Weekly updates:

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Weekly updates

Hey David, what’s going on?
Not a lot. I’ve been out of the country a long time so I’m just enjoying being back in the studio for a while.

You opened up your studio last Saturday. What do people expect when walking in?
It’s kind of something I do every year. I haven’t really done a major show in Melbourne for a couple of years, I feel like I’ve shown a lot in Melbourne over the last 10 years or so, so it’s something nice to do in Melbourne when I haven’t been doing many art shows. I feel like it’s a real privilege to have a studio as well and it’s nice to open that up and show people that are interested what’s going on and just share all the little bits and pieces that are floating around the studio. Unfinished pieces and little bits and pieces that don’t really ever make it to the gallery or online or anything like that. It’s kind of a weird feeling. I spend a lot of time in my studio all by myself and it’s really quiet and it’s weird to turn around and see it full of people once a year. I seem to get a pretty positive reaction to it, so it’s nice to repeat it.

You leap from graffiti to diorama to physical model to installation to zine to the next thing. You don’t seem to have any definite medium, it seems. Are there particular mediums you prefer utilising?
I guess I like doing all of it. They all feed into each other and I guess it’s kind of like toys, really. You just want to play with all of them and when you see someone doing a big mural, you want to do that mural and when you see someone make ceramics, I want make some ceramics. I find it interesting, when you see something that’s fun to make. Like when you go to see live music and stuff, it just makes me want to play live music.

I know what you mean, it’s like you’re getting inspired from someone else’s motivation or the satisfaction of their output and you want to have the same kind of feeling.
Yeah, it’s just a way of understanding; to get involved and dip your hands in like that. No one’s here to tell me what to do, no one’s going to stop me doing paper collage all day or doing that for weeks or months or whatever. I feel that’s a really good freedom to take on and not just to narrow down. I’ve been doing my stuff for 10 years but there’s a whole lifetime of things to explore so to think that I’m just going to stick to paper and watercolour, even though I love that stuff a lot, there’s so much more to try. I’ll find what I’m looking for.

When I look at your works, it’s as if all your characters and settings inhabit this singular but vast universe. Is that correct?
Oh yeah, that’s a really nice way to put it. Thank you.

Is it difficult to create over a variety of formats and mediums and still maintain that universe for your characters?
Not really, in a way. It’s all I really know so when I’m making things up, I just have this visual language. Some people, for them, it’s realism or for others, it’s words. But for me, I’ve got my own alphabet and visual language. If I want to think about forests or something, I know how I draw forests. Almost, they just tell me. It’s just all coming from your imagination so it’s a virtual world that’s in my head so it just comes out. When I’m thinking about something, that’s the filter that it goes through. It’s like seeing the world or other worlds through my goggles or something.


I know you often careen between and juxtapose organic, natural landscapes and even Australian flora and fauna but some of your stuff has got spacemen and ultra-futuristic imagery. Is there a particular timeline within those virtual worlds that you prefer illustrating or is that the whole reason why it’s all so varied?
Yeah, It’s varied because I feel like there’s no reason for that not to be all combined because in everybody’s head it is all combined in a dreamy kind of state. That’s just the way it all is when I look at it. That’s the way it has to be. It’s hard to describe sometimes in words but there aren’t really any rules and I like that that’s the uniqueness about it. Or that’s my take on it anyway. If you were writing a sci-fi novel or something, you’d have to set some constraints. If you were doing realism or writing a novel, it has to make sense. When it comes to drawing or even the larger grouping of visual art, there are no rules so I like to play with that freedom.

I’ve heard that you’re into ideas such as cosmic theory and time travel and you really like getting in depth with it. To what degree does that research and influence come into the way you depict space and sci-fi in your art?
I guess it’s hard to define in a way. Because I spend so much time on my own drawing, I listen to a lot of podcasts and I read lots of books in my spare time and that’s what’s drawn my knowledge in. I guess I like that stuff because it’s positive and energising and exciting and also vast and goes beyond other human problems. You know, interpersonal things and little political things. Knowledge about these subjects is way bigger than all the petty little things that can get you down a little bit. I find it’s a really positive area to go to and it opens up the possibility of what else is beyond human understanding and human knowledge but it’s also the sadness of knowing that we’re going to space at some point and our knowledge will expand or something else will happen but I might not be around for that. I kind of want to know. I’m trying to look into the future and ask ‘what’s going to happen? What am I going to miss out on?’. It’s just a great distraction but it’s based in reality.

