The global artist

Inspired by the themes of Australian Impressionists in France; Melissa Loughnan, Director of Utopian Slumps, talks about the continued relevance and importance of international exchange in the careers of contemporary Australia artists.

Like the Australian impressionists, the Angry Penguins, and other important figures in Australian art history, many artists today rely on a broader global dialogue as the inspiration for, or basis of, their practices.

The Australian artist Thomas Jeppe is not an expat, he brings this broader dialogue to their exhibitions and practices that are largely based in Melbourne.

Pictured is an installation shot from Thomas Jeppe’s recent solo exhibition at Utopian Slumps, entitled Seaside Vernacular. It is inspired by his earlier research trip to the Canary Islands, a Spanish colony off the coast of the Sahara Desert.

Jeppe spied the depiction of Corralejo, a town on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, as a sleepy traditional fishing village on the back of a sardine can. This inspired a research trip for Jeppe, who was interested in exploring whether a real-world Social Realism existed. He instead discovered a monopolising tourism industry set amongst abandoned real estate and business ventures – Spanish architecture tapered by materials at hand and temporal aesthetics; shop signage continually repurposed as businesses launched and folded…

The exhibition as a whole not only explored Jeppe’s Social Realist preconceptions of Corralejo, but also spoke of the practical concerns of an artist living in Australia who regularly exhibits overseas.

As an artist who regularly exhibits internationally, Thomas Jeppe has secured representation by Curro Y Poncho in Guadalajara, Mexico and Galerie Conradi in Hamburg, Germany, in addition to his representation by Utopian Slumps. He aims to live half of each year in Melbourne and half in Europe, sometimes through funded residencies but most of the time through self-funded initiatives, making regular research trips for his next body of work, such as has his recent trip to the Canary Islands.

As you can see international exchange remains high on the agenda of many contemporary Australian artists such as Thomas Jeppe, who relies on travel as research and inspiration for his project-based practice.