Interview with Artist Gus Eagleton – Art & Aerosol Now
Hi Gus, thanks for your time today. What, who, when, why and where is “Gus”, the “nick” you use ?
Hi Paul, Gus Eagleton is my name I consider myself to be an artist rather than specifically identifying with the subcategories of graffiti or street art – I find the whole categorization routine to be a waste of time. Why worry or get into conflicts over what street art, graffiti or art should be defined as? In this day and age every line can be blurred and there are no right or wrong answers. Everyone has their own opinions on the subject and mine is…to hell with all of them ahah. Just do what makes you happy, respect others work and do your best to create the best work you can.
For the time being I have been focusing my energy on walls, although it has been difficult work I enjoy it a lot. Lately I have been finding it rather hard to sit still and paint – I just want to keep on moving. The downside to using my name is its lack of anonymity, which is a luxury that can go a long way especially in a place like Australia. I try to enjoy both worlds by using Gus as an alias and not identifying with my last name unless in certain situations.
Tell me about your practice, methods, media and so on right now Gus, and how its a wee bit different to when you first started? How has this field changed in terms of the technology, devices, materials and resources and so on, tilt brushes etc?
My practice has definitely evolved over the course of the last seven years, I have gotten lots of new mediums under my belt and experimented with them a great deal. When I first started out using aerosol, I was horrible at it. Aerosol is a very tricky medium, it’s a lot harder than it looks but with practice you come to understand its full potential and begin to push the boundaries a little.
Technology is also something that consistently affects the art world. Smartphones in particular have helped me develop in both my arts practice and the business side of things. They allow an artist to instantly access knowledge, inspiration and imagery wherever they are. I have always been a little behind on the technology front but I will catch up eventually.
For instance, in the past year I have started to use my phone for reference imagery to inform my work. Smart phones have also increased the social media aspect of art. Social media is an awesome platform to expose your work to a wider audience but on the other hand the world wide use of social media has made it a lot harder to be noticed in an ocean of artists. To be honest I have never really enjoyed the social media aspect, I don’t like the idea of social media dictating what art you should be making based on popular opinion. Nevertheless, it does have its place and it is a useful platform to get feedback on work as well as being an important part of running a business.
Tell me in some detail about your arts education Gus, as a kid did you know you wanted to be an artist? Your arts training at QCA, painting perhaps? And what you loved about this education, and what you didn’t love. The educators who inspired you, who are they, why did they inspire you? What prompted you to follow this art/street art path with the training you have now, what it means to you to produce what are largely ephemeral works? And tell me a bit about what your self-directed education entails now, the books you read, workshops, web/social media sites you follow and how is inspiring you now? Who inspired you at art school, did you get into the work of artists like Blek Le Rat and Banksy, if so how so, why so? Others?
I was lucky growing up because I always felt I wanted to be an artist, and every decision that I made as a teenager was made to steer me in that direction. Studying was particularly important to me in my early days because I knew that if I didn’t study I would be missing out on learning important things that I wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise, things that would help me greatly in the long run.
I studied art during high school then moved to Brisbane to study a Diploma of Visual Art at TAFE, I then went on to do a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art. My overall experience of TAFE and University was great it was very hands on which I feel is very important, a lot of the institutions these days focus heavily on the conceptual side of art with an expectation that you will go out and learn how to create yourself and I think that’s a lazy way of teaching.
It’s a lot harder for an artist to receive the skills they need or to discover ways of working they never knew about when they are sent out into the dark. There needs to be room for new ideas and new ways of thinking but the institutions’ role should be to equip their students with as much knowledge and experience as they can so that they can be the best artists they can be. They should guide their students both technically and conceptually. I was very fortunate in the fact that my education was just that, my diploma not only introduced me to multiple art forms and hand- on techniques it also helped me understand the business side to art so that I could potentially make a career out of what I love doing. My time at QCA helped me to delve into painting as my chosen field of work.
I had some very knowledgeable mentors who taught me everything I needed to know about painting. From constructing canvasses to colour theory, from drawing techniques to medium qualities. It also allowed me to invest five years into making art full time which is important, making art around a full time job can hinder your progress.
Thanks Gus. Tell me about your “interior” work at Helen Street, how this opportunity came about and what you are doing there? And some of the crew you work alongside, who inspires you and why so?
The Helen Street warehouse in Teneriffe is a space that was given to me by some forward thinking developers, they felt that the space had great potential for some creative endeavours and should be used before it gets demolished for development. So over the last couple of months I have been getting artists as well as artist-run initiatives to paint all the walls and organise exhibitions and events.
