PESKY’s latest exhibition NYC sees a shift in the artist’s street-based work, quite literally. Usually focused upon the streets of her Melbourne home, PESKY relocates her gaze towards the iconic streets of New York City. This expansive urban jungle is the site of inspiration for PESKY, whose ambitions for this exhibition were to provide a unique portrayal of the city – a place which is well documented and scrutinized by artists. In this aim, PESKY has been successful, a testament to the artist’s strong interpretive lens, NYC presents this vibrant metropolis as never seen before.
In this interview, PESKY sheds more light upon the inspiration and artistic vision that culminated in this remarkable body of work.
Your work is known for its architectural focus and its vibrant, confident use of colour. What draws you to these things and how are they significant to your work?
I have always been drawn to the simplicity of line and am fascinated by the natural abstraction found in the interplay between buildings and their surrounds – the shapes created between structural elements varies depending on the angle in which streetscapes are views and photographed.
When I’m creating a new print, I start from original photographs and re-work them with a design eye. The aim is to remove them from their base in photography and to develop them into something new. Colour, line and balance all play an important role in this process. The amount the colours are altered varies depending on the nature of the original photograph. Each image is different and requires different amounts of reworking.
In my other artistic practice I work as a children’s illustrator. The majority of my client work involves designing to an existing brief. I work digitally and a lot of my time is spent in Photoshop and Illustrator, designing and re-designing, tweaking little bits here and there. I enjoy the freshness and I have in my PESKY work. Working from photographs is an entirely different process. However, I do think there is an artistic sensibility that crosses over between the two when it comes to balance and colour.
Your work often gets associated with street art, with its literal focus of ‘the street’, but also because of its style, which is reminiscent of stencil art. What do you think of this comparison? Is it a comparison you with to evoke in your practice, or is it incidental?
I think the association may stem from the ephemeral nature of my work as wall as the actual technique. I don’t aim to depict street art in my images, however sometimes it does creep in! Likewise, I am not consciously trying to create images that look like stencil art, but I can see how it may be interpreted as such. I often focus on contrasting blocks of colour and strong simple variation between different areas within my images. I spent years as a graphic designer in the clothing industry and regularly designed prints to a limited colour palette for screen printing. So, there is a possibility that my previous career has affected my current artistic sensibility. I love that in my PESKY work, the colours are limitless.
What does the realm of digital printmaking offer your work that more traditional printmaking —screen printing in particular—does or doesn’t?
The detail that I can create with digital pigment printing is much broader than if I were to create my images with screens. The subtleties and nuances are more clearly defined – so the digital process is better suited to my needs than traditional print making methods.
You’ve hinted at your technical approach to printmaking already, can you elaborate? How do you create your prints?
Firstly I need the sun to be out before I shoot anything. This provides extra shadows and lines and shapes within the image. I then work on the images digitally, often altering the light, colour and reconfiguring the perspective of each image. I need the original photographs to be strong and clear with a large depth of field for the process to work effectively.
We’re used to seeing the streets of Melbourne in your work, but this latest body of work sees your gaze shift further afield to New York. Is there something significant in this geographical turn?
Architecturally, New York is superb. Scale-wise it’s a dinosaur in comparison to little mouse Melbourne! I thought it would be a fabulous opportunity for PESKY to move away from Melbourne for a while and explore.
New York has been depicted by such a huge number of photographers over the years and I really wanted to create my own fresh take on it. Consequently, there are a huge number of photographs that didn’t make the final cut. I took a number from the top of the Empire State Building, many of which I thought would be brilliant for PESKY, however, in the end, whilst they were fabulous records of a spectacular view at sunset, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it had all been done before.
The photographs that went on to become artworks for the upcoming May show are instead focussing on the four main elements that summed up New York for me – smoke in Manhattan, giant art deco buildings, fire escape staircases and gritty urban streetscapes.
How would you describe your work to somebody who hasn’t seen it?
Urban street-based, photo/illustrations with a design edge.
NYC runs from 23rd May – 7th June, 2017