Interview Series: Anthony Lister

I first noticed Anthony Lister‘s work as a street artist. Raw, powerful and free, his large-scale figurative wall paintings spice up streets corners from New York to Miami. I always get a massive kick out of finding myself face-to-face with one of his eccentric characters. But Lister’s talent is undeniably multifaceted and as I started digging further into his fine art work I discovered a whole new depth to his creative vision. I love following his evolution as he goes from a focus on decadent, deconstructed superheroes to his latest, highly collectible and sophisticated ballet dancers series, which was shown for the first time last night at New Image Art Gallery in Hollywood.

We had a chance to casually interview this outspoken mastermind a few weeks ago between two (or ten) beers at Darkroom, and here’s what he had to say:


LF: How excited are you about your show at New Image Art Gallery?

AL: Working with Marsea is wonderful! She’s a serious art patron. She’s the real deal. She gives artists constructive criticism, and that’s what you need. To give an analogy… say I was a prostitute and she was my pimp, she would tell me if I was looking haggard and would give me a night off. Or she would tell me if I could look better and how I could look better. She’s great. But generally speaking, I don’t get excited, I just get ready.

Snapshots of the opening via Amy Duran / Juxtapoz Magazine

“For his new exhibition Lister has created a montage of figurative renderings with special focus on the central theme of the beautiful and sometimes twisted form of the dancing ballerina,” New Image Art’s press release explains.

You can catch the exhibition through April 7th, 2012.

Born in Australia where he graduated from Queensland College of Art in 2001, Anthony Lister took it to New York  City where he did a mentorship in 2002 with of New Zealand painter Max Gimblett. He spent the next few years traveling back and forth to Australia before he settled in to New York in 2006 and lived there for 3 years, while at the same time exhibiting and bouncing around all around the globe. Lister now lives and works in Downtown L.A.


LF: Your street faces have a different emotional push than your fine art characters. What’s in a face?

AL: Well for me, a face on the street represents freedom. When I’m painting on the street I don’t want to sweat over problems that I don’t feel comfortable solving in the public world or in front of an audience, because that’s often what painting in public turns into. I do faces because emotion is interesting to me. I can be free with all that street face thing. So for what I do as street art, I go by Lister.

And then in the studio, I will be Anthony Lister and I will be scrutinizing and really slaughtering my practice in the eyes of giants such as Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon. I’m thinking conceptually and aesthetically, reflecting about anti-beauty, adventure painting and problem solving; whereas on the street I try to keep it simpler for myself.

And then I also have graffiti names that I don’t even exhibit or even take credit for, really, because in this world, in this environment, in this community, I find it easier to have multiple vocabularies that I distinguish between languages that I practice either in graffiti, fine art or street art.

LF: Which one do you feel you’ve been most successful at so far, in terms of achieving your vision?

AL: Ahhh my vision… and this will change… but probably Lister, because I’ve been writing that name on the streets for years and it gets out a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily means that if someone buys my work, that’s what they’ll put on their walls. I don’t sell that shit really, I do it for fun. It’s just grimy, and if I considered it my fine art then I would feel weak in the future, because it’s less interesting conceptually and there is less messaging in it. But I do have fun doing it.

A great photo of the artist and his street art work courtesy of Arrested Motion

LF: You mentioned once that money is good for food and traveling… What’s your latest food obsession?

AL: Sliders. Burgers. But that’s no new thing, that’s an American thing. I eat at unconventional times… I don’t feel like I have the luxury to be able to choose what I necessarily enjoy yet… I guess I’m saving that up.

LF: Do your tongue in cheek recreations of comic characters reflect, in some sense, the fragility of humanity?

AL: Absolutely, and to elaborate I would say that I’m trying to challenge authority and to talk about spirituality and heroes and villains… So it’s definitely quite questioning humanity and what we find absurd, for example a fat Batman or a policeman tied up. People don’t cross lines because they are told that they aren’t meant to cross them. I have problems dealing with these imaginary fixations of justice and law, I have a problem with authority.

LF: If you could choose where you would be anywhere in the world if the world was gonna go to shit, where would you be?

AL: Just looking up. Doesn’t matter where. You know, I just hope everyone I love is looking up and not caring where I am.

LF: How fast do you live?

AL: Living fast is like saying things without completely thinking them through… so I guess it’s living insensitively of all the other people’s feelings. But if you live fast with true intentions and integrity, then that’s a good way to live.

L’Agent Goodies…