Tyrel De Bique’s evolution as an abstract artist took root as a result of his interest in enhancing tattooing style. His latest collection Looking Glass is a self-introspective body of work borne out of an attempt to overcome a creative block. His debut solo collection Unapologetic created the buzz he needed to create a space for himself on the art-scene. Here is how it all came together.
REC: How long have you been painting and what inspired you to pursue it seriously?
I’ve been painting since 2013. It was initially a means of strengthening and evolving my tattooing style. I recently went back into tattooing professionally and I wanted to make a contribution to the industry (tattooing) by having an easily identifiable style and imagery. Before I went to acrylics, I experimented in charcoal and I saw immediate improvement in my grayscale and the ways I used dark tones to change the mood of my tattoos. This encouraged me to adopt other mediums and ultimately led to acrylics. In 2014, I began painting in earnest after illness and injury prevented me from tattooing for a significant time. During that period I invested in painting supplies in an effort to ‘keep my creative juices flowing’. As I mentioned before the downtime was liberal, so I ended up working on many pieces (a lot from bed) and they were well received by the online communities that I shared them in. That then turned over into actual sales. Under the recommendation (or duress, depending on how you look at it) by a good friend and a fellow artisan, I displayed for the first time locally, some of the works I had completed at an event in 2015. That mini exhibition resulted in sales and commissions. Before then, I saw painting as something personal, to my own benefit and if necessary a means to make some coin. But after the reactions and buzz it created among small circles, I decided to step fully into it as a career adjustment/change. To date, I’ve had two solo exhibitions (Unapologetic and Looking Glass) locally and one group show. So, you see, it had less to do with inspiration and more of a series of events that led to me pursuing it seriously and full time. However, every piece of every body of work is inspired by my interaction with the public and my view of my environment.
How has your art evolved?
Good Artists borrow, Great Artists Steal – Pablo Picasso
I’m a thief. My art has evolved from being heavily influenced from famous tattoo masters (Mike Giant, BJ Betts, Miya Bailey, Corey Davis, Mr. Cartoon and Boog Star) to extraordinary representational visual artists (Sara Golish, Miya Bailey [also a fine artist], Frank Morrison and Lina Viktor) to abstract artists like Christian Hetzel and Mark Rothko. I’ve stolen from each of the previous names mentioned and together with my previous conceptions, I’m well on my way to creating something unique to me. From just paint on canvas, I moved to creating texture in order to age my work visually. Then I began using different art mediums to create different moods like gold leaf and reflective metal foils. That’s technique. On the other end, I began with nude depictions of black women portrayed as mythical and mystical beings and that turned into conveying moods, fashion sense and mind-sets of young progressive women of colour (influenced by Boscoe Holder [theme not style]). I then turned the lens inwardly and began working on art that reflected my experiences and thoughts. That’s concept. I really hope that the evolution continues well into old age. It’s really the best part.
Looking Glass is a study into myself. There was no plan in mind. No overall concept. It was born in an attempt to conquer creative block and led into serious introspection and knowledge of self.
How would you describe Looking Glass?
Looking Glass is a study into myself. There was no plan in mind. No overall concept. It was born in an attempt to conquer creative block and led into serious introspection and knowledge of self. Like looking at a mirror and seeing more than the exterior. More than the ego- I’ve found myself considering it as a ‘selfie’ of my soul and my true person. And because some of our parts aren’t easily explained, a number of the pieces found in the Looking Glass series are unnamed. It’s meant to be shown. Not explained. BUT. What really inspired the name, was the fact that because of the abstract nature of the work, it had different reactions/emotions/exclamations with every single person that happened to view the work. At that time I begun to realize that because everyone has different views, thoughts, upbringing, lifestyles etc. every piece meant something different and made them feel different. So I began challenging people to not only view and enjoy the work but ask themselves, “Why?”
Why they saw that particular image in that corner? Why did you feel hope when you saw it? Why don’t you like it? And to keep going deeper with each answer. At the end I would hope that they are left with a better understanding of self and then pass the experience along.
Even the way I went about presenting the work was integral to the name. Highly textured, colorful pieces were placed in simple black frames and thick matt board so that you were forced to focus on them. Placed behind a smooth glass so that, like a mirror, you can see the bumps and ridges and grooves but you can’t TOUCH them. So the viewer has to concentrate and observe all the texture and hopefully discover more and more about it. Much like introspection and self-reflection.
What are you currently working on?
I would say, my career. I don’t believe in the starving artist lifestyle. Nor do I prescribe to being an isolationist artist (locked away in studio, slipping completed works under doors). As with any endeavor, hard work is required and as someone who is dedicated to creating art as a means of income, it’s more than that. It’s hard work, it’s networking, it’s sending emails and making connections. Currently I’m focusing on showing more in the region. At the same time, under no circumstances do I require the superstardom that many seem to live for. To bring it down to a business concept, I just want to put out a great product for the people, make some money and die satisfied. Artistically? I prefer working in themes or bodies of work. Get it all out before moving on. This year after completing Looking Glass I started working on four themes simultaneously (to reduce downtime and burnout). A Series of Selfies, #STSB, Gilded Kaleidoscope and Black Caesar. I’m hoping to reveal completed series of each between 2018 and 2020.