The first lot of events were in conjunction with the BARI Festival (Brisbane Artist-Run Initiatives) which comprised group exhibitions, performances, music events and mural painting. It has been a great space for me to paint in my spare time and also a great place to collaborate with other artists. I finally collaborated with Sofles who is one of Brisbane’s most sought after graffiti artists, I look up to him and how well he has done and how far he has taken his work. We had talked about collaborating for a long time but both our schedules never really lined up, the space was just there at the perfect time. I will attach a photo of the collaboration for you all to see.
Tell me in some detail about your “exterior” work on the streets, how this work relates to the work at Helen Street, what are the advantages of working in a disused warehouse right now? Its downside?
I find that it is a good way to get your work viewed by a larger audience. It can be very hard at times but I have always liked a good challenge, people don’t realize how tough painting large works can be – there are many different obstacles that you have to get around. For instance: the weather, building owners, the general public, time frames, wall surfaces and scale. Something that you envision on a canvas is interpreted in a completely different way on a larger scale.
Public murals are usually received in a positive way but unfortunately not everyone has that reaction and in a place like Brisbane people can have a bad reaction to what you are painting…and at times they can be rather unpleasant. There is a strong mentality that art on the streets is in direct association with tagging or vandalism, and that it’s an eyesore which is decreasing the property value. Which is rather sad and unnecessary, a bit of paint on a wall out of thousands of grey walls never hurt anyone.
The are an abundance of artist-runs unfolding/generating in Brisbane this year Gus, what is happening, why and how and where? Tell me a wee bit more about a few artist-runs/or artist-run events you like heaps and why so?
I think Brisbane is ready for some change. Brisbane’s creative population is aware that this city isn’t known for being an arts hub but a lot of people feel like we are at a tipping point. And a lot of us have really gone the extra mile to put on events and do new and exciting things to generate a culture shift and to make Brisbane more excepting and fun. Its almost as if this mentality has been the same for the last ten years if not longer but in a way its not a bad thing Brisbane has produced some of Australias best artists I almost think its that pressure that causes its artists to go the extra mile. Like the pressure it takes coal to turn into a diamond.
And so many different models and methods being used today all around the world, tell me about two or three different artist-run models ( locations, artists, types of events/projects, networking/publicity/media etc) ie. artist-runs happening in SE Qld, Brisbane Toowoomba, Gold Coast etc? And why you feel/think artist-runs matter?e?
ARI’s are the corner stone of great art, there a great way for artists to make things happen! If you want to put together an idea, project or exhibition artist run initiatives can be a great way to make it come together. Especially in a place like Brisbane an ARI can support your idea as well as help you bypass a lot of costs that can be involved when working with a professional gallery.
CORFLUTE A relatively new ARI that a few of my friends are involved in is realised through a collaborative interest in art theory and practice, CORFLUTE is a platform established to deliver an alternate space for critical discussion and creative output. CORFLUTE is just one example of ARI’s that are thinking outside of the box in terms of there approach with multiple people involved they dedicate a person to each month of the year to put on an art project or exhibition. With no fixed space each month an art project will arise somewhere different in Brisbane.
Another event I have been enjoying is called CreativeMornings/BNE its a monthly breakfast series for the creative community. Each event is free of charge, and includes a 20-minute talk, plus coffee! The idea behind CreativeMornings is that all different creatives come together and socialise and hear from a different creative each month. It has been a great way to meet new creatives and also learn about what other people are up to.
Brisbane has such a wellspring of artist-run heritage since the late 1979s, in a similar way, what are your enjoying about remix.org.au ARI Remix Project, artist-run archives 1980-1990, or indeed not enjoying about the archive as it develops now, and do you feel it is useful today in some way(s), how so, why so ?
The ARI Remix Living Archives Project is a great resource, its important to document things that are happening in Brisbane’s art scene. Lots of things can happen in Brisbane and sometimes they are missed or forgotten, people are doing great things but it doesn’t always get public attention. The ARI Remix Living Archives project is exactly what is needed to document the interesting things otherwise forgotten. Its also a good way to gain and muster up inspiration for your own work.
What enticing collaborative bits n pieces are in the mix for you now in 2016 and in 2017?
Next year I’m hoping to take my painting abroad as much as I can, I also want 2017 to bring new ideas and new projects. Id like to mix it up and try some new things like some instillation work. I’m planning on having a few exhibitions and trying to focus on some larger scale walls I wanna push my boundaries even further.
I also want to paint a lot more canvas’s, this year I only did a few and focused all my attention onto larger scale stuff. And its disappointing when I get asked to be involved in an exhibition or asked for a canvas and I haven’t got any and don’t have the time to make it happen, so early 2017 id like to paint a body of work. I would also like to collaborate with new artists I haven’t collaborated with yet its always fun and something different.
Are you hopeful for the future of artist-runs, how so, why so, what value do you feel they bring to the knowledge base, to arts and culture heritage that institutional spaces like the QAG, the IMA or GOMA don’t offer or provide?
