SHAG - A Seat in the Kingdom 2017 February 03 2017
Southern Californian based painter, Josh Agle aka Shag is the master of a sharp, swinging, lounge aesthetic that embraces illustrative finesse, flat perspective, and the type of subtle humour that has become synonymous with the artist’s work. Shag's paintings are a celebration of consumerism through in inspired scenes of sophisticated party goers drinking cocktails in sublime surrounds, exclusive invitation and secret soirees. His works are visually influenced by the avant-garde animation of the early fifties and sixties, as well as generic advertising art of the same era.
Shag says of his work for 'A Seat in the Kingdom' , "Each painting in the upcoming Outré show is inspired by a specific mid-century designer. It’s a subject I’ve played around the edges with in the past, but I have never really paid tribute to the men and women who designed the furnishings that are an ever present fixture in my paintings. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the homes and studios of some of these people, like the American designers Charles and Ray Eames and the Australian designer Grant Featherston, and that is what spurred the idea behind this group of paintings."
This exhibition is a continued celebration of the artist's love and enthusiasm for all things mid-century from his 20 plus year art career.
We caught up with Josh Agle (aka Shag) in the lead up to his exhibition this March, 2017.
Recently you posted a painting featuring the beautiful, Francoise Hardy, what has drawn you to her as your muse in this work?
I was in Spain recently and a French DJ gave me a stack of 7” records, including a record by Francoise Hardy. i’d heard her in the past since I listen to a lot of French pop and chançons, but this made me pay more attention to her and I decided I wanted to paint her. I think French women are amongst the most beautiful in the world.
There has been much talk recently about empowering women, through their sexuality rather than the opposite, which can be said for some representations of 'Pin-up' girls in the past. In your work women are bold, and animalistic, what is your motive behind the way you portray women in your work?
I’ve tried to portray the women in any given image in my art as being in power . This probably stems from being an awkward teenager and feeling powerless around beautiful girls! When I started showing my art in galleries in the mid 1990s, there were a lot of other artists whose work could be seen as misogynist, as it was inspired by pin-up art or exploitation illustrations. They were painting as a reaction to feminism and early politically correct norms that mandated that a woman couldn’t be objectified or shown in a submissive state anymore. But that was something that didn’t interest me - the women I aspired to paint were strong and self-assured, and slightly aloof.
Known for your Mid 20th century modern scenes of strong, sexy women and dapper men at cocktail parties, what have you been focusing on in your work recently?
I think my principle focus of the past year or so has been an exploration of muted colour in my work, My paintings usually consist of bright colours contrasted with more bright colours, but I’m trying to contrast the bright colours I’m known for with muted and desaturated colours like brown and grey. You’ll see a bit of this in the paintings I’m creating for the Australia shows: bright tangerine and lime combined with greyish brown, or magenta and purple mixed with muddy brown.
What it is like working in your studio - could you describe it to us as if we were in your shoes for a moment?
My studio is a vaulted room with expansive windows that look over a valley. I start painting quite early in the morning - around 6:30 or so. I have the most creative energy in the morning, and that dwindles as the day progresses. I usually have a television on when I paint, rather than music, and I tend play documentary films or tv shows in the background as they tend to be based on narration and dialogue and I don’t have to keep my eyes on the TV. I don’t like painting in silence, and I go through periods where I listen to music, but right now I am watching documentaries when I paint.
How would you describe the work you will be exhibiting in your upcoming exhibition at Outré Gallery?
Each painting in the upcoming Outré show is inspired by a specific mid-century designer. It’s a subject I’ve played around the edges with in the past, but I have never really paid tribute to the men and women who designed the furnishings that are an ever present fixture in my paintings. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the homes and studios of some of these people, like the American designers Charles and Ray Eames and the Australian designer Grant Featherston, and that is what spurred the idea behind this group of paintings.
Are there certain themes or visual influences which you focus on in particular?
In each painting, a sitting or reclining woman is surrounded by beautiful things, possibly a pet, and there is a reference to whomever designed the chair or chaise that she is sitting on.
Could you describe one of the works in a bit more detail?
The painting inspired by Francoise Hardy is called “Båti Mon Nid,” which loosely translates to “Get into my nest.” It’s also a title of one of her songs. The painting envisions Francoise Hardy sitting in an Eames lounge chair (a chair she actually owned in the 1960s), nude and strumming a guitar. A white cat sits on the leather ottoman and looks at her. She is in a room full of furniture and objects, and on a credenza in the background is a black and white photo of two people standing close to each other, relaxed and happy. The people in the photo could be Charles and Ray Eames, who designed the chair she is sitting in. Or it could be a photo of two puppets she found at a flea market.
Your first exhibition in Australia was in 1999 - how many times have you visited all up?
I believe this is my tenth visit to exhibit in Australia! I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of the country during my visits, including the west coast and Uluru.
You have incorporated some Australian elements and themes into your works, could you tell us about what these elements and themes mean to you?
From the first time I visited Australia, I was drawn to the visuals and the way of life. I saw the optimism and exuberance that I also found in my home state of California, but it was combined with a heavy dose of British temperance. Years before I ever visited Australia, I had found a book about the Melbournian mid-century furniture designer Grant Featherston at a flea market. The book had his furniture set in 1950s Australian interiors. Both the designers and architects of 1950s and ‘60s Australia were virtually unknown in the US and I felt like I had a secret source of inspiration I could refer to. When I got to actually see the furniture and buildings in person, it solidified my admiration for that era in Australia.
The Palm Springs Pad you currently reside in has recently been refurbished, one can only imagine inside it would be a mirror image of the scenes in your paintings, would that be true?
My Palm Springs place, which is just a getaway for me and my family and not my principle residence, does have a heavy dose of Shag influence. I designed the wallpaper and some of the furniture, and put in a rock feature wall and hanging lamps like you’d see in one of my paintings. I also wanted a few fun surprises in the place, like a large birdcage full of artificial parrots and toucans over the dining table. The place is a bit over-the-top, but still comfortable enough that one can spend a weekend there and not feel overwhelmed by the decor.
Words by Nicola Mitchell.
Exhibition Opening Night Reception with the artist
Friday March 17th, from 6pm to 8pm
exhibition then runs until April 7th.
* book signing with Shag - Saturday 18th March 12-1pm
249 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Exhibition Opening Night Reception with the artist
Saturday, March 25th, from 4pm to 6pm
exhibition then runs until April 2nd.
* book signing with Shag - Sunday 26th March 12-1pm
Outré Gallery Pop-UP @ blank_space gallery
374 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010