VANS THE OMEGA’s zany energy and dedication to his graffiti has sent him whirl-winding around the globe for much longer than I’ve known him. As far back as I can remember it was always understood that if Vansy wasn’t answering his phone it was simply because he was floating about between continents, or as some more recently believe, the realms beyond our atmosphere.
Last week I was fortunate enough to head down to Adelaide and help VTO set up the space at ABEO for his solo exhibition ‘Plutonic Relationships’.
The show itself was immense; a series of tightly themed works woven together through a highly sensual display of layering and other exploratory techniques. An array of puzzling geometric studies also formed the base of several portraits including one of the lovely Tara, VTO’s partner. I’d seen a few preview snaps, but it must be said that these works featured with infinite times more impact in person than a photograph could ever capture.
Together with the support of South Australia’s finest purveyors of booze the hosts of the evening, ABEO Interior Design, put on a fine display and met the gathering with the very warmest of hospitality – the cheese platters were second to none.
It was invigorating to witness the wider public’s responsiveness to an artist, who for the most part in times passed, would have been pigeonholed as representing a certain thing with certain connotations. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times in some ways; a differing of appreciation from one generation to the next, a bridging of recognition toward previously less accepted forms of art. I think mostly however the response was reflective of Joel’s character; his perseverance, compassion and an astounding work ethic. As the many who know him will verify, the guy is simply relentless.
I arrived late the evening before and on advisement, copped a healthy dose of rest in lieu of the day to come. I awoke and headed to a burgeoning hotspot near the gallery space to meet Joel and luckily, managed to squeeze in a few words edgeways over some italian-style baked eggs.
So when did you first start working on this show?
The first piece I did was easily four months ago, it was mostly just geometric starts on the boards… nothing was completed at that stage. It was all about taking the first initial steps, just throwing down stuff quite quickly.
It all stemmed from having to do this painting for Tara. It was a Christmas present that she was kinda hounding me about and I was like, “alright I gotta pump this out.” I did some stuff that I wouldn’t normally do because I wanted to get something down quicker and use some layering techniques that I hadn’t put together all at once… then something very fruitful came out of that.
So the first one was four months ago, then for the two months that followed I was at a standstill. It’s really only been over the last eight weeks that I’ve been powering through. Been working 12-16 hour days to get it done.
That’s how you’ve always worked better though mate. ‘Under for pump’ for sure!
So ‘Plutonic Relationships’ all stemmed from this one piece you were doing for Tara. Would you say she was the seed of inspiration for this project? You were already painting a lot of geometry into your pieces… What I wanna know is what lead you to painting these figures?
Obviously the sacred energy that’s captured in ‘platonic’ solids, in that geometry, is something that’s dear to my heart so I had to paint it. The other passion, the other side of the coin is about ‘feminine energy’ and feminine beauty. Structurally what we all sit upon on an atomic level is sacred geometry. So I took the idea of these platonic solids, relationships I have with girls (whether they be close or ‘plutonic’)… mash that together; infuse it.
I’ve wanted to paint a series of figures for the last two years and I always knew it was going to be over the top of geometry. That’s how the basis of how all this came about really. So this is been in the making for a long long time… Yeah, a long long time. I put it on the back burner some years ago knowing that I had to do it at some stage.
Are you happy to be doing it in Adelaide?
Yeah! I don’t think it was ever gonna happen anywhere else that way it happened here. Having the space and making sure I had the time to do what I had to do. If I had to rush off somewhere else, and work on it in a studio somewhere else on the planet it wouldn’t have come out this way. It would have been impossible cause I needed to have these certain sources of inspiration and the support around me to get what I had to get done in that timeframe.
It felt perfect to have it here; I’ve never had a solo show here before. I’ve only been in group shows and contributed bits and pieces, but I’ve never really shown my all or given my all in my own city. In a graffiti sense, yes perhaps, but never in a purely artistic sense. I really needed to show what I’m capable of and what’s sitting inside me to my hometown.
Getting back to what I was touching upon earlier, I wondered if painting Tara was a part of the deal? Perhaps if your dedicated part of the show to her, and painted her, that would allow you to paint these other women? Ha ha.
Ha ha it was part of the deal! I was smart about this as I know my partner very well. I had to paint her first. I was forward about this from the get-go ha ha, “if I’m going to feature a series of semi-nudes then it’s about you first, I have to paint you”. It had to be that way, and she’s been really good about it. She’s been fantastic.
I recall a wall down at Sturt Creek some years ago where you featured the head of a women to the side of your piece, done in a very similar style to these figures. It was clear that you’ve always harboured this particular skill set as an artist, I guess I’ve wondered when you were going to unleash this… to this level, to the degree we’re going to see tonight.
Yeah it’s something I haven’t let go to this degree before. It’s been great working with brushes again, for me that’s about being able to slow down and get it right. I don’t have to finish it in a day, I don’t have to worry about the weather.
Tell me more about the space tonight. It’s in an Interior Design studio is that right?
Ah, it’s gonna be great. It’s an office space essentially, but there’s a corridor out back that they’re opening up as a bar. ABEO have hosted SALA exhibitions before, they’ve got a great open energy in there. People can flow through at their own pace, get a drink, cruise outside and come back through.
Sounds excellent mate.