Interviewed: Sean Newport

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I met Sean Newport through mutual friends about a year ago at his incredible warehouse space known as Engine Works. It wouldn't be about a year later when we met again and realized our paths crossed beyond mutual friends, but our own interests in the art world. My first encounter with Sean's artwork was using his imagery to promote an event for Juxtapoz, I had no idea that the Sean I met a year earlier was the same Sean's artwork I had begun to admire so much. –Brent Gentile

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Brent Gentile: Where are you working these days?
Sean Newport: I cofounded an artist's warehouse in the Mission called Engine Works. We spent a good portion of 2010 remodeling it into a functional space. Aside from the overall aesthetic remodel, we've built a wood shop, metal shop,studio spaces and set up a recording studio in the basement. The space buzzes with creative energy. I spend most of my time in my studio painting or in my wood shop cutting and sanding. My goal is to not have a "real" job in order to focus on my work. It's hard though. When money is tight I generally work odd jobs for friends.

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Were you born and raised in the Bay Area?
August 1, 2014 will be my 10 year anniversary in San Francisco. I was born in Long Beach, Ca. I grew up there and Riverside, Ca.

How long have you lived in the Mission district?
Four years.

Do you find your surroundings influence your work?
Definitely. Probably more than I am aware of. I am constantly looking at colors and color combinations in nature and how they might translate into my work. At Engine Works I am surrounded by friends working on projects that have totally influenced and inspired me.

Is there something you find is unusually influential?
I'm not really sure. Maybe? If there is something unusually influential, I guess I haven't myself connected the dots.

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Your preferred medium seems to be wood and paint, right?
100% yes. It's a medium I am comfortable with. I'm learning how to manipulate both wood and paint in relation to each other more and more.

Your work is beyond meticulous, do you obsess over every single cut?
Yes I'm pretty OCD about my work. It's important to have each shape as close to one another in size as possible. The closer in size, the cleaner the pattern is. With that said, I embrace the imperfections when they occur, or more when I discover them once the pieces are mounted. Nothing is perfect, even if it appears to be.

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What’s the life like for one of your pieces? Do you start with a detailed plan?
It's a mix of planning and improvising. The layout of the shapes is more or less planned. I like to spend time exploring new patterns by simply doodling with the shapes and arranging them in ways I haven't before. I try and do this as often as I can because it's so helpful in exploring the endless possibilities these shapes offer. As far as painting goes, I try to have at least a few colors picked out for each piece and I usually leave a few other colors open to whatever inspired me at that moment.

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Your current work has a consistent style and theme from piece, to piece, how did arrive at this? Have you always been interested in geometrics?
When I noticed the way light reacted to color on my spiked shape pieces was when I focused more on that and ways to manipulate patterns through color and light.I've always been into geometrics in some way or another. Although, recently my work has brought me to reading more books on geometry and sacred geometry than anything else.

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Color plays a large roll in your work, how’s this decision made?
I use to pull a lot of my color pallet from color patterns engrained in my memory as a child. My mom was huge into the southwestern decor. Lots of magenta and cyan whites and greys. Growing up in the 80's and 90's I was obsessed with neon colors. I've been drawn to bright colors ever since. A lot of my work involves colors bouncing off one shape and onto another. So I am constantly thinking about how to play with that on top of the overall pallet of each piece. The way grey's react next to vibrant colors such as blue, pink and yellow. Its incredible! Also, Im a huge fan of OpArt so a lot of my colors come from that in which can alter ones perception.

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Do you use any stock materials? Or is everything created from scratch?
Everything is from scratch. I started using poplar hardwood a while back because it's light weight, durable and takes to paint well. Before that I was using any scrap wood I could find. Creating each shape involves multiple table saw and miter saw cuts. After the shapes are cut there are usually splinters from where the blade exits the wood. I spend a lot of time sanding each side of each shape so that its a smooth paint finish.

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Being as skilled a woodworker as you, is this all self taught?
I've been fortunate to have such talented friends teach me along the way. When we started remodeling Engine Works was when I learned a ton. We've been building this place out for over three years. The first two years were pretty insane. Non stop building, but it allowed for me to become more familiar with using heavy power tools. Once I stared making all these shapes I definitely had to step up my fine carpentry skills. That just came with countless hours in my shop cutting and chopping. Also, YouTube has been a great source of information.

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What’s on the agenda for 2014? Any shows coming up?
I'm really excited for this year. I am involved in a couple group shows. Benny Gold's Glider Plan show. The date hasn't been announced, but i'd definitely recommend checking it out. He gave out toy glider planes to at least 50 artists to do whatever we wanted to them I've been following his blog and there are some killer planes! Also, Gallery Daily is showing my work at a Popup group show with White Walls and ParkLifeSF. Im also working on an installation on the outside of Mars-1 studio. After that I'm hoping to able to get down to SXSW and do something there. Still trying to figure out the angle on that one.

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// For more information about Sean Newport, visit sean-newport.com

John Leigh "Karborn"

San Francisco, 1978

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