I have fond memories of my time at university back in the nineties. I remember all the early morning classes: life drawing, oil painting, sculpture and the terrible smells of the materials we used to use to prime our canvases. Not for empty stomachs! Back then, me and the two dozen or so other students in my class were studying to be Art Teachers, which was a reasonably reliable fall back for any practicing artist at the time.
But these days there seems to be less and less demand for Art Teachers. Yet, more and more we require artists to be financially self sufficient. I've worked with a lot of creative people over the years, and watched as they've negotiated all kinds of mediums and situations to keep afloat. Some are better at it than others, and some, like Damon, use some of their time to help other artists; whether through workshops or by offering other forms of support and encouragement.
Here's the second part of my chat with the #worldsbusiestprintmaker.
Who is someone that everyone in the world needs to know about? Who deserves a good shout out?
My friend the Korean printmaker Hyun Ju Kim. She makes works that combine her extensive travels with a surreal and mystical imagination. Kim is currently working on a series of lithographs inspired by Susan Cooper's 'Dark is Rising' series. There is lots of room for the fantastical there.
Here in many of the EU nations, funding and art education has really taken a bollocking in recent years. Is it the same where you are? Do you think younger artists are handicapped or that they can find ways around it?
I'm not sure, though I do know the Australia Council's ArtStart program specifically targets graduates in their first years out of college. People I know who have received one have found it an enormous help.
Pakistan is a good example of how things function with very little government assistance. In a population of nearly 200 million there are only four major art colleges, and most of the support that comes after graduating is from peers, private collectors, patrons, and the international market. While I'm not suggesting this as a model it does show how much can be achieved when people are passionate and dedicated to the cause. That the art scene in Pakistan is so dynamic is ultimately due to individuals rather than bureaucrats. The internet helps, and this is one technology that is open to everyone everywhere. It's never been easier to let people see your work, and hopefully find your place in the world.
What would you say to a 16 year old who has a real desire to get into your profession but isn’t sure of what path to take?
Learn to draw. Really well. Think of a goal or destination and break it down into the small steps you need to get there. You want to be a car designer in Detroit? What do you do first? [First step. Learn to draw. Really well. Second step. Talk to people who have got there. Ask them what they did first. Third Step. Learn to draw. REALLY WELL.]
I have a friend who is a top car designer at Toyota Australia. His drawings are amazing, and he would be at the top of his field no matter where in the arts he worked. Be it industrial design, fine art, or his favourite side project, zombie portraits.
You also need to put in the hours. Clive James once said that talent is a gift from God, which must be matched with the gift of the artist's life. I don't know anyone who has succeeded long term without enormous amounts of hard work.
What life/professional advice would you have given to your 16 year old self?
Mary Schmich once said that all advice is a form of nostalgia. I was a kid at 16. I'm still that kid, more or less. I guess I'd say keep going, and occasionally speak your mind.
How would your 16 year old self have responded to that advice?
'Keep going where?'
When was the last time you were genuinely happy for someone else and why?
I was thrilled when Hyun Ju Kim was invited to take part in the 2nd International Murree Museum Artist's Residency in July this year. The art world is often competitive and frequently even worse. It's nice to see someone who gives so much joy to her practice being recognised.
What was the last gift you gave someone? And the most recent gift you’ve received?
A set of 12 jade green Crown Lynn desert bowls rescued from a second hand shop in country Victoria and given to my cousin Jude, whose house is close to the Auckland suburb where they were once made. A chilli and lime good luck pendant from Hyun Ju Kim when we travelled together in India over Christmas.
What’s your karaoke/no-one’s watching song?
Elton John. 'Can you feel the love tonight?'. Sung at full volume in duet with the Canadian printmaker Valerie Syposz in a karaoke bar during my time at the China Guanlan Original Printmaking Base last year. Or anything by Katy Perry. Possibly even in public too.
How do you access popular culture?
On the net. At the movies. With headphones. Occasionally while waiting in line at the supermarket.
Is there anything you’d like to do/try, but you’re afraid you’ll really suck at it?
Worrying about being bad at stuff isn’t that much of a deal – everyone gets better with practice. I'd like to learn a martial art, but am concerned it would be like putting too much of my GDP into the defence budget.
Where can people discover more about you and/or your work?
Online at www.damon.tk. In Hong Kong at Odd One Out, New Zealand at Solander Gallery, Melbourne at PG Printmaker Gallery and Otomys, New York at Aicon Gallery, and Philadelphia at Twelve Gates Arts. On the walls of Aesop stores in Melbourne, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. In a collaborative exhibition at the Islamic Museum of Australia from 8 May to 8 August this year.
Thanks DK. As always a true sport. All the best for the new show!
For more information visit Damon's website. www.damon.tk
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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