Firstly, can you tell us about this exhibition?
The show partly features cover art of Dirty Three albums. There will be limited edition prints, and also some recent works on canvas including the original painting used for the new Dirty Three album cover. And some mixed media pieces also. It’s going to be a travelling show, going to Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, but only Melbourne will have the canvasses.
We can see elements of classic Australian landscape artists in your work – Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale. You’ve revived landscape art in a really interesting way by incorporating surrealist elements.
I have been inspired by a lot of Australian painting, certainly of Nolan, Blackman, Percival, Boyd. But I'm also borrowing from parts of Reg Mombassa and other Mambo artists, medieval art, Mexican folk art, among much more. I love the Australian landscape, particularly southern Victorian and eastern Australian coastal landscape. I love the smells and the colours, the fauna and flora. For me it oozes with some indescribable spirit.
In many landscapes, I use figures as symbols to tell a story or recreate a moment. I'll give them a surreal aura or power. I'm trying to plumb the depths of the scene; I want to tell the story and infuse it with the underlying energies present.
How does the creative process correlate between writing music, and painting?
I'll often start with a vision but usually it turns out going elsewhere. I find that process – of a work evolving – is the most satisfying, while also being the most difficult. I believe when you try to correct what you see as not working in an image, when you're struggling, that’s where you'll find your original voice.
Your works are very dreamlike and mythical – angels, beasts, bizarre landscapes. Can you tell me about what informs your work?
They're mostly personal stories. I've built my own symbol book and borrowed somewhat: some imagery from other artists, some from classical sources. One car I've painted many times is a 1963 XL Falcon wagon that I owned for a long time. It’s a spiritual thing. That car was a constant through a time of upheaval, change, personal evolving and learning. I learnt to fix it and I went on journeys and lived in it. It was a beautiful car and I loved it (as much as you can love a big lump of metal and glass). In my paintings it's usually me, a kind of part of me. Sometimes not.
Not all my works are dreamlike. In this show there are some from a series of paintings I did of Thylacines (Tasmanian tigers). I was taken by their appearance in some images I came across. They’re beautiful and sad, and knowing their story somewhat and feeling some grief for the loss of friends this year – coupled with the frustration of bullshit politics, the lack of action on climate change, and the idea of what that might mean (I'm not a pessimist but I respect science!), and the seemingly undeniable fact that all things will come to an end sometime anyway. So I just decided I wanted to paint these beautiful tragic creatures, captured on film, just before their species disappeared forever. Firstly, in every photo of them that exists, the animals are in captivity. I took them out of the cages and set them free. And secondly I wanted to somehow remind people what might happen if we don't start being realistic about what’s happening and do something.
How important is it for musicians to pursue their own projects outside of the recording studio, and not on tour?
I just get depressed if I'm not fulfilling my creative urges. It feels like I’m not allowing the window to be opened or being strapped to a chair. It’s suffocating. Being an artist means you're on a journey, I just need to see what’s around the corner.
Is there a pleasure you find in painting that’s contributed to your musical career?
Painting taught me that (for me) being careful when creating is a waste.
What’s the key to a prolific, long and satisfying creative career?
I think people who are unsatisfied with their creative career want something that only others can give them, like fame or money. Or at least they want more than they desire to create. Success isn't necessarily fame or money driven. The key to being prolific is to love and have a need to create enough that you do. For it to be long, you need to look after yourself and to do that it will help to understand yourself and what drives you.
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm reading Dave Graney's 1001 Australian Nights, mainly to see what he says about me (if anything).