Aaron Glasson is something of a wanderer, traversing the globe with a talent laden hand coupled with a message of awareness and hope for the plight of our oceans. His work often revolves around painting colourful extrapolations of surreal, psychedelia infused denizens replete with barnacled patterns, anthropodic hitchhikers and other encrusted, symbiotic bottom dwellers – denizens that speak of the oceanic bliss that encircles our globe.
Having spent time on the shores of Sri Lanka and Mexico, over the last five years Aaron has infused his energies into an artistic collective whose mission is to raise awareness of our oceans. As the Creative Director of PangeaSeed, Glasson uses his art, and the works of those with which he collaborates with, as a conduit for this message – creating visual behemoths of beauty that speak of the wonders of that vast realm that lay both above, and below the waves.
At a point in our history when our oceans are suffering massive depletion, pollution and generally being fucked up by an apathetic “she’ll be right” attitude from the “general public”, its artists like Aaron Glasson who are doing their utmost to shove fistfuls of art into peoples faces in an attempt to make them take notice.
We’re humbled by his efforts, and gratified by these glimpses we have had of his art (of course, we’d much prefer to see them in person, but photos and video are the next best thing!), which is why we wanted to have a chat to him, and share a little slice of this wonderful artists many works with you – so read on, and enjoy!
(With Spencer Keeton Cunningham)
How did you start out on the artistic path – what are some of your earliest creative memories and when did you realise that art was something that you wanted to pursue?
I’ve always been into art and making stuff, and I was lucky to have parents who encouraged that. I remember drawing a sweet crocodile when I was five or six and knowing it was good. Painting, photography, and tech drawing, were the only classes I liked in high school so then I thought I wanted to do something visually creative. I always loved art but didn’t realise it could be a career. I actually wanted to be an architect partly I thought I knew I could make a living as that though didn’t pass physics class which I needed to take architecture in University. I then did a half a year of Graphic design at Uni, I didn’t like how restrictive the course was.
I had friends in the fine art school having a lot of fun, so I left my graphic design course for fine art and realised that it was really tangible to live like that.
(With Celeste Byers)
Do you have any formal artistic background, and what kind of identities within art do you believe your work most identifies with? Has it been difficult at times to distinguish yourself and your work from all the many other artists out there? In what way do you try to hone your style and push it in new directions?
I did degree in fine art and design and majored in print making. I don’t know about identities within art that I fit in. I’d rather not think about it to much as it doesn’t really concern me. There are a lot of people out there making stuff so and I’m sure mine looks like theirs to some people, and theirs to mine, but I think that’s okay and unavoidable sometimes. I’m influenced by a lot of people, often subconsciously. Then sometimes I realise their influence long after I’ve made something but I think that’s okay too. I feel like my own style is unavoidable and distinguishes itself, it doesn’t matter how influenced or inspired I am by others. I guess I just keep trying new things which sends me in new directions and keeps things exciting. Being inspired is super important too.
I’ve stopped doubting I can do something and just attempt it with a positive attitude and gusto.
Your work has a pretty sublime, at times kaleidoscopic element to it, with shitloads of colour an organic elements – its pretty obvious that the natural world plays a big part in the work that you produce – what makes that so? What draws you to the elements of the natural world that and its various eccentricities and beauties of life and form?
Often, especially when I’m in outside I’m filled with this overwhelming feeling like, “this is so profoundly beautiful and real, why do I even make art when this exists.” It’s a funny feeling, and I know why I make stuff but that feeling is interesting. I just think the natural world is so full of wonder, depicting things I’m fascinated by feels like a way to get closer to it, and even understand more of it’s mystery. I also make a lot of work connected to environmentally conservation efforts so draw life to promote saving it.
You started out in New Zealand – how did the country itself influence the way you create art? How does the creative energy of the country you live in affect your work, and how does travel change this?
I haven’t lived in NZ for years, but when I did I loved it. New Zealand has a lot of trees so I used to paint a lot of trees. I guess I was influenced by aspects of Maori art living there also.
Every place I’m at affects my art so much! Culturally, environmentally, mystically, and historically.
What lead you to painting on walls and how is it an extension of your other artistic work? Does doing murals and works in the street feed back into your other creative practices, and if so, how?
