Photo by Andrew Alcasid
Thomas DeMello with “Untitled (blackened fig tree)”
There are moments in every artist’s career where the practice ceases to be fun. For many, the mix of over-analyzation and self-critique can sometimes turn into an existential crisis that’s hard to overcome.
While local artist Thomas DeMello doesn’t go so far as to overtly characterize the time before he began his most recent series of drawings as a troubled period, he does admit to being dissatisfied with the work he was producing.
“I was sitting in my studio and I was kind of upset with sitting there and just copying from photos and stuff—it wasn’t fun,” says Demello in his studio inside the Bread & Salt building in Logan Heights.
This is surprising to hear considering DeMello’s previous works were quite brilliant and he was already a rising talent, if not one of the best artists altogether, in the local art scene. While most of his work could be classified as figurative drawings, his two solo shows at Ice Gallery, which he co-founded at its original North Park location, saw DeMello constructing large-scale installation pieces. While he says he enjoyed that work, he wanted to get back into drawing despite wanting to initially escape it.
For his eponymous solo show at Quint Projects in Bay Ho, which opens Saturday, Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., DeMello gets back to his roots as an illustrator, even if the drawings are more primal or what he calls a “reduction from drawing.” They are made on smooth Bristol paper, and the illustrations are made by striking the paper with a handful of colored pencils. The result is some kind of minimalist exercise in abstract expressionism that DeMello says was inspired by his three-year-old niece.
“I’m sitting there drawing with her and she’s just slamming these crayons on the paper and fucking not even giving any thought at all, and so I’m sitting there slamming the crayons and I was like ‘wait a second, this is like really fun,’” says DeMello. “She’s having a blast, I’m having a blast and then all of a sudden I was like, ‘you know, why not? I can try this too.’”
The show, while an extension of a series he showed at the Bread & Salt space, will feature entirely new drawings as well as a sculptural piece. For DeMello, he’s just enjoying the creation process again.
“Yeah, I really love paper,” he jokes before adding, “I tried all kinds of different artist’s materials, but I just always kept wanting to use drawing materials. I loved the idea of getting back into those techniques.”