Shyama Golden’s vibrant, thoughtfully whimsical work shines in an inclusive cross-platform practice that includes oil, acrylic, and iPad paintings, prints, and even animation. Her distinctive style blends influence from her family roots in Sri Lankan culture with elements of nature and animals in verdant, lush imagery that is both personally meaningful and open for interpretation. By mixing dreams and reality, fiction and portraiture, metaphor and sociology, Golden arrives at a sort of magic-garden place in which feminine energy is the order of the day and anything is possible. She is currently the artist in residence at the historic Hotel Figueroa.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
SHYAMA GOLDEN: The earliest memory I have of this is when I was around 7 years old. Most other kids had lost interest in making art and I never got bored with it.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
It’s about making my reality visible to others and showing people how I see things.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
There’s no world where I wouldn’t be some kind of artist. I don’t believe that artist is even such a distinct category as people think: there is art in almost every profession if you allow yourself to exercise your creativity.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did not because it was way too expensive. I went to a state school in Texas where I’m from: Texas Tech University.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
For the art community here and the lifestyle, and because NYC rents were too high to have the kind of space I need to make my work. After 7 winters there I needed to thaw out and be surrounded by greenery for my own mental health.
When was your first show?
My first show was in Austin, TX in 2011 at Progress Coffee. I threw a party there for the opening and it was such a special experience because I got to connect with so many people through my art.
Can you explain a bit about what your new residency at Hotel Figueroa will be like?
My show at Hotel Figueroa will be a mini retrospective exploring various parts of the world I’m building with my paintings. It’s a portal which takes you all the way from one of my earliest paintings that I still have, Catsquatch, which is a life-sized sasquatch made of cats, to my most recent works documenting the surreal and mundane experience of quarantine.
It means a lot to me to show my work at the Figueroa because it’s my first show in L.A. since moving here a year and a half ago. It’s an opportunity to have my work on display at a gorgeous historic hotel that’s been here for 100 years, and is so supportive of artists. The history of the space as originally being founded by and for women makes it even more special. It’s a big destination in Downtown so I feel lucky to have my work displayed there this year. It’s a space that’s a pleasure to be in and I’m looking forward to spending lots of time there this year.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I like to show my work with artists whose work is different from mine in medium or style, but that has the same mood or emotional resonance. My last joint show was with Mimi O Chun. Her soft sculptures seemed to really communicate with my paintings and vice versa. I would love to have another joint show with a sculptor, photographer, abstract painter, performance artist, or a filmmaker. My husband Paul Trillo is a filmmaker who makes surrealist and highly conceptual work, and I feel like a joint show with him would be a great place to start.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I used to listen to music while I work and sometimes I still do, but my work is so incredibly time consuming that I’ve found it helps me to have something that keeps my brain from wandering, and that tends to be audiobooks and podcasts these days.
Website and social media, please!