We visited the studio of Toronto-based artist Thrush Holmes in anticipation of our newest pop-up shop at Space Ninety 8 featuring the Thrush Holmes & UO Collaboration. Thrush’s unapologetic methods breathe new life into classical still lives. Intuitive and swaggering in practice, it's no wonder Holmes' eccentric neon florals, brazen female silhouettes + glowing prose have been selected to hang on the walls of Def Jam Recording studios. Read more about the artist and his work and check out the collection of women’s apparel and bedding at Space Ninety 8 and online.
Tell us more about yourself, where you are from, what you do.
I’m a painter, born and raised in a small town in Ontario, Canada. I’ve been living and working in Toronto for the last 12 years. My work is fairly inconsistent and ranges from intimate still-life paintings to bombastic neon assemblages, tremendous in scale.
How do you explain your work— what inspires it, what ideas resonate most?
It’s a difficult thing to summarize. I’m interested in finding permutations within the same subject. I work best within parameters. I tend to be drawn to the exploration and commitment of common motifs, such as, still-life, nudes, landscape, and abstraction. I’m motivated by old poems.
How did you develop your current artistic style?
An artist is always in a state of becoming. It’s been unfolding for the last 20 years. I suppose I have a tendency for devotion. I’m quite disciplined in the studio. I take a lot of risks, I fail regularly.
When did you begin incorporating Neon into your work? What inspired you to explore this medium? I’ve been working with neon for 10 years. The first few years were rough and the work didn’t have a lot of strength. It’s a complicated medium to blend with painting. My early work was photo-based and I made a number of backlit works. I shifted to painting and wanted to bring light to the surface of the work. Neon fascinated me previous to this and it seemed logical to use it as it can be manipulated to any gesture in almost any color and it doesn’t generate heat. I treat it as I would any other material – it’s not precious to me.
What is your creative process like? Do you begin the process having an idea of what you want to create or do things happen more organically?
I really don’t rely on a lot of preliminary planning when I approach my work. It reveals itself to me. I’m the recipient in a lot of ways. I just execute. I work on several paintings at once and they all progress uniformly. Some fail and some don’t, but I endeavor to have constant progress. It’s a lonely profession and I find encouragement in minor successes. My work demands improvisation – this approach has always seemed more honest to me. There is definitely a lot more failure as a result, but I’ve come to embrace that.
How did you decide which of your pieces would be a part of the Urban Outfitters & Thrush Holmes Collaboration?
My work isn’t very graphic. It’s hard to document due to my use of neon. I chose pieces that would translate well to fabric and work cohesively together.
What projects do you have on the horizon? Any goals for the New Year?
I’m planning a solo show or two for 2018, either in London and/or New York. I also hope to have another large party at my private studio in Toronto. I’ve been progressing on a few very large public art projects that will be executed in 2018. No real goals for the New Year, other than to make stronger work.
What are some current curiosities for you (in any genre)?
Women, music, wine, tattoos, and my 4-year old son, Duke.
You are from Toronto, what are some of your favorite spots in your city?
I work a lot and really don’t go out so much. I’m happy to stay in, cook, drink wine, play records, pace around, make a fire, play guitar.
Photos: Arden Wray
The Thrush Holmes & UO Pop-up Shop will be up through December 1st at Space Ninety 8. Check out the collection in-store or online HERE.