In this edition of “Living With Art”, 3:33 Art Projects speaks with David Griggs whose anarchistic approach took on new life in lockdown. His unique blend of portraiture, political imagery and vernacular motifs explore the darker side of the human condition and are often the result of a collaborative spirit, interested in cultures beyond his experience and the personal stories within them. As such it was fortifying to hear that isolation hasn’t dulled his interest in society, its light and shade.
Griggs is celebrated in Australia, his exhibition ‘BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN’ is touring NSW after originating at Campbelltown Arts Centre along with a monograph of the same title. He has an extensive international exhibition history in South East Asia and Europe, recently the artist was commissioned to create two 8.4 metre long paintings for Palais de Tokyo, Paris. 3:33 Art Projects held a survey show of Griggs’ recent work earlier this year as part of our ongoing mission to present leading Australian artists in unique spaces to new audiences with The Clayton Utz Art Partnership.
You recently exhibited with 3:33 Art Projects and Clayton Utz, what is unique about the collaboration?
Germanos, being an avid supporter of artists and their works, who knows his stuff made the collaboration with 3:33 Art Projects a very easy experience for me. With his curatorship mixed in with a stunning architectural space like the Clayton Utz building and a new audience to view the works it all felt calm and like something new.
In the past your work has been influenced by your time in the Philippines, what inspires you in Australia?
To be honest when I moved back to Sydney two years ago I felt completely at a loss creatively. The adjustment period took me about 12 months. Finally I found my groove and was able to paint and have something to say. I think a lot of my early struggles in returning to Australia was due to the shock that coffee shops shut at 3:30pm. To feel motivated I hid myself away by reading and reading. Then reconnecting with my skateboarding community here. Now the beautiful absurdity of life in Australia creeps into my works. People inspire me most, picking up on good energies from like-minded passionate people is something I feed off.
How did you stay creative during lockdown and has it altered your work in any way?
When it all started to get heavy with the lockdown stay at home tone I felt so silly to be in the studio working. My instinct was to go be with my family in case all hell broke loose. Then with the media propaganda machine smashing us with a variety of information, one being stay at home and to not visit family or friends. Somehow this forced isolation gave me permission to work. I had just come off the back of 'Mankini Island', a large exhibition I held at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and was between projects. I decided to produce a new series of fourteen paintings 'The propaganda paintings' to respond almost in real time to our COVID-19 era. I moved back to figuration over night, as a people’s virus, I needed people in the paintings. This series kept me very busy, the most important thing was that I had a distraction during this time and simultaneously it gave me a daily sense of accomplishment.
What is the role of art in these exceptional times?
The role of art for me is always a selfish one. The bare bones of the thing, the process, the need to paint what’s around us, the cave painting. Making art is such an existential motion. I guess the personal need is so abstract and ridiculous but yet we keep doing it during exceptional times or banal times.
What’s coming up for you next?
‘The Propaganda Paintings’ series will be part of the 2020 online viewing rooms for the Melbourne Art Fair through Station Gallery, Melbourne – a solo exhibition from 1 to 7 June.
IMAGES (T–B): David Griggs, photograph by Mason Kimber, 2020; David Griggs, Naturalistic Scientism, 2019, acrylic, resin, oil paint on fabric on canvas, 199 x 367cm and The propaganda paintings (Number Eight), 2020, oil on canvas, 137 x 102cm, Courtesy the artist, Station Gallery, Melbourne
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