March 2024

Live It Lovett

Dane LovettDane LovettDane LovettDane LovettDane LovettText: Fleur Mitchell Images: Dane Lovett

In Dane Lovett’s work, a haphazard stack of old VHS tapes take on a Zen-like beauty. A succulent cutting sitting atop a CD case echoes the eerie, reflective calmness of still lifes from the Dutch Golden age – except instead of fruit and wine, it’s New Order and some geraniums. 

Lovett takes the ordinary objects that surround us every day and flips our perception of them. His work brings out the beauty in those things we only glance at or simply discard.  The remains of forgotten or outdated musical instruments or television sets are rendered in a way that forces us to think about their inherent impermanence. Music and its remnants dominate these paintings. 

Lovett has won a slew of high profile art awards and grants since he graduated from the Victorian College of Art in 2004, a testament to his skill and the basic fact that his paintings are beautiful – irresistibly so. His upcoming exhibition at Colette in Paris is just another step in his enviable career. He is someone with a lot to look forward to. 

Dane spoke to me about his upcoming residency in Japan, growing up, inspirations and, of course, music.

Fleur Mitchell: What was your childhood like? Were you always into art growing up?

Dane Lovett: Yeah I was – nothing out of the ordinary though, I wasn’t a prodigy child painter unfortunately. Growing up, my dad always had this ability to make just about anything with minimal stress and little formal knowledge of the projects that he undertook. When I was at school he couldn’t find a caravan that mum and him could take off-road so he just whipped one up in the garage. Now he’s re-jigging it to fit on the back of a truck so it doesn’t have to be towed. I’m not really sure how this has influenced my painting. 

FM: You started out doing graphic design and animation, how did the transition to full- time artist happen?

DL: Well, I studied design and animation but pretty quickly moved into painting. After a few years of study in Brisbane I moved to Melbourne and completed my BFA honors in painting at the Victorian College of Art in Melbourne and I’ve been living (and painting) here since. Photoshop skills are always handy though. 

FM: Music and musical objects feature heavily in your work. You have even won an ARIA award for cover art you’ve done. How important is music to your creativity?

DL: Music is crucial to making my work, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people. It’s hard to spend hours on end in the studio without some kind of sound track. But I guess for me this extends beyond the purely practical aspect of making and informs the subject matter of a lot of my paintings. 

FM: Your paintings manage to bring out the stark beauty in seemingly mundane, random objects, like a stack of old VHS tapes for example. Do you start out trying to represent a theory or complex message that underpins your work, or is it more an exploration of visual beauty that interests you? 

DL: I like the way these items have shifted from cutting edge technology to something that now just reminds us of other times or is just aesthetically beautiful. Not in the same way as an Eames chair or something like that where they go from attics to vintage stores – a lot of the items I paint go from the house to the side of the road. It’s like if something has circuitry inside it, it cant be admired for its looks alone, it just has to be updated. 

FM: Who are your favourite musical and visual artists?

DL: My favorite musical visual artists – those super-talented, double-skilled folk out there… Devendra Banhart, Brendan Huntley/Eddy Current, Darren Sylvester, Matt Griffin and Jon Cambell/Olympic Doughnuts. I long for multi-talents. 

FM: What’s a typical working day like for you?

DL: Up early, walk dog. Cup of tea, check the weather. Breakfast, another tea to take into the studio. Hopefully some painting but usually emailing or getting some images ready. Coffee. Painting for a few hours… lunch… then more painting. Take dog to the park about six then more painting after that if I’m busy. I try to keep some kind of routine but I can never really stick to it. Each day is slightly different, usually depending on what I’ve got coming up. 

FM: You have an exhibition coming up at Colette in May. How did that come about?

DL: A good combo of old media and new. Colette saw some of my work in Russh magazine last year and then checked out my site and got in touch with me.

FM: Your girlfriend Kirra Jamison is also an amazing artist. Do you find yourselves influencing each other creatively?

DL: Yeah it’s hard to avoid, we have different styles but similar tastes in a lot of things. I have started using some different colours partly because she often has better paint than I do, so sometimes I pinch it. She is very convincing when it comes to fluorescence and iridescence.

FM: You took out the visual arts category of SOYA in 2005 and had a mentorship with Elizabeth Ann McGregor (Director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art) as a result. What was that like? What did you learn from the experience?

DL: It was a great experience just getting an insight into such an important institution. Although I would love to have the chance to do it again, a little older, with a few more years of making work under my belt and a whole pile of different questions to ask. 

FM: I was reading that you are embarking on a residency in Japan in a few months. What are you planning to do during that time?

DL: I had to propose an outline of what I wanted to do when I applied – I wanted to try to better understand Wabi-Sabi, a kind of Japanese aesthetic found in a lot of traditional crafts like bonsai and ceramics. I’m also going to be searching through a different world of consumer electronics that I’m really looking forward too. The studio is very small so I’m interested to see what I make during my stay. 

FM: How would you describe your work?

DL: Prog-folk 

FM: Who and/or what inspires you?

DL: The most inspiring thing that has happened to me lately was when a friend of mine lent me a copy of Gimme Shelter, the documentary on the Stones gig at Altamont Speedway. It’s an amazing piece of film making. I can’t believe I’ve been all these years without seeing it. 

FM: What’s next?

DL: Right now it’s pie time.

Dane Lovett

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