Aaron Chapman is one impressive Gold Coaster. A writer, photographer and sculptor, he was recently the recipient of a major commission to create new work at HOTA’s epic new gallery. He has been awarded many a prestigious accolade throughout his career and 2021 will no doubt see him make us even prouder that he’s one of us.
We sat down for a chat with Aaron about his stunning photography style and what we can expect from his upcoming HOTA exhibition.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
We relocated from Brisbane to the Gold Coast in 2000 after Dad took a job at the then Novotel Beachcomber in Surfers Paradise. He was a hotelier. We lived on-site and this was my first experience of the city. After high school, I spent a few years back in Brisbane chasing a professional rugby career but once that ended, I limped back down the highway and have been here ever since.
What do you love most about living here?
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in beaches, creeks, rivers and mountains which for me, makes the Gold Coast a perfect place to raise a family. But oppositely, the built environment is perhaps one of the things I love most about living here. It’s visually interesting. It’s home. From an arts and culture perspective, the grass is supposedly greener in cities like Sydney and Melbourne but as a young artist in a young city, I’m so lucky and excited to be involved in this community building a culture as opposed to arriving at an existing one.
You’re a photographer, writer and sculptor, how did such a creative career come about?
Well, the writing part came first. I studied creative writing and literature at Griffith University and for a long time after graduating I was writing poetry and short fiction. But working full-time as a copywriter killed my vibe pretty quickly. I couldn’t come home after an 8-hour day of corporate content writing and think about the perfect word for a perfect line in a perfect stanza of a poem. I still needed a creative outlet so I picked up the camera. But the journey into other mediums like sculpture, installation and public art came about as a recognition of the limitations of photography. I wanted to say things that photography simply couldn’t express. And I’ve realised my ability to say the things I want to say as an artist has strengthened and become far easier by working across multiple mediums.
Talk us through some of your most-loved moments so far?
I think I’ve gotten to where I am by believing that the best moments are still ahead of me. I’ve received so much good news this year that I have so much to look forward to (so much work to do also!) and no doubt what will become a few most-loved moments. But one of my favourite moments of 2020 happened recently. I was commissioned to document and create some large format portraits of community members for Christian Tancred’s ‘Done & Dappered’ barbershop project that just wrapped up at Bleach* Festival. It was a really profound, humbling and emotionally charged experience watching Tancred and lead barber Joe Tongi work with and guide the disaffected young men in the barbershop program. It really showed me the power and beauty of a socially engaged arts practice and has motivated me to pursue more in this space in the future.
You were recently the recipient of a major commission to create new work for exhibition at HOTA Gallery, can you tell us about this?
The new HOTA Gallery is nearing completion and earlier this year HOTA put forth an open call for applications to exhibit in the opening show. I threw my hat in the ring and am very fortunate to have been selected along with 19 other artists demonstrating a strong connection to the city. The commission was to create new work… but I can’t really share too much about the actual work I’m producing for the show so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself. Think big and bright though! The HOTA Gallery and the Solid Gold exhibition will open on the 10th of April in 2021.
You’ve won many awards for your work, any you’re particularly proud of?
I was selected to participate in an Alec Soth photobook masterclass in Vancouver in 2019. This isn’t really an award and probably shouldn’t be listed on my website as one but I’m really proud of this achievement. Soth is a very renowned American photographer and someone I’ve looked up to for a long time. I think coming from a writing background, I have a particular interest in narrative photography and the inherent storytelling capabilities of the photobook format, something Soth has championed throughout his career. The masterclass was obviously a great experience. I met some very talented artists, made some great friends, and then I travelled back to Soth’s hometown in Minnesota to intern where I learned a great deal about the professionalism required to be a practicing artist at an international level. All in all, it was an overwhelmingly enjoyable and motivating experience.
Can you share a little bit about your photography style and why you love it?
