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Pretty to Graffiti: Shannon Crees

For an artist who grew up wanting to be a fashion designer, Shannon Crees has managed to marry into the best of both creative worlds and create a style that couldn’t exist without the other. Fashion illustration has become a vocation in itself for Shannon, but not one that is intended for the industry it belongs to. Instead, she has taken her knowledge of form and beauty and thrown it into a shower under a cluster of spray cans, and has in turn caused pop art to implode with a somewhat scarce femininity. Her images are a kind of pretty that surpass the saccharine, obnoxious sense of the word and sit at ease within the world of graffiti-splashed street corners.

The influence of fashion on Shannon’s work is obvious even prior to speaking to her. The Victorian-style faces are clearly drawn with the subconscious expectation that apparel will follow shortly after, but Shannon stops before it reaches that realm and turns her focus to fabrics and geometric shapes. She then paints a mosaic of colours and patterns within the traditional image of beauty, a practice that results in an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle that both Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol appear to have taken turns in creating. It turns out that’s her work is a rather striking onslaught on the fashion industry’s obsession with perfection.

“I studied fashion, and although one of my teachers pushed me to do fashion illustration, I wanted to be a designer. I had a few jobs but I was quite disgruntled, so I moved into revamping vintage clothes while I sold paintings as well,” she says, before describing her complete onset into the art world: “I was frustrated with the industry and the body dysmorphia prevalent within it. There’s an ideal of being where everything is airbrushed. I eventually started making mannequins with dismembered limbs.”

Today her subjects don’t appear to have any missing body parts, but they are, consistently, women – a direct outcome of her training: “Because I come from a fashion illustration background, I get a lot of pleasure from drawing faces – people always look to the face first – and I enjoy textiles, printing, papers and fabric.” One thing that has changed within her work is the move towards a more urban/pop-art genre, which happened after she played a part in Banksy’s Cans Festival in London in 2008. “I had to get away from fashion in the complete, traditional sense,” she explains. “I used to use hair styles and garments which would date the image, so I was advised to move away from that.”

As a player in the burgeoning street art movement, Shannon acknowledges her feminine presence within it – one that stands out quite considerably around her counterparts. “I think it is important to have a balance and a different angle,” she says. “Men depict some masculine elements which definitely have an impact, and I appreciate those images… but it’s nice to juxtapose that hard edge with a gentle face.”

collaboration with Ben Frost

Her shift towards a more cubist/modern approach is obviously working for her. Shannon was one of the artists selected for The Apprentice, the aftermath of which she describes as “crazy. There were so many responses the next day, I didn’t know what to do with them.” She then worked with Ben Frost on Project 5 in a collaboration that complemented both artists’ styles with colour-matching precision. Other that creating art, Shannon’s plans for now are to simply “stay put. I have only been able to have enough breathing space to think about that.”

Shannon Crees

Shannon is going to be part of the Mixed Business exhibition at Ambush Gallery tomorrow night, showing alongside 40 artists in what promises to be a visual feast to the senses. There’s too many names to list, so just look at the invite below.

words: Seema Duggal


March 17, 2010 at 11:14 AM Betty Darling said...

Absolutely beautiful work, so intricate and detailed I could look at them for hours. Inspiring stuff!

August 25, 2010 at 11:38 AM Anonymous said...

Absolutely gorgeous. Why can't I see more of these on Sydney's walls??? Work, Crees, work!

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