Scott Listfield Living the future has been a letdown for this painter

Cover Image - Scott Listfield

When Scott Listfield was a kid, he was obsessed with the future. For him, being born in the 1980s, the future meant the year 2000. Two decades later and fresh out of college, the artist suddenly realized the new millennium wasn’t as futuristic (or cool for that matter) as he’d imagined as a child.

Inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, he found the perfect character to depict his estranged and alienated relationship with the here and now – a lone astronaut. By letting this figure wander in contemporary pop-cultural settings, he confronts us with the more peculiar aspects of the world we live in today.

Scott’s career has had its ups and downs. For example, in 2008, right when he started to get interest from galleries, the art-bubble burst, and he was left with no work.

Luckily for him, it was also around the time that Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr gained popularity. He was one of the first artists to publish his work online. “This might sound completely absurd now, but back then there were still a lot of people in the art world who thought that was a terrible idea,” Scott explains.

“There was a reluctance, sometimes bordering on outright paranoia, about sharing your art online. People said, ‘If you post it on Facebook, you know they own it, right?”

Building an audience in the digital sphere, Scott suddenly experienced galleries approaching him instead of the other way around.

“I can make a painting in my studio, which no one has ever seen but me, post it online, and have thousands of eyeballs on it, pretty much instantaneously. We totally take that for granted now, but let me tell you, that is magic!”

A nice side-effect of Scott’s longstanding online presence is that you can see his earlier works from 1999 until 2005 right up to his latest pieces. Apart from his improved skill with the brush, he identifies other, subtler changes over time. When he developed his style in college, he felt quite alienated from the world, which resulted in him going in an expressionistic direction.

“When I got out of school I was a bit older, not much wiser, but generally less filled with angst, and I started to make these paintings that were less about me, and a lot more about the world around me. I realized pretty quickly that for them to work, they needed to be much more literal and less expressionistic,” he says.

Scott now has a love-hate one with contemporary pop-culture. He dislikes how it seems to have invaded all other aspects of life, especially politics. “There are important things in the world which take a deeper level of understanding than a People magazine headline or a Tweet from Kim Kardashian.”

But, being an 80s kid, he treasures pop-culture more than he gets frustrated by it. “The common language of my generation is Back to The Future, Star Wars, Goonies, Transformers, Happy Meals, and Pepsi – the choice of the new generation. That’s what my childhood was all about, for better or worse,” he explains.

Next to pop-culture, futuristic ideas around space travel still fascinate him, although Scott looks at them differently now. He has more of a mythological point-of-view; for example, the mere idea of living on the moon excites him.

The revival of space in pop-culture sparks his enthusiasm. “Just the fact that there are fun Star Wars movies happening again. I think, or at least I hope, it has rekindled a genuine interest in space in people, especially younger kids. Hopefully a trip to the moon doesn’t seem as farfetched to them as it did when I was their age.”