SafARI artist profile - Sam Songailo
Adelaide's Sam Songailo is a painter and installation artist who explores the natural human ability of categorising and adapting to physical environments that surround our lives. His work primarily focuses on playful and colourful geometric shapes inspired by technology and science fiction. Songailo's site-specific installations are a diversion from the everyday and often call for a physical response. Sam's creative and interactive installations has lead him to win numerous awards such as the Adelaide Fringe festival award for Best Visual Art (2012) and Adelaide Critic Circle Emerging Artist of The Year (2010).
Your art tends to be quite intricate. How do you go about planning your installations?
To begin with I like to make a site visit and take some photos. Then I work with the photos to create an impression of what I want to create. After that, technical and logistical considerations come into play. Most of the actual production of the work is completed on site in the week leading up to the opening so it helps to be organised.
You come from a graphic design background which is evident in your work. When did you first start experimenting with fine art and installations?
I was running my first graphic design business with a friend. At that time we were producing an art and design magazine and as a consequence I came to meet and make friends with a lot of artists. I started to become interested in painting and lose interest in graphic design. I soon worked out that it was easier to hang a show if the paintings were made to hang in a particular place in the gallery (a hangover from my design training I'm sure.) Now that I look back, it has been a very logical progression. At that early stage in my artistic development I was already starting to take the space into consideration. The next logical step was to work with the space directly.
What sort of materials do you feel most comfortable with and which ones would you like to explore?
I feel most comfortable with acrylic paint and working with wood. These have been the most affordable and accessible materials for me. Recently I have been given the opportunity to work with computer programmers and engineers. It is exciting to be able to work with people to be able to produce something beyond what I am capable of producing myself.
Can you share what inspires you and what themes you like to draw on through your work?
A few years ago I was hanging out with my Swedish mate Alfred. He loved drum and bass more than anything. We were always going to parties where he would turn off the music and plug his phone in to play some drum and bass. It didn't matter if he knew the person or not or if everyone yelled at him because they thought the music was shit, he didn't care. It was so annoying yet pretty funny how relentless he was. I was talking to him one day about drum and bass, in particular about why he liked it and he said 'I like how artificial it sounds'. For some reason that phrase stuck with me and I started to try and make the most artificial work I could. That was some years ago, after a while you lose sight of where you began. I feel that over the years, from exhibition to exhibition I am slowly building what you would call a theme. I am probably too close to it to tell.
How was it that you got involved in SafARI 2014?
I had a heap of old paintings left in a share-house I have long since moved out of. I was musing one day about going and picking them up and exhibiting them or something because they were just sitting there doing nothing. Or so I thought. It turns out Liz [one of the curators] is mutual friends with people in the house and she contacted me about being in a show at the Hazelhurst regional gallery (which sadly didn't happen). Anyway, we stayed in touch and she encouraged me to apply for SafARI. It is amazing the amount of work Liz and Chris have done to pull it all together. My hat's off to them.
Can you give insight into your current exhibition?
I feel that once I have put an exhibition together it is really out of my hands. Remember when you started a new job? Everything was so confusing and abstract. After you get the hang of it you realise the job could be performed by a trained animal. All those nice confusing abstract things are lost. People will ultimately have their own personal experiences and insights into my work and I think that is great.
What sort of physical response do you expect from your audience?
I have learned not to expect anything or rather to expect an audience to react in a way you did not expect. During the opening of my recent 'Zen Garden' show people kept accidentally kicking the rocks, which was great. I'm not precious about my work. Once it is complete and I have some documentation I am happy for it to go on to its next life. If people give a shit enough to pay attention to the work rather than socialising and drinking cheap beers I am happy. There is plenty out there to keep us entertained so I am grateful whenever people choose to spend some time with my work. If they get an experience out of it, that is great.
Finally, can you share any ideas that you are looking to explore in the near future?
I suffer from the problem of too many ideas. I find that if they continually keep coming back to mind my brain is telling me that this is something I want to explore.
See Sam Songail’s exhibition for SafARI at:
9A Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay 1
14th March - 4th April
By Lauren Hansom