Interview with Luke Chueh

bearingtheunbearablebookHere at Retrenders I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke about his just released book, The Art of Luke Chueh – Bearing the Unbearable published by Titan Books, and got to know a little more of the painter and graphic designer.

RTNDR:  I see this book is a great collection of your paintings, acrylic statues, and even showing your skateboard art, but we know you have an amazing collection of vinyl work. Will we see a book highlighting your vinyl art?

LUKE:  I think creating a book of my 3-D work would be a great idea. Maybe in couple years after I’ve built up a large enough portfolio.

RTNDR:  How would you categorize or characterize your art or should we even categorize art?

LUKE:  Years ago, I used to spend time thinking of new names for the genre of my art. I always felt “Lowbrow” had demeaning connotations and “Pop Surreal” only told a part of the story. Word combinations like “Post Brow”, “Idealized Art”, or “Contemptorary” became labels I threw around. But lately I’ve sort of “come to terms” with Lowbrow & Pop Surrealism. To dismiss these would be to dismiss the artists whose work inspired label, and if fans and critics consider my art to be of the genre, then whom am I to tell them they’re wrong? But to be completely honest, I would prefer having my work simply recognized as “contemporary art” (ie. Art that is characteristic of the present).

RTNDR:  Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?

LUKE:  As a painter, I humbly consider my current skill level as, mediocre, especially when compared to my colleagues. But where I excel as an artist is in my ability to communicate. It’s not how I paint, but rather what I paint that distinguishes me. And maybe labeling myself “mediocre” isn’t giving myself enough credit, but I also subscribe to the thought that ANYBODY can paint, it’s just a matter of how hard you work at it. And just so you know I am definitely am not content with being “mediocre”.

RTNDR:  What would you say the role of an artist is in today’s society and urban life?

LUKE:  I’ve been asking myself what the role of an artist was ever since I recognized the existence of art. What I’ve deduced is that artists, at their core, are communicators, and art is simply a form of communication. It can be created for the public, or strictly for the artist, and it ranges from indulgent self expression, to varying forms of social commentary. But the arts actual relevance and value can only be determined by the audience.

RTNDR:  Do you like your artwork to be more literal and straightforward for your audience or do you prefer to keep them in interpretation and discussion?

LUKE:  The paintings I’ve created the last 8 years were based on ideas that I considered “straightforward”. It’s amazing how the audience is able to interpret so much more than what was originally intended. I’m left wondering if the audience is inserting ideas because they need them to validate the work, or if I’m subconsciously incorporating other ideas when I’m painting. Maybe it’s both.

RTNDR:  What do you think of your fan base drawing in your style and sending you the results? Or how about your fans tattooing your art on their body?  Any favorites?

LUKE:  Having other people recreate my paintings or creating works inspired by mine is truly flattering. That is, as long as they’re doing it for themselves. If I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t create a section of my website dedicated to it. And the way I remember it, recreating another artists work is something almost all aspiring artists do one time or another. If I can be there to help an artist grow, it’s an honor I’d happily accept.

RTNDR:  Have you done any recent collabs that you might want to mention?

LUKE:  I’ve got some collaborative projects lined up. Most recently my good friend Scott Tolleson and I have been tinkering away at a plush bear we’re calling “Bartholomew Punchyface”. It’s a nerd-bear plush that’s begging to be bullied. I’ve also been working on a toy idea with the Japanese designer toy star Touma. We’ve been working on ways to merge his knuckle bear with mine.

RTNDR:  We read you worked for the great Ernie Ball Company – did your time there help shape any part of your current art style?

LUKE:  My time at Ernie Ball definitely had an impact on my understanding and application of visual communication. Before working there, I had an overly idealized philosophy of graphic design. Basically I wanted to create unconventional ‘artsy-fartsy’ graphics, and I yearned to be the next David Carson. When I was hired by Ernie Ball, I was forced to look at design through the harsh lens practicality. They practiced the theory that you were limited to 2.3 seconds to sell your idea through your advertisement, and did well to hammer it in me. This “quick read” mentality was engrained in me and when I moved to Los Angeles it was an undeniable a part of what and how I painted.

We want to thank Luke Chueh for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of questions and also Tom Green over @ Titan Books.

For more info on Luke’s latest works, go to:  Luke Chueh.

Also, if you’re looking for something to read over the summer, go to:  Titan Books.

— Contributed by Karen Jang, Stephen Jang, and Al Woo


  1. […] via Interview with Luke Chueh – Retrenders. […]

  2. […] acrylic statues that he created, and his skateboard art. We were very grateful to have a chance to interview the artist on our site last June and to have access to his book signings which resulted in our […]

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