Written by Alec Banks
The inside of the Los Angeles studio of husband-and-wife visual artists DABSMYLA feels like a movie montage, with an eclectic musical soundtrack playing over the top of a steady stream of ideas flowing so effortlessly that words are rarely required, as the two swap paintings back and forth in a pendulum of creative expression.
Immaculately cataloged bottles of paint harness a shared idea about color theory that is wholly unique to the duo; the moment it goes from squeezed tube to the unforgiving blankness of a canvas, it extends their exploration into new visual dimensions, which run the gamut from still-lifes to cartoon characters to ambitious outdoor installations.
The duo operates under a mutual ethos about world-building that is decades in the making after they first met in art school in Australia and later relocated to the United States to nurture their exterior viewpoint — a hodgepodge of midcentury elements, illustrations and pictorial narratives, all informed by their formative adventures with graffiti.
“We don’t even have to discuss it,” they admit. “We just know what does and what doesn’t belong in our world,” adding, “Our work is usually reflective of the things going on in our own lives, between the two of us being married and creating artwork together.”
Their fully formed universe reveals tones that rely on the three primary colors (plus white), which serve as the basis for vibrant cityscapes, animals brimming with personality, cheerful celestial entities, kooky neon fruits, flowers, cars, rocket ships, ’50s-style record players and old tube televisions.
For someone viewing their work for the first time, it’s like entering a secondhand store where characters from the golden age of animation live on the shelves alongside gadgets that were built to last. Everything has been considered, from subject matter to positioning to perspective. Thus, the possibility of including anything erroneous or presenting unneeded flourishes has been stripped away in favor of making more clever connections between works.
DABSMYLA achieves this through the use of panorama. Whether that’s depicting paintings from multiple points of view or physically crafting immersive, three-dimensional environments in which their creations live, one begins to detect that all the work contains a shared whimsy.
“It isn’t enough for us to just make a painting and be done with it,” they say. “We love the challenge of placing it in context. That usually means reconceptualizing the physical environment first. It’s almost like a movie screen inside a theater. Once you see the edges, you’re immediately transported out of the filmmaker’s world. We want to avoid that feeling.”
This physical manifestation is akin to how a carnival’s fun house can play with perception and enhance feelings of invigoration.
DABSMYLA approach their new works with the same curiosity and excitement that they had as art students. The experiences they’ve shared together — both in life and in the studio — have led them down a path toward bigger and more ambitious undertakings.
“Of course, it’s all about striking the right balance in order to still allow the paintings to speak for themselves,” they say. “As far as the time commitment, we firmly believe the old saying, ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get.’ ”
Be sure to check out items from DABSMYLA in our shop!
Everything’s Connected Acrylic on Panel, Framed, 2018, 60” × 78”
Third Mind, Acrylic on Wood, 2017, 60" × 78"