3rd Year Visual Artist, Danny Jarratt, explores pop culture, queer theory, male form and ethnic representation to express diversity across the canvas. Specialising in painting, he chatted with Rachael Sharman, claiming that “…anyone can make art”.
Let’s get a background bio first off. Right. Where do your roots lay?
Growing up in Gawler a good 20 years ago it was a ghetto meets country lifestyle. Surrounded by a low socio-economical background, I lived by the creek and it’s strange how much time I’d spend playing in the waters and investigating what was beneath the surface. Without realising, I was quite in tune with nature, the water, the rocks, the grass and the trees that provided close to no shade overhead. It used to calm my nerves and relax me––truly a means of contemplation, realisation and ultimately motivation.
Artists and designers alike have this connection for every move being for some particular reason, as in we choose a colour because it represents such and such and a certain texture to show this feeling. What are you communicating with viewers through your methods?
Prior to attending UniSA, my inspiration and process focused on fan art for television series. I would sell digital prints of my work at comic conventions such as Oz Comic-con, Supanova and AVCon. This was a fun and commercially viable way to create work, however there was something empty about making art that was a copy of another work. It explored my love, but didn’t have anything past the surface.
I think now my methods, investigate every aspect of the work. What am I exploring, I question the
colours, the marks, the mediums. I want my work to have a level of concept consideration at all levels. I am now exploring diversity, for people, for race, for sexuality (both as an orientation and encompassing term for one’s sex life.) Within my work. I want to communicate to the viewers, there is more than just white TV actors. I want to represent minorities to help breakdown grand narratives, such as gay people are just skinny flamboyant white boys.
When you were younger, perhaps when you were starting to explore the art world and exploring your sexuality, did you ever see the gap of queer representation?
Yes, I did. The only queer representation was sexual and I saw it as perverse. I was put off by the sexual nature and assumed queer people could only make work that was sexual. I didn’t want to be stereotyped as a ‘queer’ artist. Now at 27, I love researching queer artists and their reactions to political and social climates. I am definitely more sex positive now and I carry with me an open mind. It’s labels like ‘slut shaming’ and so forth that have become obsolete to me.
Did travelling contribute to your personal transformation?
Prior to traveling, I had happily dated someone who had over 40 sexual partners. Someone’s sexual history has never really bothered me, I think because I too, have a sexual history. While on exchange, I realised that I couldn’t hold a relationship with a local or someone back in Australia. I used this time to explore sex and cultures. One country I visited was Brunei, a tiny country with amazing healthcare, education and beautiful skies. Despite the grand narrative of homophobia, I decided to go because of the huge Muslim population. I am vocally defensive of Australian Muslims and I wanted to visit a country with Shakira Law.
There’s reported incidents where gay people have been caught out, bashed by people on the street and police, despite all morals, join in. Seeing this, I got nervous. But being there, experiencing it in person, it’s such a beautiful country––everyone smiled. With contextualisation, we see the world through different eyes. The sex I encountered in Brunei was not obscenely different to Australia, however they were very shy and quiet until my AirBnB door was closed haha. I think including sex during travel can be extremely rewarding and a unique inclusion. I didn’t focus on having sex, but it helped me to understand the culture in a unique way.
In queer art, did you ever see who you wanted to be growing up?
Not so much growing up, but now I idolise Felix Gonzalez-Torres. His work as a queer artist, in the 1980s, we can compare Andy Warhol who did graphic screen prints of people having sex, with Felix’s ideologies. His images represented a stack of papers––inviting people to take them home, and as such he could bring art into the home. Art into everyday. His work transformed into these big amounts of candy. Art was consumed. When his partner passed away of AIDS, it evoked an almost morbid curiosity, an obscene devouring of the flesh. He created large portrait sculptures of candy, weighing his partner’s healthy body weight before contracting the disease. Consuming the candy then became this act of consuming his partner. Consuming queer people without acknowledgment. Different approaches taken by queer artists has opened my mind.
Do you see your work becoming more sexual?
