STEVE BROWNE What the art wants

You might not recognise his face, but if you’ve frequented venues, pubs, cafes or record stores around Perth you’re bound to have seen the creations of his restless imagination. Steve Browne is a local artist who brings visual art and mural installations to life both in Australia and overseas, commissioning art and film storyboarding as a career. He is also a Film Director (Maybe it’s Luck on AMAZON Prime) and has created over 25 music videos for local artists and bands. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Browne to chat about the upcoming exhibition where he and fellow local creator LOBULE are exhibiting 16 new works on a new range of Levi’s catalogue jackets at The Corner Gallery, Subiaco on Friday, March 6.

This is a pretty unique idea for an exhibition, where did it come from?

I was chatting with another artist LOBULE, at my studio, and we were talking about getting some old jackets from Op Shops and painting them for an exhibition when I thought, “we should just email Levi’s and see if they’d be keen to do a collab show.” So we did and they were super encouraging and pretty much said yes straight away. They sent us a stack of brand new jackets and we went for it.

And how did you go about bringing this vision to life?

Once I get an idea in my head it’s pretty hard to convince me not to do it, so it’s gotten bigger and bigger as we went. We received the jackets and started thinking about what the show would look like. I also work in the Art Department field in film so the idea came about that we build a set to create an immersive experience that feels like a thriller film and it just kept growing. We have had a stack of help from some incredible people and Corner Gallery has taken on the show, which is the perfect space for what we are doing. When we explained what the build and space will look like, the Gallery owner replied with “This is going to be sick!” So that was cool.

And how does this work differ from what you have done before? Did you have to challenge yourself to apply your style and ideas to something new?

I’m a mural and commission artist, so working with materials like denim creates some interesting challenges but because it’s art, it kind of lends itself to the process of being completely open and vulnerable, which the public will see on the night. Even the unpretty things look pretty if that makes sense.

Speaking of your previous work, where might some of us have seen it already?

I have a lot of murals around the city at different cafés, businesses and bars. The Rosemount Hotel have five of my murals there so it’s basically my second home (laughs). I’ve worked on a lot of album covers too, as well as directing music videos for a bunch of local talent including Drapht, Marksman Lloyd, The Rinehearts, Timothy Nelson, Moana, Tired Lion and The Southern River Band.

You’re fairly prolific with the amount of creative things you have on the go, also making films as well – how do you manage to find the time to do so much?

That’s a good question. I guess, over the years, I kinda developed strong intuition as to what I’m attracted to, mostly by learning to stay in my lane – which were sometimes incredibly painful lessons. I’m not there yet but I’m fine-tuning what I know I’m good at and working pretty hard to be better at those things and not beating myself up over not knowing everything else.

It seems to be working so I’ll probably keep doing that (laughs). I’ve also had a pretty healthy run and fell into some super nice crowds that have always helped and supported me if I needed it. But I’ve also learned self-care and how important rest is. Burning out is a lot less fun than taking a day off every week so you can continue to produce a high output of work.

A lot of people struggle to make a living working in creative industries, but you’ve been able to forge a real career out of it for some years now? Do you have any secrets or advice for young artists?

Absolutely. I’m a very strong advocate for doing the thing that makes you happy. It doesn’t always pay dollars well at the beginning but I think the only way to buy happiness is to stop trying to buy it. Money is everywhere and jobs will come and go. That thing that you think about when you’re working that job you hate saying “If I wasn’t here I’d be doing (insert awesome life goal),” is there for a reason but we have it stolen from us by so much of society.

Surround yourself with only like-minded and positive people that are also passionate and motivated and stop complaining about things that you can change…just change them, no one cares. Also, the internet exists! If you put two hours (14 hours a week) aside every day to contact people you’re inspired by, set up your ABN, read up on how tax works, make a website and some stickers and flyers and push your brand out there…if it’s a marketable product or service you can’t lose.

Listen to criticism and take direction when you need to, and never be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised how many professionals would love to hear from you and give you advice. And hustle hard! I basically worked for free for the first two years and put my mark on a stack of walls around the city. That was the unlock because I was allowed to fine-tune my style while building a solid client base and create awareness of my brand. I’m also always here if anyone needs to chat about direction, flick me a message on Messenger anytime and I’d be happy to encourage you if I can. “We’re the average of the five people we hang around”.

What’s next? Any other projects in the pipeline we can keep an eye out for?                         

Yeah, this year is pretty hectic. Pushing for an exhibition in L.A., flying to Uluru to do art workshops on country, making a couple of short films, shooting a video for Complete (if you haven’t heard this dude yet, oh my god! Get on that ASAP) and Bitter Belief as well curating the films for the 2020 TEDx conferences and doing my own pop up Gallery shows to exhibit emerging artists around Perth. So a pretty exciting year ahead. No point in stopping.

So you also have a film that’s just been taken up by AMAZON Prime yeah?

Yeah, my good friend Chad Peacock and I used to be in a 90s punk band called Kerb and we’ve been filming the bands’ journey since it started in about 1996. So fast forward to the last couple of years and we all decided to get together and go on a couple of trips together and maybe write some new songs. During the filming we all kind of adapted these ridiculous personalities as pretend characters and ended up with enough footage for a feature mockumentary called Maybe it’s Luck, about the singer’s spiral as he tries to get this crappy band back together.

We somehow roped in Lindsay from Frenzal Rhomb, Dan from Gyroscope, and some other great band dudes who feature in the film too. It was an interesting process and we submitted it to Revelation Film Festival who chose it for their closing film. Then Chad put a lot of work into shopping it around and I guess someone at AMAZON liked it and now it’s available to screen worldwide on AMAZON Prime.

We had no real intention of doing anything with the footage apart from getting together when we’re all 80 years old and watching it in the retirement village for a laugh.

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