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IV – Esao Andrews | Dan Quintana | Miso | Elizabeth McGrath

IV - Dan Quintana

beinArt Gallery is proud to present IV, a group exhibition featuring internationally renowned Esao Andrews, Dan Quintana, Miso & Elizabeth McGrath. All four artists work together out of an historic building called The Canadian in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles, and while they are highly divergent in style, subject matter and media, they share similar challenges, goals and ideas.

For an early ONLINE CATALOGUE, join our mailing list.

WHEN: Opens Saturday, August 26, 6pm – 9pm. FREE ENTRY! Exhibition runs until September 17.

Complimentary wine will be available at the opening. For those wanting a non-alcoholic option, we will also have drinks provided by Remedy Kombucha.

Check out the Facebook event page

Our lovely neighbours at Arbor will be launching a new range of one off pieces by 16 Australian Jewellers on August 26 as well!

Esao Andrews

Esao Andrews finishing a couple of paintings for “IV”

Esao Andrews (United States) was born in 1978. He grew up in Mesa, Arizona, moved to New York in 1996, and is currently based in Los Angeles, California. In 2000, he received a BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts and participated in the 2002 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Andrews’ paintings have been exhibited internationally. He has also worked as a flash animator and illustrator. His illustration work has included Baker skateboards, a collaboration project with fellow artist Tara McPherson for DC Comics, album artwork for several bands including Circa Survive, and cover work for the House of Mystery series published by Vertigo Comics.

Dan Quintana

Oil painting by Dan Quintana for “IV”

Dan Quintana (United States) is a talented and imaginative painter from Los Angeles, CA. Quintana’s surrealistic paintings are filled with vivid and eerie symbolism. His dreamy visions are beautifully executed in a way that is reminiscent of the great Dutch and Flemish masters. These exquisitely rendered paintings seem to speak to both the hostility and vulnerability of humanity simultaneously.


Miso finishing a miniature painting for “IV”

Miso’s (United States) work is presented through a variety of mediums including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and etchings. Her art is often stimulated by her interpretation of the known and her experimentation with the unknown. Fascinated with biology, pathology and the science of evolution, Miso has sought to fabricate a world in which strange creatures, born of her making, exist and thrive among us. These homunculi are organic representations of the term that provides her name. A Miso is an organic representation of an, or many existing organisms, such as fungus, plants, insects, animals, or microorganisms. Miso is a graduate with a BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She currently works and resides in Los Angeles, California, and creates fine art photography under her given name, Karen Hsiao.

Elizabeth Mcgrath

“Universe 25” (left) & “Snail Bats” (right) – Mixed media sculptures by Elizabeth McGrath

Elizabeth McGrath (United States) has always had an eye for the tortured beauty in the grotesqueries of life; this appreciation is nowhere more evident than in her work. Haunted by a troubled childhood of religious cult imprisonment, she found an outlet to vent her anger in the early 90’s fronting the hardcore punk Band Tongue and co-founding Censor this, a quarterly counter culture art and music fanzine. Along with hustling odd art jobs, these endeavors landed her a life changing internship with animation director Fred Stuhr and onto the doorsteps of the Lowbrow art scene, a scene that naturally interacted with underground music, often sharing the same venues.  Experimenting with a variety of materials she has developed a unique style that is collected and exhibited world wide. In 2004 she joined the goth country band Miss Derringer, touring worldwide with bands including Blondie, Reverend Horton Heat, Girl In A Coma and Cracker.

PHONE+61 3 9939 3681

CONTACT US for enquiries.

WHEREbeinArt Gallery | 1 Sparta Place | Brunswick | VIC 3056 | Australia

Interview with Hannah Yata

Hannah Yata

Hannah Yata painting in her studio

Hannah Yata weaves nature, feminine imagery, and other elements into pieces that can both soothe and challenge: while her paintings are beautiful, often with a candy color palette, they also confront us with complex perspectives on humans and their world. Sometimes wry and sometimes shocking, Yata’s work is invariably arresting.

“I think an image that arrests us, takes hold of our mind long after we have left its presence, and causes us to look at something deep within ourselves trying to search for the meaning—I think that is magic, and that’s the kind of magic that can make a difference in the world.” —Hannah Yata


Hannah Faith Yata

Eden – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

Julie Winters: What started you on the path to creating art?

Hannah Yata: I think it started as a search. I had always dabbled with art making as a child and adolescent, making comics, drawing little animals and looking at the paintings in bible study books. As I grew up, I met a lot of obstacles, and making art was the biggest thing I turned to for solace. When I began to study art in college and work with oils, that’s when a passion turned into an obsession.

Hannah Yata - Unrepentant Susanna

Unrepentant Susanna – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Your bio on your website notes that you studied psychology and feminism alongside art in college.  It’s clear that psychology and women feature heavily in your work, and I imagine that your studies in college were at least a beginning in weaving these things together. But was there a time that you considered a non-artistic path pursuing either of those subject areas?

HY: Yes, for a while I gravitated more to the rational idea of being coming a doctor of some kind—particularly psychology. However, my propensity for memorising facts and regurgitating a lot of information wasn’t something I was inclined to with a subject that tended to discuss a lot of dry material. I realised quickly I just wanted to create visually and psychologically liberating work and that I could do my studying, reading and writing on the side.

Hannah Faith Yata

Left: Honey, Right: Gentle – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Tell us about how your work evolved to explore the natural world as well as the status of women.

HY: I had felt it in my early years becoming a woman. I saw myself through other people’s eyes, judging other women by those “other” eyes, too. Glamour magazines showed us how we should look: tempting, wanting, hot, sexual, untouchable, and mostly all of the above: the Madonna/whore. It entrenched itself into my psyche, and I began to hate my body, hate my clothes and hate everything that couldn’t give me the security that I needed as a young girl.

Then I took a class, an art history class, that discussed the course of history and how women’s bodies had been portrayed and the psychology behind it. I was hooked. I kept looking; I needed to hear the truth. Then I found Eve Ensler. I think her compassion for other women caught me off guard in a way that I had never encountered. I pored through her books and tried to find her talks on the Internet. When I found her stories about her fight with cancer and how the years of traveling, testimonies from other women, her battle with her self-image destroyed her body, it broke the idea that had been knocking at the door of my consciousness for a while: the body of the woman was an extension of the earth.

Control meant to keep [a woman] preoccupied with her body, to use the people that surrounded her to shame her if she went out of line. It wasn’t just men; it was other women, too. Women were shamed by men and women alike for not conforming to ideas of beauty or tradition. The woman was cut and manicured, she was altered and packaged for consumption. Likewise, the landscapes bulldozed, mountains flattened, and forests leveled to for us to find the materials we needed for our machine. Nature was to serve humans, as women were to please others.

"Daughters" - Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

Daughters – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Do you feel that these simultaneous themes point to an overarching theme?

HY: I’m under the impression that humans keep looking for spirituality for a reason. They find themselves vulnerable to religion, ideology, gurus and shamans to lead them to enlightenment or a closer relationship with a god. Maybe this is the conspiracy of it all, that instead of looking up for god, “god” was beneath our feet and all around us. She was hiding; they were hiding—in the forests, trees, rocks, water and air. It’s birth and death, magic and mystery, connection and disconnection. I get the sense that it starts to point to our existence as crazy blundering children in the midst of an ancient world.

