Our first international BR!NKer is a twenty-seven-year-old Australian artist from Melbourne whose award-winning art focuses on attempting to transform the mundane into the beautiful. Whether he is shooting flowers out of a cannon or building a giant inflatable hand for a music festival, Carl Scrase is on a mission to change the world through his art. In the midst of a busy year, the recipient of the New Work Grant by the Australia Council tells us about his art, his inspirations, and what Australian hipsters are really like.
When you were a kid, were you an artist?
I was not an artist, just kind of a middle class brat living in the suburbs. I was living an ordinary life, really. When I was fifteen, I decided to change the world. I think my motivations to get into the world of art differed from that of other people – a little voice inside of me said that I should develop some talents so that if I ever had something valid to say I would have a platform to communicate them. I decided to devote myself completely to art in order to accomplish that goal.
How would you define exactly what it is that you do?
The word that ties all of my work is “change.” I like to break it down in three areas. The first one is trying to amend myself via introspective play, the second layer has to do with the transforming the objects around me through tactile play, and the third point has to do with societal play. I’m interested in exploring if it is possible to change the world, be that through art or any other method.
Would you say that you don’t focus on one specific art form?
I do a little bit of everything to be honest. [laughs] Really, everything! For instance, so far this year I have spent three months collecting flowers from my neighbor’s front gardens to shoot out of a cannon, built a 14 meter high sculpture for Australia’s biggest music festival, let off 29 emergency boating flares at Australia’s most famous sporting stadium, made some jewelry for my first international solo show and topped it all of by starting a ambitious collaboration with some of Australia’s most creative thinkers named Wemakeusus.
Tell us about some of the work that you’re the proudest of or that has gotten the most attention recently?
My most recent commissions for the 2010 music festival Splendour in the Grass Festival kind of made me feel proud; it was a big project that took a lot of work and planning. It all started with an amazing arts lab named Splendid where they put ten of Australia’s most creative people in a house for three weeks, a sort of an art “big brother” experience; one year on I had a 14 meter high model of my hand in the middle of a massive music festival. People at a music festival are more open to ideas; I got some really good feedback from the punters, they were in the right mind frame to think in a different way, they got it.
You have a big online presence, notably via your blog. How has the internet either facilitated or made it harder for artists to get known?
It’s going to be hard in some areas of the art world. It’s easier to communicate and create these days – everyone has his or her own blog. The gallery-based art world will have to reposition itself and think about how this new world works. Change is a good thing, with its share of issues. Regardless, I have a feeling art is blossoming.
As an emerging artist, you’ve had tremendous success and recognition. Why do people respond to your work?
I wonder that myself. I do have an eclectic mix of work, so a lot of people follow me to see what crazy thing I will do next. I really am exploring, and this massive drive to improve and constantly challenge myself might set me apart, I’m just trying to be honest and do my best.
Looking forward, would you like to focus on your domestic presence or expand internationally?
I definitely am aiming for an international presence. I’ve spent a fair chunk of the last few years traveling around the world, and now with my sculpture potentially doing the American and European music festival circuit, I expect to do a bit more of that, fingers crossed.
Do you usually improvise or do you know exactly where you’ll be in the next few months?
It’s funny, I’m always attempting to plan, thinking forward… but it never works out the way you plan, does it? [laughs] I would like to play it by heart but my head still wonders.
How would you define the art scene in Melbourne?
The art scene in Melbourne is massive. We’ve got a ridiculous amount of galleries; you can go to seven openings in a night if you want. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen anywhere else, just like an isolated cauldron of creativity. I’ve also recently become aware how many hipsters there are in Melbourne…
How are Australian hipsters compared to American ones?
I don’t know much about the American versions but in Melbourne everyone is riding their cool fixed gear bikes, wearing ironic secondhand clothing, eating organic, going to gigs and drinking copious amounts… In November, everyone grows a moustache for Movember; so every second guy has a fair chunk of bad facial hair at the moment. [laughs]
Who are some of the people who inspired you and influenced your work?
A lot of psychologists, philosophers and writers; Carl Jung, Haruki Murakami, Tom Robbins… I’m interested in people who explore worlds where things can change in an instant. Funnily enough, I don’t really get inspired by other artists even though I see so much. I’m very critical of my peers since it’s a field that I’m a part of – I guess I need to step away from it in order to be inspired. I’ve had some of my best ideas while listening to music, chatting to friends and downing a beer.
What’s the song playing on repeat in your iPod right now?
I have a few friends bands that are starting to take off; Wilderbeast, Worlds End Press, Shoot the Sun; the Melbourne music scene is fun.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Invite me to stay on your couch! I’d be happy to go anywhere in the world. [laughs] My work is also available in the John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne and if anyone has a music festival where they’d like to incorporate some art into, they can shoot me an email.