WHY ANDY QUILTY HAS THE X FACTOR.
Every now and then an artist comes along who makes you stop and think. Andy Quilty is one such guy. His use of vibrant colours stop you in your tracks and his clever social commentary keep you standing there.
We caught up with Andy to find out what makes him tick and just why he has the X factor!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rockingham. Growing up in Rockingham has had a pretty significant influence on my artwork, in particular my current exhibition as a lot of my childhood friends from Rockingham are FIFO workers now, this is what initially sparked my interest in the FIFO culture.
How did you get into art?
I have always loved drawing. When I was a kid there were a few things I would draw obsessively, like BMX bikes, basketball shoes and tough looking bogans with crazy haircuts and lots of piercings (I still have some of these drawings). In school I was always getting busted for drawing in class, so when I left it seemed a natural progression to study art at University. I didn't really enjoy Uni, it is the only time in my life I have felt out of place, I probably spent more time surfing than I did going to lectures, which is what I suppose led to me becoming a surfboard artist. I worked as a commercial surfboard artist for 10 years. It's only in the last 2 years that I have turned my focus to my personal practice.
Did your parents support you?
Yeah definitely, my mum and dad are both awesome! I owe so much to them. Before I was given a studio space at 140 Perth, my dad had allowed me to covert half of his home office into a studio space as he had just retired. My mum is my number one fan and has always encouraged my art. I can't thank them enough.
Your style is very distinctive... how did this develop or come about?
My style is very much a product of my personality - I am quite erratic, impatient and rushed with the way I approach things, so when I work it is almost always at a furious pace and pretty intense. The media I use reflects my distaste for a lot of the pretension and elitism in Art. I use utilitarian tools such as ballpoint pen and aerosol cans to keep the work honest, using everyday items to make art I think allows the viewer a way into my work without requiring an arts degree to respond to it. Working as a surfboard artist I primarily used aerosol and auto enamel paint (the paint has to be waterproof) and this is still what I use to paint. It is a natural transition for me rather than being influenced by the current trend for street art.
When did you realise that you could make a living from your art?
After travelling overseas for a year, on my way home I visited my cousin Ben in NSW who is himself a very successful artist. He encouraged me to really get serious about the idea of being an artist. He told me that all his peers who had gone after an art career had all made it happen one way or another. I already had the idea that when I got home I was going to have a good go at it, but seeing his success and receiving this encouragement from him really gave me the extra push I needed.
Where did the idea first come from for your latest exhibition?
As I mentioned earlier the initial catalyst was witnessing firsthand the growth of FIFO culture in my hometown and amongst my mates. It is such a huge shift in the working landscape in WA, where blue collar workers are now being rewarded financially at unprecedented levels. Earlier this year I was the recipient of a 6 week artist residency in Cossack, just outside of Roebourne. Spending this time in the Pilbara, only further cemented for me the significance of this social change.
What do you think about Perth's cultural scene?
I think it is really strong and from my point of view I can't think of a better place in the country to be an artist right now. There are so many opportunities for artist's in Perth and if you make the effort there is a lot of support available out there. Maybe I am a little naive as things have progressed pretty quickly for me this year, but I have received nothing but support and encouragement from the people and businesses in Perth.
What's next for you?
For me, a lot depends on the success of my upcoming 'FIFO' show. I have 40 works in this show. My first show with Linton and Kay Galleries,'The Fear', was a sellout but there were only 15 works in that one so the stakes are a lot higher this time. I still work freelance as a graphic designer to help take care of the bills, but eventually I hope to be able to make a living entirely from my art. Regardless I will keep plugging away and making lots of art. I have put the ballpoint pen work to the side and am moving more into painting recently which has really got me frothing! So I am looking forward to hearing people's responses to the paintings in my new show.
About the exhibition
'FIFO' is Perth artist Andy Quilty's third solo exhibition. Featuring more than 40 new works, the artist's highly detailed ballpoint pen drawings sit alongside a new series of large scale aerosol and enamel paintings as well as smaller mixed media works.
"Fly-in fly-out workers (FIFO) represent a unique time in Western Australia’s history. A shift in the working landscape, the blue collar worker financially valued at an unprecedented level. This change met by ridicule and elitist sentiment by many, has seen the popularised categorisation of these individuals as ‘cashed up bogans’ suggesting that they are somehow unworthy of such financial reward. I wish to provide an honest record of the FIFO worker, a mongrel continuation of the work of the Australian impressionists free from any romanticism. To elevate their status beyond the simplified clichés favoured by elitist arrogance."
Andy Quilty 2012
Opening on Friday November 9, the exhibition continues until November 22
Linton and Kay Galleries
Old Perth Technical School
Level 1/137 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Preview a small selection of works here: