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Known for his bright colour palettes, vibrant compositions and energetic type, Kris Andrew Small (@krisandrewsmall) is an artist who works in reference to the visuality and culture of his uniquely Australian costal upbringing. In doing so, Small ‘connects the dots of his unlikely trajectory into a psychedelic constellation of work: lucid textural pieces, photo-based collages and kinetic type-based compositions that vibrate off the page with their own brand of hyperactivity.’
After working as a designer and art-director for clients all over the world, Small has now re-centred his practice around being a full time artist. Continuing to work from his studio in Darlinghurst, Sydney, he exhibits in solo shows around the world and boasts client such as Nike, Reebok, It’s Nice That, Dazed, Sony Records & Henry Holland, to name a few.
Discussing Small’s unique aesthetic, he explains ‘the saturated colours of a tropical adolescence float in defiance of the grid, kaleidoscopic patterns embody an overactive mindset, and explosive typography continues a long-standing tradition of radical protest art from the fringes of club world. It all serves to connect an energetic aesthetic with coded — perhaps hallucinatory — notes on modern identity.’
Having cultivated such a rich, meaningful and unique visual language, we asked the artist for more details on his references and influences… ‘I think for me the biggest inspiration is artists like Keith Haring & Jean Paul Goude. I love that period of New York 80s, although there was so much horror going on with AIDs, that was a time of such creativity. The work that came from that scene still resonates today. I kind of infuse that with my upbringing in Australia, I just remember it being so colourful, tropical & natural. I think I land somewhere in between that 80s New York scene and a guy who lives in a rainforest. I think thats why I never really follow structure or grids, much like nature’, he tells us.
‘It’s funny as I started out as a designer, following guidelines and grids and things, and to be honest, it drove me nuts. Now I am lucky I have the freedom to make whatever work I like and make it as nuts as possible. I think I also have always used my work as a platform for my ideas on the world. We live in a beautiful world which is sadly full of so much in-equality. I am part of the LGBTQ community in which, some have a lot of equality and some are still incredibly vulnerable, discriminated against or in danger. So as a community we still need to fight for their rights. We aren’t equal until everyone in our community is equal.’
Kris also gave us some fascinating details on three selected projects. On the project, Kris Andrew Small X Pull & Bear, the artist elaborates, ‘I worked with my agent Grand Matter & Pull&Bear to create these collages for their new Smiley campaign. It was one of the first times I’d been commissioned by a brand to make a collage work. The deadline was tight & I really just let my self go a bit crazy with the work, which normally I am a bit more reserved when it comes to working with bigger brands. But they were super happy with it and really up for making the work crazy. I think that approach led to the work looking spontaneous and full of motion, a bit less worked on than some other projects.’
Discussing another stunning project, We Will Get Through This Together / Stay San Stay Safe, Kris tells us, ‘This poster was really important to me, I was not making much work I liked at that time and I was trying really hard. It was around the very start of the pandemic and I just wanted to make something to make myself feel better about everything that was going on. I made this on the sofa after having half a bottle of wine, and it ended it being one of my favourite pieces of work I’d ever made – Luckily the poster got a nice amount of attention. I ended up remaking the poster for Studio Lennarts & De Bruijn’s Stay Sane, Stay Safe initiative. The poster was screen printed and sent to hospitals around The Netherlands. It was also part of a pop up exhibition in Rotterdam & The Hague.’
Lastly, Kris tells us about his ongoing, experimental series, of Work In Progress Posters. ‘These are just a series of posters I make every few months,’ he explains, ‘it’s basically a collage of everything I am working on in that week. I find it really fun to mix all the projects together and try and find a theme. I think normally I go through phases with colour and that seems to change every couple of months. So it’s cool to look back at them and think, oh that month I was in those colours. It’s also nice way to use things that maybe didn’t end up being used and finding a space for them to sit in.