Pop to Popism – An Artists View

The Art Gallery of NSW is often a focus for “Culture Bloggers” around this time of year, because we have such interesting things to say about creativity. “Go & see this years summer blockbuster display at AGNSW #poptopopism, because it’s really great & you will like it because you believe everything that you read on the internet.” Previously we have written about exhibitions at AGNSW & within each composition we try to offer a unique approach to appreciating the collections. This time, rather than just writing an opinion based article about what some bloggers thought of the exhibition after a viewing, we decided that we would explore a more creative & interesting viewpoint. This is some of the worlds most studied & respected modern art & I felt slightly under qualified to use my words to describe such an important acquisition of work. This art deserves more than just me.

Last week we were presented with the opportunity to chaperone a prolific Sydney portrait artist, Total Bore, to AGNSW for a showing of Pop to Popism, to encounter the exhibition from his perspective. Experiencing art is such a subjective activity & challenging myself to accurately convey the thoughts of another person I assumed would be difficult. Total Bore & I… Or do I call him by his real name Bligh W Twyford-Moore?… had only been in contact through a series of emails & were both complete strangers to each other. We both recognised each other awkwardly lingering out the front of the gallery & shared our greetings. My nerves settled quickly.

Immediately we established a connection through music & our thoughts on Francis Bacon. Bligh seemed engaged & inspired by both the art surrounding him & the idea that I was approaching journalism in a unique way. Then we got lost. We wandered through the halls of AGNSW contemplating the balance between a professional & a relaxed interview. Ha. Eventually we found the entrance. It was rather obvious. We entered the first room & my mind was distracted. Deliberating the appropriate proximity & distance to provide my companion, politely allowing him to appreciate the art & still accumulate the insight I needed. Suddenly he led the conversation for me. “Oh RB Kitaj! He’s a really great painter, I really like his stuff” – pointing out one of the first works we see.

I have personally followed Total Bore for a couple of years now. My first exposure to his work was the wall he painted inside FBi Social. During the couple of years that Bligh has had my attention, he has refined a distinct painting style using washes & textured acrylic paint, which makes his work easily recognisable. At 25 years young, he has been responsible for 3 solo shows, an internationally acknowledged album artwork & numerous contributions to posters & zines in Sydney’s creative scene.

After Bligh graduated from The National Art School in Darlinghurst, he began using the internet to publicise his work. His interest in maintaining online presence has recently progressed to new ambitions. He is currently considering taking time off painting to embrace the Twittersphere & the art of trolling. He describes himself as “A party painter working in Sydney, Australia. Through loosely constructed figure paintings and portraits he attempts to comment on celebrity, anonymity and ennui on the internet”.  Bligh took almost every opportunity to downplay his talents & success. I assumed connections between his humility in real-life & his opportunity to play the character Total Bore, could possibly be part of a large scale performance art project. I offered to define Total Bore’s work using the phrase “post-pop art”.

Self portrait of Tommy, Total Bore & Andy W – produced specially for this article.

We approached an image by the iconic Australian artist Martin Sharpe & Bligh informed me that he had the opportunity to be a part of his last ever exhibition, “Elvis Love Fest”, at Damien Minton Gallery, just before he passed away late last year. Incredible. As we passed the infamously repetitive images by Warhol & Basquait, Bligh & myself contemplated the relevance of conceptual art vs. aesthetics & we both agreed that quantitative creation can be an interesting concept within itself. Based on these ideas, Bligh is embarking on the potentially tedious process of illustrating everyone on his Facebook friends list & encourages you to add him to “add to my burden”.

Taking a moment to reflect on what we had seen so far we sat down & Bligh scribbled my face on a Campbell’s Soup Can whilst we spoke. What differentiates Pop Art from anything else?

“It either takes a serious voice with a vacuous subject or it explores the opposite” – using the example of Ten Punching Bags Last Supper by Andy Warhol, which depicts religious iconography on a series of heavy bags. “The juxtaposition of macabre subject matter & playful execution is typical of Pop Art.”

How may have some of these artists influenced yourself as a painter?

“Pop artists are not exactly master painters & their naivety is something that I can connect with. They don’t feel compelled to obsess over technique. Similar to them, I am more interested in the importance of colour relationships & blocking than tone or modelling & gradients. Instead I concentrate my attention on surface & flatness & opacity & transparency.”

I concluded our interview by asking Bligh why he thinks that Pop to Popism could be a significant exhibition to visit for someone who may not be necessarily interested in art & he offered this response: “I think that this is the exhibition that someone who isn’t even into art should come to because pop culture is something which is easily accessible. Pop Art is kind of almost anti-art – like it’s a bit critical of the whole art thing. It’s fun, figurative, subversive, sexy, relatable & famous.”

Due to popular demand, Pop to popism  will be open late – until 9pm – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights throughout January 2015 (excluding 1 and 29 January). Make the most of your summer nights and visit the Pop to popism  exhibition after dark and enjoy the exhibition cafe and shop until 9pm. Or make a night of it with dinner at CHISWICK at the Gallery, which is open until 10pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *