21st September 2015 Written by Leigh Lemay Arts

Refreshionism: Just What the Doc Ordered...

The first time I saw one of Doc Vegasartworks, 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, its 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 Docs 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, youve got to love it. The truth is, I find a lot of art on social media prettyor 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 Docs imagery, intimate and maybe even poetic.

Nothing Is Sacred To a Refreshionist

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 Deluxepieces were purchased and are now in the private collection of the curator of modern art at the Queensland Art Gallery.

In the late 1970s, 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 beenand creating what could be. Its 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 70s and early 80s, 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; Australasian Fighting Arts (a martial arts magazine). 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, The SenseLab; which is a research laboratory for thought in motionand 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 theyre up to. Suffice to say, Doc is not alone in recognising the importance of intent.

Intention. Lets 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 Docs 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 isnt all that difficult to flip the coin over and rest on animosity. You see, it depends from where intention resides. I dont think anyone can deny, that there is something antagonistic in Docs 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.

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Indeed, when it comes to positivity, Docs 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 Docs 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 thirdsand 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.

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What I really love about Docs work is the principles behind what he does and why he does it:

 

REFRESHIONIST MANIFEST0

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 dont necessarily claim this to be myart 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 pursuitof 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 bestit is a movement. At worstit 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.

Untitled 4

Doc Vegas has just opened a Facebook page for his artwork. Head on over and check out his work. He has also recently entered his works into the Piece Gallery Art Prize in Melbourne, and we wish him all the best!

His artwork can also be found in Melbournes ArtBoy Gallery.

29th September 2014 Written by Hannah Greethead Arts

Insider Outsider: The Art of Marc Etherington

Marc Etherington has been touted as an outsider in the art world. Not having come from a formal fine arts background, he is a self-taught artist with a practice that is driven by an inner compulsion to make art. I have recently become acquainted with Etherington’s work, having seen it displayed as part of a number of contemporary exhibitions at galleries that are well integrated into the mainstream art scene, and it has made me question his ‘Outsider’ status.

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I first became aware of Etherington’s work a few months ago when looking into the collection and curatorial practice of well-known ‘Outsider Art’ collector Peter Fay, who named Etherington an important ‘one to watch’. I had already started to delve, albeit slightly, into the realm of Outsider and Self-Taught art with a certain degree of interest, however, I found his style particularly appealing and I had to see more.

Etherington’s works make very obvious nods to popular culture. Referencing contemporary icons like the Kardashian’s, McDonald’s and Justin Bieber. He also gives a slow and deliberate wink to pop culture of the past. In a recent exhibition of his work at Darlinghurst’s Gallery 9, ‘Marc Making’, works on show featured appearances by an unlikely combination of superheroes, Lil Wayne, Jean Paul Gaultier, the full cast of Star Wars and an army of Mr T’s.

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Some might describe Etherington’s approach as naïve, but I think there is a lot to be said about the element of fun that comes with the work. There is an underlying sense of humour in his paintings and small sculptures that are further enhanced by their titles. For example, His Secret Shame (2013), a monochrome depiction of a room plastered with posters of teenage heartthrobs both new and old – A prone smoking figure looks up at his pop music idols. Bieber beams down alongside Miley, One Direction, The Backstreet Boys and a host of other ‘stars’. There is a lot at play here, on one side, Etherington seems to poke fun at our society who shines the spotlight on a bunch of bright-eyed booty shakers. But, at the same time, it is hard to ignore the element of nostalgia and fondness for these past favourites, a feeling that adds another layer of charm to his simply constructed works.

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Pop culture explorations aside, let’s come back to the ‘Outsider’ V. ‘Insider’ conundrum. Yes, Etherington may lack some formal art training, but it seems that he is making deliberate inroads into the mainstream art world. He was recently included as a finalist in the 2014 John Fries Award for his work Darjeeling Limited (2014) and in the past few years has been included in a number of group exhibitions in galleries across Sydney. Is that really the CV of an artistic outsider?

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Irrespective of his status in the art world, the lightness, fun and charm of Etherington’s paintings and sculptures lightens up a world that has a long reputation of taking itself far too seriously.

You can see more work here.

Images here, thanks to Marc Etherington

22nd September 2014 Written by Jasmine S. Arts

Paintings That Make You Question Everything

If you hate politics, the 1%, and humanity in general, then listen up because Pawel Kuczynski has thought-provoking paintings that will make you hate them even more! 

