrealism and expressionism. She has studied under many prominent contemporary artists, such as Jennifer Hornyak, Marilyn Rubenstein, Seymour Segel, Shirley Kats, Philip Iverson, Sophie Jodoin, and Jacques Clement. She is also inspired by the revolutionary Canadian artist, Paul-Émile Borduas. 

Borduas created a very different vision of life and art with his spontaneous expressions of emotions, feelings, and sensations. While his work was considered radical at the time, Butter’s work is seen as joyful explosions of colour and emotion. Her evolution and exuberant exploration of colour and composition make her still-lifes and landscapes flamboyant and exciting. 

Valerie attended the Ottawa School of Art in 2001 and, in 2005, graduated from a three-year Comprehensive Arts Program at the Saidye Bronfman Centre where she received art scholarships in 2003 and in 2004. Her quick evolution and exploration of colour and compositions resides in her still-lifes and landscapes. Her large formats and flamboyant style have caught the eye of art critics such as Henry Lehmann of the Montréal Gazette (11 September 2004) who described her work as “...interestingly gaudy, exuberantly messy...” 

“... Valerie's work is an expression of her constant quest for freedom of expression and the passion to let her subconscious take control ...” (Brett Anningson; Arabella Magazine, Spring 2015) Valérie now resides and paints in Pemberton, British Columbia with her husband and son. 

I was born in Chicoutimi, Québec and have also lived in Montréal, North Bay, Ottawa, Winnipeg, numerous countries in Europe, and now reside in Pemberton, British Columbia. 

I have been painting professionally for 15 years. Following one year at the Ottawa School of Art, I completed the three-year Comprehensive Arts Program at the Saidye Bronfman School of Fine Arts in Montréal. About two years ago, I reached a creative impasse with myself. This past year I have painted for myself, grooming my ideologies and exploring my strengths and pushing myself to the maximum that I possibly can. If there is a name I would like to give myself, my brand or hashtag would be “Nouveaux Automatist”. The Automatists rocked my world. They are the reason I moved to Montréal to go to art school. The idea that when a pen sits on paper, given enough time your arm will inevitably move on its own and make a mark. That is your mark. I was always told in school that I had a great mark, a fearless mark. I made this past year all about my mark as well as some conceptual ideas. 

My journey into abstraction and gesture has me thinking of my muse like the stars in the sky. You can look at them (the stars) as if they are really close and really small, or imagine them far away in space but huge. I want my paint to offer that same confusion of perspective. I would like the viewer to, at times, have it figured out but as you continue the visual journey I offer on my canvas, the ideas of space, they contradict themselves. There is a tension between reality and imagination, a distortion of perspective that's relative to the viewer. 

I am an aggressive painter; I paint with long brushes with bamboo taped to my brushes. I know how to paint. I know what a brush does, but when you extend your arm a few feet, you give up control over the process. However, I do believe that, in surrendering to the control, I have become a truth in my process. I have given my work an abstracted realism. I want to continue this journey. 

I have just turned 40, and I have just discovered my truth. I hope you are as excited as I am about my journey this past 16 years and this year in particular, as I am unapologetically determined to pursue this truth.


When did you first start creating art?

Sometimes when you are good at something it is right in your face but you are too busy looking around it trying to see something else. I never wanted to be ordinary because I’m not ordinary. I have always used art as an outlet and a space to charge my battery. However, it didn’t seem obvious to me. My wild, precarious and fearless spirit distracted me and took me down several paths before I saw myself for me.

I joined the infantry in 1995 for two years, then bartended until I had enough money to leave for a long time where I eventually found myself three years into living on the Greek island of Corfu. It was in Corfu where I had that mid 20’s conversation challenging myself as to whether there was more to life than living on a Greek island? The answer was yes, there was more to life. Next question to my 20 something self, what do you want out of life? The answer, to be successful at what I do and not rely on anyone for my happiness. Next question. Well to be successful at something you should choose what you do best, what is that? The answer, Art! 

Art was always what I was best at and it was my safe place, like home. It was as simple an as complicated as that. So I packed my backpack and flew home to Canada where I enrolled in art school. The rest is history in the making. 


What are you currently working on?

I like what Jerry Seinfeld once said, when he reads the paper, he doesn’t notice the text first, he notices the paper it’s printed on. That’s how I look at life and first impressions. I don’t want to notice what I think people want to notice, I want to take what strikes me right away and try not to veer away from that impression, rather make it shine. 

