How do you go about painting a skeleton that's the size of three basketball courts? In this Q&A, Smith Journal catches up with large-scale public artist Kitt Bennett about his astonishingly mammoth creations.
Talk me through what a typical day for you looks like…
In the morning I’ll have a coffee, have some fast-paced techno playing in my headphones and do an hour of what I call ‘psycho drawing’. It’s mostly squiggles and drawing loosely to warm me up for the rest of the day. The first drawing is like the first pancake; it’s going to be shit and you just have to throw it in the bin. Once you get yourself in the flow of it, the rest will (hopefully) be better.
What did you draw when you were a kid?
Mostly violent torture mechanisms and people being ripped apart. Also, I used to collect bones from the bush where we lived when I was quite young. I had bones from cows, kangaroos, rabbits, sheep, an echidna, an owl. And some human finger bones my godmother gave me. I would draw these and focus a lot on the details.
And you’ve gone from those tiny detailed illustrations to most recently, a giant skate park mural…
Yes, it takes up roughly three basketball courts and it’s the biggest piece I’ve ever done. The council asked me, ‘How are you going to do this?’ and I didn’t know. I just thought – get the gig and work it out later. Since it’s a skate park, I did a skeleton with a stackhat on.
It was a personal challenge. I had to ask myself: what are the technical issues involved, and how do I overcome them? I guess the message in this piece is that you can always figure things out… and make sure you wear a helmet.
The time-lapse video above shows how the skeleton got onto Rezza Skate Park.
What did you discover were the hardest things about working on such a huge scale?
It’s different to painting on a wall; it’s a different perspective. When you’re working, the whole image is beneath you and you can’t really see it. Even when you get on top of a ladder, it still looks distorted.
The biggest challenge is finding a spot. I use house paint and a roller pole so it can’t be on gravel. The surface has to be concrete. I’ve had a look at Google Earth and the best spots I’ve found are the tops of large shopping centres. The first challenge would be getting approval to paint there, and the second would be that people wouldn’t be able to see it. Ironically, the place it would be seen the most is on a tiny square on Instagram. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
What would be your dream canvas?
I want to paint more on the ground and I want to paint bigger. Lots of art is painted on walls, and the ground is almost an untapped area. With technology like drones and satellite footage, our perspective is changing. There are big canvases all over the world that are virtually untouched. I like the idea of making marks on these, especially if you can see them from Space. Similar to how you pull back a piece of bark and a bug has made a bunch of squiggly lines on it, we’re all here to make marks on the earth. We’re all already doing it unintentionally by building cities.
And tell me about the artist’s residency you’re currently doing.
It’s a one-month residency, at Q Bank Gallery in Queenstown, Tasmania. I’m here with another artist, Goodie, producing works for a show we’re doing in Melbourne called ‘Where’s your helmet, sweetheart?’. The aim of the residency is to come to a new place and be inspired by new surroundings. I’ve found it hard because a month isn’t very long to absorb a new area and produce something.
I’d love to do a residency in outer space for a year at zero gravity. The goal is to put yourself somewhere unfamiliar and see what you produce in an entirely new environment.
Portrait photo: Nicole Reed // Drone photo: Darebin City Council // Video: Rune Chauvet