“To be honest, just making work is my favourite thing,” says Sydney-based artist and designer, Kris Andrew Small, “I’m not super concerned with how or what I am making.” With a distinctively bold and unencumbered visual language, Kris’ work is also hard to define and often the result of multiple influences and experiences. “I guess a lot of my work comes from my childhood, growing up in the 90s in a tropical part of Australia was pretty colourful and flamboyant, that has always really stuck in my brain.”
These early influences are clear across Kris’ portfolio of kinetic type, photo-based collages and “lucid abstract pieces” but it’s his abandon when it comes to producing work, that really makes it stick. “I think it’s really easy to get caught up in how your work is going to be perceived, or the technical process,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I wanted to give myself a voice to talk about issues I felt needed addressing. So I try and focus on that now more than anything else.”
In a recent zine titled Much Excite, he did exactly that. As someone who is constantly creating, he had found himself with a lot of work and needed somewhere to put it. “So I decided to make a zine,” he recalls, “At the same time as this, I was starting to get super into the idea of masculinity. I was really confused by it because I felt like I didn’t relate to it at all… but did that make me any less of a man?” The result is a publication which expresses Kris’ view – “that ‘being a man’ has literally 1,000 variations and I don’t necessarily agree with the current definition or perception of masculinity” – through abstract, fervent artworks.
While drawing on his own opinions and experiences, Kris also divulges, “I am possibly the biggest Keith Haring fan on the planet, so a lot of my influence kind of comes from him and that time, you know New York in the 80s, Madonna, Grace Jones, Jean Paul Goude and all of that.” This combination of personal narratives and specific references have helped Kris, over time, develop his style and aesthetic. “I did it all, from pretending I could paint, to being in a band. Then all of a sudden something in me just clicked and I started making the work I do now,” he adds.
Earlier this year, Kris exhibited this idiosyncratic style in his first solo show titled Brain Fart. “I’d been working in advertising for a while and I was a little frustrated that I never got to make my own work, or work in my style. So I stayed up late every night making my own things, which I wanted to be the opposite of what I was making in the daytime,” he explains. Like with Much Excite, the exhibition provided Kris with the chance to imbue his work with perspective. “I realised that this was the best way for me to get my opinions out there and start doing it visually as opposed to chewing my friends’ ears off,” he adds, “although I still do that…”
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