Shannon Crees Interview
Living Walls interview Shannon Crees
What does the idea of ‘living walls’ mean to you?
I imagine something creative and colourful that grows, changes and encourages interaction.
How would you describe what you do?
I am an artist that creates murals and exhibits works on canvas.
What’s your background? What drew you to become an artist?
It has been an organic process that unfolded over a period of time. I was a fashion illustrator and designer that enjoyed painting. I feel very blessed that people wanted to buy my paintings and one day I didn’t have go back to my other work.
What inspires your figurative work?
I guess I see my characters as a vessel through which I can translate emotion.
How has your background in fashion illustration shaped your street and design work?
When I was a fashion illustrator people started buying those illustrations so thats where it all begun.
I still paint figurative artwork and I think the influence of fashion is still apparent in my work, its just all jumbled up with a whole new spectrum of inspiration.
Could you describe your process creatively?
Everything is usually commissioned so I design it to fit a brief or with a customer in mind. I design/ sketch first then when we are both happy with the direction I attack the wall or canvas and try not to go off on my own tangent. In the beginning I found that a huge challenge but it gets easier with experience.
You work with both figuration and geometric designs in your work, how are these creative approaches shaped by the spaces they’re made for?
All artworks created for a mural are very site specific and the size of the wall directly impacts on components that make up the artwork. The time frame is also a big factor that influences the design. Geometric shapes can be created with the help of an assistant and can be used to fill large areas quickly. I am also drawn to them as they counter the soft feminine aspects of my figures and represent the man made environment.
How has your practice changed over time and how would you like to see it develop?
I have gone from creating tiny drawings to painting huge walls. I guess I would like to find a nice balance between studio work and murals. I would love to travel the world painting murals but would also like to be able to take my time and be completely self indulgent, painting exactly what I feel inspired to do.
What drew you to begin working as a street artist?
I was in London and was invited to paint a mural in a bar then to paint at Banksy’s Cans festival.
So it was totally impromptu. I just wanted to be part of something creative and I found the street art scene there so exciting and approachable, and in the end life changing.
How does scale impact on your practice? Does the dynamic of your work shift when you’re working at a larger scale?
It always presents challenges and I am constantly problem solving and trying to work out ways to make painting huge easier. I learn so much with each project. It can be really physically demanding, dirty and unglamorous. But the reward is seeing the end product filling a huge wall and viewers reacting to the art work, makes it all worth while.
Who has inspired you most creatively, and how?
There are so many, but my aunty has taught me so much about painting and is still a huge inspiration. We have been painting and creating together for almost 30 years. I am lucky to be part of a very creative supportive family.
What role do you think street art has in the contemporary life of cities?
I think it is a means of expression and communication, an outlet with a relevant voice for the community to counterbalance all the street signs and bill boards that we see everyday. Hopefully a source of joy and inspiration at unexpected moments for open minded people who stumble across, or search for it.
What are some of the challenges you experience in making art?
Holding my arm up for 10 hours straight while painting a mural on scaffolding, I wish I was ambidextrous or
the indian god Krishna, the master of multi-tasking who can do everything at once. I spend a lot of time and energy organising, its not all painting unfortunatly.
Is time a factor in making your work? Do you work fast slowly?
There almost always a tight time frame for murals and there always is for live painting shows, so I have to work fast. I just do a lot of preplanning to make sure I can do what I have promised.
Do you work site-specifically and if so, how do places inform or affect your work?
How do commercial considerations affect your practice?
What’s your favourite piece of street art?
Real street art is a fantastically ever changing and moving thing, it would be so hard to pick just one piece as a favourite. I loved being there at the right moment in London to see something inspiring because it could be gone hours later, replaced by something new. You feel like you have discovered it, a completely different experience to going to a gallery with expectations.
What are the conditions that make for a vibrant street art scene?
Bad weather, no beaches, lots of concrete, blank walls, rules restrictions and billboards.
What would your dream canvas be – anywhere in the world?
Thats a hard one because a smooth new white surface is a joy to paint on, but isn’t nearly as inspiring as a wall pealing with age, layered with paint and faded by the sun. Coming from Australia with our limited architectural history I would have to say I found beautiful surfaces in old corners of Europe, that seemed to beg to be painted on.
How long have you been involved with the Sydney street art scene? And how has it changed, or developed over the past ten years?
I have been involved since 2009 when I came home from painting at Banksy’s Cans festival. I think it is growing and building momentum, but I meet more and more people the more I work so the two go hand in hand in opening my eyes to its presence in our city. I am sure it has always been here and always will.
How does Australia’s approach to street and public art differ to other places in the world in your experience?
I feel like there is lots of support for street art here. Outpost festival proved that there is a vast and varied audience for street art in Sydney that we had not previously gathered together in one location, we just need more events to bridge the gap between the practice and the audience.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Believe in your self and don’t be scared to experiment