Ever wondered what would happen if you threw a collection of dark photographic seascapes onto some whitewash plywood boards and added a hand painted homage to beach and surf culture over the top? What about a bunch of beaten-up wetsuits sewn together to create a giant logo-covered patchwork doona? Well with photographer Ryan Heywood and artist Luke Taaffe teaming up for an exclusive show, you don’t have to wonder.
Catch their show SURF CITY at the National Grid Gallery in Sydney from the 14th of October through to the 2nd of December.
Michael: Hey Luke, so what’s been happening lately? Have you been chasing many waves?
Luke: Besides finishing up the last few pieces for this exhibition, I’ve been getting some lessons in putting together garments like board shorts and beach pants. Never thought I’d been interested in sewing etc but it’s saving me money already because I split my favourite pair of denim the other day which I fixed up. Waves have been fun down here in Jan Juc, though we haven’t got near the amount of swell the East Coast has had the last 6 months!
Michael: Your SURF CITY Exhibition, in collaboration with Ryan Heywood is coming up this Friday 14th of October at the National Grid Gallery; can you give us an insight into what you’ve been working on?
Luke: The show we are doing is a colourful homage to surf and beach culture, relics and icons of the surf industry with a lean to the vibrant times of the late 80’s/early 90’s. The 8 works we are exhibiting feature some of Ryan’s more dark seascapes from his travels juxtaposed with painted iconic images and symbols. The colour palette we have used reflects a time in surfing when everything was loud, proud and overtly over the top. We are also going to display a massive patchwork blanket made from over 20 wetsuits we found in op-shops and vintage clothing stores. The branding of these suits is captured well, which will hopefully bring back memories of the past for some people.
Michael: Ryan and yourself have been good mates for a long time now, how does this relationship affect the works you create?
Luke: The idea of the show came about one Friday night over a box of beers so the initial planning of it was quite easy, although we had to narrow down a lot of great ideas to 8 which was an interesting process. Both of us have busy schedules so that was the hardest thing to manage for the two of us, trying to get Heywood to agree on the colours I was using because he was away a lot on photo trips in Indo.
Michael: You’ve always painted on a mixed bag of media, from canvas, to ply wood boxes, wood scraps and fiberglass. How does the process differ when painting on Ryan Heywood’s beautiful photographs?
Luke: The process didn’t change too much I guess. We got Ryan’s photographs printed onto white washed ply in Queensland, which was something different. Some of the pieces had a lot of ink on them and others had more of the natural wood grain coming through which was cool. We treated the photos initially as a background only, but through the process we integrated what we were painting around these images a lot more so end result was an even balance.
Michael: You’ve been in the ocean your whole life, surfing and skating. How has this shaped your outlook on life?
Luke: I guess it’s all about lifestyle and that’s what growing up around the beach has given me. Everyone wants to enjoy going to work each day (if you do work) so it seems logic to create a path in life that makes you happy.
Michael: After checking your blog (http://www.taaffedingo.com) you seem to have a thing for vintage design. Can you tell us about how it inspires your work?
Luke: I draw a lot of inspiration whether it’s personal or commercial work from periods of the past. Aspects of my own work is inspired by old rock posters from the sixties like the swirls and composition on say the Grateful Dead and Zeppelin Posters from Fillmore, to prints from vintage and current fashion labels through to old furniture pieces found in antique stores. I float around stores like this regularly so it was always to going to influence my work to some level.
Michael: You’ve always worked really well with colours, composition and shapes in your paintings. Alongside this you’ve been designing swimwear for few years now. How do you handle the transition between painting artworks and designing swimwear?
Luke: I don’t actually design product as such but instead create prints that are used on garments such as swimwear, boardies and dresses etc. There are a lot of similarities in my commercial and personal work so the transition between the two isn’t too dramatic. I’ve always been into experimenting with changing colour palettes and forms so this has helped me go from one thing to another. I guess the biggest difference between the two is that there is a planned process to what prints I will create for a season or line and briefs I work towards. But when I come home from work, I have the freedom to throw whatever on a canvas, which is refreshing.
Michael: We’re sure the show is going to be amazing. What’s next, do you have any plans to escape for some perfect waves or to get inspired for your next project?
Luke: I’m off to the U.S for 2 years working with Roxy/Quiksilver as of next January so I’m looking forward to eating good Mexican food again. It’s a big country over there with heaps of opportunity so I’m amped for some new experiences.