Art In Uncertain Times: Doom-Scrolling with Canyon Castator
"At this point, I don’t know that there is much else to be added to the running dialog about our post-COVID19 world," Canyon Castator wrote from his home in LA. "It feels as though every thought, revelation, experience is shared as we finish the sentences of each other’s collective reality." And we can't agree more with this sentiment as we keep getting emails that start with "hope you're doing well in these strange times," and finishing every conversion with "can't wait to hang again, buddy!" Yet, it's still helpful to hear about other people's experience and about the ways they are coping with the situation, so, for Art in Uncertain Times, we checked the colorful Castator, whom we featured back in 2018.
Castator cannot resist sardonic, satirical commentary of social reality, and he always expresses it in an exuberant montage of figures pulled from social, media, politics, popular culture, and personal experience. These affectionately absurd compositions filled with oversaturated visuals and distorted narratives, mimic the surreal stepping stones we trip over everyday. Commenting on the competing connections between our virtual and real worlds, he shrugs, "We’re all doom-scrolling endlessly, hoping to find some semblance of fear affirming truth, or rarer yet, an optimistic crumb to cling to. In a society that hinges on the desire for daily new content, it’s really starting to feel like a redundant re-run."
"Depressed yet??? Feel like you finally understand Cypher’s desire to blue pill back into Matrix? “Wake up and it will all just feel like a dream?”... Wait, let’s throw in an anxiety-ridden election between two geriatrics that will ultimately determine the future of the nearly* failed state of America. Late Stage Capitalism presents - 2020: Fascism VS George W Bush Light! ...and if you vote in person, you might die...very cool! ***eyes roll back in the head as I slowly start to Avenger dissolve, whispering “Mr Stark, I don’t feel so good...
Castator continues his commentary like an off-the-mic riff of a late-night talk-show host of the future, ***Everyone: “We don’t feel so good...”*** But I'm here to tell you there's something else, The afterworld, A world of never-ending happiness, You can always see the sun, day or night..."
With a thirst to explore our visual and intellectual relationship with the virtual, digital world his paintings seek to digest and this overwhelming experience. Starting off on iPad as a puzzle of opposing, contrasting visuals, the artist proceeds to printi and render them in oil on canvas, building the chaotic, eye spinning conflict that makes the work so uniquely captivating. This whole process is part of his exploration of the fragility of the mind in the age of connectivity, choosing party culture for its portal into the herd mentality of youth culture. But strangely, that entire scene is now put on pause along with everything and everyone else.
"When LA locked down with shelter in place orders, later leading to complete beach closures, I found myself constantly having surf dreams. By design, surfing is social distancing, and the fact that the state made it illegal was absurd to me. I became more obsessed than ever with checking the live surf cams of completely empty beaches and waves. I started following all of the new swell moving into the LA area, knowing that it would fall on vacant shores." This clear-eyed observation exemplifies the weird and incomprehensible mind-set that has infiltrated us recent months. With a quiet frenzy, the pace of life has completely shifted, and Castator hasn’t missed the opportunity to address this in his recent work. One brilliant example is a new edition to be released on August 19th at 9AM LA time via Street Art News as part of a new collaboration between the renowned Urban Art online media platform and Carl Kostyál Gallery.
"There is something else, but it’s personal," he continues on a more personal note, "My slow return to the individualized experience. Solo trips to the beach, late night motorcycle rides, walks with my dog as I suck back nicotine and habitually check my *dead* phone... As a painter whose routine requires spending countless hours locked in a white walled dojo, toiling over the minute and banal shit no one will ever even notice, you’d think I’d be better at spending time alone... but I’m not. I love being around people, I love to be distracted, give me an opportunity to bail on the studio and I’ll be there in 20, maybe 25 now that traffic’s picking up again. I used to rely on this social energy to get me through the day. It took a minute to find a flavor of methadone to replace the real thing, but these moments that really only exist for me, unshared, disconnected, they deliver the fix. They recharge me enough to keep me excited about getting back into the studio. It gives me time to think about the work, what I want from it, and what I NEED from it. It’s really helped, and it’s something that I’d really like to continue as we move into the second wave of this never-ending nightmare."
Studio photos credit by Joshua Elan // Text by Sasha Bogojev