My photography, I guess, is a blend of documentary and fine art. I love it because it’s half driven by intuition and half meticulously planned. I’m generally working on a project that speaks to a particular theme or themes, so I’m immediately aware or ambitious in making a certain type of image while remaining open to the unexpected. For example, after my dad passed away a few years ago I began working on a project with grief, fatherhood and childhood as the narrative force. Throughout this process, I became really interested in masculinity and started making portraits of males. I photographed an 80-year-old and a 5-year-old and everywhere in between. Then early last year I realised that all these portraits of men, teenagers and boys weren’t fitting for this specific project. Long story short, my photography style is defined by time. I shoot all my work on my film so it’s a naturally slow process that allows plenty of reflective space which is important to me and to the work. The project I’m talking about started in early 2018 but I feel as though I’m only making my best pictures now. I’ve zeroed in on what I’m trying to communicate and I’ve got a clear direction of where I want to take it. But, like the masculinity portraits, perhaps the direction will change again which is completely fine. I’m aware of how lame this sounds (like, really lame) but you have to photograph with your heart, not your eyes.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to begin a creative career?
Do the work first, show people later. Invest time in yourself and enjoy the artmaking process without worrying about when and where it’s going.
How does 2021 look for you?
Despite everything, 2020 was a very successful year for me but things are shaping up to be even bigger and better in 2021. But aside from the Solid Gold exhibition at HOTA Gallery, I’ll be undertaking a residency and hopefully exhibiting a new body of photographic work. I’ve also been in creative development for a large-scale public art project since late 2019 and I’m excited to begin physically testing this work in the first half of the year, and then presenting it in the second half. I’m looking for participants to help me first test the work digitally in the coming months — if anyone’s interested in being involved you can email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you a short questionnaire.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Restaurant for dinner: Rice House in Southport right before a gig at Vinnie’s Dive — a nice calm before a storm.
Cafe for breakfast: The hash brown eggs benedict at Blackboard in Varsity Lakes is one of the most memorable breakfasts I’ve had in recent years.
Coffee spot: Bonsai Espresso on Chevron Island. My daughter and I have a coffee date there every week.
How does your weekend usually look: The kids are usually up anywhere between 5 and 6am (I’d love to have a sleep-in one day!). We then get cracking with the day and will most likely head down to the beach / playground, or the markets on a Sunday. Once the kids are tuckered out, I’ll pick up a book, put the feet up and watch the afternoon slip away.
Things just keep getting better around here Gold Coasters.
First, we were allowed out of our homes, next we were gifted quite a few exciting new venues, then we could dance again and now, a world-class art gallery, the largest public gallery outside of a capital city in Australia. Look at us go!
Let’s dive straight into that last thing shall we. Yes, it’s Home of the Arts long-awaited gallery (called HOTA Gallery) and it’s set to open on April 10th in 2021. It will span six levels and will present a jam-packed program of world premiere international exhibitions, Australian exclusives and new commissions, all of which celebrate artists from across Australia and the world.
We are quite literally jumping up and down with excitement!
HOTA Gallery will launch with Solid Gold: Artists from Paradise (10th April to the 20th June 2021) and it will be presented across the Gallery and the HOTA parklands, and feature major new commissions and art work by emerging and established Australian artists with a connection to the region, including Hiromi Tango, Michael Candy, Abbey McCulloch, Samuel Leighton-Dore and Libby Harward.
Celebrating the diversity and richness of the Gold Coast, the exhibition will feature sculpture, painting, video, photography and installations, both indoors and out.
In a world premiere exhibition exclusive to the Gold Coast and Australia, HOTA Gallery will present Contemporary Masters from New York: Art from the Mugrabi Collection (13 November 2021 – 27 February 2022) featuring approximately 70 works from some of the world’s most influential contemporary artists.
Get excited to see in your own backyard works from Jean-Michel Basquiat (largely recognised as boosting the prevalence of graffiti artists into galleries), Andy Warhol (a man who needs no introduction, but just in case… uber famous for leading the pop art movement with his Campbell Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe works), Keith Haring (a pop artist who advocated safe sex and raised AIDS awareness in the 80s), Richard Prince (most recently known as the Instagram artist) and Jeff Koons (a sculptor most famous for his Balloon Dog sculptures).
