The first time I saw one of Doc Vegas’artworks, Nothing Is Sacred To a Refreshionist (2015) (pictured below); it jumped out of the computer screen, punched me in the face and kicked me in the gut! As I picked my jaw up off the keyboard, I thought, ‘Fuck. Yes. Finally!’Some would argue not a very intelligent response, but intellectualism comes after emotion in my books. If an artwork smacks you in the face, it’s got to mean something. What made the discovery even more appealing, was the fact that the page members had erupted into a frenzy. There were as many shock-horror responses as there were appreciative and congratulatory ones. Actually, if I am to be honest, there were more people offended by the piece, than not. The demands to have it taken down came thick and fast, and that really excited me. Controversial art! What ensued was a debate on what constitutes art; to such an extent, that Doc’s artwork served as a catalyst for a breakaway group of artists to branch off and create their own Facebook page. I have to say, the artwork in that group, is far more interesting than the page that set the scene. Condolences to the naysayers, but in an endless sea of moored yachts and puppy paintings, you’ve got to love it. The truth is, I find a lot of art on social media ‘pretty’or ‘polished’, and although technically good in some cases, I rarely come across works that are thought provoking, risqué, brave or new. But in this instance, it was more than that. There is something honest in Doc’s imagery, intimate and maybe even poetic.
Doc Vegas has been reviewed, mentioned or featured in several art publications, mostly in the days before the advent of the Internet. All of these publications featured articles on his upcycled, sculptural furniture known as ‘Tribal Deluxe’. These works were made in collaboration with another artist named Michael Murphy. Two of the ‘Tribal Deluxe’pieces were purchased and are now in the private collection of the curator of modern art at the Queensland Art Gallery.
In the late 1970’s, Doc began the process of taking something that is old or discarded (i.e. furniture and paintings) and turning it into something more beautiful. Better known as upcycling; it is about taking the ‘has been’and creating what ‘could be’. It’s about finding magic in the mundane and elevating it to the extraordinary;
I was doing this sort of work before it became a movement; before the word upcycling was invented. Around the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was recycling/upcycling things into art. It is I that claim it is now a new movement. I was one of the first, if not the first and am cutting edge in this style/movement [sic]. An example of cutting edge would be my current work.
Not averse to the constant improvement of his skills, Doc has completed a Tafe Certicate III in Art and Design (painting). He completed this course in a bid to learn composition and colour theory; knowledge that would enable him to create better sculptures and sculptured furniture.
It is also exciting to mention, that he has also been discussed (under his real name; Doug Elliott) in a magazine entitled; He has trained and taught Karate and Aikido and in 1984, he was a finalist in the Kyokushin, Full Contact, Open World, Karate Tournament in Tokyo.He was also NSW full contact Karate champion 1983 to 1985.
An unenlightened observer will see a great dichotomy occurring in an aggressive form of thuggery (full contact Karate) and a gentle and delicate expression such as painting. From a more enlightened perspective there is no dichotomy; indeed there are many common factors worth discussing. Martial arts are a way to peace. Painting and Karate, Aikido and Jujitsu (all of which I have studied), although physical activities, are foremost activities of the mind. In martial arts there are common factors to other arts such as composition, rhythm, harmony and intent. Intent is probably the most powerful factor and the most mindful. Intent requires strong focus.
Ki is the Japanese word for universal energy, Ki can be best seen as intention in action. I was fortunate enough to have trained with certain Ki masters who taught me the art of extending Ki, or sending Ki beyond the body. We all do this albeit in an unintentional and unfocused way. Deliberately sending Ki is an incredibly powerful action of the mind. It is an action that leads to creation. The mind creates the physical. In its expanded form, Ki extension is the mindful act of creation.
Aha! A philosophical approach to creativity, and one of the subjects I love most! There is a wonderful artistic enterprise called, ; which is a “research laboratory for thought in motion”and is something I came upon via my own research whilst at university.
Via an event-based practice, The SenseLab unites philosophy and art in a trans-disciplinary encounter that encourages the unleashing of new tendencies that may unfold.
They are interested in reorienting what they call the research-creation concept, away from the commonly assumed goal of cultural capital, and instead move towards the artistic thinking in the doing. For them, the research-creation concept is viewed as an internal connection rather than an external coupling, and is a mode of activity in its own right.
