Painting as Storytelling: An Interview with Sean Waydee
Sydney artist Sean Waydee is in the middle of a long and costly mission to replace his missing front tooth.
“I’m not even sure if I want to get it fixed,” he confesses with a boyish smile.
“I’ve been without it for so long, I feel like it adds character”.
In Waydee’s case, character seems to go hand in hand with artistic talent. The 27-year-old painter has exhibited at group shows at China Heights Gallery in Sydney, St Vincent’s hospital and many other regional art galleries. He is currently completing his third year of a Bachelor of Fine Art at the National Art School in Darlinghurst, and focuses on narrative based imagery and abstraction through the act of painting.
Sean had enough time to sit down with me before heading to the dentist to talk cheesy gangster rap, his creative process, and (slight) OCD tendencies.
For people that don’t know you, describe your art/your artistic style in 3 words.
This is a really tough question. Three words?!
You can have a whole sentence!
Abstraction with figurative elements.
Nicely done. Your style and subjects seem to be quite eclectic, traversing from abstract to quite detailed and realistic. Is there a method to the madness? How do you pair subject with medium?
It’s kind of an organic exploration at this stage in my career and of what I can do. I’m trying to iron out ideas and work through processes, to figure out what I want to extend on, and what I want to pursue more. It’s a learning process.
What can you tell me about your collection of portraits?
I did a diploma of fine art at TAFE before I started my degree, which focused more on technical aspects. At that time, I was trying to figure out who I was as an artist, and technically those portraits were beneficial to what I was doing.
You seem to be pushing artistic boundaries in your work by using many mediums, from biro to charcoal. What’s your favorite medium and why?
I’m really into collage, but oil paint would have to be my favourite for its material qualities. Oil paint has a tendency to be transparent or opaque. Obviously paintings are a tactile object, which I find to be a really beautiful thing about them; you can hold them, they don’t have to just sit on the wall. There’s a material quality about the support and the paint itself. I’m interested in the play between being a flat surface and also having a material quality about it.
Would you ever diverge into sculpture?
It’s definitely something I see myself doing in the future. I haven’t done much sculpture work, but I see collage as quite sculptural in a sense. I work with found objects, playing with space, texture and colour.
Are there any interesting elements in your creative process that you’d like to share?
It can be quite a slow process. Oil can take months to dry, so often I’ll start with a lot of energy and just get something down on a support. It’s a lot less intimidating when you have something down in front of you.
Do you get intimidated?
A stark white support can be very intimidating; you just have to attack it.
Do you work in a studio?
I work in a studio at the National Art School. I think I work better in a studio environment. There’s lots of natural light in my studio, which is very important. You feel a lot more free and able to express what you want to express. I live in a studio apartment, which is quite small and can be restricting, so the studio helps me show personal expression in my work.
Do you listen to music when you paint/create?
It’s an eclectic mix; anything from Michael Ozone to old film scores by Moondog to Miles Davis to cheesy gangsta rap, about as eclectic as my painting style.
Please tell me more about the cheesy gangster rap.
I’m really into a guy called Yung Lean at the moment. He’s a 17-year-old Swedish producer/rapper. He raps about Pokemon cards and polo shirts.
And does Yung Lean help you create?
I guess. It’s more for background noise. When I working I’m very focused on what I’m doing, so I don’t think the music reflects in my work so much.
Are there any particular personal experiences that you’ve taken direct inspiration from?
I had an interesting childhood and up bringing which made me quite a sensitive person. That sensitivity is definitely beneficial to something like painting, especially with oils. Using mediums is a bit like alchemy in that it requires sensitivity to get results.
What about other artists? Do you find yourself consciously drawing on the art of others in creating your own?
I like to look at other artists, but only very briefly as to avoid any direct aesthetic influence. A lot of what I look at will in turn come through subconsciously in my work. When it comes down to starting a work I won’t have references of other artists work lying around. I’ll shut everything off. It’s more of a personal, organic process.
Do you have a favourite artist?
At the moment it’s Ralph Balson, one of the first Australian abstractionists. I like his play of opacity, transparency and space. He’s able to create space on a 2D picture plane through colour and tone, which is something I admire.
Have you ever given any thought to collaborations?
I have slight OCD, so I’m very particular about what I do. I think I would find collaborating quite difficult. It’s a personal thing, and I’d want to have creative control over any work I did. I don’t see myself collaborating with anyone, but who knows what the future holds?
What are you working on right now?
I’m just about to start my third year at national art school, majoring in painting. It’s a whole year of self-direction and exploration and trying to find a focus. I see this year as an extension of what I’ve already done within the last year – I’ll retain the figurative elements within the abstract elements of what I’m doing, but it may become more reductive or minimalist.
Are there any local Sydney artists that we should be keeping our eyes on?
Ben Fesselet. He’s a sculpture major at NAS, but he’s also doing some highly conceptual paintings related to issues in contemporary society in the local area. He’s based in Kings Cross, so a lot of his work reflects the community up there and the state of things, in terms of party and drugs. Another friend of mine James Ettleson is also doing some really great work on quite a large scale. I guess you’d describe it as pop abstraction. He works with colour fields and then applies dots of complimentary colours over the top – it looks like a huge magic eye!
What’s next for you? Are there any shows/exhibitions that you’d like to plug?
I’ve just had some work inserted in a continuous group show at a commercial gallery in Butchers Hook Gallery in Paddington. I’ve possibly got a solo show at China Heights gallery this year and I’ll be in the graduate exhibition at NAS in their main gallery in December.
You can check out the details for Sean’s upcoming show at the China Heights Gallery website.
All images taken from Sean Waydee’s Tumblr.
China Heights Gallery
National Art School
By Lucy Rennick