During Art Basel Miami, LA gallery Thinkspace showcased an installation that included artist James Bullough. The DC born artist transforms the traditional portrait adding abstract rifts and fractures. We spoke briefly with James to discuss his artist style, inspiration, and experience during last years art week.
AMMO: What’s Your AMMO?
JAMES BULLOUGH: My AMMO comes from the ever-rising creativity, skill, and talent of my peers. Watching those who I admire excel and up their game is what drives me to constantly push myself and evolve.
A: What is unique about Berlin that attracts you to the city, and what can you do there with your work which you cannot do anywhere else in the world?
JB: Berlin is an extremely free and creative place. We have far less social laws and scrutiny than any other place I have lived before and this frees people up to express themselves and be creative. Berlin is also very cheap which relieves a lot of the pressure to constantly earn money to support oneself. This enables people to experiment with their lives and their art and sometimes amazing things can come from that. The combination of those two factors is what drew me to this city and what keeps me here and keeps me inspired.
A: You used to break dance. Is there a translation between the competitiveness of breaking to you work and other street art?
JB: As you can see from my answer to the first question competition is what drives me and always has. I grew up playing sports and competing and that competitive nature has definitely spilled over into many other aspects of my life. Whether it’s battling one person on a dance floor or battling an entire industry by trying to be the best, that competition is what motivates me to always be pushing forward and elevating my game so that I am better tomorrow then I was yesterday.
A: Your work sometimes features a distorted view of the human form. Why distorted?
JB: The fractured elements in my work came to me more from a design perspective rather than me trying to express a meaning with it. I was trying to break out from traditional portraiture and find a way to present my portraits that had a little more edge and aggressiveness to it. I went through many different stages over a couple of years, experimenting with different techniques before I fell into my fractured portrait style that people began to know me for. Now, as is the case with all my creative outlets, I am trying to find new ways to distort my paintings and push them even further to keep my work fresh and up to par with the ever changing and elevating art world.
A: With respect to recent technology, how do you think art should be explored by the viewer and what are your thoughts on making art more accessible and inclusive.
JB: There is no better way to view art then standing directly in front of it and experiencing it the way the artist intended. Technology has opened the world up for people to see art and follow artists that they never would have known about before and that is a great thing. I am fully aware that the vast majority of people around the globe who know my work have never, and probably will never see one of my paintings in real life. I appreciate the reach that the internet offers me and the ability for people to see my work who otherwise wouldn’t be able to… but there is absolutely no substitute for standing in front of my work and looking at it in person.
A: How has your art helped shape your personal identity?
JB: I am an old man and I think my personal Identity was pretty well shaped a long time ago. I see myself more as a craftsman than an artist sometimes and don’t view what I do as any different from a woodworker designing and producing a chair. I get a great amount of satisfaction and pride from what I do but now a days the only thing shaping my personal identity is my family and my new daughter. I would say that I don’t think my work shapes who I am but rather, who I am shapes the work that I make.
A: Do you have a favorite work you’ve created? One that you are most proud of?
JB: I’d like to say that my most recent piece is always the one I’m the most proud of and it should be because every new piece should be better than all the ones that came before it. For the most part this is actually true for me but in all honesty every once in a while I produce something that I’m not overly proud of and when that happens I make sure to acknowledge it and make a note of what went wrong so I am less likely to do it again in the future.
A: During Basel are there any artists or events you’re looking forward to seeing?
JB: Basel week in Miami is like a big family reunion for the mural painters around the world. It’s a place where we can all meet up together and catch up and party and work along side each other. So I always look forward to seeing all the people I’ve worked and traveled with over the years since I’ve been doing this. Other than that I really enjoy checking out the art fares to see what’s new and find new artists that weren’t already on my radar and also see the new work from people who were. Watching all my friend’s work evolve and grow is super encouraging and motivating for me so that’s what I look forward to the most.
To view more of James’ art, head over to Thinkspace, thinkspaceprojects.com.