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Sam Octigan is letting his art speak for itself

The visual artist talks inspiration and experimentation ahead of his new exhibition

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Sam Octigan is an artist of emotion. Whether it’s a painting or a show with his band Iron Mind, his work always provides a glimpse into the mind of a free thinker, looking for different ways to make his craft scream in the echo chamber of creativity. His paintings are meticulous in detail, with every stroke weaving weaves new layers of narrative throughout each piece. Octigan’s consistency in releasing collections every year solidifies him as one of Melbourne’s brightest talents, and with his new exhibition REGAL, he’s looking to take his artistic pursuits in new directions.

In celebration of this new showcase, we asked Sam Octigan a few questions about his inspirations, ambitions and experimentations leading into REGAL. Discussing everything from the overarching process of art, to what he has planned for the rest of the year, it’s clear that Octigan isn’t going to stop pushing boundaries any time soon.

You’ve created a new collection of work every year since 2014, how do you stay so persistent in putting out new work? And how much do you think your art has evolved since?

It’s equal parts compulsion and enjoyment I think (laughs). I’ve always loved to create images and am lucky to have figured that out early on. The slightly complicated part is I love to work on commercial projects with brands, agencies, bands etc. and also produce my own shows and bodies of work. I’m always ticking over new ideas for my own work in my head, but there is no set ‘calendar’ so to speak. The yearly show is just how things work out. Once one is done it’s roughly 12 months give or take before the next is ready.

Regal can be perceived in a number of ways, is there a specific theme or message attached to the title of your show?

Not one specific theme, no. In the past, each body of work has either had a large narrative element or theme worked into it, but with this show I really wanted the visuals to speak for themselves instead. There are very loose themes attached to the title ‘REGAL’, but they are derived from the images themselves, not the other way around.

Can you tell us a little about the display as a whole?

Basically, instead of starting with a theme or narrative as I have in the past, I had the idea of pushing out beyond my comfort zone by creating much bigger works than normal. I was thinking about the experience of the audience viewing bigger work and the effect that engaging with paintings of scale has over people. I wanted to create compositions that were powerful and engaging, that were meant to be experienced in person and also take advantage of the great space that the RVCA Corner Gallery provides. Big walls, high ceilings etc.

The way you collage your work together feels almost photographic, do you experiment with this or any other art forms in the pre-planning or production of your work?

Absolutely, collages play a big part in my commercial practice and for my paintings I always begin with found imagery and playing around in photoshop, experimenting with composition before creating the line drawing for each canvas.

Do you think the music you make with your band Iron Mind compliments or influences the work you create?

The band was much more active a few years ago, but definitely when we were writing, creating, performing together, what we did as a band provided a really strong yin to the yang of my visual art. It’s not that the music had a direct influence on my work or vice versa, but there are so many polar contrasts to being in a touring hardcore band versus a full-time artist.

Creating with a group and collaborating on ideas, pooling strengths and contributing to a greater whole as well as having to compromise, learn to deal with each other’s personalities etc. As opposed to having complete control over your studio space and the kind of work you do as a visual artist. The intense physicality of playing a show versus the calm enjoyment of creating an image at your own pace. There’s a lot there.

Juggling both at once isn’t really sustainable in the long-term, but at the time it was a powerful combination for me.

Are there any plans to take your work into new fields? I feel as though sculptures would add another dimension to your work) or are you content with your chosen craft?

I’ve heard that before! I used to actually work a lot with sculpture and every couple of years toying with the idea of incorporating it into a show. My practice is varied enough at the moment though and I like the idea of focussing on strengths and think a fear of turning in something that isn’t up to par is what stops me really.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be working on for the rest of 2018?

I’ll be finishing up some album artwork for New York friends King Nine, some graphics for Brick & Mortar and a whole bunch of fun stuff to start on that I should probably keep under wraps. I’d like to produce a zine or two before the year is over and perhaps a smaller, more experimental body of work to close the calendar out. We’ll see how we go.

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