Somehow, Los Angeles-based artist Connor Tingley flies under the radar, cruising just beyond the periphery of culture’s usual vultures. This, despite the not-yet 30-year-old’s well-heeled base of fans and collectors, including Sophia Loren, Cindy Crawford, and A$AP Rocky. The artist has come a long way since 2016, when Michel Comte photographed Tingley’s work for Russian Vogue. The spotlight gently illuminated his talent in 2019, when Michèle Lamy commissioned him to create work for What Are We Fighting For?, her exhibition organized in conjunction with the 2019 Venice Biennale. That same year, François Nars chose Tingley to create a limited edition Nars collection that featured a color palette the artist designed, named, and showcased in packaging featuring his signature abstract drawings— a prestigious brand collaboration that located Tingley at the intersection of art, beauty, and design, a crossroads he calmly contemplates as he shares with us his thoughts on art, life, and the need to create by any means necessary.
Jacques Marie Mage: How have your formative years spent moving around Southern California has shaped your sensibilities as an artist?
Connor Tingley: The West (Southern California [Los Angeles]) is about vision as much as it is about image. And yes, it seems as if we can have one without the other. Image being the thing that we show and vision being the dream that we have.
I’ve seen those who have image with no vision and it gets them only so far, and it seems to be the same for those who have vision without an image. Both vision and image will change but we must see them through together in order to go where now needs us next. This city is ready for us if we are ready for this culture that has developed and made Los Angeles what it is today and can be tomorrow.
JMM: Los Angeles has such a vibrant, layered history and wealth of multicultural communities. How does such a rich sense of place inform your creative practice?
CT: In Los Angeles, it seems a change of pace is only right around the corner. Because of the layered history and vast cultural pockets, an experiential spectrum of moods that tend to be attached to location has developed. Perhaps the ease of access to change our scene is but the most valuable resource of Los Angeles. All in a day, one can be at the beach, the mountains, the desert, and the city. What a phenomena!
JMM: How have you developed your studio as a space for contemplation, introspection, exploration, and discovery?
CT: Even though da Vinci’s original model for a city (based on systems within the human body) wasn’t fruitious, the intent for function was there. On that note, my studio space is oriented around my mind; it is designed for the way that I think. Each space or object in the studio is defined by an intention. I aim to make everything open and modular so that any area can be rearranged at a moment’s notice. The space is poised for fluidity to make a presentation in the same place where I can also paint a moment later. Day to day work may vary, so the space is designed for the array of tasks that come about. The studio is a place of ample work, play, learning, and should invite open discussion.
JMM: You’ve collaborated with so many luminaries over the years. What do you most enjoy about working with artists from a wide array of disciplines, be it music, fashion, or beauty?
CT: How amazing is it that we get to interface with self-expression; our personal language by way of many developing mediums. Our ability to share that expression is even more astounding. Art is about putting things together; that is the same for the viewer and for those creating the work. I get a sense of assuredness from the idea that art is a place to explore what is personal and honest across domains. It may take time but in the future art may be widely recognized as a way of life. The ever-expanding nature of what we consider art is the beginning of collective breakthroughs toward what art truly is.
JMM: How does the idea of beauty inform your process, and the importance of going beneath the sheer pleasure of it to explore its endlessly compelling complexities?
CT: What if beauty is an aesthetic badge we apply to a well-told story? Perhaps, the best stories are elusive. They allow us to interact with them through the lenses of our lives and are a window to how beautifully connected all things truly are.
JMM: Can you tell us the story of the last time you felt “out of your comfort zone”?
CT: Earlier, I bare-hand grabbed a door handle on the way into a Starbucks. (c. October 2020)
JMM: Frightening! OK, now, what song would you choose to dance to at 5am?
CT: The Sound of Silence.
JMM: What is your longest standing obsession?
CT: Thinking. Cognitive thought is the first and the last filter in my actions. I came to realize how integral and lasting thought has been in my life when I asked a question...I pondered, what would I do if I was stripped of all materials (not even a pen and a piece of paper)? That’s it! — I would continue to think.
JMM: What is your favorite erotic image?
CT: [Les Passions humaines (The Human Passions) // Jef Lambeaux.] The presentation of this work is key. Natural light and shadow are active participants in revealing the figures and gestures in the relief. The work is astounding and timeless.
JMM: Which do you find most (real and/or metaphoric) value in: a window, a mirror, or a prism?
CT: A prism as it is both metaphorically the window and the mirror. A prism reflects white light into a spectrum of color and allows us to see through into a new world of truth.
JMM: Describe your wildest encounter with an animal?
CT: I did see Mickey Rourke one time.
JMM: What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
CT: Perhaps it is that the answers are questions; I am always looking forward to asking more concise questions. I am also excited to put patience into practice and I am looking forward to learning more about what giving is and the many forms that giving can take. Life wouldn’t be so taking if it wasn’t also so giving.
Written by Miss Rosen
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