Combining unshakably meticulous imagery alongside flawless displays of colour and deep, brooding themes of industrialism, religion and decay is a tall order for any artist. Yet Beau Stanton, with a tweak of his facial hair and ream after ream of recorded patterns and shapes, carries it off very well indeed. In light of his recent work with 1xRun, his muralism and solo show, Tenebras Lux, VNA got talking to Stanton in an exclusive interview on religion, architecture and the humble moustache.
JS: Your work typically features a colour palette from a select range of blues, golds, reds and greens. What draws you to these colours in particular?
Beau: Color is one element of my work that I aim to constantly push, creating unexpected color harmonies is a great way to keep the work dynamic. The color in my earlier work was very subtle and restrained and lately it’s been getting a lot more intense. This might also be a result of the way I like to prepare the surface before applying the design by layering multiple colors then sanding back into which tends to create accidental textures and color combinations.
JS: Your work often holds religious symbolism, is this a reflection of your own beliefs or is it a device for aesthetic or metaphorical purpose?
Beau: One of my main objectives in creating the work is to make iconic, compelling images that also maintain an enigmatic element, balancing accessible and esoteric. Religious iconography tends to be fertile ground for this kind of dynamic and I often research sacred art from ancient and Medieval sources as a starting point.
Although my work is entirely secular, I enjoy that people often find some kind of higher meaning in it.
JS: Leading on from that, is your recent work with stained glass windows an offshoot of this religious interest?
Beau: I’ve wanted to translate my paintings into stained glass for a while since I’d had a brief experience working in the medium several years ago. My renewed interest came from the luminosity and glow that I look to achieve in my oil paintings, adapting those images into stained glass was the next logical step, I was just waiting for the right place to show them.
Last year I was in Bristol visiting my good friend Andy Phipps who showed me an incredible 12th Century crypt that is located inside the old city walls. Once in the space I knew exactly what I wanted to do and just about a year later we installed my Tenebras Lux exhibition there before it traveled to StolenSpace in London.
Beau: Branching out into a new medium presented some interesting challenges, particularly because of the size and scope of the work. Due to the impracticality of constructing and shipping the larger work from New York, I hired the London based Cut Glass Studio to construct most of the panels based on my designs before I painted in all of the rendered elements and line work. I was really satisfied with the end result and how substantial the objects became once set into their self-illuminating frames. I’m currently planning similar projects to translate my images into a variety of other media in order to create more immersive installations.
JS: Where do you find inspiration for the intricate patterns you use?
Beau: The patterns I use are an amalgamation of different letterpress design elements, architectural ornaments, textile patterns, and any other interesting details that I find in old books or while traveling. I am constantly drawing or photographing these elements as I discover them, adding to my archive and incorporating them into new work.
JS: Where did you first begin to pick up the features that are so individual in your work today and what made you so drawn to the style initially?
Beau: I started creating images that combine graphic ornamentation with realist painting after I first moved to New York City in 2008. I’ve always had a strong interest in referencing history in my work but was instantly influenced by the 19th Century architecture, Victorian ephemera, and old ships that one can find around Brooklyn. The work continually evolves, growing in complexity by layering visual symbols, graphic ornaments, and artifacts as I collect them.
JS: What would you list as your biggest inspirations both architecturally and artistically?
Beau: Lately I’ve been really into some of the contributors to the American Renaissance like Saint-Gaudens and Tiffany who heavily influenced my recent show of stained glass. Modern masters like my mentor/past employer Ron English, Swoon and her incredible large scale installations, and always the masterful mind bending paintings by Esao Andrews. In terms of travel, some things floating around my brain include a recent trip to Istanbul which was an endless source of architectural reference, The Guardian building in Detroit (one of my favorite buildings ever), and the once abandoned but sadly currently rehabbed Glenwood Power Station just north of NYC (referenced in The Industrial Divine painting).
JS: What are your plans for the future and what exciting things can we expect?
Beau: I’ve got a couple of large projects on the horizon for 2015, all I can say right now is that I’ve got a something big in the works for New York and I will be back in the UK for another site specific install. Stay tuned.
JS: Of course an interview with you couldn’t be complete without referring to facial hair. How long have you had the iconic mustache and would you ever consider now being parted from it, it having since become such a huge part of your persona?
Beau: Ha! Well, the mustache (and seasonal beard) has been a permanent fixture for about six years with the exception of when I mistakenly shaved it off this past April. My worst fears were realized when my close friends didn’t recognize me, or just reminded me that I look 12. I haven’t shaved since.