Hannah Yata - Cacophony

Cacophony – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: How has your thinking about the topics depicted in your paintings changed, if at all, as you’ve examined them through your art?

HY: I think they’ve changed in certain ways. Maybe subtle ways, and maybe it’s just my attitude. I think before I was more focused on the woman and her appearance and place and society as it related to man. Now, I feel like I’m slowly finding the language of nature, the feminine, and peering into the concept of what it means to be wild and the energy that exemplifies that force.

Hannah Yata - Fire Child

Fire Child – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: The use of masks in your paintings is compelling; the masks seem to both depersonify the women and humanise the animals. Would you say that there is an element of humanity hiding from itself in your work?

HY: The mask is a simple idea, probably used since humans came together thousands of years ago. I think its root run deep: it speaks to our subconsciousness; it allows us to become something else for a little while. It lets us step into the shoes of another being, whether that be deity or demon—maybe even what some would call the shadow self.  The freedom that’s felt behind the mask is a wild, primal one. It touches at the heart at what we feel is behind and around us—that something of an “otherness,” perhaps the invariable flicker of madness that is alive within us all.

Hannah Yata - Sublime Madness

Sublime Madness – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: In an interview with buzzworthy, you said that your greatest dream is to make a difference and to make a masterpiece. Do you see art as a vehicle for making a difference through the ideas you’re trying to communicate?

HY: I do. I think art has its power, and that’s in the image. When we think, we think in pictures and stories, not so much in words or symbols. I think an image that arrests us, takes hold of our mind long after we have left its presence, and causes us to look at something deep within ourselves trying to search for the meaning—I think that is magic, and that’s the kind of magic that can make a difference in the world.

Hannah Yata - Bloom

Bloom – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: I know you like to leave the interpretations of the pieces up to the viewers, but do you feel you know the whole story of a painting before you begin it, or does it reveal itself to you during its creation?

HY: That’s a great question, and sometimes it varies. I used to come up with a whole story before I did my pieces but quickly realised I was suffocating my creative freedom by doing so. The more I painted, the more I trusted my intuition and the flickers of images that would reoccur in my mind. It frequently happens that I see something and feel like I’m chasing a ghost of fragments and symbolism trying to figure out what an image was telling me. As I look back on the paintings I’ve created in the past 5 to 6 years, I can see something that was fighting to emerge. Before I could say it was a lot of personal stuff, but now I’m under the impression I feel more like an observer to something bigger.

Hannah Yata - Aether

Aether – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Some elements, such as butterflies, recur in several pieces. How do you decide what elements to incorporate into a piece?

HY: It’s pretty hard to figure out what a piece needs, but I guess that’s why they tend to take so long.  So if you consider pieces like Daughters, The Moors and The Donner Party, for example, they all have butterflies in them. Daughters is heavier and darker in subject matter, talking about the mutilation and death of women and elephants. The Chalkhill Blue butterflies were chosen because of their mystical wispy appearance along with the idea that the figures are going through some sort of transition. With The Moors, a bit of an older piece, the monarchs were not only there as an aesthetic choice but could also be talked about in terms of genetic memory and the willpower of something so fragile. In The Donner Party, butterflies are incorporated to point to food sources around while the flock of birds has decided to attack each other.

Hannah Yata - The Insanity Defense-2

The Insanity Defense – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: I was excited to learn that you’d had an internship with Martin Wittfooth—he’s one of my favourite painters—and Adam Miller. How did that come about, and what was the most valuable thing you carried from your time with them?

HY: Yes, they are both amazing artists!

I found Martin online when I was in college in 2011. I had begged my teachers to tell me how he was able to paint like he did, and they said, “Go ask him for an internship.” So I asked, he accepted, and [he] introduced me to Adam Miller since Adam also needed some help around the studio.

The most valuable lesson they taught me was vision and persistence. It wasn’t explicitly said, but I could see it every day I went to help Martin or Adam. They were smart, passionate and loved what they did, and you could feel it.

Hannah Yata - Polymorphous

Polymorphous – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: You have spoken in interviews about the dangers of trying to please others when making art. How do you balance the need to market and sell with the need to listen to your own voice?

HY: I think when I used to have another job to support me, that helped me find my voice and lose my fear of whether or not I would make money. I was surprised when my fish-headed women got so much attention, but I didn’t want to stop there. I knew there was more beneath it, so I keep digging and keep trying to find the meat of the matter. When I quit my full-time job, I balanced the work that I feel compelled to do with commissions. I don’t tend to take many commissions, but they are usually what I would call “safe:” something based on what I’ve done already and isn’t super challenging. When I approach of a body of work I make for myself, the last thing I worry about is “is it going to sell?” So between the two, I try to keep them separate but balanced.

Hannah Yata

Left: Diaphonia, Right: Harvest – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Do you have any thoughts about the use of social media as a tool for both promoting and accessing art—the positives as well as any pitfalls?

HY: I see the pattern of many artists that get attention for one thing and then they become terrified of expounding on that vision for fear of losing their audience. I believe the Internet is a powerful thing: for the first time in history we almost have no excuse not to put our stuff out there and try to be our own boss. I think the goal is not to get too wrapped up in the numbers and the attention that it becomes an addiction that distracts you from making your best work.

JW: What might a viewer be surprised to learn about you as an artist?

HY: They might be suprised how much I actually work!

Hannah Yata - Do Not Resuscitate

Do Not Resuscitate – Oil on canvas by Hannah Yata

JW: Is there anything you’d like to tell our readers about what’s coming up on the horizon for you, e.g., any new shows or themes you’re working on?

HY: I’m working a two-person show [at Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ] with my husband [Jean Pierre Arboleda] this fall about the origins of Christianity/religion and the mushroom. Jean Pierre’s work tends to be sweeter and mine a little more disconcerting, but I can see we are feeding off each other’s energy, so from the paintings we’ve already put together, I know it’s going to be a lot of fun!

Solo show-wise, I’m grappling some larger paintings/themes that I’m trying to work out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to unveil some of them by April of next year.

Hannah Yata - The Confidante

The Confidante – Oil on Canvas by Hannah Yata

Interview With Chris Leib

Chris Leib

Drawing God with a Crayon – Oil on board by Chris Leib

Chris Leib is an American fine-artist and graduate of anthropology, renowned for his iconography of Bonobo chimps and astronauts and cosmonauts, often juxtaposed, with exquisite technique and scrupulous attention to detail. Transcending whimsy, his paintings are laden with meaning and intellectual contemplation. Chris’ work explores themes of heroism, human endeavour and the sensitivity of human hopes and ambitions to possible realities of science-fact. His work challenges us to contemplate a collision of science-fiction, reality and religion, this three-car pile-up viewed from the vantage point of our evolutionary ancestors who have quietly continued to evolve themselves.

“Our own position in the evolutionary scheme is potentially precarious, especially if our actions are petulant and impulsive. The Bonobo in these scenes feels like she is reigning in the little space child, trying perhaps to preserve the path started long ago by their common ancestor.” —Chris Leib


Chris Leib - Trinity

Trinity – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

Luke Barrett: Chris, there’s one question I’ve been dying to ask you for a long time, so I’m just going to come right out and hit you with it, straight off the bat: what’s with all the Bonobo chimps?  Are you just really passionate about chimpanzees? Is this body of work the equivalent of your own private Gorillas In the Mist?  Or have you chosen the Bonobo for something else which they represent?

