This is the last of 3 interviews with the artists we’ll be posting this week. Today’s interview is Elliot Francis Stewart answering questions from both Gary Silipa and Askew.
It’s been five years since you’ve exhibited work properly, other than just small group shows, why is that?
To be honest, I can’t be bothered to. I’ve just been doing drawings and that’s all.
Drawings for other people?
Yeah. Every time I approach a large painting, it’s for someone and hasn’t been too much of an enjoyable experience. I have large paintings and heaps of other projects I want to do, but on the day that I have time and can be creative, the chances are I’d make a water colour, a poster, a comic book page, or something along those lines. There’s no prepping a large piece of whatever I’ve found and spending a long time making something.
There’s definitely a demand for your work though. You’ve always had good sales and a good response at all your shows. Do you feel the pressure that when you do your next show it has to be grand?
I feel a little bit like that but at the same time, I do not feel any pressure at all. I feel like there are moments where something will come to me, like an urgency to paint something but I just let it rest, I know it’s not time yet. That’s kind of how I operate [in general] as well.
So how do you feel about making a show like this where the work is created fast but is a small and achievable goal to create a volume of work?
I love it, it’s cool.
So what sort of stuff have you been painting for the show?
I’m doing close-ups on things and a lot of weird shit man. Lots of it is autobiographical when I look back at it and then some of it is just things that I want to draw, like hitting a letterbox [laughs].
Is there anything specific that you like about the ONEFIFTY concept?
I like making fifty paintings, it’s an awesome feeling and it’s cool what comes out. It’s a sweet as, easy, achievable challenge. It’s not SUPER easy but it’s perfect. It’s perfect for me right now, this is correct y’know?
In the past, why were you so attached to using graffiti-esque mediums that were easy to get your hands on like vivid and spray paint?
I like using bics [pens] and vivids because they’re just your run of the mill, regular fuckin’ thing. It’s not your art shop specials and it kind of feels correct. For me, to use my nice inks and my brushes, even if I wait a day, I still can’t help but value what I’m working on. However if I pick up a vivid and a shit beer box, there is no fear at all and I prefer that because it’s more honest. What’s important is that it looks good. For this show, each canvas is so nice, the products, the red, black and white. For most of these I’ve put black on it with an absolute clear mind and no problem but then if I get a really clean looking one in front of me, I’m so scared. I have to smoke 10 cigarettes and walk up and down the hallway before I’ve built up the courage to fuckin’ paint it.
Do you have any favourite canvasses that you’ve painted so far?
Yes and no. I like all the titty ones man, they make me laugh and I never do anything like that. I like trying to be more simple cause I’m a flick-flack kind of guy, I like doing little flicks. It’s finicky and painstaking but it’s engrained in me. Then I have one that has a simple strong movement that says, this is THIS image. It’s hard because you have to think about how you’re going to do it first. I never think too much. I do a sketch of what I think I’m going to do and then I’ll draw something completely different but with this show, I have to think, this area is going to black, this area is going to be white, this area is going to be red.
So what do you prefer as far as the outcome, which process do you think is making better work?
Both are good. The last thing I painted which was an actual canvas was shit and I just went about it wrong.
Do you think that it’s much nicer to be in a situation where, more or less you have creative freedom to create what YOU want to make versus trying to interpret what people want you to make?
Yeah I like it so much more.
Will you pursue it more consistently now?
Yeah, it’s the starved path. I have been painting all this stuff, in sketches and small things for ages. I just haven’t developed it into something huge. I know compositionally where things should sit and shit like that. You really figure out what you’re doing, especially when you’re doing fifty paintings.
You’ve grown up loving comic-books. What comic artist in particular do you think has an impact on your work?
One dude, called Eisner, stylistically he’s amazing. Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez, they’re two Los Angeles guys I think, they do fuckin’ cool work.
Is making a comic-book still an aspiration of yours?
Totally but that’s just so far away for me. I know it is because it’s going to take the time to write a story and I don’t want to write a shitty story. I hate other peoples stories and I hate reading them.
Are you curious to see how people react to the show?
Yeah I’m really curious. I love that it’s on Ponsonby Road cause it’s near Video Ezy and that’s the best spot ever.
For me my Ponsonby’s different from anyone elses. I grew up as a teenager hanging out with my mates Joss, Vincent and my gang around there. My brother and sister worked at Video Ezy, my sister-in-law worked across the road at Glengarrys, my buddy worked at SPQR and everybody I knew was working in this area, this little area of shops and it was rad. It was free pizzas, free videos, free taxi rides, everybody’s hooking everybody up, a little alcohol shop and a nice little chair to sit on in the heart of Ponsonby, [laughs], I love that place.
If you could have ONEFIFTY of anything, what would it be?
ONEFIFTY houses in Grey Lynn.