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Interview with Sydney artist Beastman

29 MAR 2012 | Posted By: NickJ

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Interview with Sydney artist Beastman Beastman might just be the hardest working street artist in Australia. The Sydney based artist a designer, facilitator, writer and curator, but above all he’s known for his strikingly detailed character work. His intricate patterning and refined colour palette are instantly recognisable, creating a visual language that’s hard to ignore. His work wanders from canvas to huge scale murals, but thematically there’s a consistency that makes it hard to forget. We caught a few minutes with the man himself as he prepares for his latest solo show in Melbourne.

Sean Irving: Could you introduce yourself for us?
Beastman: I’m Beastman, I’m an artist from Sydney, I do illustration and painting and curate events. Lots of different things.

SI: What got you started in art?
BM:I grew up skateboarding and was really interested in everything that came along with skateboarding culture: Magazines and music and film and photography and making little skate videos with my friends. I was always out and about on the street and stuff. I was always interested in drawing and I studied graphic design when I finished high school. Somehow I kept following my creative interests when I was young and eventually that led me to be doing painting. I’ve done lots of different things to lead me here.

SI: Do you think you have a natural affinity for subcultures?
BM: I’m just an example of someone who has followed my creative interests throughout my life, and throughout the past twenty years. Anyone who skates knows how it almost becomes your life, especially when you’re a teenager and really into it. I never wanted to be someone who was going to be doing like a boring job. So I just worked really hard at anything that I was really interested in, and those things just happened to be creative things because that’s just who I am.

SI: You’ve worked across almost all the facets of the art community, how do balance all those different roles?
BM: It’s just hard work. It’s a lot of emails and a lot of networking. From my point of view it’s always been about having my hand in a lot of different baskets purely as a way to makes sure that I’m making some kind of money to pay my rent. I’ve always felt that if I was just focusing on one thing I wasn’t going to be able to financially get by. It all ended up compiling together as a kind of job, but it’s not a job - I’m just working for myself.

SI: Do you think those elements patterning and geometry that are so present in your work come out of your design background?
BM: Definitely, I studied graphic design and I always interested in skateboarding and artists like Don Pendleton and Alien Workshop and Girl/Chocolate board graphics, that was what I was really into when I was a teenager. And that’s what led me to want to study graphic design, so all those patterns and geometry stem from my interest in design, but also all the patterns that I use are representational of what that artwork is about. I’m also a very neat person, I’m pretty organised so that comes through in my work as well.

SI: As a character-artist, do you feel like there’s a risk of pigeonholing yourself? Is that something you see as an obstacle?
BM: I mean it’s an obstacle, but it’s not one that I have any problem in overcoming. Of course you’re aware of that. I feel like all that I’ve moved away from all the older characters I was doing with the kind of scaly skin and lots of eyes. As an artist I’m all about changing and evolving my work as I grow older. I don’t even know what my work is going to look like in five years time, I think that’s why I’m working so hard on my art, because I’m really interested in finding out what my work looks like in the future. But it is an obstacle and you don’t want to get pigeonholed and become well know for doing just one thing. There are lots of artists out there like that, but I don’t want to be one of them.

SI: So could you tell us a little bit about the show you’re working on at the moment?
BM: It’s at this Gallery called House of Bricks in Collingwood, I’m doing a small show that’s basically a continuation of the show I had in Sydney in December [Cosmic Nature]. The artworks for this show in Melbourne are the same story, the same style, and the same colours, just exploring it further. But then I’m also going to be doing an installation that’s going to be all my sketches and drawings, which I’ve never done before. I’ve never shown my process and why I’m painting the things that I paint. I guess it’ll be an insight into how my work has progressed to the point it’s at now, through all these ideas and drawings.

SI: How much do you think your work has changed over the past few years?
BM: Probably a fair bit. The last show I did in Melbourne was in 2010 and that was the last solo show I’ve had before the one I just did in Sydney. I kind of spent like a year and a half not really making much work at all for galleries, I just painted heaps of wall and painted lots of collaborations with aerosol paint. It was through using aerosol paint [that] it kind of changed what I was making and changed my work. I guess these shows are about me trying to paint all that sort of stuff that I’ve been doing on walls, but painting it with acrylic and doing it for a gallery. I think it’s important to be true to your style though, you can’t just create something totally different instantly. You have to be true to the artist that you’ve let yourself become.


SI: Street art has always been something that’s been marginalised to a certain extent, but more and more often the public are actively engaging with it. Where do you think it’s going to lead?
BM: I don’t know, I don’t think anyone knows, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s temporary, when you put artwork in public space you have no control over it. And it’s the same way that no one really has any control over where this is going to go. But that’s what makes it exciting, and makes it a really good art movement to be a part of and participating in. If you look at all your statistics, really graffiti and street art is one of the biggest art movements in history. It really brings people together, and I think the Internet has played a huge role in that as well.

SI: As someone who’s come up on their own terms, how much do you think gallery involvement has changed the way street art is perceived by up and coming artists?
BM: I don’t know. They’re hard questions, and no one really knows the answers. It could end up being really shit, and just become about money. But I don’t think it’ll be like that, I don’t want to end up in a situation where I’m like that. I’m definitely going to be about keeping my [art] affordable to the people who like my work.

SI: Where do you think your work is going next?
BM: I don’t really know, but that’s what I love about it. I want to keep doing more paintings, I want to do more shows, especially overseas. I don’t know exactly what work will look like, but I love that. I’ll just keep painting and see where it work evolves to.

More at www.beastman.com.au

INTERVIEW: Sean Irving
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