I was into really into graffiti when I was a teenager, there wasn’t much in New Zealand at that time but my brother had this magazine from France with pictures of bombed trains. I just thought it was the coolest thing. I messed around with spray can, and painted the odd mural now and then but didn’t really get into painting walls in a big way until a few years ago. I really got into it more living in Sri Lanka. There are so many beautifully decaying walls there, people were a stoked to have them painted and paints cheap.
Painting murals is just a different experience than painting in the studio but they are all extensions of each other. I learn from and enjoy both so much, gotta mix it up.
(With Celeste Byers and Simon Blackfoot)
A bit about your residency and time spent in Mexico – can you fill us in on you residency over there, how it came about, and what you got up to, and who you painted with, whilst you were staying there?
It’s a long strange story, but basically I wanted to do an artist residency in Mexico. I asked a couple of friends who I thought might now (who didn’t know each other). They both independently told me they were going to Residencia Gorila so I was like “that’s the place.” It’s not like other residencies in that they get artists to focus on environmental and social issues. I worked on a bunch of things there and painted with Celeste Byers and Vexta, the two friends who independently told me about Gorila. I assisted Momo and made a film about him too, that was cool.
(With Celeste Byers)
You also recently went over to Hawaii for Pow! Wow! How was the entire experience, the event, the people and the art? Tell us a bit about your adventures over there, and why you’d recommend anyone reading this to go and check it all out?
Pow! Wow! was incredible. I painted a huge wall with Skinner and Spencer Keeton Cunningham. I’d painted with Spencer a lot before but never Skinner so that was awesome. I admire both those guys so much. The event was so so good and well organised. I met a lot of inspiring lovely people and had so many good times packed in one week.
Hawaii is just a magical group of islands, there is an active volcano spewing lava on one Island and world class art festival on another. I feel like Hawaii is just good for your soul, it’s easy to get wild there.
Speaking of Pow! Wow! You went over there representing PangeaSeed – can you tell us a bit more about the organisation, your involvement in it and what it represents?
I’ve been creative director for PangeaSeed since it was established in 2009. We are a collective of creative people working on ways to better our collective relationship with the ocean. A lot of what we do utilizes art and design to educate people and raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Over the years we have worked with literally hundreds of artist from around world who are concerned about the current health of the seas and it’s inhabitants. We are really trying to teach people that how they choose to live, what they consume and support does effect the greater environment.
We make films, curate art shows, festivals, eco-tours, and even have a sustainable apparel line. It’s all about making idea’s around sustainability, ecology, and conservation cool, appealing, and something people want to get active in.
Can you tell us a bit about the PangeaSeed Seawalls Expeditions mural project that you have going on at the moment?
This July we are collaborating with thirteen artist to paint an Island off the coast of Mexico. Whale sharks and manta ray converge there in huge numbers so all the murals are going to promote their conservation and protection.
Its a pretty crazy line up of artists, I’m very excited.
Accomplishment wise – what have been some of the other stand out projects you’ve been involved with? Exhibitions, shows, what else can you tell us about your work that we don’t know about?
I’m stoked with this triptych I just finished with Celeste Byers. It’s three paintings that are being used to promote World Oceans Day Hawaii. I did one, she did one, then we worked on the centre piece together.
(With Celeste Byers)
What do you have planned for the future? What projects have you thought of in your more whimsical moments, that if money and time were no limit, you’d love to do?
I’m painting another mural with Celeste Byers in Honolulu next month, that will be enjoyable. Then there’s Mexico in July, then I don’t know, I have a bunch of stuff I want to do. With unlimited time and money I would probably buy a chunk of sweet land and build wacky lovely things and a place to live that reflects the land. Friends and animals could come and live there too, in tree houses, like a community.
We’d grow our own food and plants, play, and have fun constantly. You could come too.
Also check out a whole bunch of videos from Aaron Below – so much awesome:
Pow! Wow! – https://vimeo.com/88623375
Mexico with Celeste Byers – https://vimeo.com/84555446
With Vexta – https://vimeo.com/81836150
Sri Lanka - https://vimeo.com/67421195
Vietnam – https://vimeo.com/75102981
And also take a look at a whole bunch of other shots of Aarons work below – and just click on any of the images for the full gallery!