I am working on several series at once but I approach them both in the same way. With florals, it’s the simplicity of the gesture they are articulating to me. It’s an emotional response, but that doesn’t make it any easier though. Simplicity is a journey. It’s tempting to want to say everything in all paintings. It takes discipline not to.

My spirit series is more complicated and that word alone brings danger and potential for disaster…. But hey, this cookie went through boot camp. Fear doesn’t scare me! 

Although I do have first nation’s blood, (although no one in my family has the same story as to how far back, the Duplesis government was a dark time) I want to be clear that in no way am I using my bloodline for my work, the catalyst for this series can be described in one unapologetic word, curiosity.

I am curious about the mythology that surrounds me, the land that I live on, the history of my own bloodline that is a merging of cultures with all its ugly and beauty, History and future. To be able to make the paint, the gesture, speak to those emotions are again just a matter of discipline. And by discipline, I mean all the things you do before you paint, and many things fall under that umbrella so that when you do paint, you can just let it all go and let it be about the gesture because you already did everything you can to set yourself up for success. I like the phrase “wined her up and let her go…..” like an explosion of wonderful things. 


In your artist statement you describe yourself as an aggressive painter, can you talk a little about this?

My approach to painting is fearless and intuitive. I believe that as a gestural artist that I have to tap into my own energy to truly find my own voice. I am inspired by the automatists and the automatic way of painting. Everyone has a different mark like everyone has a different signature. All the things that define me also define my work. All these things in the past would have defined me as a contradiction but in these modern times, they define me as just as complicated, or an artist. I am feminine, a feminist, I love being a woman. I love pretty things, style, makeup, design, delicate, soft, beauty, seduction, sexy. But I also love dirt, power, strength, physical impact, physical comedy, swearing, bad jokes, laughing hard and loud, fishing, hunting, playing hard, and working hard. My mom always said as a little girl that I would only play with my Tonka trucks if I had my ruby rings on.

So that’s how I paint, some strokes are tender and controlled, some are aggressive and hard. It’s really a frenzy of emotion that I channel to particular marks for particular references in my mind. A falling petal will feel different than a bow and arrow puncturing a hunt. Its life and I gave myself permission to use whatever internal theatrics to get the job done. It’s scary but the results are so honest that it becomes an addiction, a challenge.


Where do you tend to get inspiration for your work?

Simply, from life. I like to garden so I like to paint my babies. I’m curious about the land and cultures coexisting so I paint that. In many ways, I am a simple person. It took me a while to strip it down to simplicity though. A few years ago I was getting lost in the staleness and confines of expectation. In Montréal I found the community to be very vocal about what art is. I don’t like being told what to do, I am all for self-discovery with all the failures and success that come with it. It just feels more real to me. The rebel in me moved across the country and lived a simple life in the mountains of BC, withdrew myself from the business of art and gave myself permission to explore and grow. It’s why I like to fly fish. If tying flies wasn’t part of fly fishing I would not be interested. But learning how to make a fly, then catch a fish!!?!? The casting skill will work itself out in time. 

To go for a hike and see old pictographs surrounded by unique botanicals from first nations land, is fascinating to me. To hear the stories behind those pictographs is thrilling. Wondering who my first nation’s great great grandmother was before the duplesis government was, is something I wonder about often. Who she was, how people treated her, her children, how she grew up, am I like her at all?

Then To plant a perennial or a seed and watch it mature as you nurture it, then paint it. Experience all stages of its life, Thousands of times. The skill will work itself out in time. But there has to be a genuine, reflective and obsessive element to it. It becomes your life, it starts to define who you are as human being. I will likely never paint a bear. They don’t interest me, in fact, they scare me and I often find myself bumping into them on my runs and I run home so bloody fast I nearly give myself a heart attack. Although that might seem like painting to you, its not something I need to fall off the edge of my mind with. A cliff maybe.

It all feels like a maternal obligation to me.


What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?

It feels like a ladder to me. And the top of the ladder is not success but rather death. So I don’t ever want to reach the top. Not for a long long time, when my son's son has sons.

