Artists Jeff Raglus and Dave Bowers possess a charming irreverence for anything too serious or high brow. They have known each other since their days as enthusiastic Mambo artists working in surf art in the nineties and now they have come together to show their recent artworks for the High Pop Low Down exhibition at Salt Contemporary Art.
Raglus’ art constantly blurs the boundaries between fine art and graphic design. Always quirky, often humorous and sometimes completely ‘out there’, Raglus has established his own unique self-termed ‘Surf-Folk-Pop Art’ style. Usually his art contains a message but sometimes he just paints whatever happens to capture his interest. One of the paintings in the exhibition, The Majestic Flight of the Green Backed Beetle, was simply inspired by the incredible number of swarming insects in Aireys Inlet where Jeff lives while The Yeasayer makes a statement about our materialistic society. It describes a character trumpeting the virtues of the new modern world of consumerism but he’s a two-faced liar.
In his typical altruistic style, Raglus has generously offered to hold a silent auction of his original artwork for this year’s Queenscliff Music Festival poster, with proceeds being donated to Cottage by the Sea, a local charity that provides short term relief care to children and families in need. The poster is on display at Salt Contemporary Art where you can lodge your bid.
Like Jeff Raglus, Dave Bowers’ work isn’t easily categorised, encompassing as it does a variety of media and themes but the one constant is that his work is always bold, always colourful and well… grimey and grungy. His artworks are created in acrylic, enamel and oil sticks, combined with collage and found objects. Bowers finds inspiration everywhere, even in mundane items such as cardboard boxes from Asian supermarkets emblazoned with striking symbols and strange scripts. He finds his materials by street combing, rummaging through the jumble of junk that catches his eye. “I don’t drive past anything without checking it out,” he says. “Aesthetically, I find inspiration comes from anywhere, anytime. I am mesmerized by what I call incidental urban micro landscapes, like the patterns of road repairs, or chewing gum on the footpath; symbols, numbers and letters on power poles; the accidental tracks and patterns we leave as a species.”
In this exhibition some of his artworks follow a rural theme with depictions of trucks, tractors and even a potent Picasso-like bull. He spent a lot of time as a child in Euroa, in country Victoria and has a deep affinity for the rural landscape and worn farm machinery. “I find the process of decay quite beautiful – rust, peeling paint etc. I’m drawn to the fine line between beauty and ugliness, the unintentional poetry of everyday life.”
Graffiti characters, which stem from Bowers’ Mambo days, often feature in his work. Not exactly pretty, his characters accost the senses with raw colour and tortured lines. He describes them as “cartoon characters that would fail a Disney audition. They look too sad, too eager to please, too dumb, too angry or they haven’t aged well. For me these characters represent the imperfect masses.”
The influence of Basquiat is apparent in these works with the free reign of wild colour, the grungy-graffiti style and the use of different materials. Bowers also admires the work of Sydney-based artist Jasper Knight and Australian artist Robert Moore with whom he shares a similar aesthetic.
High Pop Low Brow is on until 12 December at Salt Contemporary Art, 33-35 Hesse St, Queenscliff.