Do you Know Hope?

This is the first in a series of two or three interviews just this week on To kick it all off, we put a few questions to American/Israeli artist Know Hope. Know Hope is originally from California, but now he lives in Tel Aviv. His work can be seen at Most of Know Hope’s recent work includes his distinctive characters with a spindly figure and striped hoodie. Recently, Know Hope has exhibited at Urban Angel’s Corked show in London, and when this interview took place, his first solo show recently opened at Gallery Anno Domini in San Jose.

Paste-up by Know Hope in London. Photo by RJ
Paste-up by Know Hope in London. Photo by RJ

In a lot of your work, especially with the lanterns, it seems that its ephemeral nature is part of what makes it so special. What attracted you to making work for the street, and in particular, art that is so temporary?
The idea that everything is temporary fascinates me because of its presence and the thought of how something so timely can be timeless. With my work I often try to make that aspect almost physical, making the installations be active or complete only for a specific time frame. I think it creates an interesting dialogue in the sense that it makes for a more personal encounter or interaction. Time’s a funny thing, we’ll try to run from it on one hand and try to gather it on the other. And once were all bundled up in what we supposedly have, the moment has passed and it’s no longer relevant. But time does wait for no man, and we’re always so comforted by nostalgia without realizing that we’re creating our future memories, that same nostalgia in real time.

A paste-up by Know Hope in London. Photo by Unusualimage
A paste-up by Know Hope in London. Photo by Unusualimage

How would you describe the characters you paint?
I kind of see them as a visual manifestation of some certain struggle, some common denominator that ties us all together.  Some sort of puppet or “personal icon” that is a culmination of things I’ve yet to get my head wrapped around. Awkward and stumbling, trying to do the best with what they’ve got.

Who are your favorite artists?
So it’ll be a mixture of all-timers and things that I’m really into at the moment: Raymond Pettibon was one of the first artists that I really liked, Chris Johanson, Swoon, Steve Powers (ESPO), The Polaroid Kidd, Thais Beltrame, William Schaff, Dr. Dog, Sam Cooke, Constantines, and everybody I’ve ever had a good conversation with.

How do you develop an image or series of images?
It usually starts with these “thinking sessions” I have before starting a project or just a new time in my head. They consist of listening to music and mainly writing almost associatively and slowly things take shape, same as for images, sketches become scenes and so on. A lot of times I will get ideas when I’m looking at something happen while adding my own soundtrack to it (i.e. watching people on the bus with headphones). A lot happens right when I’m about to completely fall asleep as well.

Paste-ups by Know Hope and Gaia (a hint of things to come on vandalog perhaspe...). Photo by shoehorn99
Paste-ups by Know Hope and Gaia. Photo by Shoehorn99

Do you usually put a lot of thought into where you are placing a piece before you do it? Is the location meant to serve as a blank canvas, or accentuate the painting?
It would be both. Some pieces are made specifically for a spot and some I have to look for a place that seems interesting. It depends what kind of a piece. The texture of the wall or the backdrop of the scene are things I tend to look at more and more recently. I believe that it is important for the piece to look good as part of the surroundings in which it is placed or made rather than focusing on the piece as a piece that stands as itself, because in the street, that is not the case. It’s about the whole.

You were one of the 15 artists featured at Nuart this year and worked with students at an art university there. What was that like?
I had a great time at Nuart and in Stavanger, Norway as a whole, as well. Working at the school basically was interesting for me as I’d never taught before, let alone actually been through proper art-school training. I didn’t start the 10 day session with any predetermined agenda, and it kind of just took an organic route, talking about random things:music, disappointment and habits etc…etc… And they all ended up coming up with some great projects in the end. The Nuart part was amazing, to be able to meet and hang out with so many people, and make art. It was kind of like a summer camp in a way. Good times.

Know Hope Canvases from Corked. Photo by Unusualimage
Know Hope Canvases from Corked. Photo by Unusualimage

And of course, are you featuring your work in any upcoming shows?
As I’m typing this I’m the morning after my first solo show at Gallery Anno Domini in San Jose, CA. I have a few shows lined up in the US next year, in New York in January at Ad Hoc Art, and June at The Carmichael Gallery in LA. There might be a few more things that will be taking shape in Europe, but some things still have to fall into place.