Yes, I do. I think it’s going more stereotypical, but my approach is different. I’ve definitely opened up, and with that so have my ideas. It was no doubt the inclusion of sex as a way to examine a culture during my travelling influenced my art.
The famous poster by Guerilla Girls asks whether women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum. It poses a serious question about representation for minorities. With less than 4% of artists in the Met. (According to 2011 statistics) being women, how does that make you feel in regards to the frustration as a part of another minority group and becoming driven for more representation in galleries?
First of all, I can’t believe less than 4% of the Met. are female artists. That’s fucked. But as a minority, it annoys me. Personally, I’m in a weird state as a minority––because I’m white, male, fairly privileged, and able-bodied––but queer. I still consider myself a minority, and my fight is still strong, but in no way can it be compared to that of another. But by me fighting my fight, it helps other people. If queer becomes more accepted, that gives segue to other things becoming more accepted. I undertook ‘Who’s Afraid of Aboriginal Art’ as a course earlier in the year educating my cultural understanding. I just get very annoyed that art in general is very white washed and male-orientated.
Almost every artist has an Instagram and people can see their stories and find representation a lot easier than they could in, say, a ‘typical’ art gallery. Do you think social media is important as a queer artist in finding a sense of community and more representation?
I am totally for social media. I definitely consider it the future and I’m very much accepting of the future. If it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t have been able to connect with people while I was travelling. Social media definitely allows queer people to interact in safe spaces, which is very important, especially in countries that are more conservative. But as an artist, I can show what I’m doing, and in turn gather more sales. It makes my career more viable. Between Etsy and Instagram, I mean, the search engine is incredible. Search ‘Teen Wolf’ on Etsy and my print is like the 4th one. Definitely pro-social media. Different social circles in the world effectively use social media to promote themselves and a lifestyle. Typically artists haven’t done that, and as a result social media influences creativity on that front.
In your opinion, do artists actions hold a stereotypical label?
Yes. Artists have so often lived to avoid those main stream trends. Although there has always been an almost uniform approach to what an artist should look like, or should be doing. This has the ability to enforce certain traits onto artists.
Travel has clearly built you as a person, what has been the most significant revelation since your trip?
My ambitions have changed dramatically, my art brain has blown up with ideas, having inspiration thrown at me from all angles. I look to explore sculpture in the future, focusing on merging the differences between masculinity and femininity. I have always referred to myself as a painter, and that’s fine. But it does put me in a box already and I’m so young. In the Philippines I went Canyoneering––where you go through massive canyons and jump off waterfalls. Absolutely crazy experience. Jumping from places where you didn’t know what was at the bottom. The final jump was 17 metres, and I didn’t even think about it. The life jacket was my safety net, I was adamant that the life jacket would protect me. That whole moment had a massive impact on me. The rest of my travelling became less stressful. I look now in situations and think, what is my life jacket?
What depicts the profiles you represent in your work?
I recognise that I represent queer people in my work, and I recognise that I convey them as muscular. I also recognise that this is problematic because queer people are obviously more than just muscles, which reinforces stereotypes and body image issues. I focus on finding beautiful faces. As I embrace a more sexual side, I do try push more personal tastes for myself. And have come to realise, through travelling especially, that I have pushed my boundaries of a type so far. Racially, there is no discrimination. Which compared to my 18-year-old dating profile is a dramatic and positive leap forward.
Merging into Art Festival Season, have you got any exhibition work on the go?
I’ve got work coming up in FEAST, the queer festival, in November and in RAW late September. I’m looking at putting some pieces in an Indian exhibition as well. I have just been trying to paint––paint a lot. And from there curating from what I have.
Where does your confidence string from?
My confidence comes from my ability to get shit done. I always find a way to get it done and if I can’t… failure isn’t scary and missing a deadline or withdrawing from a project can be painful it’s not my funeral. When I look back at myself, at 18, or 21, or 25, and see how much I have changed, and how much I’ve grown, it makes me excited to change. More than being terrified.
Check out Danny and his work on
Instagram : @danny_jarratt
Etsy : www.etsy.com/au/shop/dannyjarratt
Words conducted by Rachael Sharman.
Images by Danny Jarratt.