So every step is a marking point, and although every step feels more important than the last, you would not get there without any of them. The first was getting scholarships for school. Learning about the Automatists, the silent revolution and the power of artists taking Quebec out of the dark ages with their artists’ manifesto the “refuse global”. Then getting representation while I was still in school. Not having to work in a darn bar anymore. Solo shows in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Representation in New York City was amazing. Learning from masters was a gift. Discovering my strengths was liberating. Understanding the difference between painting what you see, so instead of responding to it, changed my path. Embracing the idea of abstract realism intrigues me. Most of my marking points are more related to personal growth and I am ultimately a process-oriented artist. 

As of lately, getting published in Create! Magazine was an achievement. My galleries wanting and selling my more abstracted and gestural paintings is motivating. Feedback from my followers, all of that is validating. Something that often as artists we are so desperate to hear and see. Learning that I’m a good teacher justified a legacy I feel I inherited. It’s expensive to paint, to pay for daycare so I can pursue what I know I’m good at. You reach these lows but trust that if you work through it, it will pay off. Figuratively and literally. With this magazine for example, (Create!) I was waiting for a cheque from a gallery to pay off my credit card just so I could afford the application fee. It arrived in the mail, the final day for submissions. I sent it with within hours of closing. And I got in! That was a great day. Instagram has been exciting. To feel connected. Less isolated, to be inspired and to share. They are all just steps in growth, and I trust that one day I won’t have to wait for a cheque in my mail to apply for something! 


Share a piece of advice or a favorite quote with our readers.

Gosh I have so many, we all have our inspirational heartstrings to pull at so I won’t try to sweep you away with a cliché, but rather “process-oriented” advice given to me by some of my mentors.

A painting is a visual journey… a trip, you will go to exciting places, calm places, boring places, you will also need places to rest... all of these places will guide you to your final place, your focal point. (Something like that)

"A painting is like a house, start with your foundation. Don’t put your curtains up before you build your walls.”

-Jennifer Hornyak

And most importantly, “The eye loves variation”. (I cant think of one thing that doesn’t apply to.)”

-Brian Atyeo

“And for goodness sake, paint from your shoulder or at least your elbow, not your wrist. You are not writing a book and your arm should not look like a T. Rex.”


Yellena James at Stephanie Chefas Projects

On March 2nd, Stephanie Chefas Projects will proudly present ARISE, a new series of paintings from Portland based artist Yellena James. James is well known for her colorful and instantly recognizable organic landscapes - an abstracted semblance of coral reefs, tangled seaweed and anemones. Through a combination of pen, acrylic, gouache, and ink, James playfully dances with various textures and forges a style completely her own.

ARISE continues upon James' exploration of brightly colored, biomorphic shapes. Each panel explodes with kaleidoscopic flora and offers an expansive glimpse into the subaqueous ecosystem. Delicate patterns are carefully added alongside other equally intricate layers, thereby retaining the imperative balance. By reimagining the at once random and mathematically agreeable harmony that actually exists in nature, James brings a completely fantastical world to life.

"In my latest collection of work, I continue to explore the alluring imaginary life forms and terrains of my own invention," states James. "Balancing a bright and colorful palette with rich backgrounds, I trace the origins of these luminescent forms back to the depths from which they emerge and bring them vividly to life. The larger pieces have an inviting and immersive quality to them, while the round panels compliment the delicate organic forms within the ethereal landscape."

The opening reception for ARISE will be held at Stephanie Chefas Projects on Friday, March 2nd from 7-10pm. Stephanie Chefas Projects is located in Portland, Oregon at 305 SE 3rd Avenue on the second floor of the Urban Row building. The exhibition will be on view through March 31st, 2018 and is free and open to the public.

Studio Sundays: Wendy Matenga

Create. This is something Wendy Matenga has always done. She was brought up in a bus that her father renovated so they could be wherever he needed to dredge for gold. If they dwelt in a paddock for a while her mother always planted flowers. This upbringing instilled in her that you could make anything you imagined, and that nature is boundless.

She is now enjoying success as a self-taught artist living in Nelson New Zealand. There are many things that she loves to craft; painting however is her chosen medium to express life. With the support of her husband she has been able to focus on growing herself artistically and develop the technical skills needed to get her thoughts from mind to canvas.


Painterly realism with contemporary twist.

My current body of work focuses on flowers, their fragile nature and the impact that light has on them. I also have a fascination with the term “bouquet” and it’s meaning “a collection of flowers in a creative arrangement” and playing with how far I can push that idea. The works always start with my love of capturing light on their delicate petals with photography, and then I like to push the boundaries of floristry with my paintbrush.

