Paul Compton is a visual artist who lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.
Through his art Paul creates a magically haunting world for us in which to dwell.
This week I had a chat with Paul and this is what we nattered about…
Rona: Please describe your art for us.
Paul: I make drawings, prints, books and zines. I’m intrigued by the curious and dark aspects of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I am continually interested in the occult, literature, folk lore and outsiders. I tend to suggest narratives in my work that blend sad and grim elements of life with humour.
R: Which of your art making tools is the favourite?
P: My old-fashioned dip pen.
R: When you are making art what do you like to listen to?
P: I love listening to music / musicians that are either obscure or largely forgotten. It feels special to know that I might be the only person in the world playing their song at that exact moment. I adore folk, 80’s & 90’s New Wave and Goth Bands, theatre musicals, bluegrass, classical (Scriabin is my favourite), 1970’s Glam Rock and any obscure German Chamber music I can get my hands on.
R: Who has influenced or inspired you art wise?
P: Odilon Redon, Gustave Dore, Edward Gorey, Peter Blake, James Ensor, Paula Rego, Vilhelm Hammershøi and more recently Grayson Perry. The most inspiring artists are the ones I see exhibiting regularly in Melbourne. I see their work progressing and they inspire me to keep going and attempt to get better at what I do each time. They have truly unique and personal styles which I find very encouraging. These artists include Deborah Klein, Shane Jones, Petr Herel, Steve Cox, Rona Green, Sheridan Jones and Jazmina Cininas to name just a few.
R: Where do you like to go to see some art?
R: What are your favourite horror film and ghost story?
P: My favourite horror films aren’t gory ones, more subtle and quietly disturbing. The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby are my favourite bedtime flicks. My favourite ghost story involves the Black Shuck which is a fierce, ghostly black dog that famously appeared to a church congregation in Blythburg, England in 1577. It killed two people, caused the church steeple to collapse through the roof and as it fled into the mist it left scorch marks on the northern door which can be seen at the church to this day!
R: Why did you become an artist, and what do you enjoy most about the artistic life?
P: It is the only thing that gives me a true sense of an identity. When you put on an item of clothing it is designed by someone else and someone else in the world might be wearing it too but with making art it is purely the amalgamation of all the things that interest, inspire and scare me most. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I finish an exhibition because then I can move on to my next one!
If you would like to view Paul’s art in the flesh go see his exhibition Domestic Disturbance at Hand Held Gallery, Suite 18 Paramount Arcade, 108 Bourke Street, Melbourne, running from 28 June til 21 July 2012.
‘All fantasy should have a solid base in reality.’
– Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)
Please join a tour of the creative thought process that lead to my series of prints titled Borneoids.
Borneo, the third largest island in the world.
The mysterious island lends it name to quite a few modern wild man myths such as Hiram and Barney Davis (aka Waino and Plutano) who were transformed into the Wild Men of Borneo earning a great sum of money as side show stars.
Kuching is the capital of Sarawak, Borneo and is also known as Cat City.
Cat City is riddled with wacky cat sculptures as well as real life felines nosing around.
The Dayak are the native people of Borneo.
The Dayak are traditionally animist in belief and their tattoo designs are sophisticated stylisations of flora and fauna.
One particulary impressive plant native to Borneo is the Rafflesia.
The Iban in particular are a heavily tattooed branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo.
Part of Omi’s side show schtick was claiming to have been captured and tortured via tattooing in New Guinea.
Actually he was inked by the ‘King of Tattooists’, George ‘Professor’ Burchett.
Who doesn’t love a black and white patterned animal?
Be sure to check out this mesmerising little clip of The Great Omi.
Mojo Nixon aka Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr. (b. 1957).
Jello Biafra aka Eric Reed Boucher (b. 1958).
Henry Rollins aka Henry Lawrence Garfield (b. 1961).
Johnny Rotten aka John Lydon (b. 1956).
‘For me the subject of a picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated.’
– Diane Arbus (1923-1971)
All kinds of images fire up my imagination.
One photo in particular has intrigued me so much that I have created three different interpretations – it is a snapshot of my guy’s birthday party, illustrated above.
The first incarnation, party, was highly influenced by my love of Jean Dubuffet’s art.
Then there was Birthday Boogies, a mixed media piece including soft sculptural objects that I call poppets.
The poppets were born from a fondness for dolls, puppets and masks. As a kid I adored The Muppet Show produced by Jim Henson, and the colourful characters of Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera cartoons.
After Birthday Boogies came Secret Robot Society, which incorporated my fancy of the Dutch Golden Age of painting.
After making Secret Robot Society I produced two more prints – Treacherous Boys With Charisma and The Ventriloquist – to form a trio of group portraits.
My creative process is very much about collaging together an eclectic range of source material to invent something otherworldly and somewhat absurd.
In the case of these prints I have referenced the Dutch painters along with TV shows, horror movie stars, dolls and puppets, as well as ideas about social hierarchy and esotericism.
And finally I should make mention of the beloved Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book!
PS: From now on I will be posting every Tuesday – until then, have a good week!
‘The fame of heroes owes little to the extent of their conquests and all to the success of the tributes paid to them.’
– Jean Genet (1910-1986)
I have a bit of a soft spot for sailors.
Several of my pictures salute the sailor man including Greasy Rhys, as well as his mates Rusty Steel and Topsy Turner.
Part of the inspiration for these works is the flash of master tattoo artist, Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins.
I am certainly not alone in my admiration of the sailor – other fans include:
Herman Melville, author.
Jean Genet, novelist, playwright, poet, essayist and political activist.
Otto Griebel, artist.
Paul Klee, artist and musician.
David Bowie, renaissance man.
Tom of Finland, artist.
Jean Paul Gaultier, fashion designer.
One of the things that particularly tickles my fancy about Navy culture is sailors nicknames.
Crew mates are given monikers such as ‘Chalky’ White, ‘Nosey’ Parker and ‘Smokey’ Cole.
The following print is a tribute to my great uncle, John ‘Dusty’ Rhodes (and it’s a tip of the hat to Bindie as well!).
You may have noticed the 8 balls on Dusty’s hands – these are a reference to the character Bean, in the movie Cadence.
It’s time for me to sail away so i’ll leave you in the capable hands of Turbonegro, performing their song Sailor Man…
And here’s a bonus sailor:
‘For a very long time I was too humble […] and lacking in confidence and composure; and I suffered cruelly because of this, appearing in my own eyes to be nothing more than the most abject dog turd. It was only at a late stage – when in the end I had resigned myself to living like a dog turd without shame or regret and making the best of the situation – that it dawned on me that everyone else was also a dog turd.’
– Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
I love Jean Dubuffet.
While studying at university, one afternoon in the library when flipping through books in the art section, I turned a page and saw a reproduction of Man Eating a Small Stone by Dubuffet.
It turned my world upside down.
Early in his life, Dubuffet was influenced by the German psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn, and his book Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill) published in 1922.
Dubuffet collected an enormous amount of work by psychiatric patients, prisoners and children. He invented the term Art Brut (raw art) for the work produced by these non-professional artists. The collection is now housed at the Musée de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Dubuffet once declared ‘For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.’
One of my most ecstatic art moments was visiting the Kröller-Müller Museum when in the Netherlands and encountering Dubuffet’s Jardin d’émail. Indescribable.
Dubuffet expressed that ‘Art should always make us laugh a little and frighten us a little, but never bore us.’
Put simply the guy is mind-blowing and his effect upon me has been profound.
So, who do you love?