"There’s A Tendency To Be Defined By Whatever You’re Pushing Against" - Stab Mag
Photo by Ashlyn Pai

“There’s A Tendency To Be Defined By Whatever You’re Pushing Against”

Costa Mesa artist Alrik Yuill and the dialectic of non-conformity.

elsewhere // Aug 24, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the middle of Alrik Yuill’s studio stands a woman sculpted of pure truth.

“That one is sorta a constant work in progress,” the Costa Mesa artist offers, as I gawk at the life-size figurine, head tilted down shyly, a look of vague disinterest cast over her face.

Swirling around the plaster princess, in some sort of carefully created entropic state, are off-white paintings, softly drawn sketches, sculptures of varying enormity, and lots of surfboards. Essentially, a collection of visual and tantric contemplations of experience, which Alrik has wrenched from deep within himself. 

Photo by Alrik Yuill

A Love Supreme plays, staccato saxophone bouncing from wall to wall, while we wander into his makeshift shaping room. Little hills of foam dust bunch in accidentally organized piles along the corners of the wall, and every manner of experimental shape pokes out from behind one another.

Everything is in exactly its right place, in the most haphazard way possible.

When I ask Alrik about how aesthetically pleasing all of the mess and chaos is, he laughs. “Funny you noticed that, actually. I do like to interact with the disorder. Like, if I spill paint on my shirt, I’ll add some more, and maybe spill some coffee until it feels aesthetically harmonious.”

Cut from a similar cloth to his good friend Alex Knost, fascination with form has marked Alrik’s entire life — from childhood beeswax sculptures, to his first dance with selling art in high school, to classical training at the Laguna College of Art and Design. Though he notes that he never felt like he could’ve done anything else, he acknowledges his path was not a clear one.

“I had mixed feelings about art school for sure, I was kinda rattling at the chains of the institution when I was younger. I felt more on the fringes and school symbolized conforming to society. I kinda grew up with an anti-establishment mentality, so choosing to participate in school felt like a big decision.

Alrik was commissioned to make the 2018 SURFER Awards trophies, seen here in the grips of a young John John. Photo by Grant Ellis

“It’s kind of ironic, over time, the anti-establishment has become it’s own establishment — you get conformity within anti-conformists.” he laughs. “Alternative surf culture has had a similar path, which has partially led to the recent design renaissance.”

With a sly grin on his face, Alrik ponders the psychological cul-de-sac so many of us stumble into.

“There’s a tendency to be defined by whatever you’re pushing against. Even in art, every form needs some sort of contrast. You’re creating something no matter what, so if you’re just focused on being anti, you risk becoming simply an appendix to whatever you’re standing against.”

Propped behind a table of various beeswax sculptures — which he uses to create the molds for his metallic final products — sits the image of Tom Curren. Noticing my interest, he grabs two of the separate charicatures and brings them together in a pseudo-dramatic motion.

“It’s been a really interesting experience in using a specific visual reference to represent three dimensionally,” he tells me, regarding the image. “In some ways it makes my job way easier, and in other ways it’s almost more difficult to take two-dimensional information, and have it make sense three-dimensionally.  Especially with Tom’s turn, it’s such an archetypal moment, I want to be honest with the representation of it. I want to be true to it, because it already says so much exactly as it is. “

“I get really obsessed with different materials, how they interact with each other, whether it’s water based or oil based,” he continues. “I really enjoy building a relationship with the nature of each medium. It all becomes very subtle, but the surface of the pieces are almost like water through a landscape or roots growing. You just see these tendencies in nature, like how lightning spreads, or how branches grow. Similar things happen depending on how each medium works.”

This Saturday night, August 26th from 5-8pm, Alrik is doing a show with Blisshouse at 1671 Placentia Ave, in Costa Mesa. And, for those of you interested in purchasing a piece, a selection of his work is for sale here.

Photo by Sage Burgess.


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