The Untitled Magazine sat down with Brooklyn-based partners in life and painting, Colleen Barry and Will St. John, to discuss their upcoming show, Ride the Tiger presented by Adam Driver and Joanne Tucker. The exhibit will present an array of figurative paintings at the Caelum Gallery in Chelsea on view to the public from March 11, 2022. Ride the Tiger is the culmination of a decade-long journey between Colleen and Will through personal and creative trenches leading the artists to emerge on the other side with a selection of art with an air of relaxed urgency and an illusion of effortlessness, appealing to the ‘insider and outsider’ in us all.
How has growing up in New York influenced your art?
Colleen: It gave me elements of grit and taught me to be a risk-taker. I learned to appreciate the great culture from the museums. It taught me to vibe in the coolest way possible.
Will: New York is the place to be if you want to be the best at what you do in your chosen field. People often point out the dinginess of the city, but there is also a higher concentration of excellence here than in many other places. And it will rub off on you if you let it.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Will: No, when I was a teenager I wanted to be Kurt Cobain.
What messages are you trying to convey through your art?
Colleen: Monumentality, humanism, primal urges.
Will: Figuration is the optimal way to convey human empathy in art.
How do you both influence each other’s art?
Will: We critique each other constantly: we critique each other’s work, social media persona, even the outfits we wear. Everything gets put through the wringer. So while our styles are very different we are constantly challenging each other to uphold a certain standard.
Has Will ever helped you cut your bangs?
Colleen: I would never let him near my bangs!
Do you feel as though your art changed after becoming a parent?
Colleen: Absolutely, there was an urgency in my creation that I simply didn’t have before. A sense of the fleetingness of life; and my work became more personal, a lot more personal.
Colleen, do you consider yourself a feminist artist?
Colleen: Uh, no. I’m not preoccupied with thoughts like that at all.
What do you consider your biggest career highlight so far?
Will: Probably painting NYC “it” girl Hari Nef.
Tell us a little bit about your style. What are three words you think can describe your art?
Colleen: Iconic, Monumental, Human.
Will: Increasingly. More. Expensive.
Favorite fashion designer?
Colleen: Alessandro Michele.
What do you look for in your subjects to paint
Will: I look a lot at the people around me in NYC, friends, people I secretly admire, unique souls.
If you could work with any artist, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Colleen: Michelangelo because of his fearlessness.
Will: Lady Gaga, same reason.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you aren’t creating art?
Will: When I’m not painting I usually just lay around thinking about painting.
What superpower would you have and why?
Colleen: To make people fall in love with me and give me everything.
Will: To be in multiple places at once, so I could get more done.
Do you like sports? If so, who is your favorite team?
Will: The Islanders
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Colleen: Don’t judge the work midway through.
Will: Don’t be too precious about your work.
Colleen: I like curries
What couldn’t you do without?
Colleen: Strong coffee and a good painting surface.=
Will: My studio, my safe space.
Colleen: Cyan Kombucha.
Will: Cannabis and Ketamine.
What is your dream project?
Colleen: Someday I’d like to curate an exhibition at a gallery or museum.
Will: I’d like to do a collab with Tomo Koizumi.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Will: A few years ago we had a model, an older man, who insisted that he sweep the floor of our studio on his hands and knees after the end of every session completely naked. He also asked, politely, that we call him “The Naughty One.” He would only refer to Colleen as, “My Lady”. People definitely feel our vibe in different ways.
What influenced your color palettes to change?
Colleen: I wanted my paintings to look the way electronic paintings sound.
Are there any other forms of art you could see yourself dabbling in?
Will: I’ve done a little sculpture and digital art. I like trying new things and experimenting with different media from time to time. But in order to do anything really well, you have to be focused on just that thing all the time, in my opinion.
Are there any places you like to go to for inspiration?
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?
Colleen: Electronic music mostly, and Bach when I need to be grounded. It goes from Thom Yorke to Bach.
Will: Kaytranada, Depeche Mode, and Art Feynman.
Will, we see you did an NFT on your Instagram. Do you believe NFTs are the “future of art”?
Will: I think NFTs will certainly be a part of the future of art. As life moves more and more online it makes sense that we will see parallel markets for real-world objects as well as digital ones.”
Is there anything you can tell us about Ride the Tiger, anything we should be looking out for?
Will: Ride the Tiger is the culmination of two years of solid work. You could call it our quarantine period. Even though they were painted in a rather bleak time for us, in many ways these are our most optimistic works.
What can we look forward to from you both in 2022?
Colleen: More paintings.
Will: Will St. John x Lady Gaga collab
Sun 11- 5pm