ZACH THOMPSON SHARES HIS PERSONAL UNIVERSE WITH “CHESS MOVES” SOLO EXHIBITION
Like many artists, Zach Thompson has created his own universe to exist in. One that fuses medieval staples like swords, kings and queens with distorted futuristic settings and mythical beings that meld nostalgia with human form. The self-taught artist will be sharing this universe with the rest of the world on Friday, April 13th at PLAYGROUND from 6-9P with his debut solo exhibition of recent works, Chess Moves.
Thompson’s primary audience lives online through his social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, where he regularly sells his work. His dedicated followers have watched his artwork evolve over the past five years, initially drawn to his works based around pop-art culture. “That’s the beauty of the Internet, to have such a large group of people able share experiences and common interests with one another,” he muses. His artwork can now be found on nearly every continent (except for Antartica). He regularly takes orders online from around the world, packing and shipping out pieces on a weekly basis to collectors from his home studio in Detroit.
In 2016, he self-published “Misreading My Madness,” an illustrated art book that takes us inside his mental state, mesmerized by the mysteries of this world. The pages contain a familiar feeling of a lost dystopian adolescence, and filled with illustrations that are as “scattered as the creators brain [with emotions that range from] self pity to progressive solutions on how to stay alive.”
His debut exhibition will showcase mixed media paintings inspired by the vitality of Detroit and humanity in general. Each piece tells a different story and enables viewers to immerse themselves in an alternate space and time – as most exceptional art tends to allow.
Read our interview with Thompson about his process, inspiration behind this body of work and how living in Detroit has influenced his artistry.
What is the inspiration behind your first solo exhibition?
“Chess Moves” is the name of the exhibit – “chess,” as in the intellectual game and, “moves” as in decisions. That’s kind of what inspired it. I feel like life comes down to the decisions we make… and obviously chess is a strategic game to play.
You have to be very strategic in life if you want to get by and be successful, so it represents the series of paintings I’m showing, which is all new paintings I’ve been creating.
It’s more free-flow than previous work I’ve done in the past. There’s more motion involved; there are stories being told in each scene. With each piece, there’s some historical or ‘fake’ historical event happening.
You explained that each piece represents a different story – can you elaborate on one of those?
I recently did a piece entitled, “Mutiny.” It’s basically about a futuristic Detroit where authority has taken over the city and the civilians rise together and rebel against that force. There are hints of the Detroit River, there are houses on fire, there are people in the street with pitchforks, a lot of swords being represented in my pieces. Although I want my pieces to be a representation of the future, I also like historical elements like swords and kings and queens and kingdoms. I don’t know what has caused that infatuation- whether it’s analyzing history itself and people’s rise to power, but that’s what I’ve been focused on lately.
“Mutiny” sounds like a story, but also a prophecy of sorts – do those dystopic undertones reflect the way you feel about the city right now?
Not what I feel now, maybe it’s fear that’s being laden on me of a future situation that’s unpleasant. I’m just trying to make optimistic scenes that people can look at and feel inspired and have a feeling of confidence, unity and community. And it’s fun too, because it’s like creating your own [reality] in a sense.
It sounds like Detroit is a big theme in your work. Has growing up around Detroit and living here influenced your work?
Oh totally. I’ve always realized that Detroit was important to me, but as of late, have a deeper understanding and that has inspired a lot of my work lately… [reflected in] the grittiness and colors I use. It’s influenced my entire outlook on my art- how I want it to impact the community I grew up in, how I want it to inspire certain people, to kind of represent what Detroit is on a global scale when people see my work. I have a lot of pride in living in Detroit for that reason. I feel like Detroit is often overlooked, especially in the art scene. I think the art scene is thriving right now.
How do you want your art to impact the community?
I like to show self-confidence in my artwork. I want kids to be inspired by my work and know that they can create their own universe. And [for] older generations, I want to give them hope for the youth and a nostalgic breath of fresh air that reminds them of certain things that they grew up and were comfortable with.
Are there pieces in Chess Moves that reflect more personal stories about your life and experiences?
I think I try to do that in almost every piece, but telling it from someone else’s perspective and translating that into its own story or its own dialogue is important for me. There’s a few pieces I’ve made that are self-portraits that do reflect on myself and certain mind states I’ve been in. Most of them are not directly representing me, I’m not trying to put myself in any of them.
Does putting your stories and experiences into your work feel vulnerable?
Yeah, I think that’s being an artist. That’s what I’ve learned, especially with social networks you’re always vulnerable when you share your work, just because [there is] a sea of people that have the potential to see it. The gallery space is the same concept, but on a micro-scale. I try to think of it in a productive sense like, ‘how can I use my vulnerability so that people can relate to me?’
Are there any artists, places, or things that inspired this body of work?
It’s tough for me to always pinpoint inspiration because whenever I create, it’s exactly how I’m feeling at that moment. So, it’s a very broad answer, but Life, in general. I’ve been studying history a lot, so that’s been exciting to look back in different perspectives. But mostly it’s about humanity and human choices.
What are your sources for learning and how have you developed your style?
I consider myself a student of art because I’m constantly learning and evolving. I really push myself to experiment with different styles… I don’t know if that’s because I hate repetitiveness.
Through studying older inspirations and people who have come before me – people like Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anthony Lister…those are a few people that are inspirations. I study a lot of art and texts, but constantly spend the time on developing myself and my art foremost.
Over the years, a lot of it has been focusing less on technique and taking a more natural approach. Not letting my mind do any work until after I’m done with it, and being a vessel for whatever energy is allowing me to create at that moment. It’s like a meditative state; it’s tough.
SAVE THE DATE: CHESS MOVES OPENING RECEPTION
APRIL 13th 6-9PM
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