Chris Leib: Ha! Less Fossey, more Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan … or maybe I should say, Grey*brush*stroke … [gestures hitting a snare drum with a paint brush]

Chris Leib - Grey Skies

Grey Skies – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: Ha! I’m going to take that as a reference to Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist… but just in case, I’m going to keep my Fossie Bear antics to a minimum from here on! And perhaps we can pass over the loin cloth thing (and when I say, ‘pass over’, I mean ‘skip’, not ‘hand over’). Wocka wocka. Seriously though, tell me more about the Bonobos.

CL: At one point in a series I was doing called Sabotaging Eden, I thought to paint a pieta theme of an astronaut holding a Bonobo. After some sketches it turned into a Madonna and Child theme, with the Bonobo holding a baby astronaut. The metaphor really stuck, as it had many levels and it touched me on a very personal level that I didn’t understand at the time. When I was a child there was a pet supply store near where I grew up that kept a Bonobo in a tiny cage. He sat and rocked neurotically all day long, distressed to the point of madness. I wanted to let that poor guy out, I was furious. The adults ignored my requests, it seemed pointlessly cruel. I’m sure my interest in apes began then, and eventually I studied anthropology in college.

Chris Leib - Reach Out and Touch Face

Reach Out and Touch Face – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

In Western history, apes were basically seen as degenerate humans or deformed humans – products of sin. They were portrayed as mischievous and imitating the less graceful human behaviors. This past representation still persists, but today they are also seen as representing one end of our evolutionary trajectory. Artistically, this portrayal is very useful when contrasted with technologically advanced humans.

Far from primal humans, Bonobos have evolved parallel to us, they are fully equipped for their environments.  I initially introduced the Bonobos to mimic and ‘misrepresent’ moments in Western history, knowing of course that they will be viewed as one end of an evolutionary spectrum. But rather than portray them in a mischievous bacchanalian role, I flipped that narrative, portraying them as wise and mature.

Chris Leib - Mind Field

Mind Field – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: Another recurring icon or symbol in your work is that of the astronaut or cosmonaut. If I can ask you a similar question to what I asked about Bonobos: does this simply reflect an interest of yours or perhaps even a childhood dream, or have you chosen astronauts and cosmonauts for some deeper, symbolic purpose?

CL: I was lucky enough to see the tail end of the Apollo launch programs, that and Star Trek were big events at our house.

The astronaut and cosmonaut represent our civilization’s highest aspirations and achievements. They were irreproachable modern heroes. Initially I thought to place the spacemen in historic settings, acting as provocateurs to influence events, sowing chaos that was hidden by humorous antics, their maligned actions and appearance contrasting their heroic status. I started with Eden, the mythical birthplace of Western culture. It sort of stuck and grew from there. Once I introduced the Bonobos, the space hero took a diminutive infantile form. Though still mischievous, the space hero’s provocations were impulsive rather than planned.

Chris Leib - Bonobo With Astrochild

Bonobo With Astrochild – Oil on board by Chris Leib

LB: I have noticed that you tend to be quite particular in describing these characters as being “astronauts” and “cosmonauts”.  Is that just an exercise in post Cold War diplomacy, or are you deliberately introducing some ambiguity about their point of origin? Or perhaps you are making a statement about how irrelevant international boundaries are – or should be – when it comes to great human pursuits, like space exploration?

CL: The latter. Space explorers are universal heroes, their aspirations extend beyond national boundaries. The Apollo moon landings were celebrated around the globe. Most cultures have looked to the heavens and wondered. The heavens capture our imaginations. When you think about it, the notion of a hero relies on our imagination. What makes astronauts and cosmonauts such powerful heroic symbols is that they explore at the boundaries of possibilities.

Chris Leib - Pistol Pump funk

Pistol Pump funk – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

The converse of that possibility is also powerful. What if there is a limit, an economic or technological governor, that makes it impossible for any species to leave solar systems? When you let that possibility sink in, that no life in the universe has ever in billions of years left their solar systems… That the necessary advancements to achieve interstellar travel would end up devastating a species in the process … that thought is sort of debilitating. After all, we humans have always operated on Icarian impulses. Even though it’s nothing we would see in our lifetime, if we knew that was the case, would that change everything for us?

In it’s incubation, Sci-fi imagined a higher destiny for the species. It is the quasi religious wing in the time and rise of science. So much of that fiction over the last 40 years has hedged towards dystopia. This pursuit to explore is a human trait, beyond artificial boundaries, but we are at a place with our collective imagination where exploration is focused on various paths of avoiding human demise.

Chris Leib - Bonobo Astronomica

Bonobo Astronomica – Oil on board by Chris Leib

LB: Earlier on you mentioned the pieta and Madonna and Child theme from your Sabotaging Eden body of work. Your astronauts, cosmonauts and Bonobos cross paths quite often, with the Bonobo generally in a position of dominance or influence.  What are your thoughts on the relationship between your astronauts, cosmonauts and Bonobos?  And why are the astronauts and cosmonauts child-like in scale?

CL: The diminutive astronauts originated as a form of Christ child or space-age Savior symbol, held by the mother, the primal mother, Bonobo. It was based upon Madonna Child imagery of the early renaissance. The primal versus the civilized, Dionysian versus Apollonian, are conjured up in the juxtaposition, but reversed in the characterization. The astronauts are diminutive and infantile, prone to tantrum. They are held, comforted, parented by the ‘primitive’ Bonobos. I wanted to flip the expected relationship, having the Bonobos appear as dominant and civilizing, the astronauts as infantile. Our own position in the evolutionary scheme is potentially precarious, especially if our actions are petulant and impulsive. The Bonobo in these scenes feels like she is reigning in the little space child, trying perhaps to preserve the path started long ago by their common ancestor.

Chris Leib - Parniscus Pieta

Parniscus Pieta – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: If you had to make a cinematic analogy to the themes in this body of work, would you reference the apes and David Bowman’s astronaut character from Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or perhaps a Planet of the Apes type paradigm?  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the apes and the astronaut are at the opposite ends of an incomplete evolutionary spectrum; whereas in Planet of the Apes they represent parallel or alternate evolutionary possibilities, and in the sequels the apes become astronauts themselves. Or have I taken an interpretative wrong turn and ended up in tangent-city?

CL: It would probably fall more in line with Kubrick’s 2001. I don’t want to go near the time travel loop complications of Planet of the Apes! Both movies were a large influence growing up… but I’m not specifically commenting on either film. The star child parallels were unintended but quickly apparent after my first painting of the Bonobo with Space Baby.

I’m interested in how science fiction parallels the political atmosphere of it’s times. Godzilla follows Hiroshima, Monsters are Due on Maple Street follows the McCarthy era, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead follows the Civil Rights Movement, his sequels follow the Consumerism gone mad of the 80s, and so on. There’s been a lot of dystopian sci-fi since the 70s. Dystopian fiction assumes a posture of warning, of a need for prevention… by it’s very presentation, it is tied to hope. We have arrived at the murky ground where these worlds of fiction and reality conflate and blur. In my life, we’ve gone from 3 channels on black and white TVs to self-driving cars, robotics, drones, environmental disasters, and all the conjurations of fictional corporate states on the horizon. To me, an American, the self-driving car is in many ways the capstone of the creeping movement of dystopian visions that the most prophetic writers of science fiction speculated on decades ago. So, from here on, is science fiction a dead genre, or is it the new naturalism?

