Studio Visit w/ Artist Luke Siemens

Posted by Madeleine Till, July 11, 2017
Luke Siemens PlyGuy Render

Luke Siemens is a multidisciplinary artist with a keen interest in architecture and condo-culture. His tongue-in-cheek installation "PlyGuy" is included in our group show View Finder at the Drake Devonshire. We caught up with Luke at his studio in Toronto’s west end to talk about his process, interests, and future plans.

Can you talk a bit about your piece at the Devonshire?
I started "PlyGuy" by 3D modelling... I had developed some complex images but wanted to translate them into something simple, and construct work based on the material it was made out of. "PlyGuy" is deceptively simple. He’s a reference to the sort of bad furniture you’d see in Ikea. His first iteration was essentially a coat rack with a face. Although his face was neutral, he looked a bit anxious. Everything that was hung on or around him utilized his body, shifting it out of place. He’s kind of a caricature; anxious about the fact that he knows he’s cheap furniture, destined to be out on the curb soon.

When The Drake asked me to build another, at first I didn’t know what to do. Making use of construction material, or the Ikea-like plywood works in a downtown context, but in moving it up to the Devonshire and installing it outdoors, I wasn’t sure how it would evolve. We went through a couple of models before I was tasked with turning one of of his legs into a bench. Now one hand is a drink holder, the other is holding a plant... there are many things that happen to "PlyGuy", but he always maintains that blank anxious look.

Luke Siemens Studio 1

So much of your work is derived from architecture, was there a specific starting point for your interest?

When I think of Toronto’s future, I think of condos. I’m always interested in the difference between a condo presentation centre and the final product. What seems to show up in any project I do is this idea of contrasting a plan next to its outcome, or a structure next to a facade. In highschool I had an eating disorder, and it was one of those things where my structure was under attack by my facade - they’d push and pull against each other. That really framed my outlook on all sorts of things. Architecture became a useful stand in for my anxiety and for myself.

Luke Siemens Studio 2

It seems as though every project you’re working with completely different materials, whether digital, sculptural, or drawing.

I suppose I’m one of those people who’d like to do everything. After grad school, I felt like I could only make work in one way (drawing). I was such a control freak making these large-scale drawings, it wound me up pretty tight. I moved towards sculpture as a new way to find and a new way to think.

Is there any one process or material you’re most drawn to?

Any process I start begins with minute marks, probably in more detail than is required. Right now, I’m able to do more digitally, so I’m drawn to that. But, as I’ve been making 3D rendered blobs I’ve started to find ways I can draw them and make them hilarious. In the past week I’ve been turning to my sketchbook and drawing more and more, so I might go back to that.

Luke Siemens Studio 3

Do you start with a researched idea, or with sketches?

I have this push and pull that I’ve been trying to figure out for years. I’ll often over-think an idea, or I’ll have too many ideas mashed together and I’ll have to try and pull them all apart and find out which way to go. When condos became an idea, that took me all sorts of places - a lot of projects there just came from the imagery I pull from. In terms of blobs, I was showing someone how to model something in 3D, and haphazardly made a blob with a sky background. That mix of the physical bodily clay with the sublime sky image, and then adding layers of consumption and fruit stickers on top of it really turns the blobs into characters. That series has been much more instinctual than many others. I’ve been trying to find a way to work looser and quicker.

Luke Siemens Blob

Other than your installation at the Devonshire, any upcoming projects this summer?

I had a show planned that was cancelled last minute, now I’m kind of re-arranging my life and have no idea what’s coming next. I’ll probably try to find a way to make blobs - as drawings, and vice versa. I’m also looking to make some digital assemblages real, maybe a combination of a 3D printed blob, on a constructed frame, with a print.

You can see "PlyGuy" and the other works featured in View Finder on our exhibition page or IRL at Drake Devonshire.

Posted in: Art

Tags: art  drake devonshire  studio visit