Travelling into the outer reaches with Ghostpatrol

25 May 2011

Written by: Radhika Chopra

You may have seen his work plastered in nameless streets, nonchalantly peeking out at you from the nooks and crannies of our city. Or perhaps you have encountered his work at a gallery, or even inconspicuously hanging in someone’s bedroom. After all, Melbourne is no stranger to the street artist and professional cool cat, Ghostpatrol.

Coming from the temporary world of stencil street art, the artist has transcended into his latest solo exhibition If We’re Going, Then Let’s Go.  Displayed at Collingwood’s Backwoods Gallery, Ghostpatrol showcases a fine body of illustration work, demonstrating – as he says himself – he is ‘ever changing and learning’.

Like many other street artists, Ghostpatrol made the move from the street into the gallery, a movement that is still tenuous among some public art lovers, who view street art as a way of sticking it to the man in his own arena. Many artists may take a political stance on the public street, but as Ghostpatrol clarifies the gallery is a completely different context. It has ‘different intentions, different audience(s), different understanding’.

In the past, the artist has pushed the boundaries alongside a slew of other well-known artists, including Hobart’s textile maiden Cat Rabbit, his studio partner Miso, Acorn, and Nior. Speaking about his previous collaborations, he says, ‘It’s a great way to push [you] into a different space. It’s a great challenge to build upon other people’s ideas.’

Ghostpatrol has had a swift rise to the top, having had shows at various galleries around Australia, and internationally. But whatever the context, there is no doubting his imaginative talent.  This time around choosing to go solo, the creative power once again lies completely in the bearded man’s hands.

‘I enjoy the freedom of pursuing my own direction of style,’ he tells me.

Primarily working with watercolor on paper, and producing two large-scale acrylic paintings, the new exhibition is a move away from previous endeavours, which have seen him use a range of mediums, including woodcarving and soft sculpture. As he explains, ‘The idea of sticking to one medium feels restrictive’.

Looking at the show as a whole you begin to get a broader understanding of the unrestricted nature of his work.

Focusing on the future of humanity and our eventual need to move on, his new works are otherworldly. With space bound critters tied to rockets, and forest forms uprooting themselves into stature, the show brings forth the awareness of Earth’s eventual demise, and what may end up being our creative solution; finding and then living on a new planet.

‘Curiosity led science is propelling us outwards into space,’ he says. ‘Our destiny is to survive. Eventually this will lead to leaving this planet to survive on others…if we’re going let’s go.’

Ghostpatrol’s pieces are like opening a storybook. His characters, stemming from a background world of ’80s cartoons – including the robot crime fighter Astroboy, Voltron and Ulysses 31– have a certain warm, yet subtle nostalgic presence. With colorfully stippled spirits, and beast’s heads morphed onto bodies, you could mistake the show as an innocent foray into a friendly forest. The distinction lying in the characters themselves, who seem to be on an ominous expedition, with their calm faces, betraying only an ounce of urgency towards their departure plan into the abyss.

Through pieces such as the entitled ‘Wikie De Vicky’, which depicts a man armed for battle, his form made by a forest of trees, light can perhaps be cast on Ghostpatrol’s meaning. Reminiscent of an army ready for an onslaught, it could be taken as a nod towards our ending resources. ‘Unguarded Moment’ is another piece, which subtly touches on space travel, its astronaut-like character carrying perhaps, the last golden piece of the earth.

Washed out and dainty, there is an air of mystery behind Ghostpatrol’s art that one can often find difficult to penetrate. But it isn’t so bad. Sometimes it is nice to think there is more to art than meets the eye. Ask the artist what the meaning of it all is, and he only replies that you should approach the space with your own ideas and ‘experience something’.

Ghostpatrol’s exhibition is on now, and runs until  4 June at Backwoods Gallery, Collingwood. You can see more of his work here.

Radhika Chopra is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is a member of the upstart editorial team. You can follow her on twitter (@ihitthewall).