Recently the Australian based duo Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney (better known as the creative duo We Buy Your Kids) spent some time in the States — namely Austin, Texas. This was the second trip the two had made to Austin to visit the poster art mecca of Mondo, where We Buy Your Kids were set to have their second exhibition at the gallery.
Day and Maroney’s Mondo show ‘Harsh Majical‘ put on display their poster designs for films like ‘Zardoz,’ ‘Thrashin’,’ and ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ and after, they stuck around to show their work at MondoCon, Mondo’s first foray into running their own art convention.
While in Austin, Day started the preparations for what would become ‘Pink Fist,’ his solo show set to go up in the Lamington Gallery back in Australia. Away from the We Buy Your Kids umbrella, Day lets loose into the darkness — carving out his own set of vivid characters and moments captured in strangely divine pictograms, a cast of Day’s own tarot.
Day was kind enough to chat about working away from films and bands, away from We Buy Your Kids and his creative partner and wife, Biddy Maroney.
Nerdlocker (NL): Your work under the We Buy Your Kids banner is beautifully unhinged, there’s a sense of freedom in your designs. When going solo are you looking to top that? When you are already known for the weird and free-spirited work with WBYK, where do you take your own personal work?
Sonny Day (SD): The solo work is a little darker, and more explicit than the work Biddy and I do together. A lot of this stuff comes from wanting to explore new ideas which eventually might find their way into the work we make as WBYK.
NL: ‘Pink Fist’ has no brand it’s trying to sell and no film or band to pull images and ideas from. When doing a solo show where it’s all you and your voice, your vision, what leads the way? Is it a relief to not be using existing work as a foundation?
SD: Maybe not a relief, but a release.
NL: Does your approach change when going from working on pieces for ‘Pink Fist’ to something like your ‘Death in the Family’ prints for Mondo’s Batman 75th show? Were both of those projects developing at the same time?
SD: I’d started the sketches for ‘Death In The Family’ before we came to the States in August, and the early ideas for ‘Pink Fist’ came about while we were over there. Biddy started building up the Batman prints once we returned to Australia, and I started on this show.
When we both work on jobs they go from one to the other, so I’ll have moved onto something else while Biddy is finishing up the last job, and there’s a constant flow from one to the other, like a relay. Whereas for the show I started painting a few right away, and worked on most together, going from one to the other, and finishing them all up together at the end.
NL: The show is set for Lamington Drive, a gallery owned and operated by the creative agency The Jacky Winter Group. Your previous solo exhibition was at Kind Of Gallery, which was your first show in ten years. Was that gap there by design? Did the galleries approach you about using their spaces?
SD: We’ve got good relationships with both spaces and they had both wanted to do something with us for a while. Time wise we couldn’t do them together because of really full work schedules, but Biddy is really encouraging about me doing work on my own.
The Lamington Drive Gallery is part of our agents The Jacky Winter Group and we actually had the first show there launching the gallery in 2008. That was a WBYK show and was a mixture of giclee, risograph and screen prints. It feels like these two solo shows have sort of popped up via the two galleries being keen on showing us, rather than a designed launch on our part into galleries.
We both exhibited fairly constantly when we met 13 years ago, but once we started working together neither of us continued showing solo work because we were totally focused on the work we were making together.
NL: Will ‘Pink Fist’ be all paintings or will there be prints available?
SD: Just paintings this time, would love to do a set of prints of all the Banana paintings at some stage.
NL: I have to ask the obvious question — is Biddy involved in the show at all?
SD: Not this time, we’ll do another show together in the future. It chews up a lot of time and we’ve always got a lot of work on the go, so need someone to stay on top of that at all times. And sometimes she just likes to watch.
NL: Is a ‘Sonny Day’ piece different than a work from We Buy Your Kids?
SD: Yes and no, a Sonny piece is essentially the basics of a WBYK piece, but then its developed and added to by Biddy. In having a solos show I get to see an image through from beginning to end. So you can see obvious similarities, but then again the differences are pretty strong too.
NL: From the sketches you’ve released for ‘Pink Fist’ a certain theme pops up – the mocking of death, of high art. There’s a take on Rodin’s ‘The Thinker,’ with a cat between his legs playing with a toy. The humor, for me, stems from a sense of taking down a major work of high art, not taking the supposed importance of it too seriously.
SD: Cool, I’m glad you brought that up. There’s humour in all the work. Some obscure, some not. It’s not so much taking high art down, but more appropriating it and its themes and tying that into what I’m trying to express in the painting.
Music is the other really important thing behind the solo stuff. Theres always a few albums I listen to non stop while putting a show together.
One of the big things for me this year has been Type O Negative. Here’s a band obsessed with death and love and lust but there’s an amazing sense of black humour. Their music has probably been the biggest influence on this work.
NL: Even as just a pencil sketch, the fisherman and the girl is one of the most romantic drawings I think I’ve seen you do. What I see is longing, a man alone with his thoughts. The object of his affection gone.
With WBYK you show great insight into characters from films like ‘The Shining’ and ‘Beetlejuice,’ but these sketches feel far more human and real. Touching. Some of the sketches feel like they’re conversations you’re having with yourself. When starting to sketch do you set out to explore new territories and ideas, or do they find you?
SD: Thanks. I didn’t end up including that one in the show in the end. There’s another in there though that is very simple and really all about the gesture and the tenderness in the touch between this giant hand and a woman’s decapitated stone head.
I’m usually drawing various sketches and ideas for jobs we’re working on, and then ideas pop up and you jot those down in other sketches and from there ideas start forming. I’ll come back and look through old ideas and see if anything is jumping out as a start for something more solid.
NL: For your We Buy Your Kids shows at Mondo, you and Biddy had a loose idea of connectivity between the prints that were eventually dashed. Compared to a gallery show like ‘Pink Fist,’ the fact that the prints for Mondo were all based on films is enough of a connection to make it all feel cohesive.
As the voice behind the work, is important to have an overall idea for a gallery show? Does a body of work need to ‘say something’?
SD: No, but often a connecting theme will emerge once you start putting everything together. In general the way i work and the way we both work, there’s a start from a certain idea, but the main focus of a work will often only come out once the physical act of making something has begun.
Things just subconsciously rise to the surface that way, and end up taking over.
NL: With so much of your time taken up with paying gigs with WBYK, where do gallery shows and solo exhibitions fit in? Are they a bother or a joy?
SD: They’re important, but time consuming. It’s a bit of a juggle to chisel time out of the work schedule to devote to just painting, but it’s always worth it.
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