ARTIST IN RESIDENCE – CHRISTAN SAUMAN
Created around the same premise as our BLA! (Brewing Local Artists) event, the Artist in Residence program is here to help generate exposure for Gold Coast artists, and to engage and inspire our community with the depth of creative talent that exists here on the Coast. This month, our Artist in Residence is the incredible Christan Sauman.
What mediums are your favourite to work with and why?
The base I use largely dictates the medium I’ll work in. At the moment, I’m painting a lot of canvases and that means acrylic paint. But I also enjoy painting on plywood. My plywood paintings are a collage of mediums, meshing together acrylic paint, charcoal, screen-printing techniques, pens, pastels or gold leaf. Anything I can get my hands on really! I don’t think I could say one is more favoured than another though.
Can you give us some background on how you became an artist? Was there anyone that inspired you in the early days?
I’ve always been a creative person in one way or another since I was a kid, whether it be drawing or building those little model kits I was always doing something creative. I was right into drawing cartoons as a kid and used to spend hours drawing characters and sometimes little comic strips, that’s where my love of solid lines and bold colours comes from. However, my path to being an artist is that I kind of just tripped and fell into it really. It wasn’t something I set out to do as a career, it just happened really
When I was young I used to idolise writers such as Phats, Askew and Revok as each of their earlier styles had elements to them that I couldn’t
get enough of!
Later on, when I started to work within the fine art industry I was influenced by artists such as Billy Apple and Michael Parekowhai. Billy is like walking pop art history. I mean, the man lived with Andy Warhol when they were both struggling artists without a penny to their names. He can be grumpy and very difficult to work with, and people can’t deal with him, but I just genuinely love the guy. I’ve learnt a lot off of him. Michael showed me with his early work that you can still have fun, make a joke and be taken seriously at the same time with your work. But, the main thing above all others that both these two artists taught me was perfection. Close enough is not good enough. You can’t settle for anything less than perfection. At the moment I take inspiration from Retna, with his signature bush tags and poetry, and Reko Rennie with his strong designs and bold colours.
Much of your work consists of intricate floral patterns – which
become mesmerising to the eye. How did this type of art evolve to become your signature ‘style’?
Ok so it goes back to drawing cartoons when I was a kid and picking up on solid lines and bold colours. As I got older I started to explore and draw different types of tribal / ethnic designs, solid lines and bold colours, but twist them round a bit and give them my spin or my take on it I guess you could say. Then after a while a started to incorporate traditional American tattoo imagery into the design work, once again its all solid lines and bold colours. This is where I picked up the flowers you see in my work today. I would incorporate the image into my work, whether it’s a skull, snake or whatever. Then start drawing these flowers and designs out from there. Then the fad started and ruined everything. Next thing you know old school tattoo imagery was being used in everyone’s artwork and design work (to be honest it was probably there all along I had just never noticed it). So, I dropped them… except those little flowers I had started painting. Over time I stripped my work back further and got rid of unnecessary shapes and pointy bits, all the while refining my flowers until all that was left was my floral patterns and a few other bits ‘n bobs to fill in the spaces.
Along with other artists, your work can be seen bringing life to many structures which would otherwise be an eye sore. How does it make you feel to see Gold Coaster’s from all walks of life embracing street art from yourself and your contemporaries?
Yeah, I think it’s great. I mean it can only be a positive thing. I think now that the Blue Rinse Brigade finally understands that it’s not all legal graffiti pieces like they used to, but more neutral art that covers a much wider interest spectrum of the community and in some cases the artworks are actually adding value to their neighbourhood.
Was there an element of misspent youth as a graffiti writer?
No comment on that one for fear of deportation as I’m applying for
my citizenship soon, ha-ha. It was a long time ago…
Most people would recognise your artwork from the various street scape projects that you’ve been commissioned to do however your works spans across a variety of mediums –brush painting, machine cut acrylic work, airbrush artwork and even pointillism. Do you have a preferred medium? or does your varied skillset provide you with inspiration needed to remain constantly creative?
My preferred medium is the spray can. There’s nothing better than rocking up to a 70M long wall, 2doz spray cans, put on your head phones and just spray. It’s so relaxing, I kind of go into like a trance and if I’m not careful I’ll just go all day without stopping even for a drink. Its mad. I kid you not I literally have to set a timer on my phone to go off at set intervals to remind myself to take a break and have a drink. Weirdo I know! Creativity wise I’ve always been inquisitive in regards to how things are done. So, when it comes to art I guess I try lots of these different techniques to see what affects I can achieve regarding my style of art if that make sense? For instance, at the moment I’m mildly obsessed with print making. So, I’m exploring everything regarding the print process. But, it still has to fit with my style of art. I need to work out How can I make it different from other run of the mill print works? How can I still make each of the works individual, so they aren’t all just carbon copies of each other even though they are prints of the same thing. Will I be a master printer? No. Will I have achieved what I set out to do? Yes, and
by then I’ll be ready to paint a monster mural again, then move onto
the next thing.
More and more corporate environments are engaging your services. What do you think attracts business owners to incorporate artwork into their premises?
Well if they’re contacting me this time of year they’re looking for a tax write off ha-ha. Nah, because my work is more design based it lends itself to feature walls. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a restaurant, yoga studio, office or shop. Having any form of feature wall will add visual interest to clients, customers, employees etc. I’ve also had a couple of clients that have done external work to add value to their property.
What advice would you give to a 20-year-old Christan Saumon?
Nothing. 20yr old Christan Saumon knows everything! Ha-ha! Seize every opportunity with both hands and go for it. Don’t be afraid of failure!