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Young Space: What ideas are you exploring in your practice?

Tristan Barlow: My paintings are a mix of ideas that have built up over the years. I have a very strong relationship to art history, old Italian masters of the quattrocento, and the romanticism of ideas concerning space, ruminations of old teachers that have bounced around in my head and turned themselves into mythology. Though my paintings are, for the most part, “abstract,” I think of them more as an arena of spatial possibilities where the confluence of ideas is transformed into a visual language of symbols. Mark-making, layers, pigment, and a willing suspension of disbelief concerning the impossibilities of space lends itself to a world of visual fictions.

YS: What is your process like?

TB: I work with oil paint and that affords a plethora of possibilities. I experiment often in my application of paint. I edit, scrub, scrape, layer, etc…

Visually, my process is a filtering of ideas and notions from all sorts of sources. The idea of a mirrored image and Narcissus can send me through 20 paintings. So can a trip to the British museum or the light from a beach in Florida. Or what it would be like if Botecelli were to make a whole painting of grass and flowers? What if the Ancient Egyptians had internet?

YS: Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

TB: My first professor in Mississippi, who I must give a lot of credit to, told me, “Son, in this business you gotta fish or cut bait.” That, inexplicably, has come back to mind many a time.