artist sitting next to an artwork
Culture | Dec 07, 2016

New narratives

In conversation with David Bromley

As one of Australia’s most prominent contemporary artists, David Bromley is an irrepressible creator, manifesting paintings and works generous in colour and uninhibited with imagination and playfulness. It’s no surprise then, that the artist is often compared to Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein, whose pop culture references and repetitions have become legendary.

Bromley’s honest and energetic works are unafraid of simplicity. Two of his most prominent painting series are his distinctive Female Nudes uniquely capturing the individual personality of each subject, alongside The Boys Own Adventure project, which showcases Bromley's wide-eyed nostalgia for innocence of youth taking inspiration from childhood books. Bromley assures us that while painting, he is truly immersed, making sure “…to just lose yourself in the art.”

Born in 1960 in the city of Sheffield in the north of England, Bromley was four years old when his family migrated to Australia.  Now currently residing in the coastal town of Byron Bay and travelling to his studio in Melbourne, the innocence and ease of nature continues to be significant inspiration in his work. When explaining his approach to painting, his replies are as vibrant as his personality: “There’s the canvas, and my approach is lets just get into it. It’s like surfing where a big wave comes, just paddle in and take off.”

 

man walking past an artwork
The hoardings at Eastland

While establishing the new Eastland shopping precinct, QICGRE approached Bromley to create a set of shop front murals to inject creativity and to encourage culture into the new retail venture. Alongside creative assistance from his wife Yuge, the commission included an ambitious large art installation, which would prove to be his most challenging yet owing to the enormous scale of the project.

Joanna Kawecki: How did the design and planning stages for the murals begin?

David Bromley: There wasn’t a lot in the way of preliminary work as we are fairly gung-ho in regard to the application. We looked at it as if it was a multifaceted long piece of thread, all interconnected like the chapters in a story. Our initial idea was not simply to put images over the shop fronts, but rather to have an overview of how a large body of work as an exhibition would work as a continuous narrative throughout the centre. In doing so many murals, we wanted to take people on different journeys in pattern, subject and colour. We took the approach that they would become large visual experiences both on their own, but to also work in unison to tell stories throughout the precinct.

JK: How did the mural commissions initially come about?

DB: We held several meetings and brainstorming sessions with QICGRE who were unwavering in their commitment to having creativity immersed in the fibre of the construction. It struck me that they held a true belief that while building a large retail village there had to be culture and beauty embedded in the project for it to realise its full potential, and not merely adding it on as a business tool. The dedication of QICGRE inspired us to do all what we could to honour that vision. The scale and the amount of pieces (I would imagine) makes it one of the largest art installations in Australia.

 

artist painting
The hoardings at Eastland
“We looked at it as if it was a multifaceted long piece of thread, all interconnected like the chapters in a story”

JK: Being such an ambitious project at such a large scale, how did the development and logistics coordinate for the build to work?

DB: The pragmatic and the business side of the project was a huge machine which included hundreds of builders. While retailers and restaurateurs were moving in, the gardeners and architects continued the build alongside stage two. There was a need to have striking images on the areas and shop fronts where tenants were not yet ready to move in, and the work became a barrier between what was going on behind the scenes and the completed visuals that the public could see. Yuge traipsed around the centre, 7 months pregnant working on these murals with me tirelessly. She is the most remarkable creative partner of my life!

artist sitting on top of a lounge chair
David with wife and creative partner Yuge

JK: How do you approach a new painting?

DB: When painting and when contemplating what to paint, much goes through my mind. In this commission, I set out to make a series of paintings simply to look beautiful. I referenced old patterns and vintage wallpapers, which provided the inspiration to bring the paintings to life. Despite my lack of interest in trying to please everyone, I can’t help but listen to certain opinions, but as time goes on, you develop a filter and also a determined voice of your own. You often hear opinions about something being too decorative, or if there is a meaning or concept to the painting. I personally love decor and I love decorative art. The words decorative or craft are not dirty words for me. In the art world you are often judged by the seriousness of your narrative and philosophy behind your concepts, whereas often I like simply to look closely into beauty or patterns and focus on them.

 

Dried flower art installation Chef Peter Gunn Sculpture next to a vase of flowers Old city building at night UN Memorial, South Korea. Render by acme Women with small dog Realm library Eastland entrance Joost Bakker holding some flowers