Raised as the child of Cambodian immigrants in Los Angeles, Andrew Hem’s illustrative paintings bridge disparate aesthetic influences as well as cultural touchstones and sensibilities. Hem’s paintings typically highlight an individual within a group of figures, homing in on the one person who is often somberly staring out from the canvas. Using a cool palette in which the colors do not quite match up with the real world, the artist creates somber moods in illusionistic spaces set at a remove from reality. Although his color scheme—with its supernatural rendering of the natural world—elicits comparisons to impressionism, Hem also echoes graffiti art based on his straightforward and illustrative rendering of figures and space, as well as allusions to street culture, art, and fashion.
How and when did you first become interested in art?
I became interested in art around 12 years old through graffiti. I feel like most kids who grew up in the 80s in my neighborhood had a similar start.
Tell us about what inspires you creatively.
Great designs inspire me so much - whether it be architecture, fashion, or interior design. I love color combinations. I get inspired by all the different color combos I could achieve if I had more time in the day.
What is your process like?
I start with an idea in my head. I would then do some rough sketches to plan out the composition. From there, I would shoot some references. I like to add a 50/50 blend of reference and Imagination. Before, I would do all imagination and found that I tended to repeat myself. And when I used all references it would tend to be too stiff for my liking. The 50/50 was the perfect look I was aiming for.
Describe your current studio space. What is most important about it or one thing that you can't live without in your work area?
My studio is my garage and I love it. I use to have a separate studio but spending the money to transform my garage was the nest decision I could’ve made. I have a tv in that I probably couldn’t work without. I work while listening to movies so Netflix is playing all the time in my studio.
What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you or a quote that you find meaningful?
You are going to need a Coretta Scott to be king.
Can you share a bit about what you will be exhibiting at Moniker and what viewers can look forward to?
Most people think that an artist is born with talent. They don’t really know the hard work and time spent perfecting the craft. I wanted to showcase the moment rarely seen. We see the end result and assume how talented that artist is. With this new body of work you will get a glimpse of the backdoor.