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.

19th November 2014 Written by Hannah Greethead Arts

Postcards with Kenny

Don’t worry; it’s not what you think. This isn’t a daytime travel show; it’s an interview with the delightful Kenny Pittock. A little while back I sent Kenny a postcard, then he sent one back, then I sent another one... you get the gist.

We've already introduced Kenny here but in case you missed it, he's a Melbourne-based, multi-disciplinary artist. Kenny's practice includes drawing and sculpture which he uses to initiate a fun and clever commentary on Australian culture. Check out what he had to say about his work and other things.

Hannah

intro card

 

Kenny

postcard interview 1

Note (last line): Melbourne writers festival in 2 weeks. Is that worth mentioning?

 

Hannah

postcard interview 2

 

Kenny

postcard interview 3

 

Hannah

postcard interview 4

 

Kenny

postcard interview 5

postcard interview 6

 

Hannah

postcard interview 7

 

Kenny

postcard interview 9

 

Hannah

postcard interview 8

 

Kenny

postcard interview 11

Note (final line): Who knows. Ciao, Kenny

 

Hannah

postcard interview 10

Note: (final line): I didn't know that before.

Title image: Kenny Pittock

19th October 2014 Written by Hannah Greethead Arts

Meet Kenny Pittock

Kenny Pittock is a mixed media artist from Melbourne. That is probably the most boring introductory sentence that I have ever written about a person. I’m sorry. There is however, truth to that initial sentence. Kenny is an artist and he is from Melbourne….. But this really isn’t getting anywhere is it?

Here are some pictures instead.

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This is a picture of a drawing of a picture next to the picture that the drawing is of.

 

Kenny Pittock Drawn on train. Only Illegal. 2012. jpg

This is a drawing, of a guy, I think it’s called ‘Guy wearing a t-shirt that says “It’s only illegal if you get caught!’ getting fined for not having a concession card.’

 

hi dogs

This is a sculpture called ‘If hotdogs could talk I think we all know what they’d say’

 

tinder surprise. Kenny Pittock. 2014 IMG 9755

This is another sculpture called ‘Tinder Surprise’. (Haha)

 

Kenny’s work, aside from being cheeky and incredibly funny also cleverly plays around with contemporary Australian culture. making art objects out of those of the everyday… It’s Pop, but with more soul. Kenny takes corporate product and makes it feel human.

So, this is Kenny, you can see more of his work here.

You should also stay tuned for an excellent interview with Kenny. Really, it’s going to be something special.

Images courtesy of Kenny Pittock

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

5th September 2014 Written by Erin Cook Arts

Ice Cream For The Eyes, Not The Taste Buds

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (ceramic) ice cream.

Ceramic artist Anna Barlow has always been fascinated by the way we eat food and the rituals that surround sweets and celebration. In fact, she was so fascinated that she spent eight years researching and creating a series of ice cream sculptures. Her artworks are realistic enough to make audiences do a double take. There’s triple cones, wafers, cherries, chocolate chips and many, many types of topping. This is the stuff that childhood dreams are made of.

Barlow’s sculptures capture ice cream during the glorious transition from frozen to melted. “I love the idea that ice-cream only lasts for a few seconds but once it’s fired, ceramic is permanent unless you break it,” she said. She focused her project on ice cream due to its momentary, yet unforgettable qualities that can evoke memories and prompt indulgent fantasies.

It wasn’t an easy process from start to finish. Some of the pieces in the series took Barlow no less than four attempts to master. She grew accustomed to watching her work crumble before she finally perfected the process. “It took about eight years of research to come up with the right techniques and colours,” she said. “I use a scoop for the earthenware clay, as you would with real ice cream, then the ‘cream’ is piped on and the hand-modelled extras are added.”

Not everyone is a fan of Barlow’s creations. Her works were recently criticised for being obscene, gluttonous and grotesque. However, she’s not fazed by these harsh words and thinks that it comes down to the viewer’s personal relationship with food. “I find it fascinating how some people dislike my sculptures, usually because they don’t prize food in their own lives,” she said. "Children in particular tend to understand it more, which makes sense.”

While Barlow’s ice creams may not be as tasty as the real deal, they sure have given me some inspiration for my next sundae.

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10th July 2014 Written by Bushra Khalid Arts

'Remember That Time Your Balls Touched Your Shoes?' Art by Nicasio Fernandez

Fernandez began his love for art at a young age, as soon as his brain could function. He describes his thought provoking work as “wonky genderful” characters that clash child like manners with aspects of adulthood. It allows topics such as sex, money and politics to be seen in a new light. 

