Painting Songs with Liam Snootle May 27 2020

Liam Snootle is a Melbourne-based visual artist with a background in Mathematics and graffiti. Liam creates works that are a response to sound, or an aural experience via visual stimulus, and is interested in the interplay between shape and colour and how they resonate emotionally with the viewer. He is heavily influenced by East Coast American alternative music of the 80s and 90s. The artist's practice centres on painting and urban installation.

Interview by Jessica Steger. Photos supplied by Liam Snootle.

What inspires you to paint?

So many possible answers to that question: a place to hide, free drinks, undying need for social gratification, but fundamentally it’s about capturing a moment. Music is the number one influence on what I do and my paintings are a response to that. I’m just trying to capture that excitement you get from a really great song. I’ve always been a visual thinker and I process everything with shapes and colour, it just became a natural step to paint what’s been going on in my head.


You have a background in Mathematics. Does this play a part in your preliminary creative process and if so can you step us through it?

When people find out that I’m a maths teacher they naturally, and completely incorrectly, assume that my paintings are an extension of this. I’m just making paintings that create noise and energy. Maybe it’s more to do with my limited skill set that has the art looking like it does.

We are excited to have A Painting is a Song opening at Outré Fitzroy in June! Please tell us about your idea behind the show and what people can expect to see.

The title is something that has been floating around for a while now. I see parallels between a song and a painting and the legacy of each. I consider myself a frustrated songwriter but have satisfied that desire through art. The paintings in the show are all responses to the music that’s playing in the studio or in my head. The point of difference between these paintings and earlier work is that I’ve taken a lot more time crafting each piece, trying to replicate the songwriting process as far as structure and melody. This approach has allowed me to make work that I’m really satisfied with, work that really captures that sound I’m trying to convey.

Which artists have had the most impact on you and your work?

A combination of great post-war artists. Ellsworth Kelly and Bridget Riley spring to mind, combined with those contemporary artists that I equate to the rock stars of my younger years. You know that feeling you got when you first saw Henry Rollins or Iggy or Kurt and knew they were likely to punch you in the face if you looked at them the wrong way? I really dig that. Guys like She-One, Jerry Inscoe, Raymond Pettibon, O-Two and Christopher Wool. I really see artists as rock stars. That ethos, I guess, has influenced the whole show. A Painting Is A Song might be my yearning for an excitement in music that is getting harder to find now that my taste in music has been classified as 'dad rock'.

Tell us a little about your background in graffiti, and in what ways it has influenced your style?

I was really proud of my tag back in school: it was this abstract geometric take on my name and I’m so proud that thirty years later I wouldn’t change it. I didn't use it it too much back then but my love of graffiti stuck. About 10 years ago, I started cutting shapes out of wood and sticking them up on the streets. I was never going to be a spray-can master and that forced my hand to create work at home and then take it out to get it up.

What do you find is the most challenging part of creating a painting?

The work has to be so precise and accurate that going ‘off script’, despite being really appealing, just can’t occur.  I’ve definitely thrown out more paintings than I’ve finished because of some mismatched angle or the colours weren’t spot on. I do, however, romanticise about a future where I don’t need rulers or protractors.

What types of changes, if any, have you made to your current art practice during isolation?

I foolishly assumed that when the restrictions were implemented that I was going to be afforded all this extra time and be able to really dedicate a greater amount of time to painting. Not so. I’m teaching remotely and to say that this has been a steep learning curve is an understatement. I’m saving a couple of hours every day with no commute but I’m losing more than that with preparation for classes. The great thing is being home with the family. Little George is 3 and he makes me laugh all day long.

A Painting Is A Song by Liam Snootle
Outré Gallery Fitzroy
Opening 5 June 2020
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