At times ARI’s can have a more relatable connection to its viewers by talking about subjects that are in the media and also related to where they are based. ARI’s have a good connection to emerging and student artists because they are often created by them. Which can reflect on what is presented and discussed at the events and in the local art scene.
The intuitions don’t always have that relatable feeling that ARI’s can have they often present foreign artists or interstate artists or exhibitions that don’t ring true with how we are living here in Brisbane. And some times I think the feeling of high art can present a barrier between the art and the viewer where an ARI can be presented in a relatable and an approachable setting.
An ARI can be artists from any level of there careers and maybe the idea of an ARI itself encourages the artists and viewers to present and view the art with out prejudice.
Speaking about collaboration, working with the 2016 BARI Festival and YONDER on October 8, tell me about these collaborations Gus, how did it come about, why so and tell me about the cool Tilt brush event you are working on?
A few friends of mine were organising the BARI festival and at the time I had my awesome warehouse space and was working on some paintings there. The two things just happened at the perfect time, I introduced the BARI Festival to the owners and because the space was so big and awesome we all wanted to do something special with it. Thus Yonder was formed, a collaborative multi-arts festival curated by Brisbane based arts organisations, The Brisbane Collective, Brisbane Street Arts Festival and also a number of ARI’s.
Each of the contributing organisations have a history of producing innovative events supporting the emerging arts in Brisbane with a focus on inclusion and collaboration. The first warehouse event that we hosted for BARI, included live music, performance art, art exhibitions, installations and the 3D Tilt Brush Which a bunch of artists including myself got to play with. The Tilt Brush was really awesome it lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Your room is your canvas, your palette is your imagination and I had a blast testing it out.
This years BARI Festival 2016 was packed with ari collaborations, socially engaged art, events, what do you love about the BARI Festival, why does it matter to you, what “gaps” in the arts sector do you feel it addresses, what does it offer you?
BARI offers me and any artists who are interested an opportunity to display or produce art for the public. It’s a great way to get your work out there no matter how much experience you have.
The BARI is great because it brings together a lot of the ARI’s from around Brisbane which helps a lot of artists to network and do things they wouldn’t normally do. It also helps to draw in a larger audience who wouldn’t normally attend the ARI’s on there own.
Brisbane Street Art Festival (BSAF) is a city wide outdoor art festival established in February 2016. BSAF is an annual public arts event that seeks to provide opportunities for creative practitioners and wider community to engage, collaborate and develop positive partnerships. As an avenue for artistic expression BSAF endeavours to create a multi-disciplinary platform that encourages any and all art forms to participate. BSAF offers a recognised framework of display and engagement that Brisbane has been looking for.
And BSAF is a great example of the direction Brisbane is heading in, mural festivals have been a very popular thing that have been happening for quite some time all around the world and this year was the first for Brisbane. The Brisbane Street Art Festival is put together by some enthusiastic forward thinking creative’s.
Although faced with a difficult task the BSAF crew kicked off this years festival with great success and it was well received with lots of people coming out to see the art. That being said there has been difficulty getting the support from the community that a large festival like this needs, getting support from large and small business’s isn’t as easy as it sounds and it proved to be a lot of work for the BSAF crew it just goes to show that Brisbane has a ways to go before it is mature enough to support the creative community, the negative stereotypes are still lurking in the shadows and are yet to be brought to light. BSAF is exactly what is needed to help correct and re-educate the people of Brisbane.
And the anticipation for next years’ festival has been building and everyone is looking forward to it because 2017 is going be even bigger and better then this years.
And I wonder is there was a particularly vivid moment for you long ago when a work of “public art” seized you Gus, grabbed you by the balls and your attention and inspired you, got you thinking differently about something? Tell me about this time, place and this work?
I never really noticed public art until I moved to Brisbane, it was graffiti that first caught my attention. Before I knew anything about graffiti I would catch the train to TAFE everyday and I would look at all the new pieces that would pop up and I started to notice who was getting up and doing awesome things.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine from TAFE started to school me up on the ins and outs of graffiti that I actually thought aerosol could be something that would benefit my art. And on one particular day I was on my way to TAFE and I was about to jump on the train and this Big Yano piece rolled into the station on on the train and at the time I had no idea how you would even paint a piece let alone a piece like that on a train. I was absolutely blown away it was a full colour piece with a Ronald MacDonald character saying “the poor are hooked, time to raise the prices”.
That was the moment that sparked me into action it was the moment I knew I wanted to get into aerosol and paint stuff. Then from there my mind was like a sponge I did everything in my power to teach myself how to do it, I went into a aerosol store and bought a can from every brand they had and also all different sorts of caps and I played around with them. Little did I realise how hard it was but eventually I picked it up and continued to get better. Even now I try new things continually trying to push the medium and improve my skill set.