Thomas Evans, or Detour is not your typical fine artist, and he never has been. His resume is speckled with knowledge branching throughout several industries, including web design, video, and more, but his heart (and extreme skill) lives in his paintings. As a hip-hop head and an active member of the Colorado music community (through his work with Hip-Hop Congress, ReDouble and his sound friendships) Detour’s inspiration for his latest series, Art & Decibels was launched by a desire to include his musician friends in his art in a more tangible way while also reaching a broader audience through a more connected experience.
Detour's art is aesthetically beautiful, it evokes many emotions for a viewer, as his portraits seem to capture the soul of the subject. But where he takes this connection further is how he integrates music with his artwork.
“I want people to see [my art] in a different light, because it’s communicated in a different way.”
The idea came to him when he discovered Bare Conductive, a special conductive paint. He instantly realized the potential that this special paint had. The idea got shelved while he traveled to Tanzania, but upon his return, a package from the paint company reinvigorated the idea. He immediately hooked up with his friend and seasoned musician, DJ A-L to work out a proper design for a painting that can play music as well as be manipulated like an instrument.
“I want to work with people I respect, and I want to paint.”
The process involves wiring the back of the canvas so that sensors are emerging through to the front in various locales. These sensors serve as triggers that when touched will emit a sound when connected to a computer or media-playing device. After the triggers have been placed, Detour paints his canvas, taking special care to use Bare Conductive where the censors emerge in the front of the painting. Knowing where the triggers are located, and how he envisions that particular piece to be manipulated musically shapes how he does his painting, from strokes to how he positions elements on the canvas. The way he constructs his Art & Decibels pieces is also shaped by the subject of the protrait and who will be playing it (pending they aren’t the same). Much of Detour’s series features Denver musicians, and were constructed with their music and style in mind. His painting of DJ A-L was created with the DJ in mind and is manipulated through the record crates pictured in the image. For Mikey Fresh he painted a larger than life version of the producer’s beloved MPC. Each creation is made thinking about the entire process in which the art will be showcased. The level of creativity is not missed by his peers, “Detour is the type of artist that refuses to do anything ordinary and as a result he is not only a visionary, but a pioneer in the world of interactive art.” Says DJ A-L of the project.
AXS was given the privilege to view Detour's brand new studio located in Temple Arts Denver (2400 Curtis Street). Temple Emanual, a towering, neo-classical, former synagogue is revamped and revitalized and houses numerous private studios and will offer exhibitions in the future. Detour's space is intimate, but as colorful as it is pristine. It showcases many of his well-known pieces including his striking rendition of Janelle Monae, which is interactive. As he flipped the painting over to show us how it all worked his face lit up, excited that he may be one of the first to culminate this innovative concept.
Detour first showcased Art & Decibels at Cold Crush, but for those that missed it there will be another opportunity to see what his art can do on February 21, 2015 at City Hall during Westword Artopia.
For hip-hop, and art in Colorado, Detour is bridging the gap. The one that decides where the culture goes from here. Maybe he’s adding a new element, one that ultimately unites the separated lifestyle. But even if it doesn’t take hip-hop anywhere, it will soundly keep Detour at the forefront when it comes to creativity in vision. And though many viewers may not know what they are seeing, once they realize they will become part of the connection that Detour envisioned. DJ A-L sees this too, “It may potentially take the world some time to actually understand what is going on, which is our little treat for the ones who do get it, but when a wider audience understands then the world will see the legacy of an artist who refuses to be anything else but original.”
All photos shot by Blake Jackson.