First gaining recognition for his large-scale wheat pastes, street art and murals on the streets of New York, Melbourne-based artist and illustrator Brolga is back in Australia with his first concentrated show, Fever Dreams.
Growing up in Australia, Brolga’s family would often make days-long trips across the country, moving house from Queensland to the Northern Territory and back. It’s on these car trips that his fascination with signage and iconography began. Fever Dreams experiments with hallucinations and reality by highlighting the overlooked items of our familiar and foreign surroundings. Brolga weaves in his ever-increasing collection of original characters into the narrative, seeking a connection with them and the collage of elements delicately pulled from his travels and day-to-day. Orenda contributor Viv sat down with Brolga to chat tuk tuk rides, New York living and fever-fuelled meat pie adventures.
Your work features a lot of bold colours and you play a lot with flat shapes to create your characters. Have you always worked like this or did it take time to find your style?
I was talking about this to a friend recently. We were saying that everyone has a natural style whether they realise it or not. Your handwriting, for example, is unique and that’s your style. It can be hard to realise that though because you’re in your own bubble and your handwriting is just you. Drawing isn’t much different from that, over the years I’ve been able to finesse my style from something that started out pretty raw.
Everyone has a natural style whether they realise it or not.
As a New York-based artist who works a lot with street art and public space, do you feel like living in such a huge and vibrant place helped to influence your work?
It was easy to get swept up in New York. I went there for art school but I was kind of a dude on a mission. The pace, drive and franticness of the city all added up and I was working the hardest that I ever had. So from a motivation standpoint, it was huge for me.
Also, I saw traces of artists that are at the top of their game living and working around me. People like Ron English, you would see their murals around and then go to the opening and he’s standing there. I think living in the same city, there’s a sense that these people are tangible and it made a future in art seem more realistic.
I think living in the same city, there’s a sense that these people are tangible and it made a future in art seem more realistic
I love that your work in this show explores typography and signage from foreign places around the world. What is your favourite place that you’ve ever been?
As far as signage goes, my favourite place is Bangkok. I was there last year and I got a tuk-tuk to drive me around all day while I ogled and took snaps of shop signage. I had two or three pieces from my upcoming solo show Fever Dreams pop fully-formed into my head during that tuk-tuk ride! I went back to the hotel and sketched them out and they were there.
They must get a lot of strange-looking Aussies rocking up with a feverish look in their eyes!
Personally, I know there are definitely small and random things I miss from home. As an Australian artist abroad, is there anything you miss?
I’ve recently moved back to live in Melbourne but I definitely do remember some of the longings I had while overseas. I used to crave meat pies and sausage rolls in New York, so I would go to this one place in Chelsea Market that had them. They must get a lot of strange-looking Aussies rocking up with a feverish look in their eyes!