The work of Brisbane based artist 1337 is a nostalgic stroll through the underbelly of popular culture from a bygone era. He lovingly consumes his monstrous icons enshrined in the legacy of b-grade horror films, chews them up, and spits them out into urban streams. Here, they colourfully collide with influences tracing back to skate and punk subcultures, psychedelic posters of the 1970s, and pop art sensibilities.
These influences, and a myriad of other cultural edibles our Stencil Art Prize Finalist has absorbed over the years, trickle into in 1337’s art in a truly explosive way. Upon initial inspection of his featured piece “Creature Feature”, one might jump to a more insidious interpretation that lies behind the meaning of his art. But in reality, the artist says “The icon is there, and it’s an image that speaks for itself.”
Currently operating at non-for-profit Brisbane based Love Love Studio, the self-described “Creator of mischief, practicing in social disobedience.” owns an undeniable penchant for schlocky b-grade cult classics. He says “I’m not exactly sure what it is that draws me to horror. I don’t particularly like being scared, but I love scaring people. I love books and films that are confronting and leave you thinking about them days or weeks later. Just like a good artist, I believe that movies should evoke strong reactions and emotions in people, whether they like the content/ message or not.” This, paired with a natural attraction towards most things sinister, has had 1337 injecting ghoulish subjects into his art since the early 2000s.
Drawing upon the flickering black and white celluloid terrain of popular culture; 1337’s stencil portraiture “Creature Feature” (pictured above) is a raw visual adaptation of a grotesque, amphibious icon from the 1950s b-grade cult classic “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. The artist’s piece inflects the same impassioned, chaotic, dense visual treatment reminiscent of the DIY punk gig flyers of the 1980s.
Applying multiple layers, the artist organises flat areas of colour, solid worked lines and highly tuned contrast, rendering his piece in a reactive way. Echoing a psychedelic sensibility, his monster is adorned with an assortment of vivid neon’s. Despite the perceived vivacity of these hues, they are finely muted, transmitting a lingering undercurrent of the ominous. Whilst this composition firmly situates his creature in an alternate realm, 1337 speaks to the expressive capacity of the stencil form to craft his icon with a gritty sense of realism.
The early influences of the artist can be traced to skateboarding culture of the 80s and 90s. In particular, 1337 says, “Skateboarding graphics throughout the 80’s and 90’s were killer. Many skater owned companies had no censorship when it came to board graphics, so often the imagery was very adult and created to shock mainstream squares.” Dabbling in graffiti since high school, it wasn’t long after he gravitated to the use of stencils in his creative practice, printing them on stickers and posters. He says, “It just seemed like a natural progression. I liked that I could re-create photorealistic images with spray paint, which is something that I struggle with when I’m drawing or painting with brushes.”
Submerged in the domain of lowbrow culture, 1337’s creatures are torn from their context, isolated, and preserved. Lending his icons significance and permanence, his art becomes a hypperreal space into a cross generational experience, washed in clashing hues and potent nostalgia.