Interview: Ammon Rost


Los Angeles, United States.



Please tell us a little about yourself, what brought you to the world of art and how did you start?

I was born in Tokyo and was raised there until the age of 11. I grew up immersed in Japan’s flourishing manga culture in the 80’s. Japan has a very high standard for drawing and what is puts out in its culture. Literally every comic series was drawn with incredible skill, with creative nuances in every detail from character, clothing style, to background landscapes. I was mesmerized.
Many works had Buddhist philosophies infused within the story, like in Dragon Ball, with emphasis on looking inward for power and personal empowerment. It was very healthy for the most part, and was creative rocket fuel for a kid. It was this Japanese manga culture that put me on a path of taking drawing seriously, and respecting its mysterious power and elegance. Another aspect of Japanese manga culture I wanted to mention is the presence of sexual content, even in comics children interfaced with. Because most comics have an ageless readership, at a very early age I was introduced to the sexism that exists specifically in Japanese culture. The violence towards women came by the objectification of women and sexist narratives in the manga. Even as a 6 year old, I remember feeling this darkness.

We would like to know more about your work, what ideas or meanings do you put on. Is there something that the viewer does not notice?

When you read wikipedia’s definition of love, it states “owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.”

My themes are no different.

Love expands your surroundings and can change the reality, it’s fascinating. I have been exploring the vulnerability that comes along with opening up to someone. By abstracting people, places, and objects that hold special meaning, my goal is to create a painting that can function like a poem. Having the capacity of renewing its freshness upon each read. Colors and individual characters that can talk to each other, are able to have a conversation.

What is art to you?

I think before you can make Art you have to find a strong sense of being a spiritual being connected with others. I was lucky to have parents that emphasized creative enrichment and had access to resources that inspired and educated. Art is a healthy obsession, and I learned how to make art from falling in love with certain artists and musicians and paying attention to what they were doing. The first thought I had was this is serious, and I should take it seriously.
I think your foundation is really important. To start correctly, to start slowly. To honor what actually means something to you, then follow.

Is there something that inspires you the most?

When I meet people that have been friends for decades I think it’s so special and exemplifies harmony. There’s such a lovely and essential quality about having people in your lives that understand you. Its calming, outright euphoric to look at someone and know they understand what you mean by just a look. It’s the hardest of tasks maintaining and finding true friends but it’s the best feeling.

What would you call your style?

ln abstract art, there is a lack of direct reference to identifiable forms, and puts greater demands on the viewers imagination. The viewer is allowed to participate, becoming the creator. Builder of their own narrative. I love this about abstract art, it plays all the best tricks on your brain and challenges it to rewire, reimagine.

Tell us about your studio, what kind of place is it?

My studio is in Los Angeles, it has at any time around 10 paintings in progress. I bounce around with a brush or oil stick encircled in them. Seeing them all in relationship to each other helps me hone in on what is going right with one painting and not with another. Referencing one mark or compositional traits on a piece and then making adjustments on a canvas that is less full. I like creating work that has a lot of breathing room, negative space. Instead of racking up a painting with many of the same moves, whether it be spray paint, oil stick, brush or hand swipe, I want to communicate the essence of the mark with just one move.

Could you describe your usual work day in the studio?

It’s all about finding ‘the zone’. Cultivating a lifestyle so the zone can occasionally surface. Your mind, body, and spirit has to all be clicking for creative expression to really flow. It’s a very elusive and difficult state to predict, but I have learned over time all I can do is set myself up for these moments to happen.
There’s a certain mindfulness at constant play, that your not engaged in an instant gratification type of practice. Like competitive sports, when you aren’t hitting your shots, it’s equally important to embrace the moment and remain humble.

I have a daily routine of running through the mountainous trails of Griffith Park for an hour. I have to actually raise my heart beat to have clarity in thoughts about my work, moves I should be making with lines, color. Subject matter I want to explore. I use my phone to set a reminder for later that day so I can pull from these ideas when working in the studio.

It is interesting to know about your experience of participation in the group exhibition in Beirut, which was opened by WIP gallery. What impressed you most?

WIP Gallery’s whole concept is to show art in a context outside of the traditional sterile gallery settings. The show CHROMA dressed up the charred and bombed out ballroom of the historic Starco building with vibrant, color rich works from emerging and established artists from around the world. The blackened walls painted by flames during the war, now existing alongside fresh, new works of art. The show felt optimistic and very charged.

Photo Credit: Vivian Kim

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