Sugar’s work is just schweet

By Lorriane Ellis 

Sugar and I began our chat discussing Hosier Lane. 

Miraculously, his piece from Meeting of Styles 2016 has survived – being painted up high has given it longevity.

“No-one’s really interested in painting there anymore as the place is trashed! Those who persist and are brave or foolish enough to accept the challenge of painting in the lane, find that their efforts survive for a short period of time – sometimes only a few hours,” he said.

“What’s there in the morning may be gone by early afternoon. The fact that this internationally famous lane, is now SO trashed, does not a deter tourists, as they still flock there in their thousands! It’s ‘selfie’ heaven and a back drop for bridal photographs.”

Artists are choosing to paint where it’s less congested and not prone to such heavy tagging. Even The Blender, a studio of 12 years standing and home to many of our outstanding street artists, has been forced to relocate to Docklands. It has also fallen victim to the redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market precinct.

“The scene has changed so much in the two years that I’ve been in Melbourne,” Sugar said.  “To paint in Hosier was always an ambition of mine. It was seen as ‘cool’ to hang out there but Fitzroy is now the place to be.”

“There’s no real story behind my alias, I just wanted something that had a nice feel to it. I used to go by Sugar Sweet but abbreviated it to Sugar.”

“My girlfriend and I made the move from Perth – to study and paint. The Melbourne scene was bigger, becoming a Mecca for me and the ultimate place to paint. I needed to challenge myself and it’s turned out to be the right move for us.”

“I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be right now. I’ve found the scene a very tolerant one – both excepting and welcoming. It’s been easy to find walls without too many hassles. Everyone has the same motive – to paint. That said, care must be taken as to where one paints as it’s very territorial.”

“I don’t have an arts background and, although I was always drawing when I was younger, surfing was my real passion. Eventually I found my self surrounded by friends who were artists not surfers and this influenced the direction I took. They no longer practice art but I’ve continued on with it as an everyday pursuit.”

“Since the move, the focus of my subject matter has been the realistic representation of native animals and birds, specifically endangered species. I particularly love owls and I’m attempting to paint reflections in their eyes of where they’d like to be i.e. the bush – their natural habitat as opposed to an urban environment.”

Sugar was an entrant in this year’s Victoria University art prize, using local flora and fauna as his inspiration and highlighting issues of mortality.

He has been in two “cool” exhibitions – one at Bside in Fitzroy early this year and the other No Vacant Space, CBD, 2016. The Bside exhibition involved over 50 artists who were invited to draw with Lousy Ink – a product developed from recycled cartridge ink. This exciting venture and exhibition was the brainchild of street artists Russ Kidd and Mike11 (CBD News, issue 14, 2015).

Sugar said: “Although I studied graphic design, this is not where my passion lies as I have no desire to be studio bound, sitting at a computer. The casual design projects that I’ve undertaken have been good for me connection-wise. But freelancing is a roller-coaster ride and a very stressful, inconsistent way to pay one's bills.”

“I’m impressed and inspired by the artists who are really pushing it and choose to paint and survive by this means. It’s great to see them succeed. I look forward to the day, when I have the freedom to pursue my art, to paint every day without the worry how the bills will be paid.”

When asked to comment on how he sees the state of street art, Sugar went on to say: “It’s mostly murals being produced at the moment. To me the two are quite distinct. Murals often have very little to do with their surroundings, whereas street art will often incorporate it.”

“Placement can be everything! Street art/graffiti is more about nocturnal and illegal painting. People are constantly taking photos of you, so it’s become acceptable and sanitised – not true street art which is opportunistic and anonymous.”

“Although I enjoy collaborating with mates – the camaraderie, a few beers, etc, I prefer to just put my headphones on, zone out and go it alone.”

“There are some big projects coming up with a solo exhibition planned for 2018. Most of my studio time will be devoted to them and I’ll be focusing on my favoured subject matter – that of Victorian native animals. However, any commissions that come my way will be most welcome!”

And myself, I’m looking forward to more sweeteners from this talented artist – both on the street and gallery walls.

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