Brian Calvin's latest paintings of Californian youth dazzle in pastel-coloured West Coast cool

Group Thinking, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

In his latest series, Fugue, American contemporary artist Brian Calvin continues to dazzle us with his pastel-coloured portraits, largely based on characters from his Californian youth.

On show at the Almine Rech gallery in Paris until early April, his paintings and drawings follow a similar palette used by names such as David Hockney or Alex Katz – offering sun-drenched, laidback and West Coast cool. But it's difficult to associate Brian's work with just one or two genres, as slight hints of Matisse or Balthus are equally present, along with further elements of surrealism, similar to John Wesley and William Copley.

"A few times every week people ask, ‘What do you paint?’ and I answer ‘People’. I didn’t try to create these iconic characters, they kind of developed slowly over time, and then they were just there," explains Brian.

"Sometimes I can feel pretty ambivalent about how some of them look. Recently I think they are taking a different turn and they’re starting to have a more naturalistic quality again. But certainly the kind of bigger eyes, bigger lips, so simplified, it sounds ridiculous but it wasn’t intentional. By stripping things away and not looking at real people, just making the painting, just going back and forth, they kind of developed, and then I wanted to paint the universe they inhabit."

Born in Visalia, California in 1969, Brian Calvin's figurative, non-narrative pictorial style has become synonymous with the relaxed, sun-drenched lifestyle of his home state. Close-up treatment of subjects, highly composed structures, as well as luminous colours laid flat endow his large-scale paintings with a strange temporality.

Brian Calvin, Fugue, runs at Almine Rech, Paris until 6 April 2019.

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Ghost, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Ghost, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Subduction, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Subduction, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Proscenium, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Proscenium, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Fugue, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Fugue, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Others, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Others, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Untitled, 2018 © Brian Calvin. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Some Distance, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech

Some Distance, 2019 © Brian Calvin - Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech