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We collaborated with Daniel O’Toole, a multimedia artist based in Melbourne, for our 2021 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week runway show.

Daniel takes inspiration from the Los Angeles ‘Light and Space’ Movement of the 1960s and reframes his works in the context of post-digital contemporary Australia.

He says of his work:

Daniel’s paintings are framed behind a semi-transparent screen, to alter perception and re-animate the static image for the audience. His works aim to question the ubiquity of the digital screen, the works emphasise ‘seeing’ as an active engagement rather than a passive receiving.

What was the inspiration for you to become an artist?

My family culture is creative, my mum is an artist. I grew up around visual art and music, it’s in my blood. I was always drawing and painting and having lots of input from my mum and her artist friends.

Can you talk us through your creative process?

I start by looking at video as the reference and making time-based works as a digital sketchpad and that allows a quick process with lots of colour ideas. I use stills from videos as reference materials for images that then get transcribed into either a painting or a print. Then I’m using diffused materials like frosted acrylic to alter the way light behaves and obscures the surface so it’s not about gesture or mark. Next I am trying to blow the composition or elements out and focus on the feelings of colour and the way light behaves, so the frame is really an important part of the work and colour is the vehicle I use to express the frame.

Your works are multi-sensory. What are the preferred mediums for your art?

I prefer having a mix of mediums than just focusing on one. My feelings towards medium is that it is just a vessel for expressing ideas and it depends on the ideas and what you are trying to communicate in terms of what will suit that body of work. I like to keep that malleable and it also makes things more fun and open to unexpected discoveries. Sometimes thinking about making sound versus photography you will learn new things from each discipline. I like changing it up and seeing how I learn and how one informs the other.

How do you enhance the artistic experience for the audience?

I make my works feel physical and sculptural and so they occupy a presence in space that’s different to a flat painting. This is somewhere between sculpture and painting. I’d like my work to remind you of a painting but it’s actually something very different.

You used to create a unique style of Street Art. How has this influenced your artistic direction?

My street art was always about distortion, abstraction and mutations of form. I was using human face as the vessel for learning about colour, shape, form and composition and developing my painting practice. The thing that led me from street art to my current work was really photography. That became the bridge because at a certain point I was needing more input for reference material to build these street art portraits, even if they were deconstructed. I started making my own photography and that was really boring at first because when I take photos of people they just look like people and I wanted them to be as interesting as the paintings. So I found a way to shoot thru glass with racks and paint and different materials. I used these elements to obstruct the vision and create analogue filters. Then I would take polaroids thru the semi-transparent filters. I was building an image that already looked like a painting, so it was an easy reference point to be inspired by.

We are thrilled to collaborate with you for our AAFW show on Tuesday 1st June! Can you give us an insight into the collaborative process and how this bespoke art piece will compliment the Momenttain Resort collection show?

Looking at the colour palette for the collection and keeping that in mind when I was filming content as well as editing was useful, but I tried not to stay too tied down to that colour palette or be contrived in my process. I decided to try and use water to influence the movement of materials so I dangled iridescent materials in tanks of water and filmed underwater in slow motion through DIY lenses that create a diffusion effect. And that starting point was good enough so I built out blocks of moving painting that I formed for this work. The colours were already pretty interesting, and the structures totally diffused and blurred out so I had organic, slow moving, watery visuals to begin with before I started editing. And then using a layering process and lots of experimentation I approached editing the video like a painter would, really chopping and changing and reversing and swapping things out; an unconventional process to video workflows. There are lots of unexpected results that come out of that process.

I will continue working across mediums of video, sound and painting and I hope to move into large format and sculpture, maybe public art spaces at some point. I like the idea of exploring materiality beyond the current confines of my practice which at the moment is quite restricted. I think at some point I will outgrow that and look for other materials which have optical benefits which I can embrace.


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