I draw the truth of what I see, as I love the light, but then I never know exactly where the work is going to go. Because accurate rendering still doesn’t capture that feeling you get when you have flowers in your home, or when you have been gifted them by a loved one. I desire to represent the vibrancy it offers, often with patterns or something purely from the imagination. 

Sometimes I will change the proportions of an object because that’s the thing that drawing me in, that’s what needs to be in focus. Illustration is also a part of my artistic process, with paper capturing a notion before the canvas does.

I am still astonished by the kind of people my work draws to me, there is something really special and kind hearted about nature lovers and gardeners. The positivity around this subject matter spurs me on to put more of it in to the world.

Ana Vieira de Castro

Ana Vieira de Castro is a portuguese photographer. She was born in May 6th, 1995. She currently lives in Fafe, Portugal. Ana got a college degree in Visual Arts and Photography from Escola Superior Artística do Porto University, class of 2017. During her degree, Ana worked for independente clients, shooting events such as music festivals and she also worked on her personal portfolio, which is still under development. Ana participated in Guimarães Noc Noc in 2016 and 2017, a cultural event that showcases the work of artists in many fields. She also took part in a group exhibition in 2016 called “Cultura d’Imediato”, which took place in Armazém da Alfândega in Porto, as well as “When Deadline Becomes Form” in 2017 on her university. In November 2016, Ana is selected by the editors at Photo Vogue platform, at Vogue Italia, and travels to Milan to have her portfolio reviewed by professionals of the field. In 2017, she is nominated by the local newspaper, Notícias de Fafe, for the Ardina d’Ouro award, that recognizes the achievments of Fafe’s natives in various fields – in her case, the Arts category. Some of her projects have been shared by Organica Magazine, Pawn Magazine, Austere Magazine and Paradise Magazine on Instagram, and the tumblr of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also shared one of her images. She also had some projects published on Stop Magazine and PUMP Magazine where she also got featured on the cover. Ana Vieira de Castro has given some interviews, where she shared her work and professional journey with the audience.


My images are portraits and self-portraits photographed in natural and humanized places, where I study the behaviour of the human body as an identity in each of these places, where the body has the main focus. Every piece is photographed with a digital camera, and they're always part of a series and not a unique piece. These works have a big surrealist influence because of the body positions and because of the way it relates with what surrounds it. All these images have common characteristics, such as the lightly color desaturation, the use of texture, patterns and a lot of color.

Studio Sundays: Susannah Montague

On this week's Studio Sundays feature we explore the intricate ceramic work of Canadian artist Susannah Montague.

Susannah received her BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in the sculpture department. She also attended the Ontario University of Art and Design where she specialized in figurative work and anatomy and studied at the Vancouver Film School.

In 1996 the BC Ceramic Gallery recognized Susannah as the Top Emerging Ceramic Artist in British Columbia and awarded her studio space for the year.

Susannah developed her sculptural work and exhibited and sold her work in Vancouver and Los Angeles. Susannah was also involved in many Interior Design and Art Installations for major night clubs  and restaurants in Vancouver.

Studio Sundays: Tahnee Kelland

I'm 34 and living in Dawesville, Mandurah Western Australia. I'm a self-taught artist and failed art in high school. Actually, I think I relieved an "E" on the report card. Is that worst than an F? Who knows. Could have had something to do with me painting/drawing what I wanted, not what I was told. Not much has changed. For the first 10 years After leaving high school, I hardly painted or drew a thing. My confidence was low and I never finished anything I started. At around 27 I picked up my pencils and committed to finishing anything I started. I promised myself to finish anything I started even if I hated it. I'm so glad I did that because it taught me about " the ugly stage". I feel like everyone has that ugly stage in their work where it's not quite looking it's best and all the fear and doubt creeps in over if it will even work. Then you push through and of course it does. I never knew that. I gave up before even trying. Now things are different and I've over come that hurdle.

Then there was the next challenge. Style. It's taken me about 6 or 7 years to find "my style". I was always looking for a short cut and hoping I'd find it over night. But all the advice I received was, unfortunately, correct it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. I also get bored easily so I'm not sure if that helped or hindered.

My most recent work feels like the closest to "my style" I've ever got. I love patterns on patterns, muted, dirty colors and fabric. So they feature heavily in each work. The women in the painting represent myself I guess. I've always been content in my own space with my thoughts, I can go weeks pottering around the house without seeing another human. A lot of people have questioned if this is healthy for my mental health and shone a negative light on having so much alone time. So I wanted to celebrate it. It doesn't have to be a bad thing to want to spend long periods with just yourself. I find that I grow as a person in the stillness.