Chris Leib - Cloud 9

Cloud 9 – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: With science fiction and reality conflating, what implications does this have for religion, because I have detected some religious symbology in this body of work? We have already touched on the Madonna and Child imagery in your work, and your last exhibition at BeinArt Gallery included a painting of a Bonobo cradling an astronaut holding a crayon-drawing of God; and you have just completed a painting for the upcoming group show at Beinart Gallery of a Bonobo cherub with angel wings.  Are you calling out the tension between the Genesis creation story and Darwinian evolution? Or perhaps you are even offering a reconciliation of the two – because if they were both to be true, and if a maker created life in their own image, that would certainly explain the presence of hirsute angels!  No doubt your background in anthropology would put you in an informed position to make an artistic statement about the emergence of creation myths in different societies and cultures, which is possibly an extremely human propensity that we may or (more probably) may not share with Bonobos.

CL: I’m certainly making light of the idea of a creation in a maker’s image, giving a wink and nod to evolution. Imagine you got to heaven and… ‘Grape Ape!’

Literal interpretations of creation and other folklore are doomed for failure or require heavy costs to prop up. These tales are cultural building blocks. Forms of the Genesis story are preceded in other myths, for example, Gilgamesh. And setting aside neo-platonic explanations, which might be revived soon enough given today’s climate, these stories are reflections of our psyche and collective histories. One view is that Genesis can be looked at as a sort of nostalgia for cave dwelling times: a story of innocence before humans left the warmth and security of the cave, embarking on the unknown project of agriculture and civilization.

The cross-culture parallels in tales should make it clear that they are outside the property of any one religion, that such stories are not fact but folklore. New myths continue to be made, churned out in similar formulas. Even without organized pantheons to worship, we humans would create our own, reflections of our cultures. Look at the rise of comic book superheroes post the second world war. In an age of science, these are basically new saints. They have creation stories, many birthed from science rather than spiritual events. The heroes have special powers, like the miracles of saints. They protect the weak who reach out to them for help. Sometimes their motives are to redeem themselves in the eyes of society. Storytelling defines the human species. It is important to our cultures and our self-conception.

Chris Leib Cherub

Cherub – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: The other piece you have created for the group show at BeinArt Gallery is called Reward Compliance: here we see a lone Bonobo as a traveller through space, or perhaps through time, or both.  Is this intended to be an evolutionary synthesis or merger of the themes that we have been discussing? For me, it is as if the astronaut and Bonobo are finally revealed as one, or as one continuation of a shared evolutionary spectrum: freed of the artificial dichotomy, the spacesuit can be shed, revealing its true identity.

CL: I conceived it as the primal space traveller, both a celestial and neurological mastermind.  He is both in the mind and outside the universe, but unknown to us, pulling the levers in a sort of pavlovian lab, offering carrot and sticks, demanding compliance and offering rewards. In the background there is a tunnel of complex supports and structure that led to this ‘control’ station.  As I painted it I never determined if that complex path was the labyrinth of a space ship or a metaphor for the brain. But I did see the creature as an ancestral god, so deep in the maze of the psyche that he is forgotten.

Chris Leib Reward Compliance

Reward Compliance – Oil on board by Chris Leib

LB: The Bonobo in Reward Compliance is not like other Bonobos, however – this Bonobo only has one eye. Is this a reference to Norse Mythology?  According to Norse mythology, Odin sacrificed one of his eyes in exchange for gaining cosmic knowledge and wisdom.  Or perhaps you are channeling the cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey, hinting at some obstacle in an attempt to return home – perhaps our original home, a Garden of Eden? Because we know Eden was a previous body of work for you.

CL: I was initially thinking of Odin, as this was the creature in control, the top dog. But this character is more cycloptic, the eye above the nose, as in some portrayals of the Greek cyclops. But the cyclops can also be seen in that light, one of cosmic power at least. They helped Zeus obtain power, forging his lightning bolts, so in a way they were a source of cosmic power. The original cyclops were builders and craftsmen to the gods. I use this reference a fair amount. In the painting Thoroughbred, for example. It’s a painting of a purple skinned, blue haired ape, another character in the simian pantheon, that has two colored eyes. The lighter one being blind.

The one eyed creature translates a 3D world into 2D, into graphic form. While such a creature can’t catch a baseball very well, they are positioned to step back from the 3D world, they have to analyze the world in order to operate in that environment.  The single eye translates and maps the world. That is their power. The monocular position, a vantage point of special knowledge… that emanates and is absorbed by a single point and perspective. It’s a form used in cult and conspiracy related symbolism. In this case I thought that since this being was perhaps in the mind, he might in a sense be the ‘minds eye’.

Thoroughbred – Oil on board by Chris Leib

LB: I couldn’t help but notice that the one-eyed Bonobo has six fingers.  Is this another homage to Darwinian evolution and adaptation? For a one-eyed Bonobo to survive in the world, having to translate three dimensions into two dimensions, as you were saying, it would need to adapt and an additional finger might just give it that edge that it needs to survive!

CL: Great observation! I didn’t specifically think of it that way. I wanted it to be viewed as an ape whose status is otherworldly. The sixth finger had a playful appeal, like a child’s drawing that adds an extra finger. One thought was that since this creature would be dealing with so many buttons and levers, that it made sense he would have an extra finger to handle all that. So yes, in that way, it was an adaption!

Chris Leib - When The Chimp Comes Around

When The Chimp Comes Around – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: That’s the second time you’ve made the ‘child-like’ point. The child-like extra finger, and the child-like crayon drawing of God. Is that just a coincidence, or is there something about a ‘child’s eye’ view of the world that you feel drawn to?’

CL: The sixth finger reminded me of small, often unnoticed, additions or subtractions of appendages that one finds in children’s drawings. I liked that it was a distinguishing trait, but something that wouldn’t necessarily be seen right away.

The stick figure in Drawing God with a Crayon was obviously purposeful, it can be seen different ways… conceived as an abstraction, the idea of it as conceived in our image, the absurdity of our attempt to grasp the infinite. Perhaps the Bonobo looks up in resignation at human self-flattery to conceive God as standing upright? Or perhaps at the futility of our attempt?

Bonobo Baby – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

LB: Thank you for sharing so many insights about your new pieces, Chris. I sense you have been pretty busy in the studio lately – before we part ways, are you able to give us any hints about what you might have in the pipeline?

CL: I have new works in several group shows: the Small Works show just opened at beinArt Gallery. There’s a group show Flower Child at Modern Eden in San Francisco, and If Our Days Won’t Last at Distinction Gallery, curated by Jon Jaylo in the Fall. Then I’ll being moving studios and taking a few months to concentrate on larger paintings in preparation for 2018 and 2019.

