Local artist Taurean Washington paints from hip-hop musical inspiration. He describes his work as visual music, as every painting is a song and a compilation of paintings is an album. His latest collection? Black Butterfly, inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Read our Q&A with Taurean!
What would you describe as your style of art? What do you like to paint?
I would describe my work as “visual music.” For every painting is a song. For every group of paintings is an album. As far as content, my work is primarily figurative, very conceptual, and usually providing a response to pop culture or mainstream ideas.
How has hip-hop influenced your art?
Hip-hop has always been there in my work. I’ve basically mirrored myself as a “Visual Rapper or MC.”
To me, hip hop is an art form that allows one to convey their ideas in a poetic but energetic way.
I’d like to think my artwork is lyrical, just like a rapper that has concepts and puts together a very intricate cadence.
What is your favorite work of art or collection? The one you are most proud of? Why?
Oh wow, this is a hard question. As far as a work from another artist, I’d say “Demoiselles D ’Avignon” by Picasso. The image is so raw and gritty! I really love the vision he put forth to create something like that. But there are so many favorite works I have from several artists.
As far as my own work, I’d say that my piece titled “Fast Food Franchise Fight” is the one I am most proud of so far. It has all of the fast food icons fighting one another in a big brawl. At that time, (in 2008) I elevated to a new level with my work. I felt like that piece provided the tone for my new growth as an artist.
How old were you when you decided you wanted to be an artist?
I have always been sketching and drawing for as long as I can remember. My grandmother said that I was always sketching in her encyclopedias as a toddler. I kept sketchbooks since 7 years old. But I’d say from that moment on, I was into drawing my own comics. But 8th grade was the year I wanted to be a conceptual artist, more into the fine art side of the spectrum.
What is the artists’ biggest struggle?
I think time is the artist’s biggest struggle. You fight to get so many ideas and concepts out in your lifetime as an artist. That is why many artists create non-stop. There are only 24 hours in a day and 8 of them (for some of us lol) are hours designated for sleep.
What keeps you going?
I have always had this passion and hunger since I was a child. I like to compete with myself and be the best artist I can be. Since day one, I had a mission as an artist and I’m not going to stop until I get there.
What is your artistic process? How do you begin a painting?
My process as an artist has changed over the years. Just like a hip hop artist, many people “write” or sketch (in my case) their ideas. Over the years, I started realizing that it is easier for me to go “off-top”, working out the problems in my head.
That way, the flow is easier and I can work out everything as I layout the composition.
How do you know when a work is finished?
I know there are many artists that say that there is a gut instinct. For me, it used to be that.
But now, it’s more so at a point where I can live with what I did to it. I am my own worst critic and could possibly ruin my own piece by overworking it.
In your experience, what has been the best thing about painting?
The best thing about painting is that there are no rules. I can paint what I want and can have the freedom to “fly”. It’s so relieving. For me, I can paint non-stop and not worry about the time.
What inspired the theme of your latest exhibition: Black Butterfly?
Over time, I developed a scope or a method of doing work. My practice consists of taking one hip hop album and interpreting the album song by song. Each painting will interpret one song. When I do something like this, it allows for a dialogue to take place between myself and the hip hop artist. I would like to think that we are pushing each other to make good art.
For this series, I take the album “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar. This album is very dear to me. To me, it is one of the best albums ever made, regardless of the genre of music. Also, I have been on a quest for self-discovery and within this album consist of ideas of black liberation, black history, etc.
What can one expect during this upcoming exhibition in November?
One can expect to hear some great music from Kendrick Lamar in contrast to the actual paintings. There will be 16 original paintings on display, along with dozens of reproductive prints from my current and previous work.
I will have an artist talk at 2:15 so come early! (Lol)
But after the artist talk, works can be taken home that are sold. That is the nature of the pop up to sell and take home that day. I hope that as many people can see the series in its entirety before works start to disappear.
What role does the artist have in society?
I feel that the artist has a role of changing the way people think and shift views positively or negatively.
A great work of art can move you in so many ways. The artist is a spark that keeps the world moving.
Visit the Delaplaine for a one-day-only show featuring the art of Taurean Washington! The artist’s acrylic on canvas artwork is an eclectic mix of modern and contemporary art. Many pieces feature “sampling” from hip hop music. His artwork is set against a background of audio instrumentals, providing a soundtrack for the show. See you there!