Paradigm Gallery: Luke O’Sullivan at Scope Miami Beach
Luke O’Sullivan was born in 1984 in Boston, MA. He received his MFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009 and a BFA from The Art Institute of Boston in 2006. He has exhibited in solo and group shows in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, LA, Miami, and Philadelphia. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.
I create architecturally inspired sculptures and prints. Screen printed drawings are used to assemble two and three-dimensional works focused on undiscovered places beneath cities and landscapes. Early interests in Nintendo games, maps, and science fiction movies contribute to the playful nature of my art. I like to describe my process as creating a lego set using my own hand drawn pieces. I use those pieces to create elaborate sculptures of cities, labyrinths and fantastical objects. Exploration and adventure are central to everything I make with each drawing and sculpture contributing to an ongoing catalogue of a strange invented world.
Tell us about your early interests and how they influenced your current pieces.
Exploration, discovery and adventure are the driving force behind what I do. There is a playful nature to my work rooted in my early interests in Nintendo games, maps, and science fiction movies. I often describe my process as creating a lego set out of my own hand drawn pieces which I can use to fabricate sculptures. In past work I focused on structures and facades, suggesting the utility of each building and often illustrating a state of disrepair or decay. Over time I have become more interested in describing subterranean spaces and thinking of ways to create sculptural objects within these worlds. I have introduced a good deal of color into my new work creating a certain levity and illustrative quality. Most recently I’ve made a few flower sculptures and a cactus, which has been a nice contrast to the architectural worlds I’ve been building. I’ve always been interested in how plants and vegetation persist and reclaim our man made environments.
We love the fantastical quality of your three-dimensional works. What do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I hope my work can be enjoyed in the same way I enjoy Bill Watterson’s writing and art in the Calvin and Hobbes books. My goal is to offer a chance for the viewer to be transported into another world. I have always had a particular interest in existentialism and enjoy a good mystery or thriller movie. I enjoy movies and books that keep some loose ends. My art is full of open ended narratives, I offer a few leads, but most of my work is like a series of clues or a simple statement. I try to create art that is uplifting and rewards the viewer for their curiosity.
Tell us about the work that will be on display at Scope during this year’s Art Basel Week in Miami. What is this year's focus?
I’m super excited to be exhibiting with Paradigm Gallery again this year at Scope! have a few small object based sculptures of flowers, and several wall mounted sculptures of cities and buildings above subterranean labyrinths. The underworlds are full of sculptural objects; ladders, bridges, buckets, and columns. Each of the sculptures are like vignettes or scenes describing a particular time. The narratives in the sculptures are generally about a place that has been harvested for its resources or supernatural power. The object based sculptures I’ve been making are like keepsakes or relics of these worlds but made to life sized scale.
What is your process like? How does each piece come to life from references to execution?
Everything always starts with drawing. Usually a very small and unrefined sketch. When making the wall mounted city sculptures I typically have an idea for a few visual elements I’m interested in using, like a bridge, a doorway, or the a shape of a building. Using that as a starting point, I will loosely create a composition of platforms, walls and objects to help support the focus of each piece. Sometimes there is a visual motif that interests me, like the brick and bone sculpture or the bone in a stone, and I will make it as quick as possible to capture the idea in my head. But I enjoy being able to improvise with the larger works and add pieces to the narrative as I’m building. I love seeing the drawings I make come to life. Sometimes I’ll draw stuff for years before it really clicks how I can build it or use it in a sculpture. I try to keep a notebook on hand all the time to keep track of ideas and building techniques. It’s always fun to look back through old notebooks and see where things started and how they’ve evolved over time.
How do you replenish your inspiration? What are a few of your hobbies outside of the studio?
Great question! I wish I had a better routine to make myself sound like an interesting person… I’ve been watching a lot of movies and old/new shows on Netflix and Hulu. I still try to play the new Mario and Zelda games when they come out. I play basketball when I can, although my glory days are definitely behind me. I grew up playing a lot of sports and I (embarrassingly) enjoy reading the statistics and history of sports. I’m always busy working on something with my best friends with whom I’m part of a collaborative sculpture crew (@individualscollective), always a blast and we have been doing that together for TEN YEARS now! Crazy. Alas, I’ve been keeping things pretty simple these days. When I’m not in the studio getting weird I mostly hang out with my lady Emilia and enjoy walking around Philly soaking in all that gritty goodness that surrounds us.