ARTISTS / TONY CRAN
What are you working on at the moment?
It’s kind of my beginning of an epic I’ve been planning for awhile but it’s also my grieving piece. My little dog passed away recently, she was 17 and we did a lot of travelling together. Mostly the east coast, we worked out she did between 35 and 40,000 kms worth of hitchhiking in her life. I did a few trips without her but not many. She was in a plane before me!
This work I might show but it will probably be going for a good decade or so because this is the beginning of the epic. You know how Whiteley did Alchemy I want to have a go at that. I started with the circle partially because I was looking at voyager and the deep space probes, and thinking about what gets sent out. The very first thing on the record is a circle, so that if people find it, it is a way of calibrating the way that humans tend to think.
Where do you find your inspiration? I like the idea of seeding your subconscious with imagery and programming yourself in your peripherals. If you want to be influenced by certain things put them around and don’t even really think about it just let them soak in.
You mention Whiteley, who else in Australian art do you admire or look up to? I like a lot of the, I know it’s very unfashionable, but I like a lot of the Heidelberg School. I really don’t like Penguins, any of them. I hate Tucker! I guess the obvious ones are Streeton for his technique and (Sydney) Long for his technique and Rupert Bunny for his as well. Internationally Egon Schiele, Mucha (when he’s not doing advertising).
What was the last exhibition you saw? The last one I saw was probably Monika’s (Tichacek). I’ve liked all her stuff for ages, but I like where she is at the moment. I reckon her next show will be even better!
How did you get into art? My dad built and painted Harley Davidson’s and my mum painted cars and my grandad painted cars in the factory and my grandmother, her family used to paint horse buggies, do all the detail. So when I was a kid there were buckets of paint all around. I won a competition they entered me in, in Toowoomba, a painting of a big ET but I changed my mind about the background, so blocked it in but made it look like it was a cross and I came second. Got beaten by this old man. Then they found out I was a little kid and stuff. But weirdly I remember thinking I had painting tutors offering to tutor me but the local seminary school was wanting to sign me up to become a preacher. I used to go church a bit anyway when I was a little kid because I thought they were a bit like the Jedi.
You have quite a lot of reliquaries but these are for your own spiritual interest? Slightly more pagan. I dated a witch who ended up running a spiritual church for awhile. She is now a psychologist in a prison. She joined various cults around the world! She taught me all that stuff.
You are from Queensland, how did you end up in Melbourne? I grew up in QLD but have been in Melbourne since the end of 98. I studied at the VCA. I hitched down here in 96 and stayed in a scout hall out in Eltham. Then went off again, in 98 I got a phone call saying I had two weeks to get here (to get the studio). Moved down and had an old scout hall as a studio and I was doing 9.5 metre paintings. My old man died pretty soon after that, I smoked my own body weight in ganja. Got the fattest dreads and painted for 4 years straight. I got into a gallery by accident then realised I wasn’t very good. So went back to school.
When I hitched down, sometimes there is a whole thing with hitching and you have to pay your dues. You basically become a counsellor because you’ll never see these people again so they confess all this shit. I had to spend 14 hours with this kid who had killed his best friend, not on purpose, that was full on. Hitchhiking was amazing for that. Truck drivers who go, so what are your beliefs? You tell them and they take the exact opposite beliefs and we’re gonna argue about it for the next 10 hours.
Any plans to return north? I went back to Mackay maybe in 2003 or something, flew out into a big storm and took a photo out the window and decided that’s it, I’m not coming back. When I first got there I went to visit some friends, sneak up on them. Went to a bottle shop and everyone just stopped turned around and looked at me. And I thought shit, back in deliverance land. Hippy, freak, faggot was my nick name. There’s a book called Seven Versions of an Australian Badland (by Ross Gibson), which is about that area and the hangover from the invasion, and how that translates into the community and the wars that were going on when settlers first got there. And it’s kind of turned into an underlying violence. My whole mum’s side of the family live there though and love it, but they’re as tough as nails.