Los Angeles. United States.
Hi Thai, please tell us a little about yourself, what brought you into the world of art?
My name is Thai Mainhard, I am an abstract painter based in California. I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I’ve lived in the United States now for almost 10 years with my husband and now 2 little kids. I’ve recently moved to Southern California after living in the Northern part of the state for 9 years. My work carries pieces of all these places, which I am deeply in love with. I grew up in an artistic environment and I’ve done most expressions as a child, but one that always stuck to me was painting and drawing. Everybody in school knew me for that. Like that one kid that can draw, and that really cemented in me. I went to college for design in Rio de Janeiro and not long after that I moved here and got a degree in Studio Arts. I was very fortunate to have excellent teachers in college that pushed me and saw me. I have confidence saying that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be having a career as an abstract painter now. Very thankful.
I’m sure in college you have studied all the styles of fine art. Why abstraction?
I did. My favorite class in college was actually figure drawing and I still do a lot of figurative sketches. The human body is so fascinating – the lines and shapes it creates. However in abstract I found a form of expression that translated best what I wanted to say – or not say – leaving it open to interpretation. I am drawn to the openness of it, the challenge of having a blank canvas in front of me and knowing it can be absolutely anything I want. it’s very freeing. Although one of my favorite things about the process of painting abstract is the fight. The point that we reach that we have to fight to find resolve, the push and pull, the stepping out and stepping back in, sometimes going on for hours or days, until that resolve is finally reached. There’s no better feeling in the world than that.
Could you tell us more about your style, what ideas or mood you put into your work.
My work is very emotional by nature. I rely on colors to set the atmosphere and play off of each other like our emotions do inside of us. I want to paint with physical mediums and surfaces what we feel inside as humans, feelings already abstract by nature, and bringing some kind of resolve within ourselves about being in our own skin and living on this planet in our deadly bodies. Relieve the incredible tension of what we can only feel but not see what goes on. It’s giving color, shape and form to that. The nature of being human, how small and fragile we are. My work in its essence is very processional of the internal and how it affects our thought patterns and ultimately shapes us into the people that we become, one day at a time. So I like to explore the mundane, dialogues and monologues, relationships, how we rely on each other for survival.
Which artists have especially inspired and inspire you so far?
The first artist I was ever drawn to for his sense of freedom and abstraction was J W Turner. I love how even back in the 1700s he gave us the first glimpse of that. His brushstrokes and color play are fascinating. But the first modern abstract artist that I was deeply influenced by was Cy Twombly with all his scribbles and oddly simple materials that made such powerful pieces. Joan Mitchell is another big inspiration. Her piece “Bracket” was the first larger-than-life piece that I saw in person and I just stared and cried. I am very drawn to Basquiat for his strong messages and bold color choices. In this new series I’m inspired by his solid color backgrounds and mark making. Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró are also strong influences.
Tell us about your studio, it seems you work at home.
I do. I am very fortunate to have a good setup at home, especially during these times where we are practicing social distancing and isolating ourselves. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be able to be home with my kids and work at the same time is a privilege I don’t take for granted.
It is really awesome and very comfortable! As for isolation, how do you handle this difficult time, has more time appeared for work?
It was hard in the beginning. I hit a wall in my practice because of the newness and very unsure state we were all experiencing in this. It took a few weeks to process it but I finally was able to tap into a headspace that I could produce again. Finding strength outside of myself was essencial, a spiritual connection with a Higher Power – and that is always my first move when feeling stuck. In doing that I was able to get back to work and make pieces that speak to me in these times and also speak to other people and their own processing, and hopefully help them get through hard times just like they help me.
Could you describe your usual working day, what habits are typical for you?
When I was in college, I’d go on walks with my teacher while he was going to the cafeteria to get his tea and I’d just ask him questions. I’d understand so much of my own process while he talked about his or the ones from famous painters that I grew to admire. One day he told me something I still hadn’t realized for myself about my own work – he told me that I worked in “bursts of energy” and that my best set up would be to work on multiple surfaces at the same time – which was a new concept to me – and get rid of “obstacles”. Back then I was making my own wood panels and as much as I truly loved making those, they took a lot of my time and energy. So I started to simplify and it changed everything for me. To this day I still work on multiple surfaces at a time and usually on one or two sittings only. It’s rare that a painting will sit in the studio unfinished for a long time because they’re usually about what I am processing at the moment, so I have to work on them fairly fast. I feel like if I take too long to finish them they lose their “momentum”. The whole concept is usually laid down on one sitting and then I’ll come back to it and finish the “thought” if it feels unfinished. Like a conversation that needed closure.
This is a very productive process, but where to get so much energy and inspiration from?
To be honest it’s not easy to find energy and inspiration most days, but I try to at least work on sketches on paper everyday, or even sketch on my phone to get ideas out of my head. But when I get going it’s hard to stop. When these bursts come they usually last about a week and at the end of that week I have a handful of big paintings and lots of works on paper (and I am also very tired, I must say. Nights tend to be very long, so they’re not very sustainable). I do those at the same time and I like that variation of surface material and scale, it keeps things interesting and tricks my brains enough to not repeat the same movement over and over again. I am inspired mostly by the day to day interactions that I have and thought patterns that I see in myself and people around me, so there’s a lot to be worked through at the end of any given day or week. When I am not on “full production” mode, I’m stretching canvases, working through my supplies and getting my studio ready for the next one.
Plans and goals for this year, it seems you already have a planned exhibition.
Yes I do, in Germany. It was supposed to be in March 2020, but it got postponed to this summer because of Covid. I want to do more shows here in the Los Angeles area and Southern California, New York and London. Let’s see how it goes!
THOUGHTS ON “MY HEART IS A JUNGLE”
Being born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, my surroundings growing up were always lush green, many shades of blue and white sand beaches. Those colors and a lot of feelings have stuck with me and now I am sharing them in these series. These pieces are personal but also relatable since I am exploring joy, frustration, wonder, connection, spirituality and overall processing of thoughts that can feel like a jungle inside.