Andrew Hem: 'Unknown Terrain' at KP Projects/ MKG

Andrew Hem's murals for Santa Monica College

Andrew Hem has been busy: painting, traveling and executing murals. He recently completed a pair of murals for Santa Monica College -- where he once took his first figure drawing class -- which depict the artist and his sister, who he says he hasn't seen for awhile. He is also the subject of Unknown Terrain, a solo exhibition of his work at KP Projects/ MKG in Los Angeles. Hem's ethereal paintings hover between memory and reality, creating a poetic bridge. He is a gifted colorist and a natural artist whose work comes from the heart.

John Seed Interviews Andrew Hem

Andrew Hem

Growing up in the tough parts of LA, how did you find your way towards art? 

Growing up in L.A. I always leaned towards the gang writings on the walls. I didn't even know they were gang writings when I was young. I just knew it looked cool. One day in middle school I wrote my whole essay on the writings I saw on the walls and the teacher asked me in front of the whole class: "Andrew when did you become a gangster?" and then told me "Do your whole essay over again." That was the last time I wrote like that. Gang writings led to graffiti and graffiti led me to art.

In My Shoes, Acrylic on panel, 24 x 35 in

After studying at Santa Monica College you attended Art Center in Pasadena and majored in illustration. How did studying illustration shape your work?

I just wanted to be an illustrator because I loved figure drawing. I didn't know what an illustrator was. I just loved to paint figures and landscapes.

Aframe, Acrylic on panel, 24 x 43 in

Who have some of your important teachers and mentors been? 

Gary Meyer, Scott Hess, Marc Trujillo, Kent Williams, Jim Salvati. They are amazing teachers that helped shape me to the painter I am today.

Close to the Edge, Acrylic on panel, 24 x 42 in

It has been said that your art is full of supernatural, dreamlike and spiritual imagery. Do you agree with those characterizations? 

Yeah I do. Ghost and alien stories always interest me. Eighty percent of the people I meet always have a ghost story and five percent will have a UFO experience. They have no reason to be lying to me and I believe them 100 percent. All of my interests always leaks into my paintings. I think ten percent of my work is probably spiritual. The rest are dreamlike memories I have of my experiences.

The Journey Begins, Acrylic on panel, 25 x 44 in

What are some of the main themes of your current work? 

I've been fortunate to travel to some amazing places. And from that I've met some amazing people and experiences. Life experiences turns to stories which then turns into paintings. My last show I was told it was darker and I didn't even realize it. Looking through it I can understand why they said that. I was going through some real personal things and didn't even realize it leaked into my paintings.

Quiet, Acrylic on panel, 24 x 48 in

Tell me about one of your recent large scale works. 

I have two styles of painting. One is more rendered and the other is more painterly. When I bring out the large canvas the painter in me comes out and I just want to make the whole thing impasto. When it's large I only use oils. When it's small I use acrylic. I don't know why I choose to do that, it just happens. The larger works are inspired by the times I spent during my youth.

Moves Slow and Steady, Acrylic & oil on panel, 24 x 43 in

What are your interests outside of art? 

I like finding good pho or ramen spots. Enjoy binge watching naruto anime. Traveling, going to the gym, sleeping 10 hour days. I'm kinda obsessed with repetition. Which is strange cause I hate to repeat myself when it comes to painting. But I'll watch the same things over and over again for weeks. It will drive most people crazy. I sometimes do paintings listening to one song. If the painting takes three weeks it will be three weeks of listening to the same song. A bit weird.

Andrew Hem: Unknown Terrain
October 10th - November 7th, 2015
KP Projects/ MKG
170 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036