If the best house party you ever attended suddenly morphed into a great and meaningful work of art, you might approximate the wild work of painter Canyon Castator. Even when his scenes are not bacchanals, there's something unhinged within every piece. Bodies are twisted over kegs of beer, posed next to bongs, or just looking at and observing the colorful world around them.
Castator's foray into painting started after he broke his ankle while skateboarding in high school. Instead of attending art school, he moved to New York City, where he taught himself oil painting. From there, he spent six months studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in Germany under the instruction of Tal R, and then moved back to New York, where he got his own studio. After two "rough winters" in the city, Castator decided to spend a summer in Los Angeles.
The scenes in his work "reflect and exaggerate" his real life. Friends make their way onto the canvas as Castator says it is easy to take the people he knows and "appropriate them into different narratives."
Castator's paintings start on an iPad. "This creates a space where I can develop, manipulate and edit the narrative of the image endlessly, repurposing themes and motifs until I arrive at something that feels right," he says. "I then transfer that drawing to canvas, where I am able to paint more confidently having already worked out so many of the kinks during the drawing process." Although he is quick to note that the painting process is not without its own uncertainties and reworkings.
Castator says that the placement of clothed and unclothed figures in his work is meant to guide to viewer through the painting and help them create their own narrative about the figures within the work. "I want my paintings to feel contemporary, so my figures have to be dressed, or undressed accordingly," Castator says. "Placing a half-naked body covered in tattoos next to a person in a hoody is inherently current. My work has always focused on people, and the juxtaposition of skin and clothing becomes a means to explore different arrangements of surface, patterns, and color."
The paintings are perfect encapsulations of male fashion in and of the moment. In one painting alone, viewers can spot a Thrasher hoodie, a sock with holes, a purple beanie, a shearling jacket, skinny jeans, tan lines, and a horse head.
"There is an initial sense of humor at the surface of my work," he explains. "While they are bright, colorful and a bit cartoonish, there are more serious themes within these paintings. Recently, I've been focusing a lot on the normalization of substance abuse, specifically in collegiate life, which you can see in Shitheads On Parade and Frat House."