Sydneysider Brian Walker
is a world-renown contemporary digital artist whose work offers a satirical examination of beauty, fads and fashion through the evolution of popular culture. Working in digital photography, Walker says, “Photography allows my images to suggest a documenting of these happenings with the ability to create surprising elements and surreal situations, playing the line between the familiar and that of dreams.”
From across the world, we spoke with this talented antipodean artist about his work, influences and life Down Under.
G’day Brian, who or what first inspired you to become an artist and when was this?
I have always liked drawing and used to sketch people on trains and friends from school. I wanted to create realistic representations of what I saw in front of me at that point, as I figured that was what the whole creative thing was about. Then I saw the work of Salvador Dali and I had a paradigm shift in understanding what could be ‘real’ and significant.
You mention Dali had a significant influence on you, and previously you've also sited Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte and fashion/advertising photographer David LaChapelle as major influences too. What do you like about each artist's work? How have they influenced you?
With Dali, it was his exploration of reality which intrigued me. With Magritte, it is his purity of vision and simplicity in portraying quite complex ideas that can leave the viewer perplexed as to their meaning. David Lachapelle is a Pop Culture junky and his work is witty and punchy in their presentation. So overall, I like to draw on the skills of each of these artists, as their approaches to representation.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
My creative process begins with observation. I guess I am a bit of a Sociologist at heart, observing the interesting lives of those around me and the various influences and pressures involved, particularly in how people look. Once I have a theme, I sketch out the idea and continue to do so, toying with layout, composition and technical aspects until I feel that I have the ‘blueprints’ I need for the shoot. Then, I speak to my people (make-up artist, models, stylists) and aim for a creative mind-meld. In most cases, the result is VERY similar to the sketch I used to produce it, as I have already made many of the key decisions on paper before shooting.
Obviously there’s some photo manipulation in post-production, but I'm wondering how much of your final photograph is photoshopped and how much of it do you try to achieve in the shoot - such as the rich and vibrant colours for example?
Using my sketches, I aim to consider all the technical considerations involved with the aim of this process being to use the least amount of Photoshop manipulation as possible. The colour scheme and approach also being as a pre-production consideration.
Every time I look at your Zombie Kit pieces, I can’t help but smile. There’s a really wonderful and wry sense of humour there, I’m wondering how did the idea for those two pieces come about?
Originally the idea was about an homage to one of my favourite movies “Evil Dead” and includes a number of elements from the movie including the Necronomicon, Book of the Dead. After producing that one, there seemed to be a real influx of zombie movies, so it seemed only natural to produce a sequel.
Why do you only use female models in your work?
I seem to align myself with societies focus on the ideal representation of a person, one which is primarily based on the female figure as a visual commodity and the apex of beauty. I am interested in the human condition of striving for ultimate perfection along with the influence of popular culture, which likes to throw in a number of fashion faux pas along the way.
What's the most memorable comment you've heard or read about your work?
It’s the funny things that stick in my mind, such as when a Portuguese magazine wrote an article on my work and in reference to the work 'Greasy Spoon', they referred to the “dog food” in the bowl which the model was eating when in fact it was “Fruit Loops”. It wasn’t deep or meaningful, though it did stick in my memory for some reason …
What's the visual art scene like in Sydney, where you reside?
The Visual Art seen on the street level is very fun and lively with lots of new galleries springing up. Though in terms of upper-crust galleries, they are certainly more conservative here and like to stick to the regular more ‘accessible’ works.
Is it hard being an artist in Sydney? Do you get distracted by the beautiful weather and beaches?
Don’t forget the beautiful people! The weather is very happy here and our light is very easy to work with where photography is concerned. On top of that, it just means that there are less rained out shoots.
Do you collect art yourself?
I don’t collect art-works per-say. I love collecting all manner of quirky knick-knacks though. From collectible retro and deco objects through to tacky kitsch finds that either inspire me or make me laugh.
When you're not creating art (ie working), what can you be found doing?
I will be at the movies! I love the big screen and everything it offers my eyeballs. I also like days down at the beach, where I enjoy falling off my surfboard.
What can we expect to see in terms of direction and subject matter in your new work?
I am planning on examining the works of a few key artists. I recently produced a work which was a bit of an ode to Damien Hirst
, who I think is an interesting character. So, I have a few ideas for other people I would like to creatively dissect and re-suture.
What have you got coming up? Any exhibitions/projects planned for 2012?
I have a 'Day of the Dead' themed series I am looking forward to along with my own hat tipping nod to Manet’s Olympia which is a favourite of mine, being the renegade that Manet was.
To see more of Brian Walker's digital art, click here.