There is a strong nostalgic undertone to his artwork seen through the whimsical and brash “wonky” cartoon characters. Through these themes, Fernandez urges the viewer to engage with the artwork with their own personal thoughts and memories. He uses different mediums for his sculptures and canvases, such as cat hair, rhinestones and glitter (although using cat hair may not have been his objective – it gets everywhere). His artistic process is a mix of chance and tapping into memories to create a beautiful trajectory of nostalgia that the viewer can absorb into their subconscious and perhaps reclaim as a lost memory of their own.

You can see more of his work here.

17th June 2014 Written by Aimee Tracton Arts

Dark Heart: An Eerie Gallery

Adelaide-based artist Julia Robinson has looked straight into the bloodshot eyes of human fear and transformed it into a bent broomstick. In other words, she does superstition themed instillations. Her exhibition, 'Dark Heart', is like Harry Potter having a psychological breakdown. The sculptures are an extension of her research into the history of superstition, which comes down to fear of death.

"If you actually study superstition, 90 per cent of them predict deaths, and really, if you think about death as an inevitability, it's not really that amazing that it is predicting it," says Robinson. True dat.

Taking the term ‘old wives tales’ literally, the exhibition is a domestic scene of knotted long johns, ominous ladders, baked fireplaces and a mop that seems to have acid-washed a wall. A mixed cauldron of religion, ritual, legend and psychology lecture, Robinson’s work makes you feel like Hansel and Gretel locked in the witch’s kitchen. 

Check out her work here

4th June 2014 Written by Bushra Khalid Arts

Show Me Your Bones...Or Your Insides: Sculptures By Yoshitoshi Kanemaki

Japanese sculptor Yoshitoshi Kanemaki chisels these intricate and haunting life-sized sculptures out of camphor wood. In these figurative sculptures, Kanemaki beautifully involves two or more characters that merge into a single harmonious form, perhaps representing a commentary on mortality or the multiple personalities and perspectives the human form can take. 

Fighting an uphill battle against stubborn grain, working in wood allows Kanemaki to etch out the human form in all its perfect imperfections. The patterns of the grain and rough contours can still be seen beneath the paint in his surreal signature carvings. If you want a free online acid trip, check out his mind-blowing sculptures here

2nd June 2014 Written by Erin Cook Arts

Fiona Foley: Injecting Politics into Public Art

Government funded sculptures. We’ve all walked past them, through them or even sat on them. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours and can usually be found nestled within the CBD of your nearest capital city. But when was the last time you stopped to really ponder the meaning of these public artworks? There might be a lot more than meets the eye.

The commissioned public art of Fiona Foley can be found in major cultural sites across Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Mackay. As one of Australia’s most distinguished art activists, she considerers herself both an artist and an educator. Foley has a knack for uncovering aspects of Aboriginal history that are either unknown, buried or forgotten and she’s hell bent on bringing these events back into public consciousness. Foley is particularly focused on the systematic mistreatment of Aboriginal nations in Australia’s colonial past. 

When the Melbourne City Council approached Foley for a public art installation in 1997, she decided to dabble on the controversial side of art. They commissioned her to install a temporary work outside the Town Hall during the National Reconciliation Convention. Foley took the opportunity with two hands and began researching the land that the Melbourne City Council stands on. She discovered that John Bateman purchased 600 000 acres for the city of Melbourne from the rightful Aboriginal custodians. In exchange for the land, he promised blankets, flour, looking glasses, tomahawks, knives, beads and scissors. Bateman never delivered on any of his promises. Foley erected Lie of the Land to commemorate this exchange. It consisted of a series of huge sandstone blocks, each etched with the name of the goods promised to the Aboriginal custodians. The artwork is a testament to the dark history that lies beneath Melbourne’s Town Hall. Although Lie of the Land was initially intended to be temporary, it was moved to the Melbourne Museum at the end of the convention. 

Following the success of Lie of the Land, the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court stepped up and asked Foley to create a sculpture to stand in their courtyard. As she had done in Melbourne, Foley researched the history of the land on which the Magistrate’s Court stood. This time, she created Witnessing to Silence, consisting of large cast bronze lilies rising from the pavement, glass columns embedded with ash and the names of 94 Queensland townships etched into the pavers below. Foley created the artwork as a memorial to the ravaging fires and floods that tore through those particular towns. Or atleast, that’s what she told the Queensland Government… 

Three months after the unveiling Witnessing to Silence, Government officials received the shock of their life. Foley revealed to The Australian that she had kept the true meaning of the sculpture under lock and key during the entire process. The work was actually intended to represent the massacres of Aboriginal people during the expansion of Queensland in the early 19th century. Witnessing to Silence is a memorial to the Aboriginal people that died in the name of Queensland.