It’s the first time these incredible works will have been shown in Australia and we are so grateful to the Gold Coast team at HOTA who have been working tirelessly to put this amazing collection together.
The inaugural exhibition in the new dedicated Children’s Gallery is World Upside Down (10 April – 10 October 2021). Working with Queensland artists Lowana Skye-Davies and Alinta Krauth, the Children’s Gallery will be an immersive space filled with interactive art and hands-on making activities, inspired by the themes found in the first two major exhibitions, Solid Gold and Lyrical Landscapes.
Alongside the premiere exhibitions presented in the main space, HOTA Gallery will also present works from the $32 million City Collection. Consisting of more than 4,400 artworks (who new we had that many in storage waiting for our eyes to feast on?), the collection includes one the largest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in regional Australia.
So that’s a lot of epic things already and there’s plenty more to come (ie rooftop bar anyone?), stay tuned for more information as further exhibitions are announced. What an epic time to be a Gold Coaster.
LOCATION: 135 Bundall Rd, Bundall
WHEN: 10th April 2021
Kellie North is an award-winning Gold Coast photographer and visual artist whose evocative work has been featured in international publications like Conde Nast UK and Australia’s Home Design Magazine.
Most recently though, several of her pieces were chosen to feature in a winning room on much-loved home renovation show The Block.
We sat down for a chat with Kellie about how her work came to be on one of Australia’s most-watched shows and how the human form inspires her to create such incredible work.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I was born and did my schooling in Mackay then worked for a while before heading off travelling for many years. After travelling in North and South America, Mexico, UK, Europe and India my now, husband and I returned to the Gold Coast where we settled and had our two children.
What do you love most about our sunshine city?
What is there not to like, we really do have it all here. For a photographer and an artist it is so easy to find stunning locations, it offers such diversity with the ocean, beach, hinterland, rainforests and rock pools.
Tell us how three of your stunning artworks came to be on The Block?
It was a Thursday night when gallery owner Nancy Donaldson called me and asked if I could get three artworks to the Block site in St Kilda, Melbourne before Sunday. My instant reaction was ‘YES definitely’. I booked a flight to Melbourne and took the artwork directly to the shows site myself.
Why do you think these particular pieces were chosen?
This collection of prints are quite soft and ethereal in their look, so I think they suited the theme and interior style of El’ise and Matt. They wanted to create a room with a sense of romance, luxury and heritage and they thought these pieces worked well in that style.
What did it feel like getting that call to be involved?
I was absolutely thrilled to get the call and overwhelmed all at the same time. I knew I had to transport the pieces down to Melbourne within a few days and a courier was unable to get them there in time for room reveal. For an artist to have their work shown on a hit TV show like The Block is a real gift and something I am extremely thankful to Art Lovers Australia Gallery owners Nancy Donaldson and Jarrod Knight and to Perth couple El’ise and Matt for.
What’s been your journey to becoming an artist?
For most of my life I would have to say I have been a self-taught photographer doing my apprenticeship either on the job or out in the field and have always upgraded my skills with small courses online or in a college from time to time. Until 2014 when I decided to study a Diploma of Professional Photography with The Photography Institute. During my studies I was exposed to other inspiring photographers and genres that opened my eyes to the artistic side of photography and how an image could become a piece of art and not just a captured moment. This is where I would say I started to develop my voice and style as a photo artist. I learned the techniques in professional workshops or online I needed both within my shooting process and Photoshop to keep my flow simple and effective.
How would you describe your work?
With a lifelong interest in dance and womens stories, and wanting to create a piece of art from start to finish without the use of models, I turned to self-portraiture as a form of visual storytelling. I dived into the relationship between nature and femininity: sometimes playful, other times dark and mysterious, yet always conveyed with a strong thread of emotion. The style of photography I am most drawn to is definitely the Fine Art/Digital Photo Art. Together with photography I have always loved graphic art and working at my computer, so when I discovered the world of Photoshop and how you could use it as a tool to create realistic images with compositing, textures, colour manipulation etc. my world fell into place. I love the human form, dance and movement and creating characters with costumes and props to set a scene, hoping the viewer can immerse him or herself into the story possibly taking on that character and relating to it in some way.