Born in 1976 in Szczecin, Poland, this cartoonist graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Poznan with a specialisation in graphics. But since 2004, he has focused more on satirical illustrations. He has been awarded with more than 100 prizes and distinctions. 

His works speak for itself, but usually touches upon social, political and economic issues plaguing the world today like extravagance of first-world citizens juxtaposed against the third-world people. 

5th September 2014 Written by Ophelia Overton Arts

Finding Mr Lister

I  saw some paint-splattered shoes weave in and out of skateboards and spray cans as they paced along an oriental rug. I knocked tentatively on a half-raised garaged door in Bondi not quite knowing what was on the other side. A voice called out—“Yes, come in.” I crawled under and saw a long profile of a man that had to be him. 

Turning around with spacey eyes, he extended a friendly hand and said “Hi, I’m Anthony.” I had found him…the one and only Anthony Lister. 

I wondered how long I would have before he’d grow restless and move on, but he assured me, “No, of course not, I’m here.” And we settled in. 

“So who is Anthony Lister?”

“Anthony Lister is kind of like a busy brained nobody. He kind of prefers to be sitting in a back alley by himself, or with bums if they’re not talking shit, than in any sort of club drinking any sort of fancy whatevers… usually.”

You probably know him better as the artist that’s been bridging the divide between low brow and fine art though. Or maybe you’ve seen him on the list of the top 50 most collectible Australian artists? Or maybe you know him as the 2nd best muralist of 2013 world wide? 

“I have a problem with the word artist though so let’s just say painter or freedom fighter.”

Fighting for what exactly? 

“The freedom of visual speech.” 

In a world where we don’t want to read but see messages, he is preaching the answer to the 21st century. It’s all the same to him though because “Pictures are just shapes that haven’t become letters yet and letters are just shapes that haven’t become pictures yet.”

His pictures are often praised in the tight-knit circles of curators and friends, but he doesn’t see them as anything of the sort. 

“I would never be as bold as to assume I’m original. I don’t want anything to do with being unoriginal…but I don’t know…it’s a tricky one. [We live in a] reincarnation society where originality is just going to be a product of how recent a reincarnation of someone else’s creativity was conceived.”

His work is a reincarnation of all the rules fine art has to offer juxtaposed against all the affordances of a fuck you kind of graffiti. 

He is an immaculate mediation of contradictions. He is Gen X’s perfect love child-parented by the will to set the world on fire and the optimism to recreate it again from the ashes.

“I’d rather just pretend to break shit but really be making shit.”

The world wasn’t made for guys like Anthony Lister, so he made his own out of paint after he carved himself out of a two-week Datura trip. 

“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Who am I and what do I do and how am I gonna live life?’ And I looked at my drawings that I had on the wall I thought, ‘I do art, oh of course I do.’ And I pretty much put together who I was gonna be and from that point on that’s who I've been. At 17 I was living the dream.”

And from that point on, he entered into the world of ‘formal thugness.’

We continued to talk on that balcony for a long while when he said, “Hey I want to show you something.”

He opened his lap top and began flipping through files. He opened video after video after video, offering a few fragmented words on each before another idea would strike and another window would open. Not bothering to close any of them, they played simultaneously—everything from edits of interviews to songs with Charles Manson to accidentally spray painting brides. I could only assume that this cacophony of chaos was analogous to the inside of his head. 

He shifted restlessly in his seat—it was happening. He shot up. His eyes darted frantically around the room as he collected things in a bright pink pouch. “I uh…I have to paint. Do you want to come?” and we headed back down to the garage.

As he prepared to take that frenzied energy to canvas, he gave me a history lesson in fine art interspersed with G-Unit lyrics. 

He continued with this as he arranged his desk, unearthing something glossy from the grunge.

“Have you seen this? Yeah I did they did this story on me last month.”

He threw over this month’s ‘Fashion Meets Art’ edition of Vogue (laughs). 

And then he began. Inspiration had seized him and he was forced to ‘surrender to the adventure painting gods’ as manic waves washed over him and spilled out onto the canvas. He tackled three at once, sprinting between them as the ideas flooded in.

Then, after some time, the feverish spell broke—he was finished and something occurred that even he could not fully comprehend. 

“I can’t know everything about how or why I do what I do.”

And that was it, he slipped back into the human realm.

“You want to head down for a swim?” 

So he rolled a spliff, skipped across the road and dove into the ocean. 

When he emerged, we sat there on the sand looking over at the end of the beach where the waves kissed his imposing Bondi mural.  