“Art is the thinking in the doing just as philosophy is the doing in the thinking.”- Brian Massumi
To elaborate on this topic, would be to go beyond the scope of this article; however, if you are interested, I absolutely recommend that you head on over to their website and take a look at what they’re up to. Suffice to say, Doc is not alone in recognising the importance of intent.
‘Intention’. Let’s think about that word for a minute. On the surface, it basically means having ‘a plan’. It could even be construed as ‘a hope’. Certainly Doc’s pieces embody an element of hope? Hope in the resurrection of what appears to be long gone; hope in the battle against excessive consumerism; hope in the celebration of the human form in all its guises. All positive. But the word intention can also be read as animus (the mind), and from there, it really isn’t all that difficult to flip the coin over and rest on animosity. You see, it depends from where intention resides. I don’t think anyone can deny, that there is something antagonistic in Doc’s works. From my perspective, it partly explains the frenzy I witnessed in the first place.
I became fully realised in moments of violence. As a nightclub bouncer I had more than a thousand fights; some with men that were monsters and some with groups of these monsters. I have never been badly hurt nor have I ever had an assault charge. However, as a result of a serious altercation, I ended up having to piss off out of Sydney and move to the tropics in 1989, to avoid being murdered.
The marriage. The Yin and the Yang. The negative and the positive that lives in us all. THIS is why the artwork of Doc Vegas stirs my senses and fans my flames.
Indeed, when it comes to positivity, Doc’s career as an artist has gone from strength to strength. He began his creative career as a fitter and turner; who then became a sculptor and furniture maker; culminating in a decade-long art bender and now makes paintings.
From a platform of an old print, photo or painting; the finished artwork performs differently under different light conditions. In daylight and normal lighting, they are bright with a fashionable combination of fluorescent and metallic finishes. These and other elements; such as sparking glitter, sparkling jewel-like objects and interesting light-reflecting surfaces. These I use as a lure to draw the viewer into the picture plane and keep them there. To be entertained by the crazy contrast of a Victorian woman wearing nothing but tattooed lingerie and jewellery, or an antique family portrait which gets a funky hand-embellished treatment. Often the frame becomes part of the picture. With the lights off, they have glow in the dark elements such as primitive, tribal patterns, which present a totally different image. If you shine a light (such as a torch or car headlight) at them, there are elements made of modern light-reflective surfaces (as in safety wear and signage) which will light up like a bulb; presenting to the viewer a completely different picture again. It is a new dimension in the age-old artist exploration of light and shade. It is a new dimension because of modern materials, previously unavailable to artists.
This does not mean that Doc’s creations do not contain elements that adhere to tradition or respect good, solid foundations;
In my work I also use compositional guides, such as the ‘rule of thirds’and ‘the golden mean’. The works need this element because some of them are so ‘out there’, they would visually sink.
These days, Doc Vegas paints more than he sculpts. Although he does, “bust out occasionally and make a mad piece of furniture.”
What I really love about Doc’s work is the principles behind what he does and why he does it:
I call artists to take hold of the old and make it new.
Take tired old second-hand art and do it a favour.
Refresh, Renew, Redirect, Re-mix, Recycle.
Take it to somewhere new and show it how to have fun.
Joy is the philosophy of now.
Refresh old art with your own talents to engage the viewer in a moment or two
of grins, smiles, giggles and laughs.
I call all artists to use and abuse old art and refresh it
with your version of modern fun.
Old Paintings, Prints, Photos, Architecture, Music, Dance and Fashion. Nothing
is sacred to a Refreshionist.
It is time to stick some fun up the arse of boring old art.
Welcome to the art movement of the 21st Century
DOC VEGAS July 26 2015
Given all of this; I don’t necessarily claim this to be ‘my’art movement. I just claim to be one of the founding fathers and to be one of the artists leading the charge. I see in the ‘pursuit’of upcycling, many are doing their bit. As one of the founding artists, I may well be the first to claim this is a movement. At ‘best’it is a movement. At ‘worst’it is a branch of second generation Pop Art.
Well, whatever it is Doc, it sure is refreshing, and I for one, cannot WAIT to see some more of your brilliance.