Through the Rabbit Hole: An American Arts Writer in Melbourne

Last week, Lauren Gallow and I wrote about our adventures in and our emerging philosophies behind exploring the art world via Instagram in Art & Instagram: Falling Down the Rabbit Hole. And fortunately, one of my recent travel adventures began with lazy bedtime falls down the Insty rabbit hole and ended with two wonderful studio visits in Melbourne, Australia…

LEFT: Ghostpatrol, Wall mural collaboration with Sean Morris, November 2013, Brisbane. Courtesy of the artist. RIGHT: Lucas Grogan, THE CONSTELLATION 2013 ink, acrylic and enamel on archival matt board 100 x 100cm.  Courtesy of the artist.

I had been planning a holiday in Australia for over a year, but it only occurred to me a few months prior that I might want to start exploring Aussie artists on Instagram.  Luckily, I had already been following a couple and from there, my Insty-Aussie-artist network expanded exponentially.  This was also about the same time that Gallow and I began tracking and recording our Instagram feeds, forays, and falls (mostly through screenshots of artists we were feeling big time).

The month before my trip, I began looking up some of my favorite local artists, to see if they had any current shows, and to more seriously immerse myself in their work via gallery and personal websites.  Shortly, I was able to contact two of my favorites to arrange studio visits while I was in Melbourne.  – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

LEFT: Ghostpatrol, James Street wall mural wall mural, November 2013, Brisbane. Courtesy of the artist. RIGHT:  Lucas Grogan | Fitzroy Mural, Private Commission. Courtesy of the artist.

Ghostpatrol (insty: @ghostpatrol) is known for his listless and fantastical line drawings, murals, and deceivingly faux-simplistic style that portray subjects which are anything but simple.  Starting as a street artist in Melbourne, a city that takes pride in and even encourages this art form much more so than in the States, he grew his artistic passion into a multi-faceted career with projects ranging from murals, to prints, to animation, to tattoo commissions and so on. He imbues his humble drawings with a deeper aura which gives the sense of a heavy narrative and storyline that inspire me to think more deeply and feel more imaginatively.  Two of his upcoming longer-term projects include animating a dream sequence for a feature film and painting a second wind turbine.

Lucas Grogan | THE BOMB 2013 cross-stitch 40 x 40cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucas Grogan | SEX DRUGS AND KYLIE MINOGUE 2013 crewel wool embroidery 37 x 22cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucas Grogan (insty: @xlucasgrogan) embroiders, sews, draws, and paints to create monochromatic works that call to mind Greek vessel and vase design elements (partially because of his most signature blue and white combinations, but also because of his Greek-like chastising, hovering, god-like figures). These schematics are immediately contrasted by Grogan’s pithy and cheeky textual slogans. Simply put, his work is flawlessly funny. I’d often scroll through his work with a quiet sly grin, cheeky glimmer in my eye, and/or an absurdly loud chuckle. Grogan’s upcoming years are packed with solo shows: in July 2014, he will have his first solo show at Martin Browne Contemporary in Sydney, followed by another at Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide in November. And in 2015, he has a solo at Cat Street Gallery in Hong Kong.

With both artists, I felt lucky to have learned about their work through Instagram falls, and even luckier to get to discuss their work, processes, and motivations with them personally…

Ghostpatrol | Spacecircle, paper collage and ink. Courtesy of the artist.


Ellen Caldwell:  You started off as a street artist before you had gallery representation…Can you tell me a bit about your entry into and interaction in the art world?

Ghostpatrol: I'm very grateful for being surrounded by contemporaries on similar journeys—which allowed for a lot of sharing of experiences and plenty of room for mistakes. I've been really lucky to have had some great opportunities and to be currently working with a great commercial gallery.

Ghostpatrol | Painitng Hepburn Wind farm. Courtesy of the artist.

EC: You have had the opportunity to work on a lot of varied projects – stylistically and with a range of mediums. Could you describe some of your favorite projects?  

G: In March 2013, I was given the opportunity to paint a wind farm turbine (at Hepburn Wind).  It was a great challenge and was very rewarding.  Working alongside a positive community was the best part.  I like working on a large scale - and this was super fun.

Ghostpatrol | Objects 1, acrlyic on wood. Courtesy of the artist.

EC: We spent a lot of time discussing what it's like to be an artist in this particular age, with the internet and social media being what it is.  How do you see that this has impacted your artistic career?

G: It's hard to say – though I left school before really using the internet and I grew up at the bottom of the world [in Tasmania] – so I can remember a time where access to knowledge, art, music etc. was rare and now it's all available in a different way. It's nice to know the contrast.  I couldn't have become an independent artist without free tools like PayPal, big cartel, and image-hosting websites.  It's still amazing to connect and have a conversation online about something you've created.

Lucas Grogan | CONSTELLATION #1 2013 ink, acrylic and water colour on archival matt board 42.5 x 42.5cm. Courtesy of the artist.


EC: You work in a variety of mediums…Can you tell me a bit about them and your process?

Lucas Grogan: My practice includes embroidery, quilting, painting and drawing mostly. Since the embroideries take such a long time (some pieces over a year or more) drawing and painting offer a more immediate process and I never pre-plan or sketch – just start.

Lucas Grogan | EXTREMELY FUCKING CAREFUL 2013 crewel wool embroidery 100 x 60cm. Courtesy of the artist.

EC: How did you learn to cross-stitch? 

LG: I was apart of the Red Gate Gallery Residency in Beijing in June 2013 and created my first cross-stitch there. The studios were located in a village outside Beijing where all of the women in the stores and on the streets were working on pre-printed cross-stitches. I couldn't find any blank cross-stich fabric so I purchased one of the available kits and flipped it over and began to create my own version. I had to search through the local shops there to find blue and white threads that had fallen out of their kits. So I taught myself basically, but the way the women in the village made them far surpassed my own skill. 

Lucas Grogan | THE WEDDING QUILT. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucas Grogan | THE WEDDING QUILT (Detail), 2013 silk, cotton and acrylic embroidery on laminated cotton, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

EC: You mentioned that you have always preferred monochromatic color schemes…Have you always combined that with your sassy texts?  And in regards to your texts, can you tell me a bit about your process there – do the phrases just come to you, or is it something you are thinking about for awhile?

LG: I do prefer to use tonality instead of combining various different colors. I'm obsessed with patterns and line work and love the push and pull qualities they have on one another when placed side by side.

I've always used text in my work—pithy one-liners overheard on the train, or bastardized phrases from great quotes or poems. Most of the phrases come from people I've met or overheard. They have to have that echoing poetic quality about them, usually, but not always with disparate interpretations. 

Ghostpatrol | Tattoo commission. Courtesy of the artist.


Represented by Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide, Ghostpatrol started his career as a street artist and now creates cross-medium worlds exploring ideas of space exploration, cosmic scale, and the super future. Based in Melbourne, he has had solo shows at Hugo Michell Gallery, Backwoods Gallery, and No-Vacancy Gallery and his works are in the permanent collection of both the National Gallery of Australia and Artbank Australia.

Lucas Grogan's work spans a multiple disciplines; textiles (specifically embroidery), drawing and painting.  Grogan exhibits throughout Australia and is represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney; Gallerysmith, Melbourne; Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide; and Jan Manton Art, Brisbane. Grogan has also exhibited at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York; Garis and Hahn, New York; and Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong. Lucas Grogan lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.


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