Chris Leib - Mind Games

Mind Games – Oil on panel by Chris Leib

Online Catalogue: Small Works 2017

The catalogue for Small Works 2017 is now online! Click the image above to preview all of the works in this wonderful exhibition. Payment plans and discounted world-wide shipping rates are available.

Small Works 2017 – Group Show With Over 60 Artists!

Small Works 2017 - Johnson Tsang

beinArt Gallery is excited to announce Small Works 2017, the second instalment of our now annual group exhibition, with over 60 participating artists! And this year we are going green! We are donating 5% from each purchase to charity, carbon offsetting all shipping & serving local organic wine at the opening. We aim to make this our most earth-friendly exhibit ever.


Matthew Grabelsky

New oil painting by Matthew Grabelsky (WIP)

Small pieces provide an excellent opportunity to obtain work from some of your favorite artists. The exhibition includes more than 60 artists, so while there is a limit to the size of the pieces (10″ x 10″ or 25.4 x 25.4 cm), there is no limit to the imagination that will be on display.

While you’re enhancing your world by adding to your art collection, you’ll be making a difference to the world we all share: 5% of sales from this show will be donated to Australia’s Climate Council, who provide authoritative, expert advice to the public on climate change.

WHEN: Opens Saturday, July 29, 5 pm – 10 pm. FREE ENTRY! Exhibition runs until August 20.

Miles Johnston

“Well” – New pencil drawing by Miles Johnston

ARTISTS: Shaun Tan, Tiffany Bozic, Julia Deville, Henrik Uldalen, David Stoupakis, Jana Brike, Naoto Hattori, Scott Scheidly, Amy Sol, Dan May, Johnson Tsang, Adipocere, Mahlimae, Menton3, Miles Johnston, Alex Garant, Cinta Vidal, Adrian Cox, Matthew Grabelsky, Kari-lise Alexander, Sam Yong, Michael Reedy, Scott Radke, Scott G. Brooks, David O’Brien, Tim Gore, Chris Leib, John Brosio, Dorielle Caimi, Christina Mrozik, Annie owens, Ronit Baranga, Pamela Wilson, Jel Ena, Erika Sanada, Nom Kinnear King, Jean-Paul Mallozzi, Caitlin Hackett, Rodrigo Luff, Lucy Hardie, Sandra Yagi, Gerard Geer, Mark Bryan, Steve Cross, Ross Vaughan, David Seidman, Tran Nguyen, Sean Layh, Clare Toms, Julian Clavijo, Kim Evans, Anton Vill, Thomas Jackson, Tim Molloy, Rhys Knight, Horacio Quiroz, Bruce Eichelberger, Lukifer Aurelius, Melissa Hartley, Fergus Dupleix, Dale Keogh, Bryce Flint & Jake Hempson

CONTACT US for enquiries.


Complimentary wine will be available at the opening. For those wanting a non-alcoholic option, we will also have drinks provided by Remedy Kombucha.

Below are a few sneak peek images of works for this exhibition.

Ronit Baranga

Embraced 8 & 12 – Two ceramic sculptures by Ronit Baranga for Small Works 2017

Chris Leib

New oil painting by Chris Leib (WiP)

Lukifer Aurelius

“Alignment” – New oil painting by Lukifer Aurelius

Cinta Vidal

“Waiting on Concrete” (WIP) – Acrylic painting by Cinta Vidal. This painting was inspired by David Umemoto’s sculpture.


New “Echo” sculpture by Mahlimae

Rodrigo Luff

“Psychic Undergrowth II” (WIP) – Oil painting by Rodrigo Luff

Dan May

“Moonlight Stroll” – Acrylic painting by Dan May


New hand embroidery by Adipocere

Shaun Tan

“Weapon” – Oil painting by Shaun Tan. 25 x 20cm (9.8″ x 7.9″)

Johnson Tsang

Johnson Tsang with one of his sculptures for Small Works 2017

Horacio Quiroz

Oil painting by Horacio Quiroz (WIP)

Tiffany Bozic

Tiffany Bozic finishing her painting for Small Works 2017

Jana Brike

Jana Brike working on a few small paintings for Small Works 2017


PHONE: +61 3 9939 3681

CONTACT US for enquiries.

WHERE: beinArt Gallery | 1 Sparta Place | Brunswick | VIC 3056 | Australia


Preview Online: Creature Group Exhibition

The preview for Creature is now online! Creature is a group exhibition of new works featuring a host of bizarre creatures. From whimsically adorable hybrids to the type of ghastly beastie no one would want to encounter in a dream, these creatures are sure to capture the imagination of any viewer.

Creature: A Group Art Exhibition

Creature - Hannah Faith Yata

beinArt Gallery presents “Creature,” a group exhibition of new works featuring a host of bizarre creatures. From whimsically adorable hybrids to the type of ghastly beastie no one would want to encounter in a dream, these creatures are sure to capture the imagination of any viewer.


OPENING NIGHT: Saturday, July 1, from 6–9 pm. FREE ENTRY. This exhibition runs until July 23.

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Hannah Yata, Naoto Hattori, Jim McKenzie, Jean Pierre Arboleda, Robert Steven Connett, Laurie Hogin, Heidi Taillefer, Tim Molloy, Susanne Apgar, Ross Jaylo Art, Ross Vaughan, Melissa Hartley, Kim Evans, Fergus Dupleix and Courtney Brims.

CONTACT US for enquiries.


Complimentary wine will be available at the opening. For those wanting a non-alcoholic option, we will also have drinks provided by Remedy Kombucha.

Below are a few sneak peek images of works for this exhibition.

Jim McKenzie

“King Gordo Pink Bust” by Jim McKenzie – Painted resin & epoxy clay sculpture for “Creature”

Two WIP paintings by Jean-Pierre Arboleda for "Creature"

Two WIP paintings by Jean-Pierre Arboleda for “Creature”

"Vanitas" - Acrylic painting by Robert Steven Connett for "Creature"

“Vanitas” – Acrylic painting by Robert Steven Connett for “Creature”

"Winter is Coming" - Oil painting by Laurie Hogin for "Creature"

“Winter is Coming” – Oil painting by Laurie Hogin for “Creature”

Tim Molloy

One of three epic Strange Parade watercolour pieces by Tim Molloy for “Creature”

Courtney Brims

“Cuscus with North Queensland Day Moth” – coloured pencil drawing by Courtney Brims for “Creature”


Preview Online: Sensory Garden – New Works by Adrian Cox

The preview for Sensory Garden is now online! “Sensory Garden” is a new series of oil paintings by Adrian Cox. Walk through landscapes “peopled” by Border Creatures, humanoid beings who are part of their environment, formed from plant matter and minerals.

Interview with Adrian Cox

Adrian Cox Interview

Adrian Cox in his Studio finishing work for “Sensory Garden” at BeinArt Gallery

Adrian Cox is a painter, scholar, philosopher and one compelling teller of stories. His paintings depict a vast and secret world of peaceful ‘border creatures’ which exist within a serene and tranquil ecosystem, known as the Borderlands. Cox’s body of work represents a mythology, a mythology that he has thoughtfully, meticulously and incrementally evolved. Like so many mythologies, though the central characters may not be human, the message is nevertheless ultimately a human one: an allegory for who we are, what we came from and what could perhaps one day be.