Where do you find inspiration for it?
It doesn’t take much to get my creative juices flowing to be honest, it could be going for a hike in the bush, the light on a glorious afternoon when the sun has just hidden behind the mountains, a rock hop along the beach, a shell, a butterfly, a rock with a hole big enough for me to fit into. Women are a big influence, I love stories and listening to peoples stories and the reciprocity of telling my own and I try to do this through imagery.
What’s on for you for the rest of 2019?
I am up for whatever comes my way. I love collaborating with artists so I look forward to any opportunities for that to happen. I want to keep creating, and working on another series of prints to release towards the end of the year and then perhaps some down time over Christmas with my family.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breakfast: Café D Nor – haha! This is what my husband calls our kitchen, as he whips up such a great brekky we rarely go out for breakfast.
Coffee spot: Dust Temple in Currumbin
Restaurant for dinner: Etsu in Mermaid Beach
How does your weekend usually look: If we are not camping, we head to our local markets grab some prawns and yummy food, head to the beach and catch up with friends.
The Gold is absolutely brimming with local creatives, some brand new and some having been a part of establishing our local cultural scene.
One such longstanding artist is Dan Mason, a painter who will this week paint a live portrait at his pop-up show The Journeyman.
We sat down for a chat with Dan about his unique ability to create incredible art with knives and what to expect from this weekend’s show.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I went to Miami High School in the late ‘80’s, surfing everyday before and after class. My working/ocean time ritual is pretty much still the same to this day.
What do you love most about living here?
Our clean slice of the Pacific Ocean
Tell us about how you came to be a full-time artist?
While at Uni in the mid 90’s, I worked as an old-school Photographic Retouch Artist (with brushes), designed, built and painted furniture in my garage and always yearned to work for myself honouring the gift of creative consciousness. I took the plunge ‘full-time’ at the start of ’03 after returning home from an overseas trip, where I became scarily ill. It was then that I decided that life’s too short to not do what you love – or at least give it a red-hot go.
What’s unique about your work?
I’d loosely suggest that I’ve spent between 200k-300k hours, with an emphasis on perpetual experimentation and painting in my studio. Remember, they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. My painterly approach has metamorphosised into a delicate attack, with palette knives in hand & thick impasto oil movements.
Tell us about The Journeyman…
Firstly I’m painting a new portrait live in the gallery both days. Hopefully the cleaning bill after I leave isn’t too big! This two-day show is allowing me to connect with collectors who have acquired my artwork from Red Hill Gallery in Brisbane, over the past fifteen years, as well as some new faces. I guess I’m most known for my abstracted sensibilities and there’ll be most of the thick abstract oil paintings that I’ve created from the past twelve months on show AT 2005 PRICES! I’ve been developing my love of portraiture in recent times and will have a few 100x150cm pieces ready to go to good homes too. I’ve also created many very affordable smaller framed works for those who only have small walls to fill. They’re half their normal price for the weekend – that’s two-for-one.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to make their passion for art into a full-time career?
Be good at what you do and work harder than everybody else. Build relationships. Be very humble.
What’s in the works for the rest of 2019 for you?
I’m obsessed with developing my portraiture and painting people who contribute generously to our society. More of this is what I’m aiming for.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breaky: Neighbourhood Espresso, Currumbin Waters
Coffee spot: Dune Café at Palm Beach Parklands
Restaurant for dinner: Balboa Italian in Palm Beach
How does your weekend usually look: Hanging with my wife and two young sons at the park/beach. I love working in my backyard landscaping and gardening on Sundays too – it’s my outdoor ‘man-cave’. If I’m lucky, I get to watch one game of AFL on the box each weekend.