Evergreen: Kim Cogan Memorializes San Francisco Nostalgia
Returning to Hashimoto Contemporary for his second show, San Francisco-based artist Kim Cogan presents Evergreen, a body of new oil paintings that travel through the passage of time and memories of a city in flux.
Cogan's masterfully balanced oil paintings occupy a space between the foreign and familiar, past and present, detailed and abstracted. Much like the ubiquitous fog blanketing San Francisco, Cogan's subjects emerge from misty memories occupying a place suspended in time. Emotive markings commingle with precise rendering, unfolding, cinematic scenes of the city's paths less traveled. Classic American cars pull into a gas station on a sunny day or park beneath the lighted marquis of a motel late at night.
Each piece “explores the passage of time, integrating the now and then of San Francisco's changing panorama and population, which have characterized the city's history since its founding. The work captures the environment and people of a city evolving as the tides shift, especially meaningful in the show's title, a pharmacy that no longer exists, an ode to San Francisco's disappearing landscapes, Evergreen preserves pieces of the artist's memory while acknowledging that change is one of the city's most enduring qualities.
Below is an interview with Hashimoto Director Dasha Matsuura.
Dasha Matsuura: Hi Kim, thanks so much for sitting down to talk about your recent work and upcoming solo exhibition with Hashimoto Contemporary! Could you start with a brief introduction about yourself and your work for readers who are unfamiliar?
Kim Cogan: I am an artist living and working in San Francisco, California. Most of my work has drawn inspiration from the city. I have been working with oil paint for about 25 years and am still completely fascinated with the medium.
You've been based in San Francisco for a long time and a lot of the less iconic, less-touristy neighborhoods show up in your work. Do you have a favorite, particularly inspiring place in the City?
I appreciate the city as a whole, and am very fortunate to live in a city that offers a plethora of inspiration. Even places that are familiar I can revisit and experience differently than before.
You've talked about how this show has vanishing landscapes and captures the constant state of flux and change within the city. Are there any particular moments you felt were especially important to you to capture?
Being in the present and witnessing the ever-changing city, I observe what is new and developing; traces of a different time before being discarded and left behind. Some of these haunting characteristics are captured in my paintings and exploited for the viewer to ponder.
Cars figure much more prominent in this body of work. What draws you to depict specific types of cars in your compositions?
The cars in my paintings are in place of people, a metaphor. Older model cars evoke nostalgia and create an undefined narrative.
Architecture and cityscape are a constant theme in your work. Are you drawn to particular styles of architecture, or do you see them from a composition, light and color perspective?
I appreciate different architecture styles. In my paintings, however, I am not focused on one more than the other. Creating a good sense of lighting, atmosphere, and a balance of dark and light is key.
You work from a combination of reference images and memory for most of your work, correct? Before deciding to paint any given piece, do you visit the scene at various times of the day to experience it in a different light?
I go to far extremes to revisit locations and capture different viewpoints and light circumstances. My paintings are a gut reaction to my surroundings, all conceived from my own experiences, observations and photo references. It is important that my ideas come from a genuine place, anything less and you begin to deprive yourself of the experience.
The paintings are not a replication of a photo but rather an emphasis of mood and expressiveness. At a certain point, the photo reference is no longer of use and I'll set it aside, only to refer back sparingly.
There is such a beautiful balance between giving enough detail to ground the viewer in a scene while also leaving gaps in what feels like one of your memories. How do you decide on what to include or leave vaguer?
A painting is in a constant state of development, is a painting ever finished? A good point to walk away from a painting is when it breathes a certain essence, any further detail would be an overstatement. It could be a few strokes or thousands as long as the painting strikes a visceral nerve.
Your active mark-making appears in quiet and contemplative scenes. Does your painting practice have a physicality to it, or are you more meditative in the studio?
My oil paintings develop very slowly, oftentimes as a tedious and methodical process, so I work on several at a time. Most paintings in the studio are in various stages of progression and take anywhere from two weeks to several months to complete. The paintings are built up in several layers and often change several times before any final result is made. The final layer is a combination of carefully placed defining single strokes and simplified shapes which tie everything together.
Anything else to add about the show?
Hope you will have a look up close in person and enjoy!
Kim Cogan's Evergreen opens September 7th, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 pm, and is on view through September 28th.