It’s a bit of a depressing notion to think that we’ve come into this world too late to personally discover new things on our planet and too early to explore other planets. We’re in a limbo century, in that sense.
Yeah, but people are exploring other planets. We landed on a moon of Saturn. That happened like five years ago. These things are happening and the knowledge out there, the theory and it’s always looking ahead but there are things that are going on right at the moment. Even the hadron collider and all these other things. They’re massive, they’re just not very popular in the news room but the internet just lets you go straight to that. I’ve had conversations with some of the people involved with these projects. That’s something that couldn’t have happened 10 years ago. You know, I’ve spoken to someone who was a programmer on the Voyager Mission. That’s really exciting for me to be able to talk to an expert in the field and get a better understanding about, that’s just amazing. So sometimes, I don’t quite know how that relates to my work but this is a long process. It might take 10 or 20 years for me to divulge or feed back on all this gathering of knowledge that I’m doing.

It’s interesting that you are so invested in the technological and explorative elements of science and yet your art is heavily analogue in terms of watercolours and applications. What do you think of that dissonance?
I guess I don’t like to make that too obvious. A lot of my friends and the people I work with, they are quite nerdy or they use a lot of technology but when it comes to their art, it’s still analogue. I’ve used 3D printers and I have a drone and I have lots of nice cameras and computers but when it comes to making it, it’s something nice to do with your hands. I don’t think I could ever really give up that part.

What motivated the decision to get a drone?
They’re pretty fun little toys! I’ve been making some art with it. It’ll take me a long time to work out or resolve or finish off the pieces of art, but I have this fear that drones will be harder to buy or harder to get one online without people knowing and do things, you know? You could hurt someone or you could make a terrible mistake and crash it into something or waste your money but it’s nice I’ve got it and I’ve been able to play with it before everyone’s got one or the government cracks down on them. It’s a powerful little machine and it’s super fun to play with and it’s so amazing. There’s a lot of different things I’ve been playing around with it but I don’t want to give too much away or say something and then not bother doing it so I don’t talk about it too much.

What about 3D printing? Have you or will you ever incorporate that kind of tech in your art?
I’ve made some 3D figures that are based on scans of myself that are almost the size of Star Wars action figures. You know, there’s a lot of things to do with Star Wars and action figures in my work already so they’ve made small appearances but they just kind of get hidden away in it. I like that there’s a little version of me hidden in amongst this grouping of other little objects and stuff in an installation. It’s nice that I can shrink myself down and just be part of it. And some people will never even notice. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it but just going through that process and working with those guys with the scanners and stuff. It lets me understand that process and go ‘okay, how can I break that?’ or ‘how can I change that?’ so that’s a nice ongoing kind of project, really. Just thinking about ‘what am I going to do with this power?’ because it’s quite accessible and it’s not really super expensive or anything but it goes totally with manufacturing and art making and things like that.

Speaking of little collections, you’ve dabbled in the Japanese art of arrangement. What is it that attracted you to experimenting with two dimensional objects in three dimensional space?
I guess we all do it in a certain way. Even when you’re kids and you lay your toys out in your room or you stack books on a shelf or you stack your dishes in the kitchen or whatever. Everybody’s doing it to a certain extent. I guess over my lifetime, I’ve spent a lot of time doing that but over the last five or six years and spending more time in Japan, that’s just the kind of thing you pick up. I’ve spent a lot of time with other people doing that kind of arranging and sometimes I haven’t even realised we’ve been doing it. This is very vague, I guess but it’s just very relaxing and appealing and I don’t really know what to say about it. Sometimes I guess I haven’t really realised I’ve been doing it but it’s part of curating a show and arranging and installing artworks in a large empty space. I like being harsh as well. Even when I make small objects, I like to make 100 and whittle it down to six or something. You know,having lots of things to arrange and really only settling on some and casting the rest aside. Even with a painting show, you might make 15 paintings but maybe only 8 of them will make it on the wall. I realise that that’s a skill that needs work as well but it’s good restraint. I don’t know, it’s an interesting thing to work with. I just see when other people don’t pull out those pieces or they put too much in. It’s almost niggling at the back of my mind when you look at something and think ‘oh, I’m judging it in that way’, ‘needs a bit more green’ or ‘it’s a bit unbalanced’ or something like that. It’s part of what I like about arranging and composing images, really.



