1xRUN Thru Interview
Diaspora by Askew
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about this series of work?
Askew: Back in April/May of 2014 I spent around 6 weeks based in Los Angeles making these paintings for my solo show at Known Gallery. I was living and working above the TSL store, trying my best to make enough work to fill the space which was a pretty daunting task.
The pieces themselves are a combination of head portraits painted in what I would say are my signature style and then also a series of smaller abstract works that signify the idea of migration through the Pacific, both in a historic and recent sense. The model for the portraits was my friend Sereima aka Stelly, who’s Sydney based and of Fijian descent. To me she really represents the changing face of the Pacific in many ways. Following on from a really successful show in Sydney, ‘The Evolving Face’ I wanted to move away from the mugshot poses of the previous body and bring more attitude and exuberance and Sereima was perfect because she is the absolute embodiment of those things.
1xRun: Was this series part of a recent theme or show that you had?
Askew: These themes have been running through my work in some shape or form since I started on the head paintings in 2011 – the first was my ‘Thunderclap Headache’ self portrait, it was the initial breakthrough moment for me. I knew stylistically it was something I wanted to keep exploring but needed to expand my subject so I just looked around me, looked at the people I know and people in general in my region and from there have just followed the tangent.
1xRUN: What materials were used to create these pieces with?
Askew: The works are painted on Plexiglass with a combination of enamel and acrylic.
1xRun: When were these pieces created and how long did the entire series take to complete?
Askew: I did these mostly during the month of April, 2014 probably over a solid month, give or take a few days.
1xRun: Anything immediate you would like us to highlight?
Askew: Well, After the show in LA there was some interesting reactions on social media as the work resonated with a lot of different audiences and was interpreted in different ways.
One common hashtag on Instagram alongside images of my work for example was #afrocentric which intrigued me. But considering Sereima is Melanesian she could be mistaken for someone of African descent. That’s not the interesting part though, it was once I started delving into the correlations between a lot of African art, motif and colour I saw reoccurring symbolism that occurs across a lot of cultures. Despite aiming to make very Pacific focused body of work, the resonance was far wider reaching and to be honest that humbled me a lot.
1xRun: Tell us a bit about your process and how the idea and execution came about for this series?
Askew: I work on the back of Plexiglass sheets, It’s something I had played with a bit over the years but hadn’t really worked out a good process. One time I visited Pose’s studio in Chicago on a road trip from LA to Detroit and to be completely honest just half an hour of talking and observing his processes just made a lot of things click into place for me. He was doing some awesome plexiglass works at the time and had really thought the steps through. When I came home I really dissected my images and thought of how I could work in more ordered steps like that to accomplish something distinctive in my own way.
1xRun: What do you feel is unique about this series?
Askew: I do feel they are distinctive and unique, although there are other people painting portraits with patterns and things running though them I doubt anyone would confuse these for anyone else’s work. I also think the breadth of my reading, research and enthusiasm for my subject matter is something that adds depth to my work because it’s not just an aesthetic I’m striving for, it’s also my genuine love and enthusiasm for the region of the planet I come from and the history of the cultures you find there.
I have a very long term plan when it comes to my paintings and what I am trying to communicate. Here in the Pacific, particularly for the lower laying island nations, we are on the very front line of a lot of global issues. We can witness climate change firsthand in a very direct way. It is also possible to understand many other things such as international trade and it’s impacts on developing countries, food systems and cultural autonomy. There’s a lot of perspective to gain from observing this region and applying those observations in a global context.
1xRun: Why should people buy these pieces?
Askew: People should buy these if the works speak to them and they enjoy them.
1xRun: Describe this series in one gut reaction word.