Getting Mercenary with Lazer Fist November 12 2023


Lazer Fist (aka Ian Bartlett) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Cursed by the nostalgia of his childhood, he spends countless hours filling pages of sketchbooks with mutated humanoids and other strange creatures reminiscent of characters from the cartoons and movies he used to watch in the '80s.

Some of these sketches make it to canvas, but only after being scanned for further experimentation. He studied textile design in the UK and is an experienced apparel designer. Years of working in graphic design have pushed his paintings to become bolder and much simpler than previous work.

Ian's show Mercenaries opens on November 17.

Interview by Mel Parker. Images supplied by Lazer Fist.

Welcome back to our walls! Your upcoming show with us is called Mercenaries - what can our audience expect to see in this new body of work?

Thank you, I am very excited about the show, It’s been a long time since the last one.

I’ve always been a mixed media artist, tending to switch between the types of work I create and the mediums I use, but over the last few years I have focused on
illustrative pieces using acrylic paint only. Mercenaries will be a selection of work that is an example of that style, it’s a basically colourful collection of creepy portraits.

I hear you’re a fan of horror movies - any films in particular that you feel have had a formative influence on you? What is it about “bad horror” in particular that appeals?

Evil Dead 2 would have to be the all time favourite; there’s so much going on in that movie, it’s brutal but also hilarious and has some decent special effects.
It’s definitely one of the movies that’s stood the test of time. A lot of the horror movies of the '80s were ridiculously stupid and haven’t aged well, but they are still fun to watch.

The VHS cover art was often amazing, but sometimes a bit confusing. A movie called Chopping Mall has the cover image of a robotic hand holding a shopping bag full of human body parts, but nothing like that happens in the movie, which was quite disappointing.

What else influences your artistic practice? Do you find yourself coming back to any sources in particular for inspiration?

I think '80s movies in general, I always have something on in the background while I work in the studio, so many great films were made during that decade.

It was fun being a kid back then because everything was about ninjas, barbarians, cyborgs, malfunctioning robots and dystopian warfare, even the cartoons were like that and the toy companies tapped into it too, everything had to have oozing slime and eyeballs hanging out. It was great.

I got heavily into skateboarding during that time too, which opened me up to a whole new world of art and music, and there was so much to discover. I get very nostalgic about that time in my life and every now and then I’ll throw on an old skate video of that era and for some reason I get excited to make something.

Tell us about your creative background, and how you came to be known as Lazer Fist?

My parents definitely nurtured my artistic interests at an early age as they were also very creative people. At primary school, when it was raining, we had to stay inside at lunch and get the crayons out. My friends knew I could draw so they would ask me to sketch things and they would go off and colour them. It was always dinosaurs or skull & crossbones and It was great to see my friends' reactions when they saw what I’d drawn for them. It was a nice feeling that people got some joy from what I’d created and from that point I knew I wanted to do something artistic when I grew up.

The Lazer Fist name started as a joke really - a long time ago I found a weird old dice game at a second hand shop and it had this card with little images to cut out and use in the game. I took it home and scanned it into photoshop, I messed about putting a lightning bolt onto a clenched fist and thought it looked cool. I made some crappy homemade stickers and handed them out to my friends at work, everyone wanted one and again it was fun to see people getting excited about it, we called it the Lazer Fist. I started getting proper stickers made, 500 at a time and we’d just plaster them everywhere around town (usually pub toilets).

People had seen the Fist stickers around and asked if I was making any art. I got involved in a number of group shows and I’ve been painting under that name ever since.

Can you take us through your creative process a little? How do you approach setting up for a show like this?

Everything starts on paper; I can fill a sketchbook in a day with quick pencil sketches and most of the time I don’t even know what I’m going to draw, it just sort of happens. Sometimes if I have a theme in my head then I’ll approach my drawing with that in mind. I start scanning the ones I like the most and play around in Illustrator to work out colours.

As an apparel designer by trade, I work with storyboards and there is always a colour palette that gets used across the range. I do a similar thing with my art,
I usually start with the palette and work that into all the artwork that I want to use. Some things work, some things don’t, but it’s a fun exercise.

Colour is a good way to bring everything together and once I’m happy with each concept, I redraw them onto canvas and start painting.

Take us through an ideal day in the studio for you.

I have a home studio so it’s nice to just go out there whenever I have the chance. I work full time and have a family so It’s hard to get studio time some days. It might just be an hour, other days I’ll get four or five hours. Some days I’ll make a coffee and just sit out there, procrastinating, looking at old work, listening to music, contemplating what I should paint next. It’s all part of the process. I’ve always been a bit of a nighthawk so I’ll get out there when everyone else is in bed, I’ll open a bottle of wine, get a movie on and get stuck into some painting, I love it.

For any budding artists out there, what is the best piece of artistic advice you've been given? And do you have any words of wisdom of your own to share with us?

The best advice was probably from one of my tutors at art college and that was to experiment as much as possible, try lots of different mediums and have fun with it. It took me a while to work out which direction to take my art and what paint to use etc, but it all came together eventually.

The only thing I could suggest from my experience is just be original, it’s important to create your own style if you want to stand out a bit. I think people notice when someone’s work is truly unique and different.

What’s next on the horizon - any exciting projects you can share?

To be honest I’m just looking forward to completing some personal projects that have been put aside due to other commitments, my studio is full of half finished paintings so it would be good to get those out of the way. I’d really like to start doing some bigger pieces, maybe aiming to exhibit in a larger space, my work is relatively simple but I think blown up it would definitely have more impact.

Thanks for chatting with us! We're looking forward to Mercenaries - see you at the show!