Filthy the Bear NSW
What was the inspiration behind the piece that is a part of the SWELL Sculpture Festival 2021?
As in my paintings, the inspiration for this piece is based in nostalgia. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, early Japanese cartoons, not yet called anime, appeared on Australian television sets, mostly on the ABC, and blew our little minds. Giant robots were a big part of shows like Gigantor, Voltron and Macross and we would buy the model kits of these robots and delight in building them at home. Recently I travelled to Kobe in Japan and visited the life sized Tetsujin28 statue in the city centre and have dreamed of building an Australian version ever since.
Do you follow a process or plan for each new piece or do you ‘wing it’?
I start with a basic aesthetic in mind and build from that, hunting out parts that look like they might fit. As the parts are found objects and not custom made however, the sculpture sometimes takes a turn of its own volition and ends up having a thematic twist. What I envisioned as a big solid robot might end up taking on a more spider-like appearance or it might have wings. It’s a real mix because I know what constitutes a workable component and yet each of those components present themselves at random.
Would you describe your artistic journey as a slow burn or a wild ride?
It’s been a bit of a warm blanket. My art practice covers a wide variety of disciplines. I paint in a pop-surrealist style, I make comics, I have two YA adventure novels out, I make travel videos on YouTube and I sculpt. It’s a lot of fun and yet super annoying in a way because I’m constantly hoping around from one to another and find it difficult to stay on one track for very long without at least a couple of side ventures into one or two of the other mediums.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how you became the artist that you are today?
I was the cliché kid that drew little comic style characters at school. Pretty much the first book I ever remember reading was issue 7 of the Amazing Spider-Man comic. I must have been 3 or 4 and couldn’t read at the time but the images from that comic were burned into my brain. In my 20s I drew comics and designed CD covers and posters for bands and magazines. I worked as a mural artist in London and then started painting on canvas and making sculptures.
Describe your ideal environment where your creative juices flow?
My wife and I built our own studio under our house and it’s pretty perfect. A Saturday night working away on a project and listening to some stand-up comedy or some music is super fun. The time when I find the “creative juices” really start to flow however is when I’m travelling and I’m keen to do some residencies when we can travel again. I find Japan really inspiring and I’d love to set up in a small town in Iceland and make some art for a while if things work out.
Is there an artist or body of work that you would consider your muse?
As mentioned I really like the old Japanese cartoons and the style of that stuff always creeps into my work in some form or another. Back in the 90’s I picked up issue 1 of the magazine Juxtapoz and felt like I’d found my tribe in a way. I loved the lowbrow, pop culture based art that artists like Todd Schorr, Shag and Glenn Barr created. There’s a big hint of animation and comic book characters in their work and it really inspired me to get better at my own.
If you had to choose 3 words to describe your artistic style, what would they be?
Nostalgic pop surrealism.
Beyond SWELL 2021, is there a forthcoming project you are most excited about?
I’m actually also working on a series of paintings at the moment that I’m pretty excited about. There are robots in them as well but they’re a lot different to the ones I’ve built for SWELL. I’m writing the 3rd young adult novel in my Connor Finn series so that’s always exciting to see come out. People can keep up to date on what I’m working on on my website.
What does exhibiting in SWELL 2021 mean to you?
Building the robots is the realisation of a dream of sorts and being able to exhibit them at SWELL is exciting. I really thought we’d all be wearing jet packs by now, but I guess the 70’s lied to me about that one. Perhaps by putting robots on the beach I can get more people to ask more questions and get those jet packs happening.
Is there anything you do to continue developing as an artist? Would you describe yourself as self-taught or formally educated in your practice?
I’m a mix of formal and self-taught. I think it can be hard to not be that really. From what I’ve come to understand, formal education in the arts rarely covers all sides of an arts practice. Some schools focus almost entirely on concepts, some focus mainly on technique I’m not sure if any teach students the business side of an art practice. Very few artists would be able to consider themselves purely one or the other.
If you were to go on a holiday, would you venture to the ocean or the mountains?
I live near the ocean. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and whenever I travel to a beach destination I’m always wondering if I could be doing something more adventurous. I’d definitely choose mountains and have done loads of times. From volcanoes in Iceland and Chile, to Machu Picchu and hiking in Norway, Germany and Austria. The mountain trips have always been the most exciting and varied.
Gourmet restaurant or home-cooked meal?
Probably home cooked. Home cooking is where you find the most interesting food if you ask me, especially when travelling abroad. It’s rarely at a gourmet restaurant where you’ll eat a guinea pig or chocolate crickets.
How would you describe your taste in music?
I probably have the most varied taste in music of anyone I know. I listen to loads of stuff. Right now I’m into 60’s Japanese beat girl music and German electro pop, but I’ll mix it up with Russian Avantgarde or some John Coltrane or some 70’s rock or punk. I’m constantly making up playlists on my phone and have stuff from almost any genre you can think of, including gypsy music, French accordion music, old country songs, k-pop, Baltic Sea shanties, soundtracks from old Jacques Cousteau films, psycho-billy, Icelandic folk, shakuhachi, bossanova, 8-bit, old Indian film music, classical, etc.
Courtney Stephens is an emerging creative event producer based in Tweed Heads. After a successful career as a Practice Manager, her passion for the creative arts industry has led her to study a Bachelor of Business in Convention and Event Management. She hopes to balance her love for the arts, culture and nature with her strengths in communication and management to create community based events.