In your works Japan is a very clear influence, especially over the last couple of years, but cultural influence in general is a very clear element in your work. There’s levels of mysticism right down to the way your characters dress. Did you take much inspiration from your journey with Gotye and Ben Strunin to Arnhem Land?
Yeah, that was a pretty big trip. Pretty overwhelming, really. It’s something that’s going to take me a long time to process and I’ve kind of been doing a bit of that sketching and recording details and trying to go through the photos. In a way, that process isn’t really over because It’s part of a larger documentary that is just about to go into editing and I have this feeling that we’ll have one more trip there early next year which is really great because we formed such a bond with the family and the community that we were working with. It was really sad to leave. I think about it almost every day and I acquired some really nice indigenous art from a really big art centre in the area there. It’s just always on my mind, it’s like I just stepped into this bigger pool that I feel so far away from at the moment but also I need to finish the ideas that I have been working on and then there’s just so much to learn. Also, how to work out as a white male how to make work that is a reaction to this that is also helping other people understand it while helping me understand it with showing respect but also I guess I’m very sensitive to doing the wrong thing and maybe it’s better just to keep quiet about it. I also think that I’ve had this great experience with the film and maybe making artwork that is a reaction to it maybe helps other people understand and get involved in getting a deeper understanding. Growing up in Australia, some of those things have just been taken away from us or no one has the access or no one knows where to start. It’s taken me a long time, more than five years, to try and find the right way to kind of become involved as an artist and a person to make a connection with indigenous culture in Australia. I feel there’s probably a lot of people around Australia who would love to take the first step or don’t know where to start and I think that’s very understandable. I guess I’m saying it’s going to take me a bit of time to work through all these kind of things. I feel like I can’t just incorporate them in my work the same way I incorporate American and Japanese influences. It’s a totally different think that requires a lot more sensitivity, I guess.

I imagine the respect and connection element of it is especially true for you since you grew up in Tasmania, where the near-genocide of Aboriginal peoples occurred at the hands of colonists.
Well, yeah. That’s the whole history. There’s what we know and what’s available and then there’s what we don’t know and you know that it’s far, far worse. We’re way past that point of blaming education or blaming the government or expecting that they’re going to do the right thing. It’s up to individuals to reach out because this information is out there. There are great educators and authors and indigenous Australians who want to welcome people in and say ‘forget about all that, this is about you having an understanding and then going away and making that part of your life’ or at least trying to change opinions. Because there are people, like in that SBS First Contact documentary on SBS but some people are just decades and decades behind this kind of understanding but it’s very complex and the solutions aren’t that easy but there is no excuse for anybody to not educate themselves about at least the history or at least the current issues or to find a way to go and sit down and make a connection and have a conversation with an indigenous Australian and, you know, be prepared to have someone maybe be really angry at you or just be open to that interaction.

What was especially interesting about the documentary was that, for me anyway, I found some of the opinions really shocking because there was that whole welfare discussion and I was almost horrified to see how some of the subjects didn’t even want to question how entrenched their biases were. I think we accept that cultural harm has been done but to see these heavily racist viewpoints in the 21st century was genuinely shocking and it was weird to think about why I didn’t go in expecting that.
I think it’s shocking because you surround yourself by like minded people and, for example, I don’t work in a workplace where I just happen to have to sit next to someone who happens to be a rabid racist but I have had jobs like that and since I’ve been away from that, it’s been almost ten years and I just don’t come across racism very much because I’m a white person and people don’t hang out with me and just start to go on a rant about how racist they are or something like that. You surround yourself by nice people so it is a shock when you see that the majority of people agree with Tony Abbott or behave in a certain way. It is shocking because you’re just not used to it. I’m shocked when someone comes in my studio to pick up a painting or they come to buy something or have a chat about a project and they just kind of drop, you know, sexist or racist little things. It’s just a shock and I don’t know what to say. I’m so not used to defending people that need defending and it’s a weird situation to be in, I guess.

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