For his next exhibition, “Sensory Garden”, Cox wanted to paint dreams, desire and the quest for knowledge and self-understanding. “Sensory Garden” opens at BeinArt Gallery in Melbourne on 3 June 2017.

“I think that now more than ever, people are sensitive to the ways that we build divisions, the ways that we mark groups of people as undesirable, as unknown and unwanted… the vision that I’m crafting suggests an alternative path, another way that we, as humans, might view and treat each other.” —Adrian Cox


Adrian Cox

“The Poetry Reading” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas – For Sensory Garden at BeinArt Gallery

Luke Barrett: Adrian, there’s a lot of excitement about your upcoming show at BeinArt Gallery in Melbourne, Australia and I understand this might in fact be one of your first solo shows outside of the United States. That said, Melbourne collectors have felt rather spoiled in recent times, with a number of your works appearing in group shows here over the last couple of years. Is there a story there, about how your art started making fairly regular pilgrimages to Melbourne?

Adrian Cox: I think Jon Beinart first became aware of my work through online features that I was receiving, but he reached out to me after seeing a painting of mine in person at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. My work reproduces well digitally, but as you well know, there’s a lot that goes on in my paintings that has to be seen in the flesh; not only in the amount of details, which I’ve tried to push to a new level in this exhibition, but also in the way that I layer transparent colors to create lighting effects. Since seeing my work in person, Jon and Corinne have been incredibly supportive in providing me with a platform to show new paintings, particularly with this new exhibition!

Adrian Cox

“Maker with Sculpture” by Adrian Cox – Oil on panel – For Sensory Garden at BeinArt Gallery

LB: As it turns out, I was with Jon and Corinne Beinart when the crates of your new works started being delivered. When we started breaking open the crates, one of the things that struck me was the sheer number of paintings that you have created for this next exhibition. As an artist, what is it like to invest so much time and creative effort into preparing for an exhibition, only to pack them all up and ship them to the other side of the planet? Do you ever experience an attachment to your pieces, or are you fairly good at setting them free, releasing them into the wild, so to speak?

AC: Shipping work out is always a little nerve-wracking, but I honestly can’t think of anything more exciting than releasing these new paintings into the world. As you can imagine, my work takes a considerable amount of labor to make, so I’ve pretty much been living like a hermit in my studio for the past few months. Although I become very personally invested in my work during this part of the process, a painting isn’t really complete for me until it’s seen the light of day. One of the most gratifying parts of my artistic practice is getting to see how people connect to the world that I’m building! And I’m thrilled to be able to visit Australia and see the show in person!

Adrian Cox Artwork

Adrian Cox working on “Forging the Path” – Oil on panel – For Sensory Garden at BeinArt Gallery

LB: I understand that you hold a bachelor and masters qualification in fine arts. What is involved in achieving those qualifications? Were your studies focused mostly on the history of art, interpreting art, the different techniques or the actual act of painting itself… or all of the above? Do you think that your studies have influenced your own art, or do you think that you would be painting your border creatures today even if you had never enrolled in fine arts?

AC: My undergraduate education was definitely focused on technique and the study of art history, while my graduate degree was more specifically geared towards understanding the conceptual context of an artistic practice. I hear a lot of artists complain about the lack of structure and classical training in art schools these days, and while I have to admit that I earned much of my technical knowledge the hard way, I truly believe that my education shaped my trajectory. In particular, individual professors and peers have been far more influential on my path than the institutional structure of academia. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many friends and mentors in my life that have generously shared their knowledge with me, and I think this may have something to do with why I now teach as a professor myself.

There’s also a feverish exchange of ideas amongst peers in art school that’s hard to match. Although the graduate school that I attended was an interdisciplinary program, there was a camaraderie amongst the painters. We pushed each other to better understand the historical and philosophical foundations of our medium, and we were the better for it. The first images of the Border Creatures emerged from this setting, and were the product of a heavily philosophical investigation. While these first works were the bones of what I make now, they tended to be overly serious, and it was only by stepping away from the intensity of an academic setting that I was able to give my work the playfulness and inner life that it needed.

Adrian Cox

“The Dream” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas – For “Sensory Garden” at BeinArt Gallery

LB: On social media, you shared that you have been experimenting with some new techniques for this exhibition. Can you elaborate on those new techniques and what people can expect to see?

AC: I always like to ride the edge of my limitations in painting, to push myself just beyond what I think I’m capable of.  A friend of mine that I share a studio space with always jokes that I like to torture myself with my work, and he might be a little right. There’s something exhilarating about setting out into the uncharted waters of painting. In this exhibition, that meant focusing on color and atmosphere. I don’t want to get too into the weeds when I talk about process, but many of these paintings began as highly saturated underpaintings. I blocked in the figures in monochrome violet or blue, and layered the background landscapes on top of intense washes of color. In the figures, I had to flesh out the color through several layers of glazing, and the end result shimmers with a depth and luminosity that opaque paint just can’t achieve. In the case of “Glow Gardener with Nocturne,” I actually used this process to create the illusion that the figure is glowing.

On the other hand, in some paintings I played with mixing this glazing process with more direct methods of thick, opaque applications of paint. Much of the foreground in “The Dream” was applied with a palette knife, and I ended up dragging and scraping away a ridiculous amount of paint before it was finished. The goal in this particular painting was to set up a contrast between the airy and transparent fantasy of the background and the earthy “reality” of the foreground scene.

Adrian Cox Painting

Adrian Cox working on “Glow Gardener with Nocturne” – Oil on panel – For Sensory Garden at BeinArt Gallery

LB: One of the things which I love about your work, are the wonderfully intricate and meticulously created backgrounds. They really do play a big part in the aesthetic that defines your paintings. If I can use a musical analogy, sometimes in life it is easy to focus on the lead singer, but it’s only when you look back on, say, a band like The Smiths and the solo careers of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, that you realise that something really ‘special’ was lost when you separated the front man from the band behind him. I have noticed that sometimes artists, perhaps in an effort to meet increasing demand for their works, and in the strive to maintain prodigious rates of output, start compromising on the backgrounds and landscapes in which they depict their protagonists: they kick Johnny Marr out of The Smiths, to continue with the analogy. How do you psyche yourself up to take the time required to create the level of detail in your works?

AC: Ha! That is a fantastic analogy, and a perfect explanation for why I still spend hours and hours of my life painting blades of grass! For me, art history is a balm of sorts when I’m feeling frustrated or burnt out. When I start to really struggle with the work I’m making, I open one of my books and just absorb the images inside. There’s something reassuring about the sheer volume of paintings that some of these artists were able to make in their lives, and I’m always trying to crack the code of how to work more efficiently, how to speed things up without compromising my work. Sometimes, this means methodically timing the layers of multiple paintings at once, and sometimes this means painting furiously while blasting very loud, very fast music.

Adrian Cox

“Painter at Dawn” by Adrian Cox – Oil on panel

LB: For this next exhibition, you have created pieces of various sizes and dimensions – and some are really quite large. How do you decide on scale? Is it a case of wanting to have pieces of different sizes, and then creating an image that is suited to each size? Or does the idea come first and you choose the size that works best for the idea? Because I imagine it’s not about needing extra space for extra detail: even your smaller pieces have an amazing amount of detail.

