Sam Octigan has as many sides to his art as the shape I keep accidentally pronouncing his last name does. We sat down with the Melbourne based artist to talk about his process, the concepts behind his works, and if it takes a decade to finish one of his paintings.
Sam, this new work focuses on the idea of home and finding a sense of place. Is this a reflection of your own head space or are you looking at people around you for ideas?
Certainly a reflection of my own thoughts and ideas, but I always strive to create art that is accessible and relatable to an audience, you know? I try to put ideas out there that people can see their own experiences or feelings in. A big payoff for me is drawing out that kind of response from someone viewing the work. Whether they relate to the idea or concept or draw their own conclusion doesn’t matter so much—the fact that they’ve engaged is what’s important to me.
Outside of your art, you’ve had the chance to travel extensively through your music. Has this also given you exposure to places and ideas you incorporate back into your paintings?
Absolutely, travel is a huge part of my process in a number of ways. From gathering photo references to working in a sketchbook, etc. I’ve always found being in new or foreign surroundings makes you form new visual ideas differently. Touring with other bands, being exposed to great music and energy brings it’s own kind of inspiration that feeds back into my work. A theme that repeats throughout this body of work is the tug-of-war I feel between searching out these new places and experiences in order to enhance my work and life, and at the same time wanting to put down roots and return to familiar places and people. There’s a kind of melancholy that comes from inhabiting both thoughts at the same time.
Given the technical nature of your work, I can only assume each and every one of your paintings take a damn long time to make?
It depends, I guess. With personal work I definitely indulge and put a lot of time into the concept phase. I like to play around with different sketches for a long time, moving elements around in a collage type of method until I feel I’ve gotten both the best visual idea and composition. It’s like sculpture in a way; the foundation has to be right. It can’t feel flippant and I have to feel I’ve worked for the idea. Once I’m settled on the image and know I’ve got something, I’ll go ahead and produce the final piece, which is where the experimenting and play come in. With any commercial or deadline driven project, time management plays it’s part of course, so on the other end I really relish opportunities like this to dig in and enjoy the process from start to finish.
Are you usually working on a few pieces at once or would you prefer to finish one before starting the next?
I tend to work on a few at a time. If I get stuck on one, I can jump to another to keep things flowing. It can be easy to get stuck and sink a whole lot of time just staring at something that’s not working if you’re not careful, so I find it helps in those instances to switch to something else and through that usually the solution comes to the front.
The portrait components are very realistic in your paintings. In most instances, do you work with photo reference or have a subject sit for you?
Generally I work with photo reference, but also collaborate on projects with good friend and talented photographer Mike Danischewski, where we will develop an idea together and he will source the subject(s) and direct a series of shoots.
In the studio, what sort of materials are you usually working with?
Lots of pencil and acrylic on paper or canvas, sometimes ink. I’m always trying to experiment with traditional mediums and different tools like palate knives, scrapers, masking tape. torn paper etc.
Studio soundtrack: give me five songs you’ve had on repeat while pulling this show together.
Shlohmo – Dark Red
Alchemist – Israeli Salad
Disgrace – True Enemy
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
Poison Idea – Feel The Darkness
Sam’s upcoming solo exhibition ‘Far from Home’ opens this Friday, June 26th from 6-8pm at the RVCA Corner Gallery in Collingwood. The show will continue until the end of July.