Interview With Aquaman

With a practice that draws upon the street art aesthetics, refined illustrations of the natural world and a collection of bold, bombastic sculptures, Aquaman a.k.a James Lesjak-Atton has been making a name for himself through a fluid, consistent portfolio of work that by all means centres itself around ‘play’. For almost a decade, he has been drawing and painting large-scale works, participated in group shows, exhibited solo shows and taken on a Bachelor of Visual Arts (majoring in Sculpture) at the Sydney College of Arts. The young artist has also co-curated three mammoth fundraising exhibitions, One for the Road, Put it on Wax and Slab Slam Jam, and worked with various mural heavyweights around Australia.

We caught up with him to find out more about his background in the arts.

You seem to be extremely prolific with your work! Were you always drawing on things when you were younger?
Absolutely! That is as far as I can remember, there was a particular age it might have been around 14/15 that It started to become almost obsessive and I would feel I hadn’t utilized my day if I hadn’t been able to draw. All in all, it makes me happy, so the more I draw the happier I get.

When did you first start experimenting with large-scale drawing?
The larger scale drawing began whilst I was still at school; as a young man I definitely leant towards the idea that ‘bigger is better’. Now this is definitely not true but it is still very satisfying painting large works.

I found over the past couple of years that scale of the work generally correlates with the space I am working in. At the moment I am fortunate enough to have a fairly decent sized studio to mess around in!

What is the major difference between panel painting and murals for you?
Well scale is the obvious difference, but it’s the method in making such large painting a very fun process, you have to utilize all of your limbs, finding yourself in quite unusual painting positions, stretching up and out and all over the place.

The result is often very satisfying! Particularly seeing a mural within the environment it was designed for.

Mouths and partly-there faces are a real motif in some of your more recent works - what appeals to you about it?
The recent works are starting to feature these elements to engage the viewer into some partial understanding of the image. It completely changes the way in which they view the image as a whole when it features components like fingers and mouths etc.; it encourages them to attempt to make sense of the other elements of the painting that for the most part make no sense at all! 

When/why did you start painting on bendy timber?
Curved timber has always been a part of my sculptural practice so combining painting into the works has been a big leap forward.

Painting on the bendy ply is quite a recent discovery that came about in a collaborative show ‘Get Bent’ earlier this year with a friend of mine, Griffin Dorwins Pickard, we had a piece laying around in our studio that sparked the whole project!

What are you working on right now?
I am just about to travel over to South America for a couple of months so I am brewing for the moment just exploring some ideas on canvas and the odd mural here and there. I have some works in progress that shall hopefully be showcased in the new year!

You can see all of Aquaman's artworks for sale here