AC: My work often begins with me jotting ideas down in lists, just short and simple written descriptions of possible narratives. The initial stages of planning this show involved grouping the ideas that seemed the most thematically or visually linked, and eliminating those that seemed out of place. Mostly, I had an idea of what was going to be in the show before I even began sketching. I also knew that the large works would serve as conceptual and emotional anchors, and would frame the way the rest of the show would be read. So, I mostly used narrative tone to determine size. It seemed fitting that I use the romantic saga of Painter and Snake Gardener and the earnest musical passion of Glow Gardener as an emotional exposition of sorts.

Adrian Cox

“Making Stars” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas

LB: If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a deeper dive into the world of your Border Creatures now, a world inhabited by recurring characters, including the likes of Big Thinker, Veiled Healer, Snake Gardener, Dreamer and Painter. Do you think your paintings will always revolve around the Border Creatures, or can you see yourself retiring them or exploring other themes and protagonists in parallel?

AC: I definitely feel that the narrative and visual potential for this work is rich enough for me to mine for years, but I can’t say for certain where things will head in the future. For me, the world-building and storytelling that I engage in when I make my work allows for a lot of adaptability and possible change. I’ve never been one to completely abandon a body of work, but I could easily see the world of the Border Creatures expanding, and possibly, over time, even evolving beyond recognition; I always leave open the possibility of surprising myself. Despite how long I’ve been developing these characters and paintings, I still feel that I’m building out the exposition for their story. But I see any movement forward in my work as a way of advancing the mythology of these characters, a mythology that has, until recently, remained fairly vague and mysterious.

Adrian Cox

“Waking Big Dreamer” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas

LB: You describe the Border Creatures as being part of a mythology that you have created. Is there a grand narrative that you have in mind, a comprehensive story arc that binds all of your paintings together or – if not all of them – is there an underlying narrative for the lives of the main, recurring characters? If so, do you already know how it all ends for particular Border Creatures or how their lives are going to unfold within the mythology? Or does each piece stand alone, independent of the other paintings?

AC: The work that I’ve been making for the past few years has a sort of narrative stillness between paintings; characters develop relationships, tiny dramas unfold, but mostly things remain constant. This is because I’ve been depicting a Golden Age for the Border Creatures, a period of pastoral harmony. They live in perfect balance with the Borderlands and each other. So in a way, most of the paintings in this exhibition can be seen as individual genre scenes within the broader context of an age of paradise. But this kind of perfection can’t last, and I think there’s a tension beginning to develop around the work that suggests the possibility of monumental, or even catastrophic change on the horizon. Over time, followers of my work might start to pick up on a larger narrative arc, but for me, the saga of the Border Creatures has only just begun! In a sense, I’m discovering this story as I go, uncovering new directions as I follow my instincts. But there are still strong conceptual currents that keep things in line as I go.

Adrian Cox

“Big Thinker with Philosophical Treatise” by Adrian Cox – Oil on panel

LB: I remember the first time I saw your paintings in person, I remember the uplifting, emotional connection which I felt straight away. Let’s face it, the Border Creatures don’t resemble anything that anybody would be familiar with (except perhaps for the keenest follower of Arcimboldo); but you can’t help but be touched by their tranquility and gentle, peaceful nature: there is no reason to be afraid of them, you can tell they are friendly. These are ideas which – growing up in the 80s and 90s – we were exposed to through characters like the Rockbiter in 1984’s NeverEnding Story and Guillermo del Toro’s faun and fairies in 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth: when it comes to people, you just can’t judge a book by its cover and expect to be right. Is this a theme that you intend people to see in your work?

AC: Yes! If I had to sum up the single most important tenet that guides the decisions in my work it would be “empathy for the Other.” I allow myself a lot of room to play with how I depict the Border Creatures, but I never show them as threatening or overly alien; it’s important for me to cultivate the possibility of a real and positive connection between a viewer and the figures that I paint. Even at their most grotesque, the Border Creatures offer themselves as vulnerable, sensitive, and, ultimately, very human. Obviously, there’s a certain artistic distance between the fantasy in my paintings and the reality of everyday life, but I’ve always tried to use my work to speak to a contemporary human experience. I think that now more than ever, people are sensitive to the ways that we build divisions, the ways that we mark groups of people as undesirable, as unknown and unwanted. So, in a certain sense, the vision that I’m crafting suggests an alternative path, another way that we, as humans, might view and treat each other.

Adrian Cox

“Painter in the Wind” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas – For “Sensory Garden” at BeinArt Gallery

LB: Most people “feel” like your characters are either male or female: Veiled Healer feels female with her floral crown, Big Dreamer seems male with the large stamen protruding from his lap, and Snake Gardener seems female with her, shall we say, ample bosom. But maybe this is an overly human-centric view of the world, and teaches us something about our ourselves and our own tendency to rely upon – and therefore to be vulnerable to – stereotypes. Maybe this is just a case of humans seeing human shapes in the clouds, as it were. What is your view on the role of gender – if any – in the world of the Border Creatures?

AC: I’ve always been particularly sensitive to how I portray gender in my work, and I think on a personal level that this might have something to do with growing up with two mothers. Because of my life and my background, it’s always seemed very natural to me for gender roles to be fluid and even interchangeable. This is certainly something that not everyone is comfortable with, but as I’ve said, empathy is key, and difference is nothing to be frightened of.

So I’ve allowed this perspective to inform how I depict the Border Creatures. I think of them as manifesting the characteristics of a particular gender without ever settling comfortably into a fixed state. They’re not always androgynous, but they exhibit characteristics that might be seen as both male and female. For instance, Snake Gardener has breasts, but is larger and more muscular than her paramour, Painter. So I wouldn’t say that Snake Gardener is female, so much as she is becoming-female, and Painter becoming-male. I think about this more with some characters than others, but it greatly influenced the romantic saga that unfolds between “Snake Gardener,” “The Dream,” and “Studio, End of Day.”

Adrian Cox

“Studio, End of Day” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas – For “Sensory Garden” at BeinArt Gallery

LB: One of my favourite pieces in your upcoming show is “Snake Gardener with Orrery”. An orrery, of course, is a mechanical model of the solar system. I love the idea of Snake Gardener using a lantern to represent the sun, and eight pieces of fruit placed around it to represent planets orbiting the sun. Now, science buffs will know that, ever since Pluto lost its status as a planet, there are only eight remaining planets in our solar system. Is this a clue that, in your mythology, the Border Creatures inhabit the Earth or at least a planet or moon in the same solar system as us?

AC: Absolutely. It’s one of the ways that I suggest that this isn’t a totally alternate reality, but rather a distorted reflection on human existence. I think of the Borderlands as a sort of mutated Arcadia, a place of paradise that existed or will exist on Earth, but is always out of reach. The Borderlands themselves very directly reference natural landscapes that we can see on Earth. The trees and plants that surround me often find their way into the world that I depict, and I’m always gathering reference material whenever I travel. I even have illustrated field guides stacked around my studio. However, in order to create a sense of mythic distance, I always try to retain a certain feeling of unreality in my paintings.

Adrian Cox

“Snake Gardener with Orrery” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas – For “Sensory Garden” at BeinArt Gallery

LB: And to follow on in a similar vein, in your mythology, do the Border Creatures exist in a pre-human time or do they exist in parallel to us? Because I thought it was impressive that the Border Creatures are clearly on board with Copernicus, having worked out that the Sun is at the centre of the solar system!

