The medium is his message
Phoenix is the thinking woman’s paste-up street artist!
In our interview, I made the point that he’s the only artist putting up work with any frequency that has a message. Everything else on the street tends to be decorative.
To which Phoenix responded: “I think my work is political without it being about partisan politics. It’s a commentary really: a bigger sort of theme, that over time has gradually crystallised. My politics is about naturalism and synergy: about politics which empowers people.”
“It’s about co-operation, collaboration, and mutuality. There are lots of ways that you can express these viewpoints that aren’t activism – essentially building and moving towards a world that makes more sense.”
Phoenix is working on increasing the scale of his paste-ups to mural size. “This hopefully means a broader message gets out there. With my Silent Heart series, for example, I wanted people to think about the heart and setting it free. That’s what it boils down to.”
“This is what my politics are about: something more spiritually-oriented. In this sense, I don’t think that any of the political parties, and certainly not the major ones, are doing anything towards this at all.”
“We need to engage in a politics that restores nature’s worth. Things survive because they fit together as a win/win synergy: ‘You look after me, I’ll look after you’.”
“With my Voice of the Blue Earth series; like the brain piece (as illustrated), it’s an attempt to speak, to use the world and the metaphors of the world as vehicles with which to express the message.”
“But whether this message will get through or not and make people change, who knows? This is what I am doing with the Blue Earth series: depicting the ironies of our behaviour”.
Phoenix has been a collage/photocopy artist since the mid ’80s. At this time he considered pursuing it full-time but chose another career path. His work was composed from found objects, pamphlets and magazines. Fascinated with the relationship of same and yet different. Playing around with different combinations and permutations.
In March 2004, due to a fault in a power board, his whole studio went up in flames. A massive inferno! All that paper! However, it was out of this fire and what he was able to salvage, that Phoenix was born.
The years 2004-2009 were ones of recovery – rebuilding his studio, playing music, writing songs and poetry and even a flirtation with stand-up comedy.
In 2009, a Melbourne Street Art Tour with the infamous Doyle from Blender Studios, inspired Phoenix and saw him embark on his journey to become the prolific paste-up street artist he is today.
“I saw that people were putting art up on walls and thought: I could collage onto those walls!”
So he gave it a go and the rest is Melbourne street art history!
In terms of his studio and collage system it is a 1000 times better than it was before the fire. He feels that he had to go through this stage and that the fire was an essential part of it.
He has also started to generate his own images, producing some very fine pen drawings that have become the essential elements in the Phoenix message.
“I’ve always liked science books with disembodied hands doing things. This kind of iconography,” he said.
With his Blue Earth series, Phoenix began developing his collage, photocopying and layering techniques. It is much more satisfying for him to use his own drawings, as it enables him to flip and manipulate elements. He has more than 1000 undeveloped ideas for this series.
Unlike a lot of fellow street artists he hasn’t given up on Hosier Lane. He places his paste-ups high enough to avoid the out-of-control vandalism that is so prevalent in the lane.
And, although he may be interested in the trend and flow with it, he also tends to lean against it and do something different.
“It’s becoming largely about ‘muralism’ and although the ones being produced are wonderful, they have a sameness to them. I like the idea of quirky,” he said.
Asked about the future, Phoenix says: “I’ll never stop! Won’t stop! Street is such a creative adventure for me and I’m happy to be part of it. It’s such fun to wander and paste. I like the idea of public art – it’s out there and a wonderful way to deliver a message.”
“I’m interested in transforming the ordinary and mundane into something sublime and special.”