Julian Rogers

Kenneth L. Woods

Julian Rogers (b. 1981) is a dexterous oil painter known for his photorealistic, thinly layered compositions. Rogers is a Nashville resident who began his painting career in New York working for artists Jeff Koons and Bjarne Melgaard. He received an MFA from University of California San Diego and was represented by ACME Los Angeles. Julian’s paintings have shown both internationally and have been collected around the globe, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. He is currently living between Nashville, Tennessee and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Kenneth Woods: If you had to introduce yourself to the Ruckus readers, how would you describe yourself as an artist and the style you use?

Julian Rogers: I feel I’m always trying to reinvent myself. The place I’m trying to get to is that feeling of having turned the corner and discovered the new thing—the process of figuring myself out through the paintings. That’s why I need to constantly change and reveal new things about myself.

KW: How do you know when it’s time to change? How do you know when it’s reinvention time? Do you have a gut feeling since you’ve been doing it so long?

JR: I think I’ve been doing it so long the instinct is very finely tuned. Whatever radio signals I’m receiving, I’m getting the messages loud and clear.

KW: With Waves Upon Waves, you took a four year break. What made you take a break from painting and how did you know when it was time to pick it back up?

JR: I was in Los Angeles painting fifty to sixty hours a week, trying to go to art shows all the time, but there are hundreds of shows a week. I would work all day every day, and I loved it. I got tendonitis and it lasted for years. I started writing the alphabet in cursive with my left hand multiple times a day until I was able to write and draw with it. Then I started painting with my left hand, then I blew my left elbow out too.

KW: Wow!

JR: Yeah, it was crazy—I wasn’t giving myself any breaks, my work-life balance was completely off. All I wanted to do was paint, and I had two busted elbows and I was miserable. I then moved to Nashville because I needed to sell my house. Then the gallery I was working with closed. The winds of change were there. I moved to Thailand around that time and was able to relax and travel, then I started to heal—I think because I wasn’t so wound up, I was actually enjoying my life. I lived for months out of my car in the American West, in Mexico for six months. When I got back last year, I was at an opening in the Red Arrow Gallery. I hadn’t seen Katie, who runs the gallery, in a long time and she said, “Listen, we love you, but it’s time for you to make some work again.” I said, “Okay, I’m ready.” I was waiting for her to say something to me. I immediately started making those cloud paintings.The whole time I was away, I knew when I came back I was going to paint clouds.

KW: I would imagine after four years away, one might get rusty and brush up on some things. What were some things you first noticed about yourself once you returned to the canvas?

JR: The main thing I noticed was I hadn't lost anything, I wasn’t rusty. Maybe a tiny bit, but the first painting I did was shown at the Parthenon. I have painted hundreds of paintings. I have a ton of experience, all that stuff was still there. It’s just like riding a bike.

KW: You said you were searching for ego erasure and that’s how you landed on the subject of clouds. One would think being gone so long, you would have something to prove, but you went in the direction of ego erasure. What made you head in that direction?

JR: On some level ego is there, but in terms of the subject, there’s three things. I have this memory of seeing clouds from childhood. A lot of the work I do; it's somehow related to childhood. I associate the clouds with traveling, psychedelics, and with meditation too. With travel, you are constantly seeing new stuff. There's meditation in travel, and obviously with psychedelics. I lived for a brief time in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. I learned what it was like to meditate all day long for days. Those three things: travel, psychedelics, and meditation, I was doing a lot of them during my time away. It made sense to bring that home. I knew I wanted to paint clouds, I didn’t know what they would look like. The design solution came to me almost immediately.

KW: One of the paintings that grabbed my attention was Liquid, Solid, Gas (2021). What can you tell us about it?

JR: Well, it’s the biggest one for sure. Each piece has its own character, and I think that that one is the most physically imposing, it pushes you back a bit. There is a portion in the corner of the top left where you get a little relief. It’s the only piece where in the corner it recedes into the depths. It’s a unique character for sure.

KW: You said all the pieces tell a story, so what part of the story does Liquid, Solid, Gas play in Waves Upon Waves when compared to the rest of the paintings?

JR: As I was painting, I was wading into unknown territory. I did hundreds of collages, worked on different combinations of photos to get what I wanted.  Liquid, Solid, Gas was like trying to find a corner. In some of the paintings I dialed the colors way up, like in Monster Animal (2021). Interior West (This Song Is About You) (2022) has the colors dialed way down, it’s almost pastel colors. I think with Liquid, Solid, Gas  I knew it was going to be the biggest painting, it has that feel of, “I’m the lion here, I’m the boss.” I think there’s a pretty nice balance to the show, and part of that is that you get one big one.

KW: In your time away, you lived in Thailand, Mexico, and China. Did those different vantage points influence or meander their way into the current work with Waves Upon Waves?

JR: I think being away from the art world generally had a huge impact on me. I know this sounds funny, but I was surprised people liked the cloud paintings. I was just making them out in the woods by myself. I honestly thought people wouldn’t like them. It was me turning my back on the art world. I love Red Arrow Gallery, I'm talking more about the L.A. and New York side of things.

KW: The industry side of it.

JR: China, Mexico, and Thailand were great in getting my head out of that world. For fifteen years before that, all I did was art world stuff. Everybody I knew was involved in that world. It made me realize that L.A. and New York are not the center of the world. I lived in China but I also visited India, the border of Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Japan, and all over the place. It was a lot of cultural exposure in a short amount of time. Each time you travel you have this humility like, “I don’t know shit, really.” New information challenges your existing worldview. I think traveling is an education about life and the world. Nobody can teach you, you just have to go.

KW:  I just want to thank you for your time, getting up early for this. What are some things you are working on now, and do you have any last words for our readers? What are some things you want people to take away from your work?

JR: I have a new series, the clouds are still there, but there's a different subject. Traveling and psychedelics are starting to be in the background. Appropriately, clouds make up the background of the new subject. I want to post the first four images so people will see what the series will look like. I'm excited to start painting again. In terms of what people get out of them, I don’t know. I’m mostly operating on instinct and I don't really have a plan. I hope people enjoy them and I paint in a way that keeps people lingering. Maybe in a way to have them consider what it means to them. I know what they mean to me, but it’s like the Tori Amos quote, “Your songs are your kids that grow up and meet other people.”
A dreamlike painting of clouds, which are textured with many highlights and shadows, and colored different shades of blue, pink, orange, and mint green, all against a flat, dark navy blue sky.
Julian Rogers, Hey You (2021), Oil on canvas

A dreamlike painting of clouds, which are textured with many highlights and shadows, and colored different shades of red, pink, brown, and mint green, all against a flat, dark navy blue sky.
Julian Rogers, Window Seat (2021), Oil on canvas

A dreamlike painting of clouds, which are textured with many highlights and shadows, and colored different shades of bright purple, blue, teal, and pink, all against a similarly textured dark red and brown sky with sections of light breaking through.
Julian Rogers, Why I Couldn't See (Spacemen 3) (2022), Oil on canvas

A dreamlike painting of clouds, which are textured with many highlights and shadows, and colored different shades of blue, pink, and gray, all against a flat, dark brown sky.
Julian Rogers, Interior West (This Song Is About You) (2022), Oil on canvas



Kenneth L. Woods (he/him), AKA “KennyFresh,” is a spoken word artist, writer, poet and author. He’s been servicing both Indiana and Louisville, KY for the past decade. Kenneth partners with non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals to use the gift of poetry and spoken word to help others creatively tell their stories. In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys reading, hanging out with his pet tarantula, listening to music, and photography.

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Louisville, KY