No Regrets: Imon Boy @ Thinkspace Projects
Earlier this month Thinkspace Projects introduced No Regrets, a solo presentation by Spanish man of mystery, Imon Boy, comprising new works on canvas and paper. And having a soft spot for the subvertisers of any kind, we wanted to do a recap of this show as it runs its final days over in LA, especially after visiting his studio in Malaga a few days ago (see last couple of images in the slide).
Through his work, the Spanish artist often confidently disrupts the stereotypes associated with graffiti, providing a more honest, albeit ironic and critical view at it. Simultaneously, he is pursuing his prolific practice of writing and painting outside his studio. "The graffiti scene has always been closed with classic ideas. I have never felt completely comfortable in the graffiti scene, and I'm still not," Imon Boy told us in an interview we did with him back in 2019, and this sentiment is still a crucial element in his work. Over the years, he shifted his focus from depicting the typical graffiti moments, and is now interested in the wider picture of life with, or around this lifestyle or art genre. In fact, his artistic practice is an ongoing visual diary about things that occupy his everyday life, from reading comics, over video games, days at the beach, spending time with his cat, his girlfriend, browsing the Internet, and not least, tagging and writing graffiti. "I do not live in the world of graffiti, nor do I identify with it. I like to paint, I just paint, and I don't want to label myself. I paint my world, what I live day by day, the places I visit, what I eat or what I see on the internet. I paint my world," the artist told us during the visit to his studio which overlooks the radiant Costa Del Sol. All of those influences come together in his practice which comprise everything from intervening over existing visuals (Pokemon cards, maps, comics), drawing with pencil, ink, or wax crayons, to paintings in acrylic. And it's the latter that's been most elaborated recently, with a lot of focus being put on light, glow, and the buildup of atmospheric scenes, as well as pushing the painterly approach to his studio work.
Starting from an image of a phone glow enwrapping one of his characters from a few years back (still hanging in his studio today), Imon Boy's recent imagery frequently features warm sunsets, glowing moonlights, underwater light, and similar light sources which greatly enrich the setting he is working with. Such setup constructs a distinctive ambience, especially when presented in a sequence-like order, which creates a cinematic narrative to his work (Snake with Brick , The Watch, both 2021). "Sometimes I like to paint in series. Like movie clips. At the installation level, I find it interesting how from a large canvas, with many details, I select those details to show them on a larger canvas. I don't really mean to look for a concept with this, it's purely aesthetic, but I like how a canvas becomes a frame when it is divided into more pieces. I lengthen the discourse," the artist told us about this new concept he is exploring. Realised with thickly layered paint applied in flowing brush strokes, these images are pushing the cartoon-like visuals into the traditional painterly sphere, clashing different worlds together at the same time. And it's this border between painting, cartoon, illustration, and graffiti, where Imon Boy is operating, cleverly disclosing the other side of a stereotypical testosterone-filled graffiti life. "The idea arose from the brick work," he told us about where the idea for the show title came from. "The boy is grabbing a canister of spray cans from a police car, using a brick to break the window. This guy has no regrets. And neither do the other protagonists of the rest of the canvases. A girl who doesn't regret spending a whole night in front of the computer, someone who doesn't regret painting a wall, or someone who doesn't regret declaring her love for her crush. I don't regret anything either." Depicting his protagonists as somewhat clumsy and insecure boys and girls covered in silly tattoos, habitually in conflict with the police, he is in reality portraying the more believable, truer side of the scene. Numb to the world around them while glued to their phone screens, hanging with their pets, or being scared while breaking the law, they seem to transform the ubiquitous, supposedly absolute maxim No Regrets into a self-motivational, non-convincing cliche. —Sasha Bogojev
Installation photo credit by Birdman Photos / Studio photos by Sasha Bogojev