‘I’ve been focusing on getting comfortable with a pebble in my shoe, or a fly buzzing around my head. I’ve been thinking about the universe as a minestrone soup of brilliant energy,’ reflects Brendan Huntley, who is about to exhibit his first hometown solo show since 2015.
The last time I crossed paths with the Melbournian was nearly 10 years ago. His band, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, had just taken out The Australian Music Prize and he was belting out choruses amid energetic contortions on stage at The Espy. Yet alongside his cult-status musical endeavours, Brendan has carved out a successful art career, with solo exhibitions across Australia as well as inclusions in premier international events such as Hong Kong Art Fair, Art Basel Hong Kong, and Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
‘For me, creativity comes out in many ways, whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpting, lyrics or performing. Similar to working from the two studios, the ideas feed one another. Wherever I am creatively, I just apply my energy to the project at hand,’ the 36-year-old artist tells. ‘If one of those outlets runs a little dry, another will be flowing, even if it’s just a little stream. It keeps me sane.’
Sky Light Mind combines seven large sculptures with eight paintings-on-canvas and 24 smaller works on archival paper. Each of these media were created in different spaces: his mum’s shed in Frankston (which we visited), a painting studio in Preston, and during a residency in San Francisco, respectively.
It all began in 2016, upon returning from a hike in New Zealand. ‘I wanted to be reminded of the exhilaration that I get when looking at mountains or swimming in a stream,’ Brendan recalls. Then, last year, after being awarded an Australia Council Mentorship grant he travelled to San Francisco for what became an informal residency with Barry McGee. ‘Barry has a magical ability to bring out the wizardry in others,’ reflects the artist. ‘He also encouraged me to explore his paint supply, and this, plus the wildness of colour and light on the West Coast, opened me up to a fresh new vibrant colour palette.’
Brendan’s partner Ellen, an avid hiker with an adventurous spirit, has been another crucial influence. As have other family and friends, especially his highly creative and hard working mum, who also kindly gave up her shed! Brendan upgraded the existing kiln his dad had built with a huge trolley version that could handle his increasingly large-scale forms.
The largest sculptures he has produced thus far, Brendan admits these are perhaps also his most abstract and surreal. ‘I feel it’s looking way further out (into space dust or a nebular) or much deeper in (at DNA, atoms and cells), as well as all that’s in-between,’ he describes. ‘It’s only after the work is made that I really begin discovering what it all means and how it’s evolved.’
Next, Brendan will turn his focus to international art shows and the release of a book with Knowledge Editions.Wonders Never Crease comprises a selection of the works-on-paper made in San Francisco and is due out next month. But first, he’s opening the show on Saturday night. ‘Tolarno Gallery has deep black floors, like outer space. The walls are white, like light. Together it will be a universal dance floor for the artwork.’
‘Sky Light Mind’ by Brendan Huntley
November 10th – December 15th
Level 4/104 Exhibition Street