In light of his upcoming exhibition, Infinite Nature, at , there was no question in our minds that Beastman was someone we wanted to touch base with. Having followed his work the last few years, the progression of his artistic expression into a fully fledged, stylistically manifested world of strange creatures and infinite evolved entities is an example of the beauty and talent that modern urban and street artists, or their derivatives, are presenting to new audiences.
Thankfully, he had a spare few minutes during the busy preparation for his show and we couldn’t have hoped for a better glimpse into the themes and processes behind his, evocative, and categorically cool, paintings.
For a lot of people, you need no introduction – you’re an illustrator, photographer, curator,skateboarder, painter – but what is there about Beastman that we probably don’t need to know, but probably want to anyways?
I watch a lot of football/soccer, I love drinking sarsaparilla and root beer, I have three brothers, and my favourite bands are Hot Water Music, Pinback and The National.
Your upcoming show at Gorker, Infinite Nature, is just the latest in a bunch of group, and solo exhibitions that you’re done – what is it about this show that you believe separates it from your previous shows, and the work you have previously displayed?
This show features a whole new body of work, and this is the first time I have created a show as if all the paintings are actually one big painting, just in separate pieces. So together the exhibition is really like one giant artwork with similar themes, characters, styles, mediums and colours.
Some of your character work is downright cute and bouyant, and other times they look struck by fear – but always, they are beautifully executed, and eye catchingly unique – what are your processes and trains of thought when translating the denizens of your mind to a surface?
I like to paint characters that everyone can relate to, they represent human nature and express human emotion. I am very patient when creating my artwork… These pieces take time to paint and I like to watch movies and TV while I paint them, I can tune into something else while I am painting. Its like I know what these paintings are going to look like before I paint them, so I just need to paint them and get them done so I can move onto the next thing.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the world you have constructed that your characters live within, is it a tightly defined world or a loose amalgamation of dreams, ideas and viewpoints?
I like to think of it as a parallel world to ours, inhabited by my characters. Its a place of hope and survival. My work is very neat, stylised, symmetrical and geometric… Its as if all things are represented by different shapes and patterns… And everything is perfect… But even in a perfect world there are always problems, so emotions run deep in my characters.
You’ve curated a bunch of exhibitions, you’ve been published and interviewed all over, and you’re not only well known here in Australia, but also overseas – what is it that you’d like to think that people see in your work that evokes such interest in it?
I think its just different. I spent many years drawing characters in sketchbooks, and slowly I developed a unique style that I really enjoyed and thought others would enjoy too. That was when I began to paint in this style and started to show my work. These days there are a lot of artists producing work, and I think it is important to develop a unique voice and style. Its one thing to be influenced by other artists, but its another thing (a bad thing) to copy other artists’ styles and techniques. Also like I said before, my characters reflect human nature, so I think everyone can relate to my paintings in some way, I like to create artwork in which the viewer can find their own meaning.
Its been over 22 issues since you started up [weAREtheIMAGEmakers] – back in 2005 - looking from the first issue to the latest, how do you believe the outside perspective on the forms of art that you do, as well as represent and promote through the site and the exhibitions your curate, has changed over the past five years?
I think that this emerging art scene in Australia has grown so much over the last 5 years. There are more galleries, more exhibitions, more artists showing their work – but the main thing is there are more people interested in what’s going on. This is a new movement in art, and the general public is slowly becoming more accepting, supportive and aware of it.
This year saw the closing of Worlds End Studio, of which you were a member – this was a fairly iconic studio in Sydney during its run, however there are still a lot of great initiatives, galleries and collectives working there – can you tell us a little more about that, and the Sydney scene these days?
There are a lot more emerging artists really having a go at it these days, which is exciting. Sydney is known for being expensive, especially when it comes to property, so its quite pricey to live and work here. Its great to see people really take a chance and start a studio or gallery or shop, especially with the high rent prices. And all these talented artists working in Sydney at the moment have really created a small community together over the last few years, what once was very separated is now quite tight knit… All of us are friends, and everyone is working together.
What does the rest of the year hold for you, what other projects are you most looking forward to, and what are you most looking forward to with your visit down here to Melbourne for your upcoming exhibition?
After Melbourne I am heading to Brisbane to paint a commission for a radio station, its a three storey high building in the Valley, I am really looking forward to painting something so big … should be fun!! I also will be moving into a new studio soon in Sydney, along with Phibs, Ears, Numskull and Max Berry. Then I just have a few more group shows lined up around the place during the rest of the year.
I’ve been working so hard for so long, I am kind of looking forward to slowing down a little and getting a bit more relaxed about it all. In Melbourne, I’m most looking forward to just catching up with the good friends I have down there.
Beastmans solo show Infinite Nature opens this Thursday at Gorker Gallery. You can also check out more of Beastmans work on his website at www.beastman.com.au