This is our 42nd interview and we are very glad to introduce French people with this artist, from melbourne in Australia.
His artist name is Phoenix – although he also uses the longer form Phoenix the Street Artist on the Internet as it’s a way of finding him more easily via Google, etc…
It also pretty much sums up what he does.
I love his messages written on each of his pieces:
Phoenix lives in – and was born in – Melbourne.
He has actually never travelled beyond Australasia (ie Australia and New Zealand) in his adult years – although he lived for a year in the US as a child and a year in England as a teenager.
« Despite my other 51 years of living here in this bottom corner of the world, I feel very much a global citizen – and plan to travel all around the world with my art in the next twenty years or so. My art has already travelled to most Australian cities (across distances that would in Europe take it to many countries) – and has also been seen in Berlin thanks to the pasting efforts of my sister-in-law Sally »
And of course, with the Internet, Phoenix has been seen in a lot of places around the globe.
Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan place with a rich social, intellectual and creative culture – and a vibrant street art scene. There are curious advantages to being in a such a far away corner – he found it to be a great environment in which to cultivate ideas.
There is more than just a short story behind his artist name.
« I have been making collage art for 28 years – since 1984. Across my first 20 years of making art, I gave away most of it away as presents and cards to friends – keeping only a few special items. In 2003, I decided to work towards having my first exhibition and began to make some new works – gathering them together in my home studio with most of the works I had kept over the years.
In March 2004, an electrical fault in a powerboard sparked a fire while I was inside the house making a coffee. I came out to see hungry flames pouring out of the door of my studio. It soon became a massive blaze that took four fire engines over an hour to put out; luckily it was stopped before taking our house as well »
The fire began at the back of his studio – just in front of the red brick wall – and proceeded along the garage towards the house. The intensity of the fire caused the roof to collapse in.
The fire was fuelled by the paper and cardboard making up his enormous collection of collage source materials – a system containing hundreds of trays, files, and plastic pockets full of raw materials,as well as half-finished, and finished collage art.
Despite the intense heat of the fire, and the deluge of water from four fire engines, he found to his surprise – in the next few days when he began to scour through the ashes – that although most of his art pieces and collage materials were destroyed, a small number of works – and key parts of his collage source collection had survived in their folders and pockets at the base of the fire debris.
His first street art piece – Her Godot Was Worth Waiting For – was in fact a plastic tray of paper collage elements fused together by the heat of the fire.
Her Godot Was Worth Waiting For (2004-2009)
The only changes he made to this piece after finding it in the ashes were the repositioning of the priest at the top left corner and the addition of a photo of Samuel Beckett.
Installed in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, December 2009.
The fire was a great trauma of course and he made no art for five years – although he continued to collect source materials – and regathered his salvaged materials and saved pieces in a safe place.
In March, 2009, he began again to set up a studio to make new art; after a street art tour in Melbourne’s inner city suburb Fitzroy, he decided to give the street art thing a try; the natural name was Phoenix – making Art that Rose from the Ashes.
And, once the Phoenix rose – he has not stopped. He has made and installed literally thousands of works – and, in amongst his new studio collage system (of course ten times better than it ever was before the fire), there are the makings of several thousand more.
Phoenix mostly chooses to work alone – travelling around by foot, with his trolley of art and installation equipment, or on his bicycle. Melbourne is a city mostly pretty friendly towards street art: « I have done pasteups at the main train station entrance during the daylight rush hour and hardly raised an eyebrow »
It is also, of course, great fun going out with street artist friends – travelling through the streetscapes, leaving a trail of art wherever they go.
« I particularly love the process of collaboration – whether in a spontaneous way on the wall after the efforts of previous artists, at the wall together, or in the studio »
Phoenix has been active through my life in a range of different types of creative activities – which he is now finding are all coming together in whatever creative output he makes. So when he’s not making new art pieces, he is exploring writing, story-telling, wordcraft, thesaurus construction, journalism, building, healing practice, emotional process work, stand-up comedy, song-writing, singing, playing both drums and guitar, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, and stencil art.
Perhaps one of the reasons he has featured Salvador Dalí in his works so often is that he described his Life as his Artwork. He seeks to make his Life the same!
« My main creative vehicles in the studio are my plain paper photocopier, and my collage desk. I almost never use Photoshop – but do use the computer to construct text for my pieces.
The photocopier is central to what I do: I use it to manipulate, combine, multiply, and colourise the images I collect or draw. In my Dalíesque series, for instance, I am exploring how such techniques can be used to transform a single 3cmX3cm T-Shirt-framed image of Dalí (seen in the top left corner below) into as many different endworks as possible »
A piece like the Dali Five Tee Sequence above is created by creating a series of copies of a black and white master on yellow, red, green and white paper. They are then built up in layers with roller coatings of PVA (white wood glue) – and, in this case, mounted on a plywood base, which is then cut out with a scroll saw. The signature moustaches of these pieces – made out of photocopy transparency -are the final touch.
Phoenix is using Internet to promote his artwork:
He’s working hard at photographing and documenting his work and also at making it available on the Internet.
So, you can find his:
- FlickR page which contains most of his street installed works as well as a series of sets featuring his ways of working in the studio and on the street.
- Facebook page (Phoenix the Street Artist) is a way of keeping people up to date with all things Phoenix
- Instagram page is another way to keep people up to date (and often on the run) with what he’s doing and installing. Search ‘PhoenixtheStreetArtist’ on Instagram.
A message for the StreetLove team?
« Thanks for the opportunity… I have enjoyed answering your questions and the process of putting this all together I will also upload or post all of these photos to the StreetArtLove FlickR group.
Cheers, Phoenix aka Dave »