Interview with Torin Ashtun
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to paint?
I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA. I’ve been painting all my life. My earliest memory of painting and drawing is at four years old when I began making pieces for those I loved most. Even at that young age I was mainly using geometric shapes like I do now. Painting is something I have never let go of fully, and I don’t think I ever will.
2. You’ve made what you call Painting Videos, which feature you speaking. Can you tell us about the words and that process?
My Painting Videos consist of free verse poetry which I recorded in special moments where I let my emotions run ragged. I’m usually in the middle stages of a painting when I begin recording a new poem. The middle stages are the most difficult for me because I come face to face with any personal issues I’m having at the moment. I typically take a break from a painting to understand my emotions better by the time that painting is complete. The free verse poetry is a key component in my understanding because I allow myself to speak with no bounds.
3. I love the incorporation of text in some of your paintings as well. You have a piece called Don’t Follow the Tulips I am especially curious about. And I noticed flowers as recurring – in image and in text. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Tulips at the moment are more of an idea for me. They symbolize all the good habits I have that I indulge in too much, to the extent that it becomes negative for me in the long run. This is why the silhouettes in my paintings are constantly and desperately chasing after the tulips while the painting’s text will be "anti-tulips". The text in my paintings are clear, conscious thoughts which I typically add last.
4. The figures and narrative nature in Gild the Lily reminded me of Jacob Lawrence's beautiful pictorial vignettes. Who has influenced your work? Even if it doesn’t show explicitly in what you make — or if it does.
Funny you mentioned Jacob Lawrence because I am a new fan of his work. The vibrant colors and prominent shapes he uses remind me of my work as well. I don’t get inspired by other artists often because my personal life is reflected in my creative process — although Jacob Lawrence is an artist whose work I can enjoy all day for days.
5. What are other activities or rituals that work to ground or inspire you currently?
There are so many small things to be inspired by each day. I stay inspired just by being present everyday and choosing to LIVE life rather than just exist. By doing this, I'm able to keep healthy contact with family and friends, where I currently find it to be the most grounding.
6. Are there any artists working right now who you would like us to know about?
See more of Torin's work on her Instagram @torinashtun