In the studio with Christian Palmer

British born artist and now Byron Shire local, Christian Palmer has an established fine art background that was swept up by the urban street art movement. His work encapsulates unrestricted communication and aims to cast an unusual perspective on the human condition. Christian is renowned for his edgy, misfit animals that he breathes life and character into with a unique ability to highlight the appeal of idiomatic expressions in animals. He resonates with his viewers through the clever use of synchronistic and often humorous words delivered in child-like graffiti style phrases that embody the emotion of the situation. Christian has received widespread international acclaim with shows in the UK, Europe & Australia where his works have hung alongside the likes of Banksy, Blu and Paul Insect.

“I like to choose animals that have an edge about them, animals that are representative of an outsider” Christian Palmer."

Animals are clearly a strong inspiration behind your work, what is it that draws you to painting them?

It wasn’t always that way as I mentioned but the day I had to prematurely end my dog’s life changed the course of my work. I was finding it really hard to process grief, loss, guilt and heart ache. Painting a portrait of my dog was so cathartic it allowed me to fully experience those primal emotions without trying to bury them and from there it just exploded…domestic, agricultural, wild, feral, mongrel, but always dipping into that well of distilled emotion and exploring different perspectives on the human condition.

We love your use of lyrics to tell the story of the subject, how do you find the words that best fit the piece? 

Music is so emotive and nostalgic and has always played a part in my studio experience  and I’ve been jotting down lyrics in notebooks and sketchbooks for a long time but for many years I had a block about mixing image and words on canvas until I did a fundraising project with my daughter’s preschool class. I felt the childrens’ naivety and honesty , and having no filter, no pretence was embodied in their primitive letter formations. Once I appropriated this and used it to scrawl the message onto the canvas I found it took on those qualities and had a disarming effect making the words more palatable and the work less earnest. How I choose the lyric or whether the lyric presents itself is a synchronistic thing. There is no method. It could be the catalyst for a piece or an afterthought or never make it off the page of my sketch book.

Where do you find you feel the most creative?

Living here it’s hard not to be creative. I love being local, meeting clients, and collaborating with local businesses. I’ve been working in the same space for 12 years now and it has had its own journey starting as an open shed/ workshop, throwing up some walls and recycled windows and doors with a leaking tin roof which doubled as a Native American sweat lodge in the summer. It was a little rough around the edges to say the least but it earned its stripes and facilitated a huge body of work so its got its rewards and it is a lot more comfortable these days. It's my favourite place to be. My Studio.

Do you have a particular subject you enjoy painting the most? If so, can you tell us a bit more about them?   

It all started with one dog and dogs have been core to the whole body of work that came after. I just think they are so well place to observe human nature. I’ve also had the privilege of being entrusted to depict many departed fury family members and know just how much they mean to humans. It is really quite a special bond. Then there are Elephants. For me they embody history, knowledge, and wisdom. Amongst other conservation groups and animal charities I have worked with I teamed up with ‘Let Elephants be Elephants’ fighting to educate the Asian market against the devastating effects of the ivory trade during my Singapore exhibition. 

What are you working on at the moment?

Elephants. Another thing I love about Elephants is scale and the opportunity to work big but also the chance to get really intricate with my textural subterranean layers. I’ve just started a triptych for my tribe of elephants which measures 150x360cm. It’s still not big enough. On a smaller scale and due to the lack of exhibition opportunities in the last two covid-ridden years I have, for the first time developed a series of limited edition prints from my fine art portfolio creating an entry level price point for my work which can enhance those smaller spaces in the home environment and make my work accessible to more people.

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