AC: I try to maintain a certain amount of ambiguity in regards to when the Border Creatures exist in history, but I’ve referred to their world both as an alternate pre-history to humanity, as well as a mythic future-history. In a way, I think that the beauty of this kind of visual storytelling is that it can be both. I can speak directly to two universally human questions: “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going?” However, since these characters so directly reflect on human existence without ever coming into contact with a “normal” human figure, I’ve never thought of them as existing in the present.

Adrian Cox

“Big Thinker Contemplating Summer” by Adrian Cox – Oil on canvas

LB: I understand you recently read Neil Gaiman’s new book, Norse Mythology – which I remember because, coincidentally, I was reading it at the same time. In carving out the narrative of the Border Creatures, have you drawn inspiration from any other mythologies? For me, there is something wise and all-knowing about the Border Creatures, and their peaceful demeanour and prowess with the natural environment evokes ideas of the Vanir from Norse Mythology. It made me wonder whether you imagine the Border Creatures living in a parallel – but connected – realm, much like the setting of so much Norse mythology.

AC: Yes, a parallel but connected realm; that’s what I’ve been trying to describe. Much like how the nine worlds of Norse mythology reference elemental qualities of the physical world without being places you could necessarily travel to. When I first started painting this fictional race of creatures, I was much less concerned about the structure of myth and narrative, but I’ve been thinking about this more and more over the past year or so. Recently, I’ve been re-reading Ovid’s “Metamorphosis,” and examining nature-myths in particular, but I’m not sure if this research will manifest directly in the work or not. Up until this point, I think the epic scope of classical mythology has been absent from my paintings; as I pointed out, not too much actually happens when you’re living in a Golden Age. The questions I’ve been asking of myself have been about the daily lives of my characters, akin to examining the mundane daily activity on Olympus, or what the Vanir might be doing on an off-day. But recently, albeit mostly in my sketchbook, I’ve been questioning what comes next, or even what came before. I think the story of the Genesis of the Borderlands, or the Fall of the Border Creatures could be entire exhibitions in their own rights, but I’m still on the cusp of deciding where things will turn next.

Adrian Cox

Adrian Cox working on a painting

LB: It could be said that the world of the Border Creatures resembles an Eden or Garden of Paradise. Do you think about it that way? When I see Snake Gardener with her orrery, her companion snake, and the apple by her side on the table – which has a bite taken out of it, by the way – it evokes some of the symbology from the Christian book of Genesis: perhaps Snake Gardener, who appears to be a scientist, has been tempted to take a bite from an apple from the tree of knowledge. Which, of course, would be deliciously ironic, because we all know what the Church thought of Copernicus and his newfangled theory which jettisoned the Earth from the centre of the universe! Do you think this is an open interpretation of the painting?

AC: Certainly! The religious symbolism in this painting is meant to be ironic, given the Eden-like qualities of the Borderlands. The Border Creatures live in a symbiotic harmony with the Borderlands, and I occasionally hint that they are an extension or natural outgrowth of the world around them. So Snake Gardener’s inquiry into the nature of things is less of a trespass than a natural function of the landscape; she is the natural world examining itself. This quest for knowledge is a recurring theme throughout “Sensory Garden.” Painter, Maker, Big Thinker, Big Dreamer, Glow Gardener, and Snake Gardener are all using the means available to them in order to better understand and connect with their surroundings.

In “Snake Gardener with Orrery,” I referenced Enlightenment images of early scientific experiments and, specifically, the work of Joseph Wright of Derby. The work that I was studying exemplifies a problematic perspective on nature that persists today, one that elevates and separates the rational mind from the natural world. In contrast, Snake Gardener is using her experiment to forge a connection. Caught up in the wonder of discovery, she has become a bridge between earth and sky; the scientist stands in rapture, her head rising above the treeline to touch the stars.

The Orrery by Joseph Wright of Derby

“Snake Gardener with Orrery” by Adrian Cox (left)   &   “A Philospher Lecturing on the Orrery” by Joseph Wright of Derby (right)

LB: Books are another recurring motif in your paintings (and you paint them gorgeously, I should add): sometimes they might be filled with text, other times they might be empty books awaiting filling… and sometimes the pages might be torn out and crumpled in frustration. Is this a statement about the importance of the pursuit of knowledge and the fundamental desire for us to make sense of the world around us and to pass that knowledge on to those who come after us? Because, really, that’s what all great mythologies were created to do.

AC: One of the eternal riddles of representational painting is how to depict intangible concepts like knowledge in physical, seemingly tactile ways. It was Rembrandt’s paintings that first inspired me to introduce books as a way of addressing the Border Creatures’ search for a greater understanding of their world. In a Rembrandt painting, a book isn’t merely a prop or an allegorical symbol for abstract thought. It’s a bridge between the material world and the life of the mind, lovingly rendered so that you can almost feel your fingers brush against the delicate thinness of paper, almost hear the crinkling sound of a turning page. In his depictions of books, conscious thought is something that’s intimately connected to the physical world. So in this sense, I use my depictions of books to emphasize the possibility for knowledge, for scientific and artistic inquiry, to help us see the deep connections between humanity and the world that surrounds us.

The proliferation of books in my paintings is also a self aware nod to the importance of storytelling, of myth-making. Even as I paint the saga of these tender creatures, I like to think that they’re writing their own narratives; stories that help them understand their place in the world. The precise nature of Big Dreamer’s poetry or Big Thinker’s essays remains mysterious, but they’re as important to the Border Creatures as our own arts are to us.

Adrian Cox

“Big Dreamer with an Ode to the Dawn” by Adrian Cox – Oil on panel

LB: In all of your paintings, the Border Creatures always seem hidden and lost, either in isolation or in time or both, in a peaceful, unthreatened, untarnished sort of way. But in Glow Gardener with Nocturne, for the first time, we see the ocean and the horizon in the distance – which for me, implies a question of what lies beyond, and simultaneously implies uncertainty, opportunity and threat. Do you envisage any excursions or incursions… the last scene of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto comes to mind!

AC: I suspect you’re picking up on the narrative tension that I mentioned earlier! These characters have spent so long languishing in a perfect and harmonious state, that dramatic change feels inevitable. However, I don’t think the threat will come from beyond the Borderlands, but from within. But I’m only now beginning to investigate these possibilities, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things develop!

LB: One last question Adrian before you head to the airport – what lies ahead for Adrian Cox? Are there any clues you might share about where you see your painting heading?

AC: I’m actually in the planning stages for a new body of paintings that I’ll be exhibiting in Los Angeles next year. I don’t want to share too many details just yet, but some of the narrative potential that I’ve discussed here will undoubtedly make its way into this work. I’ll also be creating a number of larger paintings for the exhibition, so I suspect things will get fairly epic before I’m finished!

Adrian Cox

“Veiled Healer Lamenting the Summer” by Adrian Cox – Oil on panel

Preview Online: Ritual – Sam Yong Solo Exhibition

The preview for Ritual is now online! Sam Yong’s solo exhibition of paintings and drawings, “Ritual,” explores rituals of human life through use of images from the natural world as allegory.