Interview : Ian Johnson

31 Mar

I took a couple pics as Ian was setting up for Of The Living Sky, his show at Park Life this Friday. The show looks amazing and will run April 2 – May 1.
Tell me about Of The Living Sky. And what was playing in the background as you were working on the show?

Of The Living Sky is a collection of pieces I have made in the last year or so. The title was taken from a Sun Ra song called portrait of the living sky. Usually I title things from songs I listen to or that make sense to me. I took out the portrait part because it seemed kind of redundant given the work. The title eludes to the idea of sound vibrating, all kinds of frequencies, radiation, thoughts and wind all moving through what at times I perceive as a static blue or gray or black backdrop. It’s actually completely alive with all kinds of things and without the sky and air being able to vibrate, there would be no sounds and no music. I try and listen to who I am painting at the time so it was mostly, Sun
Ra, Eric Dolphy, Billie Holiday, Anthony Braxton, Miles Davis, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, Ellington, kind of all over the jazz spectrum really. I listen to other music though as well.

Does your work differ off the clock? Or may you even dip into crafts now and again for a change of pace?

I’m not sure what this means exactly. like if i just make art for myself? I don’t really have time to do stuff totally for myself, if I’m working there are a lot of things I should be doing. But I try to make things that I like so it’s kind of a gray area. I make music sometimes that’s pretty much just for the sake of doing it, aka its not very good.

sculptural aspect in the works

Favorite books or comics way back when or even now?

I was never into comics really. Book wise I like Murakami, Bukowski, Fante, Hamsun, Kafka, Celine… I haven’t been reading too much lately though unfortunately. So many books…

Do you have any inspirations that may be unexpected to those familiar with your work?

Probably not, it’s pretty straight forward. Though what the background means and how it relates to the person I’m drawing or their music or the time in which it takes place, they may not be aware of. I don’t think it’s that important to know those things though. Things come from everywhere I don’t think we are ever totally aware of the scope of what drives us in certain directions, or makes us respond to things in certain ways. That’s kind of whats nice about it.

okay be candid !

How has your process or perspective evolved in the past five years?

I am still learning how to paint, draw and compose elements which is kind of always a perpetual process I guess. Perspective wise, I am pretty much the same.

You’ve been art director for Western Edition Skateboards for about a decade. Have there been any major challenges?

As for Western Edition, challenges are really just getting everything made and sold in a timely fashion. Keeping the whole business running in general, which I don’t really handle. On the art side its not too difficult, its pretty much things I would want to see on a skateboard so it just takes some time once you decide what you want to make.

Whats is your ratio of skateboarding : art : sleep ?

1:17:30
It varies but lately something like that, I haven’t skated much lately.

Being a San Francisco resident for some time, what is something you can find here and nowhere else?

Obviously there are lots of things, vistas, hills, restaurants, streets and neighborhoods that are unique to sf so its hard to pick one thing. Its kind of corny but I would just say friends, that is what I would miss the most if I moved.

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