“I almost feel like I would like to leave this game and then just take on one of my other dialects and just let all the thinking go on. This whole thing has cost me everything. My freedom, my time, my health…all sorts of things.”

In the end, it’s all worth it he conceded. His only regret? “I would have done more things that people said I shouldn’t.”

He’s been able to play it risky enough though by not fixating on “success” as the end game. 

“Who needs to win? I’ll lose just so everyone gets over it and we move forward. It’s about the party afterwards.” 

Ironic coming from a man that played the game better than any of us and won—and god damn did he win big.   

You can get more of him here.  

29th July 2014 Written by Aimee Tracton Arts

Tall Tales of Depravity: The Art of Andy Kehoe, Iguana Boy

When pirates attacked his sea merchant father’s boat, three-year-old Andy Kehoe was tossed overboard. The cargo ship carrying pickles, kittens and everyone Kehoe knew fell tragically to the bottom of the sea. Saved by a favourably flowing current, the toddler was washed ashore on the island of Galapagos where he was raised by iguanas who taught him much of what he knows. This is just the beginning of painter Andy Kehoe’s life.

The child-iguana adapted to his environment and even learnt to hold his breath for 15 minutes to reach the most delicious algae on the seafloor. Then things went pear shaped and Kehoe somehow found himself living in a Romanian forest subsisting on a diet of goat and children’s blood. His assimilation back into polite society thereafter was a lengthy and painstaking process.

 

Kehoe’s tumultuous history of environmental conflict and adjustment can be observed in his paintings. There’s a sense of tranquillity when character and nature are in balance. When this happens, flowers fall from branches to hug the antlers of a horned beast. 

Other times, character and environment are not yet adjusted. In this case, the head of a giant burnt-tree-haired creature rises from a glowing orange forest. The result is a little foreboding and very mysterious. 

In terms of technique, once Kehoe began using his hands for drawing pictures instead of choking children, he found power in the spatial relationship between subject and surrounding. He works with depth and layering, painting backgrounds in their entirety even though he’ll end up painting over much of it later. Working with multiple layers of resin pushes the spatial relationship until the characters are actually residing within their worlds.

For Kehoe, the vengeful families of eaten children are now a continent away and his adopted lizard parents but a fading memory — though his work is prone to implanting false memories of nights spent deep in the forest, drinking a full-bodied wine from an animal skull goblet with a strange beast. 

The portal to Kehoe’s world is here

16th April 2014 Written by Rebecca Lay The Arthouse

'Art Gets Me High' With Lewie JPD

Amidst the busy office chatter, the sporadic grinding of coffee beans and the whirring traffic from the street I had a tête-à-tête (is that a douchey thing to say? Yeah? OK.) with the insightful Bondi visual artist Lewie JPD. 

11th March 2014 Written by Aimee Tracton Arts

Art to Make You Dream...or Stab? Hauntingly Surreal Paintings From Mike Worrall

Tired of the contrived wankery of conceptual art? Contemporary artists can be so obsessed with confrontation and controversy that their paintbrush wedges itself up their own ass. If Central Coast, NSW based painter Mike Worrall were to paint from the bowels, it would certainly only be due to the subconscious sorrows of constipation. His surrealist scenes are easy on the eye, mind and digestive system.

“I mostly paint directly from my imagination, preferring not involve a model or photo. But sometimes I do use a real person’s face which is inspiring. Of course, I am unconsciously observing and absorbing the material of life as I move through it.”

A self-taught painter whose strict 1950s upbringing forbade enrolment in art school, Worrall worked odd jobs in advertising agencies, the merchant navy and did pavement art around London’s National Portrait Gallery in his spare time, until:

“My big break came when, towards the end of the sixties, I was discovered by a well-known collector who bought all I did for the next three years and introduced me to a top gallery in Cork Street, where I had my first one-man showing 1971. I had arrived and was being taken seriously at last.”

He was then taken seriously by renowned filmmaker Roman Polanski who based scenes from his adaptation of Macbeth on a Worrall hanging in his lounge room. However, there is a dark secret looming over these dream-like images that must be revealed. His paintings were first hand witnesses to the infamous murder of Polanski’s late wife, the beautiful Sharon Tate. Is there some kind of psychic link between Worrall and Charles Manson? They are both certainly worthy of a cult following.

Worrall exhibits annually at the Wagner Art Gallery in Sydney.

Check out his work here.

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