What the viewer sees of artist Sam Cranstoun’s work is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it be a drawing, painting, watercolour, sculpture, installation, video, or even an embroidery, there’s a huge amount of conceptual thinking, research and exploration that goes on ‘underwater’ before that meaningful tip eventually surfaces, in whatever form it might take! ‘The ideas are what really motivate me. The physical form the work takes is, in a way, secondary,’ Sam explains.
The artist credits his fine arts degree for encouraging him to break away from preconceived ideas of what art is meant to be. When he started studying, Sam had just become a young finalist in the Archibald Prize, and was focused on creating technically proficient work, like portraiture. Through his studies, his varied interests merged into his practice, and soon his output became more layered, referencing modern history, world politics, pop culture, architecture, design and art history.
Sam works out of a small, plant-filled studio in the Metro Arts building in Brisbane’s CBD—a beautiful, bright space with original bay windows, floorboards, wooden beams and brickwork. ‘I’ve recently started bringing plants into the studio’ Sam says. ‘They love the light and openness, and make working more relaxing and peaceful.’
To develop his work, Sam often starts with a historical figure or event, and explores how their story is told throughout pop culture. ‘I try to re-examine well known narratives, re-contextualise them, and present them in a new way… I loosely describe my work as ‘research-based’, Sam explains. This research so far seen him travel to the archives of NASA headquarters in Washington DC, the archives of JFK, the British town where Lord Mountbatten was killed, amongst countless other far-flung destinations. Where will his work take him next?
A self-described ‘bowerbird of images’, Sam has amassed thousands of images, forming a dense digital archive. For his latest body of work, he drew only from this archive. Using seemingly random images, Sam created two sets of digital collages – one set he reproduced as 50 pixelated watercolours on grid paper, and the second set were reproduced as oil paintings. This latter set make up the exhibition works for ‘Power Structures’, on show now until 7th October at Sophie Gannon Gallery.
‘Power Structures’ by Sam Cranstoun
September 19th to October 7th
Sophie Gannon Gallery
2 Albert Street
Keep up to date with Sam’s creative journey via his Instagram feed – @samcran.