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East West Lifestyle

Agnes Lew Interviews Acclaimed Artists Featured on Gallery Platform LA, a New Online Gallery

June 11, 2020

Eighty-one art galleries in Los Angeles have joined forces to create an online space encouraging engagement and art viewing with local and international art audiences. This site, aptly named Gallery Platform LA, showcases 10 gallery “viewing rooms” and a curated project on a rotating basis every 8 weeks. Formed by the Gallery Association Los Angeles, this digital platform reflects the vibrant art scene and community of the city.

Agnes Lew, East West Bank’s senior vice president and director of private banking, and an art aficionado, interviews featured artists on the platform. “We’ve helped many galleries and museums, big or small, through the PPP loan,” says Lew. “Now more than ever, art is needed for our well-being, and it’s so wonderful to see this incredible collaboration of more than 80 galleries coming together to support each other; many of them are small businesses.” East West Bank is a proud sponsor of Gallery Platform LA.

Lew is particularly interested in following and supporting the works of contemporary American artists from her hometown of Los Angeles. “It’s a lot of fun to have the opportunity to engage with artists and get to know them on a deeper level as we conduct these exclusive artist interviews,” she says.

First up is Christina Quarles. With an emphasis on contoured lines, dimensional perspectives and the dismantling of fixed subjectivity in her art, Quarles draws much of her inspiration from her own daily experiences and personal background. She talks with Lew about food, artistic inspiration and coping with shelter-in-place.

 Agnes Lew, East West Bank’s senior vice president and director of private banking

About Agnes Lew

Agnes Lew, East West Bank's senior vice president and director of private banking, leads a team of financial advisors that provide financial and investment advice, ranging from retirement to estate planning. Lew is often referred to as a cultural concierge by her customers.

More about Agnes
Christina Quarles

Q: Hi Christina, I loved your solo exhibition which I just saw at the Pond in Shanghai. What is your best memory or favorite food experience from that trip?

I loved Shanghai, and I have so many incredible memories from that trip, but the food was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten! My favorite meal was at Xin Rong Ji at the Pei Mansion—I still dream about the sweet potato noodles with sea anemone.

Q: What type of music do you usually listen to when you paint?

It’s embarrassing, but I love listening to musicals when I paint, like “Les Misérables” or “Hamilton”—they are so epic and so long that I can really get into a good painting groove. Lately I’ve been listening to the new Fiona Apple album, but sometimes I like to paint in silence and just hear the birds chirping outside.

Q: Critics have admirably linked you with giants like Helen Frankenthaler and Willem de Kooning. Who are some of your heroes who have played an important role in your development as an artist?

I grew up near the LA County Museum of Art, so I would go there a lot as a kid. I was especially enchanted by the David Hockney piece “Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio,” and I often think about that red and blue haystack of a mountain in that painting.
(Left): "Behold! And Be Held Beside Me," 2020 (Right): "Behold! And Be Held Beside Me," 2020, detail

Q: You often use a number of different techniques and methods of paint application in your work. What are you experimenting with currently that most excites you?

I’ve been experimenting with working in smaller spaces while working from my home studio. I am very influenced by my immediate surroundings, as so much of my process is a response to the circumstance in front of me. I love having a large studio space to run wild in, but lately I have been finding it interesting to work with the tension and intimacy of a small space.

Q: How are you surviving during these shelter-in-place days? Have you been ordering takeout, or do you cook?

I used to cook all the time—and then grad school and the whirlwind of my art career took over, and I rarely had time for a home-cooked meal. Being sheltered in place has gotten me back in the rhythm of cooking at home. I just bought a house with an amazing backyard, so I’ve been growing a lot of my own vegetables and eating from the many fruit trees on the property.

Q: You can’t be painting 24/7, right? How have you been passing your time outside of the studio? Are you binge-watching anything good?

So, the other great thing about my new house is that it has a pool, and in LA, it is hot even in the spring, which means I have been able to do a lot of swimming. I’m trying not to binge watch, but I will watch a bit of TV in the evening—“Watchmen,” “Westworld,” “Rupaul’s Drag Race”…lately I’ve been re-watching the Harry Potter movies…nothing too serious, there is enough of that in the news.

Q: What have you observed during your experience of this time that has been the most surprising or unexpected?

I was surprised how long it took me to find my routine while sheltering in place. Being a painter, I am used to spending my working days in isolation in the studio, so you’d think I’d be well-adjusted for this time, but instead I’ve found it just as challenging as anyone. I have been thinking of the barriers we now must place between ourselves and others, and the way human interaction is now mitigated by computer screens, by face masks, by sanitizer. I feel this strange disembodiment happening through all this necessary protection.
"I Think Yew've Made Yer Point Now," 2020
In my work, I am interested in moments of intimacy, and I often talk about the many forms intimacy can take, that there is intimacy in love and family and friendship, but also intimacy in sickness and violence and death. The pandemic has made me ever more aware of the need for intimacy. Interestingly, we have found ourselves sacrificing the embodied experience of physical human interaction in order to avoid the embodied experience of sickness and perhaps death—in other words, we must endure a lack of physical intimacy to protect ourselves from an intimacy we physically cannot bear.

Q: Can you draw me a doodle on a piece of toilet paper? (Or it can be on a piece of paper, if you prefer)

Christina Quarles' doodle

All images are copyright of Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.