"Mago" Solo Exhibition by Stella Im Hultberg

Spoke SF is pleased to present Mago, a solo exhibition featuring new work by Portland- based painter and illustrator Stella Im Hultberg. The artist’s second solo exhibition with Spoke includes paintings and drawings exploring her Korean heritage and traditional folk stories.

Inspired by Korean myths and the artist’s experiences with motherhood, Hultberg has created an ethereal body of new work. According to Korean mythology Mago is the mother of mothers and the root of creation. Her daughters, the goddesses So-hee and Gung-hee birthed humanity. The artist explores her changing role both as daughter and mother, interweaving personal icons like the peony, representational of her mother, with her own interpretation of folklore.

Continuing her exploration of the figure and flora, Mago incorporates new elements such as traditional folk textiles and craft influences. Hultberg’s figures, positioned in dream-like and weightless landscapes, portray the duality of vulnerability and quiet strength. The Archer depicts a lone woman dressed in white amongst a field of blooming flowers holding a traditional gak-gung or horn bow “standing up to protect her people.” This specialized bow “when unstrung, would bend into a circle, making it very portable and light, and very resilient and elastic when strung up.” The artist describes the bow as a “metaphor for all the potential energy and strength harbored in people who seem small and insignificant and less powerful.” Mago the title painting for the exhibition (pictured above) depicts the namesake deity as the mother mountain with her daughters, charged with contemplation, life and potential.

Please join us for Mago, opening Thursday, August 31st, with an opening night reception from 6pm - 9pm where the artist will be present. The exhibition will be on view through Saturday, September 23rd. For more information or additional images, please email us at

Spoke Art I I I 816 Sutter St. San Francisco CA 94109


Stella Im Hultberg was born in South Korea, raised in Seoul, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and later in California. She studied Industrial Design and worked as a product designer before serendipitously falling into the art world in late 2005. Hultberg has exhibited extensively across the US, at the Warrington Museum in London, Above Second in Hong Kong, the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles and more. After a decade in NYC, she now lives and works in Portland, OR with her daughter and husband.

Interview: Rebecca Louise Law

Rebecca Louise Law is an Installation Artist based in East London, specialising in artworks made with natural materials, namely flora. The physicality and sensuality of her site-specific work plays with the relationship between man and nature. Law is passionate about natural change and preservation, allowing her work to evolve as nature takes its course and offering an alternative concept of beauty.

Notable commissions include ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’, (The Garden Museum, London), ‘The Grecian Garden’ (Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens), ‘Outside In’ (Times Square, New York) and ‘The Beauty of Decay’ (Chandran Gallery, San Francisco). Law’s work has also been exhibited by Bo. Lee Gallery, Broadway Studio & Gallery, and at sites such as the Royal Academy and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

How did you become involved with your installation work? Did you start out drawing or painting at first? Share a little bit of your story with our readers. 

I started installation work whilst studying fine art at Newcastle University, UK. I began my degree with printmaking and painting, but by my fourth year I was only making installations. I always had a fascination with nature and wanted to create an artwork that could portray the natural world how I saw it. Working 2D felt limiting and I always felt like I wanted to create more of a sensory experience. I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003 and I have been experimenting with flowers as a sculptural material ever since. The natural experience is still at the core of my work, and with each new artwork I challenge myself to push this concept further.

How do you come up with your projects? Tell us about your process and inspiration. 

Every installation is about the human interaction with nature. I look at each space and how it is used, what country or culture I am in, the patron, natural symbolism and the history of the surrounding land. Every new space has a story, and I like to research as much as possible. Ultimately the artwork should be a physical experience, and I either like to compliment or work in contrast to its surroundings. I aim towards creating an artwork that transports the viewer into a space that shows a glimpse of the natural world suspended in time. I like to be reminded of all this earth provides us. 

What do you love to do when you are not working? Do you have favorite places to travel? 

I travel internationally with work and I love seeing the world, but it is always to cities and urban spaces. I live in London, so when I do get free time I love going into the countryside to absorb the natural world. Some of my favourite trips have been in the UK. Last year I went to Cornwall and Scotland. It was great to be reminded of what we have here in the UK. 

What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far? 

