Australia is a hub of creativity, with artists, designers, musicians, and others producing vibrant and idiosyncratic works. Here are five of Australia’s most exciting visual artists, working across a variety of mediums and at various stages in their career
Tattoo artist Giorgia Mae is perhaps best known for having appeared on the first season of the TV show Bondi Ink, but that’s never where she saw herself. As an animation student at university, she struggled to find her passion, until a friend in the business suggested she try tattoos. “He gave me the confidence and I very quickly got an apprenticeship,” Giorgia shares. “I needed someone who believed in me.” From there, she went to Bondi, and now she works at Hibernia Tattoo Studio, a private studio in Surry Hills, Sydney. “It’s amazing. My boss is the best person I’ve met in entire life. Going into work is like being at home. I go into draw on days off and I get to work with my idols in the business.” Giorgia says she’s attracted to the “darker side” of things in her work – “But I’ve also started doing brightly coloured animals. And I’ve become interested in awareness for endangered animal species, like the Ethiopian wolf and the white rhino. I draw these bizarre animals that I find, and I put them up on Instagram after I’ve designed them, and write a big comment explaining their story, and people request them.” On top of her tattoo work, Giorgia has also teamed up with designer Felix Chan to create the Find Your Magic Collection; a range of men’s accessories in partnership with LYNX, based on her personal style. You can buy her work online right now. Giorgia says the key to her success is hard work, although she knows it sounds like a cliché. “But you don’t get anywhere without hard work. You know, I lived off noodles for years to get where I am. I’ve been a struggling artist for five years, barely making rent, but I stuck it out because I thought, ‘This has to work for me.’ When I’m not working, I’m still working and putting stuff out there. You do have to give up a bit of social life, but with hard work and determination you can make it.”
Prue Stent is one of Australia’s most idiosyncratic and exciting young photographic artists, creating strange and beautiful images of female bodies stretching and contorting beneath draped fabrics in wild natural locations. Based in Melbourne, she sees herself as a multidisciplinary artist, since her work has come to encompass installation, performance and photography. She often works with Honey Long and Claire Longley, two friends she met at different stages of her education, who have become her chief collaborators. She describes her work as “hyper-feminine surreal” and “self-consciously sexual.” “It’s about experimenting,” she shares. “Our process is very spontaneous. We have similar ideas and shared interests, so we have a starting point. We get a whole heap of props and objects, we take them out into an interesting environment, and from there it’s spontaneous.” Through her work, Prue sets out to challenge traditional notions of femininity and the general representation of the female form by juxtaposing subject, object and environment. “We present an alternate view or an alternate reality. It triggers a more honest or subconscious association with femininity — because it is personal.” Prue’s CV is growing rapidly. She’s shot for Oyster Magazine, collaborated on an audio-visual show for Vice and Samsung at the Sydney Opera House, and had an installation at Sugar Mountain. Next, she, Honey and Claire are doing a performance art residency in Connecticut, and will be displaying the resulting pieces at a gallery in New York later this year.
At 26 years old, Kitty Callaghan is carving a unique path for herself, her career blurring the lines between art and fashion commerce. She primarily works with collage and paint, turning fashion imagery into vibrant and dynamic works of art. Her biggest collaboration is an ongoing one with Sydney fashion label Ellery; the lookbook they created together for the Resort 2017 collection was featured on Vogue Runway. Kitty has also created various collaged imagery for the label’s social media. She’s also worked with Woolmark, Russh, Elle, and even Maison Balzac. She plans to have a solo exhibition soon for which she will photograph and create mixed media works using close friends and peers as muses. She’s come along way from where it all started, which was making collaged birthday cards for friends since the age of 14. These days, she’s scanning large format images, cutting and collaging them, painting over them, and occasionally manipulating them in Photoshop, to create imagery that blurs the line between fashion and art. “It’s definitely feminine stuff,” she shares. “I’ve worked with guys before and it didn’t feel as natural. I love working with the female form and with women who inspire me.”
Bart Celestino is a hard man to classify. He’s best described as a multidisciplinary artist, whose work has spanned fine art photography, sculpture, and film. He’s also co-founder and creative director of esteemed independent fashion and art publication LoveWant. His most recent project, Surface Phenomena, is a collection of stunning photographs of the turbulent ocean’s surface. The book has gone around the world, distributed by IDEA Books out of Holland, and was immediately entered into the permanent library of the Tate Modern after a book signing there (it’s also available at Tate’s book store, Off Print, and the V&A’s store too.). Using those photographs, Bart has begun creating 3D renders in granite and marble, in collaboration with Sydney-based architect Kelvin Ho. “I like picking these difficult mediums to work with,” Bart explains. “The nature of them dictates the progress. Surface Phenomena was reliant on the wind forms these swells and shapes, and I couldn’t control that.” A previous series, Natural Order, saw him recreating collected photographs of the horizon at sunrise and sunset using big rolls of paper. “Some people travel to Iceland or Africa to take photos, but I really want to photograph things that I connect with personally. I want to walk straight out my front door and see something beautiful, whether it’s the horizon or the surface of the ocean or whatever else.”
Stephen Ormandy is co-founder of Dinosaur Designs – the Sydney company that manufactures vibrant, creative homewares and jewellery. He’s also a celebrated artist, who creates beautiful colour paintings that explore space and form, as well as sculptures that seem to mirror their shapes. “There’s a lot of crossover between the two sides of my work,” he says. “That’s the wonderful right thing right now in the art world — those lines between art and design are breaking down. If you’re going to Art Basel and Design Miami, both are these incredible creative experiences. The art fairs are starting to introduce new things – people doing lights, furniture, sculpture... And it makes sense – we live with art and we live with design. We don’t all live in a white cube!” Stephen started creating his artworks through collages of coloured paper, before moving into painting and eventually recreating those shapes in sculpture. “I was developing the visual language around painting and drawing, and through my work at Dinosaur I’ve been exploring sculpture for such a long time, creating domestic objects. I started to explore using resin. I wanted to construct my own visual language in 3D. I could suddenly work with a collage concept but in 3D and create these sculptures. I’ve done some crazier works — a work called Citadel, which is the concept taken to the extreme in a way, with all these shapes coming together to form the overall piece. Each piece has been linked and glued independently and the seems were sanded off. They have this built kind of feel.... I like that process of evolution, of piecing things together. It’s an evolving process, like a language, always changing. When you’re young, you’re so up for the journey. As you grow, you feel there’s more at stake. You start to wonder, ‘Will people think it’s good enough?’ That’s when you know you’re onto something good.”