Whitehot Magazine

Interview with Ash Thorp on Upcoming Show Nascent, Starring Happiness Pills

Courtesy of the artist.


ARSNL began last year with their show with iconic artist Frank Stella entitled Geometries. They recently released For a Limited Time with Siebren Versteeg, a year long social experiment that is still ongoing, and Generations, a rare physical-digital collaboration between Anna Lucia and The Quilters of Gee's Bend.  ARSNL, The Artists Rights Society’s NFT platform, is now releasing a series titled Nascent by the multidisciplinary artist Ash Thorp. This series consists of fifteen unique diptychs and a theatrical performance in four parts. Thorp’s work has been featured in a multitude of high profile films throughout the past decade, spanning from Ender’s Game in 2014 to his most recent design work on the new Batmobile in the 2022 release of The Batman. The cinematic quality and artistry of his work that shared the big screen is now highlighted through a more personal lens. Nascent sales will take place June 27 to June 30. Visit their website for details, preorder links, and allow list info.

JOHN BARRYMORE: What was the original seed of inspiration for Nascent?  Why are these artworks and titles important to you?

ASH THORP: The Nascent series is an expressive journal of thoughts compounded over the years with feelings that have shaped me since childhood and those which continue to evolve into my 40s.  The title correlates impeccably with this series because by definition, ‘nascent’ refers to just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.  These artworks serve as personal therapy; it is an exploration of the internal dialogue encompassing happiness, depression, technology, evolution, and theology.  Encapsulating the core essence and theme of each piece,  the titles materialized from my emotional connection to each of them. 

What do you hope collectors will take away from the 15 diptychs? 

Art serves as a deeply personal conversation within my own mind communicated through imagery rather than words.  My ultimate aspiration through my work is to discover kindred spirits—those who, like me, possess a curiosity for life's mysteries and seek solace in the realm of art.  Patrons of my craft become advocates for my artistic and personal growth, forging a symbiotic bond that transcends the roles of creator and collector. Together, we embark on a journey of mutual inspiration, embracing this shared creative voyage, and exploring the uncharted territories of imagination.

Courtesy of the artist.

Your pills are designed to deliver physical dopamine through a virtual interface.  It's an NFT drug that delivers real life physical effects.  Might this actually make people happy?

The intriguing aspect of this artwork is that the emotional response of each collector will be specifically unique to their personal outlook and experience with each theme.  Additionally, since human reactions aren’t stagnant, it is further possible that their initial perspective may continue to evolve and change with each opening of the pill.  Some may indeed experience a sense of euphoria while others may be activated to feel something else.  Regardless, the individual query as to whether any of these feelings are temporary or sustainable with each glance is an interesting question to be experienced.  

Can happiness be achieved through consumption?  Is the title ironic? Serious?  Both?

Happiness is such a vast and complicated human concept.  It is a complex amalgamation of many things which can both play the role of irony and intention depending on the mood of that day.

How did you come up with the 8 themes for the happiness pills? 

In this current era, we are inundated by pharmaceuticals and corporations attempting to manufacture happiness in any form and promote it for purchase. Each pill theme is a parody on pharmaceutical, synthesized, happiness packaged together from some of our societal ‘guilty pleasures’.     

What's been the biggest surprise in making these artworks?

As I touched on earlier, my work is a journey of inner dialogue and personal therapy.  With each piece I created, the art evolved, and I evolved.  It became a medium through which I was able to celebrate independent thought, explore curiosities, and an array of emotions.    

Courtesy of the artist.

Arsnl.art is becoming known for mixing innovative artworks with traditional aesthetics.  How has it been teaming up with them?

The team at ARSNL really understands the vision of my work and appreciates the intention of each piece. They are great partners and were instrumental in organizing a performance of art that could be experienced, shared, and discussed.

The top art and entertainment productions in Hollywood work with you.  How are your skills for NFTs different than, say, making the Batmobile in the latest Batman movie?

The skills and tools I use are universal for all my work, but the key difference is the intent and freedom of the work.  Commercial projects often involve a team of creatives working on a shared goal.  When creating my own digital NFT work, it is an honest output and pure reflection of intention.  I really enjoy creating both types of work; they are just experienced in different ways. 

You've long been friends with Beeple since the early days, and also have run a podcast featuring many great artists.  What does it feel like coming up in the age of NFT, before it exploded, to how it is now?

It’s one of the great pleasures of life, watching your friends and artists you admire, evolve and progress in a positive way.  I have been making art in the digital medium for more than 20 years now, and I have always struggled with explaining to others how digital art has its own unique value in this world.  I originally come from a traditional art background, so I know the key differences that I have experienced between the two worlds. I can say unequivocally that all types of art are just as hard and challenging as the others and both have a very important role to play in this world and in society at large.  I'm blessed and thankful to be living in these times.  It’s not often art goes through such intense swings of evolution, and we are right in the middle of a digital renaissance. WM


John Barrymore

John Barrymore is an artist and writer based in Miami.

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