Photograph of Ariana by Shae De Tar
Interview by Emma Kathan
CITY: Los Angeles
Ariana Papademetropoulos was born in Los Angeles in 1990, where she continues to work and reside. She received her BFA at Calarts with a minor in Cultural Studies in 2012 and also studied at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. She has exhibited her work in numerous venues in Los Angeles including Roberts and Tilton, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, ForYourArt, Machine Project, and the The Impermanent Collection. Her work has been reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND/OR RAISED?
I was born in Pasadena, California and was raised between there and Venice Beach.
WAS CREATING VISUAL ART SOMETHING YOU HAVE DONE SINCE YOU WERE A CHILD OR DID THE INCLINATION TO DRAW AND PAINT COME LATER IN LIFE FOR YOU?
My father pretty much told me I was going to be an artist, just as a parent might tell their kid to be a lawyer or doctor. So really since age 3 that’s all I’ve wanted to do and all I was told to do! I am lucky to have such wonderful and encouraging parents!
WHO WERE SOME ARTISTS THAT INSPIRED YOU WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Yayoi Kusama and David Hockney were my favorites as a little kid. In high school some of my idols were Niki de Saint Phalle, Gerhard Richter, Olafur Eliasson, Marnie Weber, James Turrell, Heironymus Bosch, Pipilotti Rist, and Robert Smithson. Those are still many of my favorites, haven’t changed much!
WHO ARE SOME CURRENT ARTISTS WHOM YOU ADMIRE?
My current obsessions would be Pierre Huyghe, Ana Mendieta, Wallace Berman, Jeffrey Vallance, and Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe.
DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH THE IMAGES YOU PAINT TO USE THEM AS A GUIDE OR DO YOUR PAINTINGS COME STRAIGHT FROM YOUR MENTAL IMAGES?
I don’t paint from memory, unfortunately that is a gift I was not given! I always use pre-existing images or create source imagery to work from. At times I’ll have a vision that I’ll have to search out the perfect image to accompany it. When the source image doesn’t exist or can’t be found, I’ll plan out the scene and photograph it myself or create a collage to work from. Sometimes images find me as well, while reading a book or wandering through a library or flea market.
IN YOUR MOST RECENT PAINTINGS LIKE “GREEK EASTER” AND “FOREST FIRE”, YOU HAVE THESE VERY COLORFUL AND BEAUTIFUL IMAGES WITH WHAT LOOKS LIKE A WATERMARK OR PURPOSEFUL WATER STAIN ON THE IMAGE. CAN YOU TELL ME HOW YOU CREATED THOSE? WERE THEY PURPOSEFULLY “DESTROYED” OR JUST PAINTED TO LOOK THAT WAY?
Yes, because (in painting only) I am a perfectionist, so it would be an odd concept for someone like me to “destroy” an image. But these paintings are not painted first perfectly and then “destroyed”, that’s the illusion. The method is that I pour water onto an image and photograph it. I then paint the entire image with the watermark on a canvas in a uniform detailed manner. When I was shipping the Greek Easter duo, a woman at FedEx asked me what I had done to ruin those poor paintings, and I was overjoyed! I had succeeded in creating the illusion of a watermark. The watermark paintings are essentially impossible images, because you could never get that effect with oil paint. It’s a recorded short moment in time when water hits an image, revealing the hidden colors inside a picture.
DO YOU TYPICALLY PAINT AT HOME OR DO YOU HAVE A SEPARATE STUDIO WHERE YOU PAINT ? DO YOU FIND THAT YOU NEED TO GET INTO A CERTAIN SPACE PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY TO EVEN BEGIN A PAINTING AND IF SO IS THE LOCATION AND OR AMBIANCE WHERE YOU DO IT OF ANY CERTAIN IMPORTANCE TO YOU?
Well I live in this nutty tree house studio my dad built for me and beneath it is the garage where I work. Even if it’s just walking down into my garage, I do need that separate blank space to paint in. My home feels a bit like Disneyland and is filled with lots of distracting treasures so it’s hard to get anything work related done inside of it. But mentally getting into a rhythm of work is the most important aspect, to be able to be on a schedule where you wake up and paint, no questions, no distractions, no other obligations. It might be rare, but when I am in this position, it is the best way to work for me.
WHAT WOULD YOU IDEALLY LIKE TO DO WITH YOUR ART IN YOUR LIFETIME AND WHAT FEELINGS DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE GET WHEN THEY LOOK AT YOUR ART?
Ideally I want people to live inside my work, essentially to be surrounded by it as if it were an environment. Meaning one day I’ll have to become an architect and build hobbit homes or have a theme park. For now though, within the limitations of painting, I am interested in portraying the psychology of images, and creating work that is mysterious enough to evoke different emotions within the viewer based on past experiences.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU ON A DAILY BASIS?
My wonderful friends, nature, and my little brothers who are the best creatures on earth. Also finding hidden strange gems in Los Angeles. I recently went to a cat circus, and that was pretty inspiring.
WHAT ARE SOME MAIN RECURRING THEMES WHICH YOU CAN SEE THROUGHOUT YOUR WORK AND WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT THESE SUBJECTS OR ELEMENTS THAT PERSONALLY KEEP INSPIRING YOUR VISION TO CREATE A STORY AROUND IT?
I SEE A LOT OF WATERY IMAGES EITHER WITH WHAT WOULD CERTAINLY BE WATER OR IMAGES BEHIND A VEIL OF FILMY CURTAINS WHICH LOOK WATERY, EVEN THE FREUD RUG LOOKS SUBMERGED TO ME.
Illusion, façades, pareidolia, obscurity, and the hidden and the reveal are all subjects that continue to fascinate me and motivate me to create work. Water has been used frequently in my work, as it is a mechanism to create or enhance illusions. These themes continue to inspire me because the conversation doesn’t stop once the piece is on a wall and seen. I am attracted to work that haunts you, and can affect you over time. For me if something is overly blatant or obvious, it doesn’t encourage me to keep staring. I find it is what is hidden and mysterious that draws us in, keeping the work alluring. Recently, I curated a show on the concept of the Veil, a theme that outlined my interests. I also found that the artists I was attracted to also had similar inspirations. When you say curtains, I am not surprised, as the idea of veil has been a recurring theme for me for a long time.
Ariana’s most recent exhibit “Veils” was put together with fellow artist Jhordan Dahl and can be seen at The Underground Museum in Los Angeles.