Originally from Bull Bay, Jamaica, Joshua Solas moved to Grand Rapids to pursue an education at Kendall College of Art and Design and stayed for the opportunities and artistic community. His work uses a variety of mediums to tell stories and talk about today’s issues. After graduating, Solas launched his own art brand, SolasInk, and continues to create logos, murals and paintings while traveling the world.
How did you get started with art and mixing traditional with non-traditional mediums?
As a child, I always had a love for art and creating things. I was constantly drawing, breaking down and making new things out of them. By high school, art was all I could see myself creating.
In my quest to visualize the essence of things rather than merely attempt to capture physical likeness, I became fascinated with minimalism and simple iconography. In a way, my compositions are very design heavy, but the actual content itself is layered and informed by artistic concepts.
How does design and technology play into your artistic process?
I see new technologies as mediums and means of sharing arts. For example, I rely heavily on my Instagram to share art. The piece I did for ArtPrize 9 was in two parts. After viewing the physical space, I encouraged people to go to my Instagram to see what was said on one of the walls before I crossed it out. Part of my senior show at Kendall was an iPhone on a selfie stick.
For Johnny The Life of an Apple, which was installed at Madcap Coffee, I wanted to create a timeline of Johnny’s life. I chose not to do any paintings but rather use photo and video to tell the story. Alongside the visuals, I created a playlist that tied the story together, which is available on Apple Music and Spotify (Johnny’s iPod).
You tend to push the boundaries by crossing art forms. What’s the goal there?
I’m always trying to figure out different types of art and adopting them to my practice. When it comes to conceptualizing a piece, the first thing that usually comes to mind is what medium I want to use. I don’t think there should be a boundary on what method one uses to create. I love painting and drawing, but not everything is meant to be a painting or a drawing. Sometimes, it’s best as a photo or a video or maybe a giant projection of a head in the middle of a room with laser beams aimed at it.
What led you to dip into photography recently?
Photography was something I always found interesting but I never found my voice until recently. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I started working with Carbon Stories, which is primarily focused on telling people’s and businesses’ stories through photo and video content. Now, I have a whole Instagram page dedicated to that journey and I can see growth. Also, thanks to Chris Fredricks over at Grow Up Awesome, I was introduced to screen printing as well. That became a part of my practice too.
Why do you think it’s important to have a diversity of artists in West Michigan?
Diversity means a better, well-rounded art community. Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender once said, ‘It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.’ We all have something to learn from each other.
Left: Joshua Solas - Photo by Leandro Lara. Middle: Exit / Jim Screechie. Right: Johnny The Life of an Apple
How do you incorporate social justice themes into your work?
For a while, there was an unwavering guilt that I was afforded this amazing platform to share ideas and I wasn’t satisfied with merely creating work for its own sake. I realized that artists have an amazing superpower — we tell people what to think about. However long someone is engaged in your piece, you’re influencing their perception of the world in that time. I see being an artist as no different from being a reporter or journalist. The artwork is simply a summary of findings. My work, while it touches on social issues, deals with a lot of conflict within myself.
Which West Michigan artists do you look up to?
Esan Sommersell, Sofia Ramirez Hernandez and LeAndra LeSeur.
Where has your work been featured? Where do you want it to be featured?
I’ve been privileged to show work at a few First Friday events at Smokin J’s, Light Gallery and Spiral Gallery. I joined Cultura Collective for ArtPrize 9 at Rumsey Street. I had an installation in the Fed Galleries at Kendall and also did a show at Madcap Coffee. My most recent mural, Exit / Jim Screechie, is over at Carbon Stories. A single cover and lyric video animation I did for Jamaican artist Protoje was featured in an article on billboard.com and I have some photography of Jamaican artist Tessellated featured in an article on redbull.com.
In Jamaica, I’ve been lucky to show work through the Institute of Jamaica, The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission and New Weave. I also have an entry in Artprize 10 that will be shown at MuseGR this year.
Having the first piece of fine art on the moon would be sick, just because.
Find Solas' work at instagram.com/solasink_.