“Anything having to do with the brain is interesting to me; I have lots of curiosity and questions concerning existence, both philosophically and scientifically, and because of my background a good place to start my interrogation of life is through the brain.” – Kelsey Brookes, 2013
A former biochemist turned artist, San Diego-based artist Kelsey Brookes is known for his highly abstract paintings. Chapman University has just acquired five of his pieces, Samatha 2, 3, 6, 11, and 30, which are now on view in the new Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine.
His paintings resemble, if anything, brains and other science-influenced imagery. He describes his subject matter as “molecular biology on acid,” creating images that reflect his background in science. Brookes has also worked with popular clothing brand RVCA, creating shirts, shorts, hats, and other products bearing his signature style. We talked with Brookes about his art, influences, and more:
When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue art as a career?
When I was 24 years old and tired of my previous career choice.
What motivates you to make work and stay focused in the studio?
Combination of fear of failure and enjoyment of the painting process.
Why did you choose to be based in Southern California? What are the benefits and challenges in working in Southern California?
I came to San Diego because I got a job working at a biotech company and because the coast is open to a lot of different swell directions.
What are you really excited about right now?
Growing family, New technology, Meditation.
What artists have influenced you and how?
Ryan McGinness has been a great source of inspiration and help to me. Robert Irwin for his work and for his book “Seeing Is Forgetting The Name Of The Thing One Sees”. Everyone should read this book, artist or not. Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Alexander Girard, Mark Flood, Sterling Ruby.
What advice would you give an artist just starting out?
This Chuck Close quote is great. “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” ― Chuck Close