Phoenix: FROM THE ASHES
This July sees Phoenix’s first Sydney show – and his second solo exhibition. It gathers a range of works which have been seen on the streets in Melbourne and beyond. This exhibition, opening at 4pm at blank_space Gallery on Saturday July 25th, runs until Friday July 31st; through this period Phoenix will set up his mobile studio within the Gallery to demonstrate some of his methods.
Multiple Creative Passions. Melbourne-born and -based street artist Phoenix has been drawing since childhood, and an avid collage and photocopy artist since the mid 1980s. Trained in health practice and psychotherapy rather than formally in art, he has explored – and taught himself – a whole range of creative processes throughout his life: creative healing approaches (aka the talking cure), music, metaphor and story-telling, writing and wordsmithery, performance, and philosophy – in addition to his main passion in visual art. This has resulted in him developing an understanding of the broader – and essential – principles of creative process.
Rising from the Ashes. In 2004, a massive fire destroyed his home studio – including the majority of his personal collection of works and his extensive library and processing system of collage images. After scouring through the ashes – and salvaging what he could of his artworks and collage resources – he took a break from making art but continued to explore his other creative pursuits.
Five years after the fire, spurred on by the prolific street art of Melbourne, he began to rebuild his collage system and soon began installing finished pieces on public walls – taking the name Phoenix in line with his art’s literal rise from the ashes. His many works installed around Melbourne have now been joined by those seen across Australia, Europe and the Americas.
The Triad of Processes. Phoenix’s work is almost always a combination of three main art processes: drawing, collage and photocopying. Photocopy and collage enhance his drawing process – and then convert it through a range of photocopy and collage methods into pasteups, stickers and mountable wall-plaques.
Apart from using the photocopier – and a desktop publishing for some text – his process is strictly analogue. It is also constantly evolving and developing new ways of working and making.
The use of layers is at the centre of all of this – whether using layers of paper, transparency or tracing paper in the photocopier, building up pieces through cut-and-paste layering of photocopied coloured papers, or exploring multiple layers of meaning, metaphor and innuendo.
The interlayering of text and iconography is a key aspect of his working process. A great love of words – combined with a passion for metaphor – is at the core of his art.
The Importance of Being Structured. His experience of the loss of such a great amount of work and source materials in his studio fire has reinforced the importance of mastering, filing and archiving of his works, source materials and process sheets. One of his first street art installations, Her Godot Was Worth Waiting For – a salvaged, half-melted collage element tray whose components were melted into place. Not long after installing this unique and irreplaceable piece of ephemera in Hosier Lane, it was souvenired by someone. This was a great lesson in the value of never* putting originals out in the street.
This structure also extends to the taxonomy of Phoenix s body of work: a set of ongoing Series defined by consistent rules – and inhabited by their own sets of iconic elements. These are again taken to another level by Phoenix’s penchant for layering – producing works that are simultaneously part of several different Series – and inhabited by a range of his signature elements, icons and characters.
His key ongoing series are, in order of their inception: the Dalíesque Series, the In The Land of the Blind Series, the Voice of the Blue Earth Series, the Silent ♥ Series, the Tools of Phoenix Series, the EPHEMERAL Series, the TEXTing Series, the Iconoclasm Series, Flight of the Osprey, the Metaphoric Earth Series, Milking IT!, Stacks of Cans, Playing with Fire, and his latest – the ? Series.
A Life Lived Backwards. Kierkegaard said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
To me this is a central principle of creative process and improvisation. The unfolding of the creative process, in a wide range of different practices, can be likened to seeking to bodysurf a wave. It is an exercise of experimenting in swimming forwards within the wave: looking back in retrospect, once the wave has passed, at what ways of swimming meet with the its natural energy – and bring an exhilarating rid.
[*FOOTNOTE: Never say never – so almost never; rules are great – but it’s also great to bend or break the
Phoenix: Brief Artist Statement
Phoenix is a visual artist exploring the combined use of drawing, collage and photocopy for making works for the street and in the public space – as well as in galleries and homes. His studio sits on the corner of Icon and Text.
Phoenix: Curriculum Vitae
2015 – Upcoming Solo Show: FROM THE ASHES – blank_space Gallery, Surry Hills, NSW
2015 – Group Show: BSG 40×40 – Brunswick Street Gallery
2014 – Group Show: Eklectica – Breslin Gallery, Carnegie
2013 – Presentation: The Blue Earth Speaks – Ecoarts Australis Conference, Wollongong, NSW
2012 – Group Show: Alterations, Disturbances, Rips – RTist Gallery, Prahran
2011 – Solo Show: • In Here • Out There – Surface PopUp Gallery, St Kilda
2010 – Open Show: Linden Postcard show 2010 – Linden Gallery, St Kilda
Phoenix: Websites / Social Media.
Phoenix is on Flickr and Facebook as ‘Phoenix the Street Artist’ and Instagram as phoenixthestreetartist.
Who: Phoenix The Street Artist.
What: From The Ashes.
Where: Blank Space Gallery, 374 Crown Street, Surrey Hills, Sydney.
When: Saturday July 25th opening at 4pm, runs till July 31st -through this period Phoenix will set up his mobile studio within the Gallery to demonstrate some of his methods.