Have you ever daydreamed about living in a cartoon universe? You know, where you’re high-fiving Bugs Bunny, giving some pyrotechnic pointers to Yosemite Sam or scheming up an ingenious idea with Bart Simpson? Then, you must see the work of Luke O’Sullivan. The Boston-based artist applies screen-printed drawings on wood and steel to create sculptures that look like they belong on your Saturday morning cartoon.
We love how O’Sullivan incorporates drawing, printmaking and 3D in constructing everything from a briefcase of cash to old school ghetto blasters. We caught up with the artist to ask him what inspired him to start this kind of art. Read that interview below.
You’ve said in a previous interview that you like the ‘the moments where cartoons/fiction collide with something from our world.’ Can you elaborate?
I always thought it was amazing when cartoons clash with ‘real life.’ For example, when Roger Rabbit interacted with people or when Homer was in that 3-D land in a Treehouse of Horror episode, and was transported into a ‘real’ New York City. It was a very curious and fascinating thing for me when I was younger; those scenarios left a big impression on me.
The Phantom Tollbooth film was another example of that. It’s pretty simple, but hard to pull off. I saw a preview for that new alien movie Paul, and it's the same principle, but based on the preview I wasn’t really convinced… it just seems like displacement tactic, kind of gimmicky, you know? I think some of my sculptures can be seen as foreign objects or artifacts. Familiar, but embellished or exaggerated versions of everyday objects.
How do you choose what you’ll ‘cartoon’ up next?
Sometimes found objects have produced ideas, but usually drawings and current projects will lead into the next piece. I like the idea of continuity through that method. Even though each project usually fluctuates in scale and between 2D and 3D, the overarching body of work feels very linear. I find a lot of inspiration through the building process. Sometimes ideas come when I'm sketching out my current project, when I'm on a table saw, or screen-printing, I think more clearly when I'm not staring at a wall or a sheet of paper asking myself questions.
I like how your work incorporates multiple disciplines – sculpture, drawing, and painting. When did you realize that you could bring it all together in your art?
One of the lessons I keep learning is that even though I love drawing and printmaking, it doesn’t mean every idea should employ those tools. Often times my work generates meaning from the process and materials, but it is really important not to force a technique on a piece. Sometimes a simple pencil drawing is all you need, but, on the other hand, getting carried away with color and all-over drawings can be important too. The idea to screen-print on wood and start building things like the boomboxes and houses was all based on a random drawing I was doing when I was bored. It was something like a 9 color screen-prints with pencil and I just stenciled out a bunch of shapes and started drawing… then I got carried away screen-printing everything.
Tell us about Foundation (9 Boxes). (See immediately below.) What do they represent?
Foundation (9 Boxes) was inspired by dystopian films, absurd architectural concepts, and natural disaster prevention. It was around the time when the housing market crashed, and I was thinking a lot about modular housing units, and faades.
Who are some other artists that you admire? Who’s pushing boundaries?
Giovanni Piranesi, Sidney Hurwitz, Rembrandt, Lee Bontecou, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude are some of my all-time favorites. The Faile boys always kill it, and Nicola Lopez is making some incredible stuff. But yeah, there's a ton of great art that I see online every day, and I was lucky enough to go to school with a ton of great artists, too. It’s a hustle though, it feels like everyone is pushing boundaries.
Thanks for the interview, Luke. Sweet stuff. Luke O’Sullivan’s website