We had the good fortune of connecting with Ken Flewellyn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ken, why did you pursue a creative career?
Growing up I was constantly wrapped up with creative endeavors. When I was young, I played a few different instruments, was an amateur photographer, and had a love for building. I built my first computer at such an early age I thought I’d get into computer science or engineering¬¬. At some point I realized I was more interested in learning about aesthetics. I could still tool around with functional projects and let what I learned about design augment everything from there on out. That love of design started in a very mechanical fashion; giving life to projects whose function outweighed their form. As I digested more art my taste changed. Function became less of that spark and form was suddenly much more important. I’ve always been a proponent of monetizing passion to create a career. One life to live and all that.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a multidisciplinary artist working mostly with oil paint. I create realist “anti-portraits” meant to tell the story of my subject through carefully elected crops of their individuality. I obscure the identity of my model making their story told through the revelatory objects they wear. The bulk of my work exists within a series meant to challenge the conventions of cultural identity through the juxtaposition of traditional culture and contemporary subculture. Growing up in LA, I’ve always been surrounded by many different cultures. My love for Japanese aesthetics has been a part of me as long as I can remember. I blend motifs from my appreciation of traditional Japanese aesthetic with own culture told through the lens of a life-long love of musical subculture. A lot of the fun for me is in the fashion, balancing the serenity of cultural garb with a flash of contemporary swag. Four fingered rings studded with diamonds, flying cranes, lush flowing silk, boomboxes, garish gold chains, chrysanthemums and spiked heels all share a space to tell a complex story of identity. I’ve been fortunate enough to show in galleries around the world, inducted into a museum and sell pieces at auction. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy but there is no version of this career that is specifically easy. It’s full of constant ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it. At the beginning of my career, it was easy to see a stumble as a fall. Most notable for me was injuring my painting hand making it temporarily unusable. It was devastating then. After only a couple years of physical therapy I was able to get back in the studio. I spent that time learning about the business side of galleries. It made what seemed like a setback a much-needed pivot. The business of art was the best take away from those years off. Learning to conduct myself like a business has been invaluable.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
————————————– Fly in and get cleaned up. —————————————– Get a Clean Fade: Gettin Faded in Westchester. The dudes there are chill and right next door to KC’s Crepes. Get a fade and crepe? Treat yo self.
———————————– Hit a Gallery!
——————————– Galleries/Museums: Thinkspace Projects in West Adams Copro Gallery in Santa Monica KP Projects in Mid City Over The Influence in Mid City Jeffery Deitch in Weho Huntington Library The Brand Library —————————- Restaurants
—————————– Need some Creole? Harold and Belle’s in South LA(I used to go here with my mom if I got good grades haha, SO GOOD) Need some BBQ? Ribtown BBQ in South LA. Woody’s in Inglewood. Need a Bougie Bodega? Hi-Lo in Culver City(Crazy large selection of booze of all kinds. Everyone there is mad nice.) Need some Brunch? Rose Café in Santa Monica.(Brunch Santa Monica Style) Metro Café in Culver City (Serbian American Food, AWESOME wine selection) Highly Likely in West Adams Need Sushi/izakaya? Hamakaze in Venice Need French Food? Café Laurent in Culver City(Great breakfast and lunch spot, good coffee and outdoor patio) Need a Sandwich? Jacksons Market in Culver City
———————- Day Bars
———————- Hinano in Venice(DO NOT sleep on the burger, Cash Only and right near the beach) The Whaler in Venice( get those beach vibes, small bites and hit the boardwalk in minutes)
——————— Night Bars
———————- ArtBar/LA in Mar Vista: This bar/venue space is also an art gallery. As a bar they have an ever-rotating craft beer menu(wine and liquor to come), a weekend art market, drink and draw, painting workshops, oh and bomb BBQ and hoagies. As a venue they book all types of events, burlesque, bands, DJ’s. The gallery is curated by LC, co-owner of Thinkspace showing Los Angeles based new-contemporary artists. Perch – Downtown LA(Rooftop bar to 360 view) Corner Door – Mar Vista The Townhouse in Venice
————————— Night Quick Eats
—————————- LA Café (Downtown LA). Out of the bar on the late night and your starving right? Me too. DO NOT MISS this spot. The line is long but its worth it. Lobster Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque. Done.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow, strap in. This might take a while. My career has taken many turns to get to where I am now so the shoutouts will be numerous. Let’s start at the beginning: My pops and my mom are the only way this could’ve been done. I think both would admit freely that I’ve always been a weird dude but their love and faith in me was never shaken. The cliché is the art student’s parents disown them for an impractical career choice. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Those two are my biggest fans and have stood by me when this road was much rougher than it is now. Despite my love of art, I didn’t have the hand skill for it. The teachers that stand out and helped me along the way, Laurel Long, Calvin Yip and Alex Gross. Laurel was my illustration teacher who help greatly on understanding composition and visual story telling. Cal my drawing teacher really helped cultivate my ideas and develop the actual drawing skill bringing them to life. Alex Gross gave honest and at times difficult critiques, clarifying confusion in symbology and revealing missteps that could undercut the message. Once I got out of school, I cut my teeth doing one night shows with Cannibal Flower. They would put on an event every month showcasing 100+ artists as well as performance art and music from up-and-coming bands. I showed there for years, honing skill and getting critique from an art community forged by a one-night experience for all creatives. LC, the head of Cannibal Flower, became my mentor thereafter. I owe a good bit to him for being uncompromising in his belief in my vision. LC and Cannibal Flower taught me the importance of an honest art family. Sharing technique and calling each other on our BS, we were unwittingly taking part in a new renaissance. I spent some time working with Cannibal Flower in the logistics of putting on these events. Over some time, LC who is also co-owner of another gallery(Thinkspace Projects) introduced me to his partners. Shawn and Andrew, the other co-owners of Thinkspace have been like family. As gallerists they’ve given me some of my first breaks in galleries around the world, museums, and at auction. I’ve worked in this industry for over 12 years now so the shoutouts could’ve been endless. Still, I appreciate all of you above for making this journey easier.