When we stumbled across the compelling work of Ted Pim, it stops us in our tracks every time. Working with classical 16th-century Renaissance imagery, the Belfast-born painter has developed a fluid technical virtuosity that captures the aura in such iconic pieces. Delicate and luxurious floral imagery adds a subtle transcendent twist that intensifies his portraiture. Whether experimenting with canvas stretchers that nudge delicately rendered petals to drip over the image or adding glitter to vibrant compositions, Pim's modern take on Renaissance classics successfully bridges the gap between the traditional and contemporary.

When we learned that the artist is opening a solo exhibition in LA's art district this Saturday, November 16th, where he will present 25 new oil works at The Salon, owned by acclaimed casting director John Papsidera and producer Valoree Papsidera, we immediately got in to talk about the new works and learn how the show came to be, and about his expectations and fears before such major debut.

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Sasha Bogojev: What type of work was prepared for the show, and where?
Ted Pim: The body of work has been in the making for around two years now. One painting was actually started four years ago, and I’ve worked on it on and off over the years. It’s a battle scene, and I feel it’s a perfect setting for the painting in John Papsidera’s casting studios, at the centre of the movie business in Hollywood. The show has 16 paintings and they’re all centered around this large battle scene, which is from the Old Testament, where Delilah betrays Samson. I’ve always loved the story growing up, and it has all the hallmarks to make a great movie. Love, temptation, betrayal, and violence. I felt the need to include this scene in the show as it reflects what is going on in the world today, where we seem as divided as ever; hence the name Empire Lines.

What attracts you to such classical imagery, and when did that interest begin?
Sitting in Mass, I was always drawn to classical and religious motifs as a young kid here, in Ireland. Instead of listening to the Mass, I would be transfixed on these paintings that surrounded me. I have always been drawn to the intensity of the image and the emotions captured from them.

How do you alternate these classical and religious motifs which clearly captivate you?
I use a lot of etching inks to create the dripping effect. After spending so much time, creating the scene with every inch analyzed and over-analyzed for imperfections, I employ this technique at the end of the painting process, which is unpredictable, but the part I enjoy. The thrill of pouring white spirits over the oils and ink! I enjoy the art of balancing the elements of destruction and creation in the studio.

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And what is the idea behind such interventions?
A lot of people would ask if the flowers I paint are dying or coming to life. I like that the paintings disclose this to the viewer, but that they have to make up their own mind.

Are the images based on existing works or are you just inspired by that aesthetic?
Most of the work is a combination of original Old Masters, usually from the 1600s. If I like a robe, the tilt of a head or the placement of the hands, I’ll take certain aspects of painting and combine them to make my own. Some of the figures are from paintings that have a lot more going on, and I will take them out and paint each by itself to give them their own story. I worked with a floral company based in San Francisco, Lambert Floral Studio, which created a bunch of floral arrangements for me to paint.

How long did it take you to achieve the level of excellence in rendering your work so perfectly?
I've always enjoyed painting within the realm of the Renaissance world of chiaroscuro, of Light and Darkness. I became obsessed with it since I was about 15 years old. I see it as a massive challenge to paint in this style and I enjoy working on it every day. I still see room for improvement in every piece I create, but I guess this is the mindset of every painter I have ever met: filled with self-doubt. I feel it is always present for artists because we have the job and the privilege of defining problems, then asking ourselves whether we have solved them. It is a strange job to do every day, sitting alone in a room and being in your own mind.

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Yeah, that does sound familiar. Was there any particular technical aspect that was hard to recreate?
The biggest challenge for this series was the scale of the florals. I usually paint below 100-centimeter floral pieces, so these larger pieces require more detail, which was a challenge and very painstaking. They’re a lot fuller compared to my other floral pieces, but I am delighted with the final aesthetic.

They do indeed look as real and as intense as the smaller pieces I've seen in the past. How did your collaboration with The Salon come about?
I was on holiday with my family, sitting on the beach with my wife and sleeping toddler, while I was reading an art article online about John Papsidera, the casting director and art lover. I recognized the name, so I checked my Instagram followers and realized that John was there as one of my followers. I messaged him, telling I was a massive fan of his work and the movies he has worked on.

He responded, "I do believe I might be a bigger fan of your work, though. I’m thrilled to have added one of your pieces to our collection." I nearly dropped my phone, I had no idea he owned one of my paintings. It blew my mind. After a few messages we agreed to do a show in LA, and here we are. We have a great friendship now and I'm looking forward to having the opening at his world-famous studio.

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Wow, that's some IG story! So how does it feel to have a solo debut at such an iconic location?
I feel that I've really stepped it up a gear with the latest paintings, in terms of scale and technical detail. I felt the space needed paintings that were full of drama, as John and his team are used to dealing with large scale Hollywood blockbusters every day. I started with the idea of building the series around the battle scene and worked from there. This resulted in 16 dark, moody floral and figurative paintings.

What are your hopes, or even fears about presenting this show or body of work, and what comes after?
This week, I had a small preview for friends and family in my studio before shipping to LA, and everyone had the same reaction of being blown away by the scale, I’ve really stepped it up a gear for this show. I feel there’s a real sense of occasion, and it’s pushed me to go deeper into every reserve I had. Teaming up with John, I really wanted him to be moved as I felt privileged to have his eye on my work and to have the opportunity to exhibit right bang in the middle of the arts district in LA. I wanted to ensure that I deserved the opportunity, so I stepped up my game. My biggest fear is probably the opening itself. It’s a strange feeling to work on something for a few years alone, then releasing it for the public to see!

I already have shows lined up in Singapore and London for 2020, so I am pretty buzzing at the minute!

Ted Pim's Empire Lines opens November 16th and is on view through December 13, 2019.