PDX Contemporary Art presents the paintings of Portland-based artist Tristan “TK” Irving in the PDX Window Project for the month of February 2021.
Drawing inspiration from a range of sources and time periods, from Rembrandt to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Irving’s work integrates abstraction and modernist sensibilities to create portraits that are bold, graphic, and colorful. Each portrait, oftentimes depicting famous artists or public figures, acts to honor and commemorate. Those he’s painted include Frederick Douglass, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Madam C.J. Walker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Stacey Abrams, among others. Irving is best known for his portraits of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which have been carried at protests and marches for racial justice this summer.
As part of the PDX Window Project, Irving will be offering 20” x 16” commissioned portraits for $500 each. If clients wish to commission a piece, they can email [email protected] for more details. The artist will work from a photograph of the client’s choosing.
The PDX Window Project is viewable from the sidewalk 24 hours, 7 days a week, on the corner of NW 9th and Flanders. The window itself is on 9th avenue.
As a self-taught artist, Irving began painting as an outlet during his recovery from alcohol. "I wasn’t able to attend as many meetings as I was going to, so I picked up a paintbrush and started talking to a canvas. At first it was just getting my emotions out in color. I would write out what I was feeling and make those emotions look pretty with paint. To me, that was a therapy session. Even though nobody was watching or paying attention, in my mind I felt like my feelings were validated now that I could see them on canvas."
As his newfound passion progressed, Irving began researching different artists and styles. "Most of the great painters are white so it was hard for me to relate to any of them," says Irving. But then he stumbled upon the work Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Immediately I felt a connection, with me finding art in recovery, and him dying of an overdose. I fell in love with his work and he became my inspiration to create." Basquiat brought to my attention artists like Warhol, Haring and Banksy. "The whole street art scene was like a surreal feeling -- after 28 years I finally found a place that felt like home."
Hello, I'm Tristan! My work explores the relationship between shapes and pop tone colors.
With influences as diverse as Basquiat and Rembrandt, new synergies are generated from both abstract and modern approaches.
I like to think of my process as a ceremony honoring people. When you look at the portraits, I try to make it so that you can not recognize that person's race. All you see is them in their most simplest form. Just beautiful colors and the shapes that make us unique.