For the last decade, the beautifully calculated work of Brad Eastman (aka Beastman) has seen visual invasions of artificial landscapes with larger than life colours, range and depth – highlighting the naturally microscopic beauty that eludes us. Taking influence from both raw and artificial surroundings, Eastman’s work resembles a unique capsule of graphic photosynthesis – as colour bounces from one light to the next, tangled and trapped between bold casings at every sign of movement. Evolving his craft at every turn, this impressionable approach has been practiced on a variety of surfaces, from traditional paintings, large scale murals, clothing, screen printing, and even furniture and pottery – seamlessly integrating to each surface. This visual evolution sees the artist balancing time between his home in Indonesia, Australia and wherever else it sends him, with his latest body of work culminating at Melbourne’s Backwoods Gallery – appropriately titled The Human Intervention, a cosmic mixture of enticingly organic psychedelia, respectively wielded with microscope care in both purpose and skill. A thematic display of society’s effects on the world, both physically and mentally, this new body of work shows more progression from the artist – as new emerge elements into the collection. We were lucky enough to spend some time with the artist at Backwoods, to discuss the exhibition along with some of the ethos and process behind its creation.
Where did the initial ideas come together for The Human Intervention?
This show is really all about me trying new things and making artwork in new ways, my last body of work consisted of really intricate acrylic and ink pieces, which I was kind of already known for – and I didn’t really want to do that this time around. I’ve made so many of those, so this exhibition is the result of a two-years of experiment in altering my mediums a bit.
Thematically, it’s a pretty basic one, it’s just to create a bit of awareness, you know. Humans are messing up the planet and the more people bringing awareness to that, the more someone might think twice about buying a bottle of water for example. I’ve been living in Indonesia for 3 years now and I visually see it all the time, everyone probably does and some might ignore it – but when you’re in a place like where I live–you see it. I felt like I kind of got to this point where I gathered a bit of a following behind my art and you get to this point where you have people constantly looking at your artwork, giving you feed back on it, things like social media. You feel like you’re in this position where you can say something–you can project a message.
I haven’t done an exhibition since 2016; Semi-Natural at Inner State Gallery in Detroit, which was a stepping-stone to this and was just kind of about natural environments that are semi-natural because they’ve been altered. This is a further expansion on that, so this is really about the human intervention and humans are intervening with nature–especially in a landscape sense.
Yeah, well I think the whole theme is kind of organic and artificial worlds mixing together…
That’s the whole thing. Like you have these grey tones that essentially represent concrete and in Bali you really just see it, they just build and build and build, it’s crazy over there–its all just raw concrete. So in these paintings, colour is more related to landscape: blues would represent a body of water, things like that. Patterns represent things from nature as well–or the opposite, they’ll represent a man-made thing, that was the whole concept of this show, making paintings that are balanced compositions of natural environments being intervened with man made structures. But somehow all working, while also not in some places, but you try and force the paintings to sort of balance out and work.
Can you tell us a little about what you tried to achieve with this show visually?
For The Human Intervention I wanted to make an exhibition of paintings, I really enjoy making these little bodies of work–because you can essentially make one painting, one artwork that carries across 10 different pieces across a room and I love doing that. This exhibition has been split into 2 rooms, because I wanted to do almost 2 separate exhibitions with the same theme–presented in 2 different ways. There is a smaller room with some more of my tradition work–big acrylic colourful paintings, which I made in Bali, they’re a little bit more simplified from what I would usually do – but still presenting that theme. The other larger room will feature a new process in where I have designed all the paintings on a computer first, and then use an adhesive vinyl to translate the geometric digital image to a painting.
It’s cool because I was able to create paintings with spray paint that look like they’re extremely accurate–I feel like when I’m making paintings, I’m trying to make them as neat as possible, so they look geometric anyway. This method has been really cool because I am literally able to achieve it, perfectly – it’s like making a digital painting, it’s a weird process but it works well, it works well for me anyway. It was an interesting experiment, I was able to design all the paintings first, arrive here in Melbourne and make 16 paintings in 2 days, and all the panels were prepped before I got here.
You’re originally from Sydney; do you feel that your time in Indonesia has made an effect on your work today?
Yeah it has, just through witnessing a developing country, but of course–still very different from Australia. It’s just so much more visually evident in Indonesia or even South-East Asia really, the lack of all this waste management, you can visually see it. Since I got into surfing and being in the water so much more–you just see it, being in the water. The paintings are very “coastal” and that’s a reflection of where I am, I’m experiencing the ocean every day, so it’s definitely in these paintings. It’s just what I’m seeing; it’s a global issue – not just an Indonesian one. I started thinking about and it was more about making paintings about humans interacting with nature–in both good and bad ways, that’s how the theme kind of developed over the last 2 years.
Your works change with each incarnation, mixing old and new elements, is that on purpose or more of a natural progression?
I think there is a purpose and it’s to keep it all cohesive, because I think that’s important. think being an artist is all about evolution and your work should evolve, as you evolve as a person. I’m not interested in making the same thing over and over again, but I still feel that it’s important to show that a painting is still mine. If you look at painting of mine from 10 years ago and then look at one of these in the show–there should be a link and I still like to throw a little subtle hint back to where it began. There are patterns I use that I’ve used for a long time and I still include them a little bit, even though there are new patterns, compositions, themes and– you still touch on the past and bring it into the current, I think that’s an important part of being an artist especially. Besides that, it feels like a natural progression for the work as well–it feels right.
You have worked with sculptures and 3-dimensional works previously, but this show is primarily canvas based, do you still prefer working in that format?
I’m still interested in making paintings, but I really like all aspects of my art making, I’m technically making artwork across all mediums–I do murals, I do lots of digital illustrations, some animated stuff and I do make sculptures and paintings, it’s all the same body of work to me, just presented in different ways. For The Human Intervention, there are two installations as well, the bigger one is kind of a representation of the materials in the paintings, in real life, so it’s kind of like contrasting man-made materials with these concrete rocks, a man-made object and then a natural object and repeating that pattern. And the paintings have a lot of geometric squares happening, so it takes that form as well, it’s just trying to visually represent the entire collection in this floor to ceiling thing, it ended up looking like a Zen garden (laughing)–but it’s not.
And what about the video project accompanying the show?
I had this idea of drone footage, panning over these coastal landscapes from the ocean, right up until we see the land. Matt, who made the video for me, pretty much made the whole thing, I Skype’d him, briefed him video and he just went and shot it all based on the direction I gave –he did a really good job. Then I overlaid some of the digital patterns (from the paintings) to some of the video footage, so when you’re watching the video, there’s these drone shots looking down at environments and then you’ll pan over some man-made structures and pathways–and that’s the theme, these human interventions in landscapes. The vector graphics over the top, which to me–is something clearly digital–is the man-made thing also, you just throw it over the top of this footage. At some points it can feel uncomfortable to watch, you’re kind of like, ‘what is that’? But that’s the whole idea – you’re meant to see that it’s a bit wrong, because that’s what’s going on.
There’s also an audio soundscape Jack made, I briefed him on how I wanted the exhibition to sound and it’s the same thing, he’s captured sound from nature, amplified and looped them to the point where there will be these interruptive man-made sounds from synthesizers or acidy kind of electric equipment. There are points in the audio when you’re in the gallery and hearing it, it’ll get to a point where it sounds wrong and it’s hard to listen to, you almost want to leave the room, but not for too long. It’s meant to be uneasy, but not for too long for people to leave (laughs), but the video and the sound is speaking the same language as the paintings.
- Photography by: Mike Danischewski
- Additional photography: Supplied