With his latest exhibit, Heroes + Heroines, currently on display in Yorkville, we spoke with renowned silkscreen artist Russell Young to get a deeper look into his unique creative process.
photos by Mustafa Sheikh, Taglialatella Galleries
When England-born, California-based artist Russell Young creates, he likes to tap into something that many tend to reject: boredom. With boredom serving as a blank slate, Russell is then free to create his renowned portraits, which are celebrated around the world for their evocativeness.
His work casts a light on some of the most iconic and infamous celebrities, but introduces a unique, new perspective and an innovative medium, with his signature diamond dust. Paintings in his Heroes + Heroines exhibit at Yorkville’s Taglialatella Galleries glisten with diamond dust, but have an innate darkness meant to reflect the subject’s inner struggles.
When HOLR spoke to Russell after the opening of Heroes + Heroines, he credited this to his love of contrast. “I’ve loved fame but I’ve loved shame as well,” he said. “So I’ve always liked the darker side of characters.” We caught up with Russell to hear more about his creative process behind his art and to learn more about the inspiration behind his latest exhibit.
HOLR: As an artist, is immersion in the 24-hour news cycle a help or a hindrance to your work? Is it distracting or inspiring?
Russell Young: Not an inspiration for me. I find it incredibly distracting. I have two studios in California and neither have a computer or TV, nor does my phone come into the studio. There’s only an old record player. It’s an old, analog way of engaging. I turn the tracks over or if I’m engrossed in my work then I don’t even know that music hasn’t been playing.
What it allows me to do is not having that constant barrage is it allows myself to get bored. I sit in the studio, get bored, and work through that. It really allows me to sit, think and go through those stages of boredom and the different creative stages and come out on the other side with what I’ve decided I want to create. It’s an interesting way of working but it really works for me.
HOLR: Describe your relationship with boredom.
Russell Young: You have to get bored to push through. I go into the studio every day and some days are better than others. Some days you throw a lot of stuff away but you have to push through. You have to train your mind to have longevity and to continue with a thought all day long.
Every painting I ever create, whether it’s abstract or sculpture or beautiful diamond dust painting, each painting informs the next one. So there’s a conversation throughout all of my work. Sometimes a whole conversation gets thrown away.
HOLR: You debuted a new portrait of Marilyn Monroe at Heroes + Heroines. What about Marilyn Monroe’s story has been so transcendent?
Russell Young: There is just something that radiates, even from the worst photographs of her. It’s just a shining light. There is just something about her. It’s something about the way the whole body is carried. There is an intelligence there. She’s a femme fatale in the greatest, most intelligent sense. There’s just a magic there.
HOLR: What was it about Toronto that made you want to bring Heroes + Heroines here?
Russell Young: I’ve been treated so well by Taglialatella Galleries in Toronto and they have represented me in New York, Palm Beach and Paris for over a decade.
They are a phenomenal gallery. They encourage me, support me and push me as an artist. It seemed like the right place and the right gesture to the gallery and everybody there to show this work there. Their genorosity and love to me is being returned by me.