So next time you’re dragging your sorry ass home from work, it might be worth stopping to investigate the public art that surrounds you. You never know what you might discover. 

Photo of Fional Foley by Mick Richards, courtesy of Niagara Galleries

6th March 2014 Written by Ophelia Overton Politics

Art or Politics with Will Coles- Incredible Photos That Will Make You Think

He pulled up barefoot to his St. Peter’s studio. He set down two crates for chairs. He was most unassuming. How could he be so casual about something so political? 

Originally from the English countryside, Sydney street artist Will Coles gave us an inside look into how politics and street art are, now more than ever, inextricably linked. 

He started from the beginning. 

“In the 80s, because of Thatcher, everyone was just having the worst time. It was kind of like the grit that makes the pearl...it was so awful that it managed to create this great underground arts scene,” said Coles.

Once antitheses, they now seem play with each other. 

"In the past, for connections you'd just go to opening nights and basically suck up to people...but now there's a whole course on that,” said Coles.

Coles suggests that maybe that little piece of paper is more of an entry ticket than a certificate of accomplishment.

 "COFA is a brand,” said Coles. 

There’s nothing wrong with being part of the gang until that gang is the only one deciding what is and isn’t art. 

“[Curators] only have a small circle of people they know and it's often only from the college they've just been to so you end up having a very limited view [of what art is]…” said Coles.

And so begins the game. 

"You have to know curators, but no one tells you who the curators are. You can't find them, they have to find you,” said Coles. 

"It kind of goes back to this idea of an aristocracy. They have this very small circle of artists and the only way the curator expands his knowledge of artists is when one of them introduce someone to the circle. It's almost Masonic,” he added. 

Enter street art. 

"Art critics hate street art because their say is irrelevant and it bypasses them completely...that's why I did it. I just realised it was dumb playing their game by their rules..."said Coles. 

Coles says art should be for the masses, not the elite. 

“If you just put it in a gallery, it’s the same small tiny demographic of population that sees it, but if it’s on the street people can see it. That’s why I do it,” said Coles.

Street art isn’t only about tagging up a side of a building or circumventing the gallery game, it’s a way to make people think about the world around them. 

“Most stencils make you think because it’s so much like screen printing. It’s always been political. Like you see silk screens from the Spanish Civil War or French students in the 60s protest stuff…and it’s the same thing with stencilling. There’s just something [political] about it,” said Coles. 

It’s not a perfect system, he admits. Even the subversive can become impotent. 

“You’re trying to get a message across, but then [rich people] buy it and it ends up in their house where only they see it so it’s not changing anyone’s opinion…” said Coles.

Even when it’s in the streets, art can sometimes lose its meaning. 

On last year’s ‘Better Out Than In’: “People were queued to see Banksy because it was a box to be ticked, not because they wanted to think,” said Coles. 

“But you try,” said Coles. 

So where does art go from here? 

“I see art, established art, meaning colleges and galleries, being the domain of wealthy people,” said Coles. 

All is not lost however, he says art will move east with “the current Chinese explosion as they become more free and the West becomes less free.”  

See Will Coles here from March 8.    

28th February 2014 Written by Sabrina David Arts

How to Make a Woman

Perceptions of the female body are often contradictory and complex. Artist Jessica Stoller examines the unrealistic expectations put on women to meet beauty standards in terms of body image. 

Her exhibition ‘Spoil’ features ornate and intricate porcelain figures that ridicule the stereotypes associated with female sexuality. The works are hand-made, using a variety of complex and elaborate ceramic techniques. Stoller’s abject creations reinvent traditional symbols of femininity, making something that is conventionally pretty seem largely grotesque. 

Her characters’ eyes are often masked by hair or by layers of beaded chains and sheets of lace. They seem comatose and disorientated, confused perhaps by the sheer quantity of visual stimuli, all of which pertain to distorted ideas of femininity. 

Symbols of sex and food are paired together to represent a sense of excessiveness and gluttony. By joining sugary sweets with parts of the female body-as with a plate of nippled macaroons-Stoller suggests that we are attracted to that which is forbidden. 

The exhibition title ‘Spoil’ alludes to the festishization of the female body, as well the idea of decay. Stoller’s work comments on the inevitability of death, and proposes that nothing beautiful can be spared.   


‘Spoil’ is currently at PPOW Gallery in New York

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