I really loved my last exhibition in Denmark. The museum was so idyllic, my work looked like it belonged there. It was great doing an exhibition that showed all aspects of my art practice. The installation was an entwined canopy of every flower and piece of copper that I have ever saved. The collection had so much handiwork and time entwined within it. To see all I had saved and how far I had come in using flowers as a sculptural material excited me for the future.

What would you say to a younger artist who is searching for their niche? What did you wish you knew when you first started?

The best piece of advice I had was at university. A tutor told me to look into my past and childhood; identify who you are and what you want to communicate with the world. Being an artist is lonely, try to wean yourself off affirmation and people pleasing, never concentrate on money, and stay true to your heart.

Tell us about a few events or shows you have planned for the near future. 

I have installations exhibiting in France and California this summer and an exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens, London in October 2017. This show will be an exploration of the flower as a sculptural art material and how it has been used throughout history. 

Shawna Gilmore

Born and raised in the Upper Midwest, Shawna draws deep from the winter-forged well of her overactive imagination. Her narrative, vintage and folk-style paintings explore many topics such as science, metaphors, nature, humor, patterns, paradoxes, fairytales and a wide variety of musings on domestic subjects. Shawna graduated in 2000 from the University of Minnesota - Duluth with a BFA in Studio Art, Emphasis on Drawing and Printmaking. She has exhibited both locally and nationally. Shawna lives with her verbally talented husband(Eddy), their twins and a menagerie of critters in a lively neighborhood near lovely Lake Superior.


My surrealistic and narrative work explores a wide variety of themes from personal observations to otherworldly dreams. Fueled by an insatiable love of fantasy, science fiction, and folklore, storytelling is central to the way I approach a painting. Every painting is like a page in a book, waiting for the viewer to fill in the plot.

Characters in my images often encounter scenarios that are both playful and poignant. I find this tension to be most accurate to my life experience. Raising a family has particularly heightened my awareness of this reality. Seldom does a day pass without my children jarring the heavy moments of my mind with their curiosity, creativity, humor, and basic needs.  

With a strong affection for vintage photography, I frequently use these stoic-faced images as source material. Ever since I was little I have been drawn to these strange and ancient-looking people who seem to transport me to another time and space. I imagine their lives, who they were, or what they were doing. The timelessness of vintage portraiture provides mythical characters for my paintings that are rooted in history.

I paint primarily in acrylics on cradled wood panels. I am partial to the hard, durable, flat surface of wood. I also appreciate the history and life, evident with each grain. Just knowing those years of growth lay beneath the paint gives me pause. My rather impatient personality enjoys acrylics for their quick drying time and ability to be rapidly reworked.

Through painting, I have found ways of escaping, if only for a moment, to laugh, ponder, or dream. Escaping is a breath that fills our lungs and eases our burdens. My paintings give you permission to jump through a portal, imagine new places, and limber up your thinking.

Tahnee Kelland 

I'm 34 and living in Dawesville, Mandurah Western Australia. I'm a self-taught artist and failed art in high school. Actually, I think I relieved an "E" on the report card. Is that worst than an F? Who knows. Could have had something to do with me painting/drawing what I wanted, not what I was told. Not much has changed. For the first 10 years After leaving high school, I hardly painted or drew a thing. My confidence was low and I never finished anything I started. At around 27 I picked up my pencils and committed to finishing anything I started. I promised myself to finish anything I started even if I hated it. I'm so glad I did that because it taught me about " the ugly stage". I feel like everyone has that ugly stage in their work where it's not quite looking it's best and all the fear and doubt creeps in over if it will even work. Then you push through and of course it does. I never knew that. I gave up before even trying. Now things are different and I've over come that hurdle.

Then there was the next challenge. Style. It's taken me about 6 or 7 years to find "my style". I was always looking for a short cut and hoping I'd find it over night. But all the advice I received was, unfortunately, correct it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. I also get bored easily so I'm not sure if that helped or hindered.

The work I've submitted, My most recent work feels like the closest to "my style" I've ever got. I love patterns on patterns, muted, dirty colors and fabric. So they feature heavily in each work. The women in the painting represent myself I guess. Ive always been content in my own space with my thoughts, I can go weeks pottering around the house without seeing another human. A lot of people have questioned if this is healthy for my mental health and shone a negative light on having so much alone time. So I wanted to celebrate it. It doesn't have to be a bad thing to want to spend long periods with just yourself. I find that I grow as a person in the stillness.