Lara Wilson Townsend

PHOTOS: Michael Townsend

LOCATION: Southern California and Mexico

A friend who, unbeknownst to me, also knew him once quipped, “there are seven degrees of Alrik.”

Space and time.

Those are the two most indispensable materials relied upon by sculptor, painter, and surfboard shaper Alrik Yuill.

A painting of Yuill’s will be exhibited to the public one month, only to be returned to, pored over and deepened over the next year or more, the artist’s signature wells of cyan, ochre, and magenta appearing sporadically yet assuredly.

And regardless of the particular medium he chooses to engage, Alrik remains true to this process; his sculptures are subject to similar trials of inception and revision, construction and transformation. In addition to the mostly-female, occasionally self-representational figures he fashions from clay and wax, Alrik sculpts in foam and resin, utilizing a corner of his warehouse that he’s configured into a shaping bay. Even the human forms he first extracts and then casts in bronze, plaster, and resin live eternally in nearly-unfinished relief, each edge still raw from the impressions of Alrik’s tools. Like the rest of Alrik’s creations, his Space Time shapes are never set in stone. Endlessly tweaked, the resulting boards are the product of countless iterations, hours spent shaping, and an equal amount of time dedicated to surfing. Employing everything he learns in the water to help create what he wants to see in the world – which, like his art, changes with experience – Alrik’s shaping style parallels his signature approach to other artistic endeavors, pushing boundaries and underscoring shared roots across mediums not usually held up side-by-side.

The distance Alrik keeps from his numerous works-in-progress – never far – parallels the profusion of close friendships he has managed to maintain over the years. A friend who, unbeknownst to me, also knew him once quipped, “there are seven degrees of Alrik.” No, Kevin Bacon is not Orange County’s standard for interconnectedness: Alrik is. Seven whole degrees of separation might even be a stretch: you see him at the health food store, on the beach, at music and art shows. You might not know him by name just yet, but if you spend much time around Orange County, you very well may look at these photos and think, “Oh, that guy!” Seriously, everyone has their Alrik story.

An Alrik anecdote from my husband, Michael (who shot these images), involves a surf trip they took to Baja California Sur, far south of the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing. He and Otto Flores stumbled out of Alrik’s truck after the hours-long voyage, eager to wash away the many miles driven. Famously, Alrik remained on the beach, stretching as Otto and Michael surfed the waves for which they’d traveled all this way. Alrik’s hesitation struck them as unnecessary, befuddling – and at the time, even frustrating. Yet sure enough, conditions began to heighten as he waited, rewarding him wave of the day for rolling the dice on a more dangerous, exposed-reef situation.

The experience resonated with Alrik on only a personal level: he’s not one to worry aloud about what could have happened, instead favoring tangible responses in the form of art – creative shapes included. As any good board responds to the waves, the waves in turn respond to the rider, pushing Alrik to think critically about new approaches. Such a ride, exhilarating as it must have been, would be approached thoughtfully and seriously at the end of the day with the goal of informing his next work – an edit to the handshaped fish he rode that day, a new word embedded in an old drawing, a carefully deliberated brush stroke added to his next painting.

Watching and waiting, then pouncing when the time is right, Alrik catches the things that others always seem to miss, materializing in space his experiences, and adapting them to new realities over time.