Move over science teacher’s, there’s a new seedy stache on the block and it’s not Michael Cera’s. With a box of wine and a coupla paintbrushes, Tom Kusturin is deconstructing the purpose of traditional art in his own personal style. Snaking free booze at art shows to rocking out to Sonic Youth, this Northern Beaches kid looks to explore different mediums of art and to challenge the norms of contemporary art.
How are you man? What’s been happening?
Yeah I’ve been good. Just been making stuff I guess. That’s all I do really.
How do you find Sydney’s art community, is it supportive or competitive in a way?
Um, I wouldn’t call it competitive. I’d say there’s stuff going on, especially in the city. It depends, ’cause compared to around here – like I’m not gonna be super critical about the Northern Beaches art community, there’s stuff going on every now and then. You got the community art shows every few months. In terms of contemporary art there’s close to nothing. But I mean, we got pelicans, some loose landscapes, beach scenes… towels. If you wanna get a better understanding of what’s happening now, you head into the city.
Yeah, sure. Do you have a certain message or vision for your art you’d like to convey?
Not really. My process is more just chipping away. The last work I did was like a 1+1 attitude, kinda just going off what I did last time and seeing what comes out the otherside. My work is mostly just attacking the landscape but also having the traditional qualities of paint. You know, just the canvas and the paint and the frame. And just playing with those traditional materials and see where you can take them, pushing them and expanding on them.
Yeah, in a lot of your work, you tend to stick with more neutral, darker colours.
Yeahnah, I go real earthy with the colour palette.
So how do you know when you’ve finished a piece?
Yeah, she took a while (Painting above). They’ll give you a wink when they say they’re done. But I don’t think artwork can ever be finished, it’s more when you just decide to give up. You get to that point. But again, it’ll tell you when it’s time though and you’ll know when you’ve pushed it too far too.
Pretty insane those fence pieces.
I mean those ones, I just kinda was like yeah sure, I’ll use them.
Your work has kind of an industrial, raw feel to it.
Yeah, kinda with the fences, the art object is quite unique, one off, individual piece. I liked the idea of having these kind of mass produced fences to support it; it kinda takes away that personal quality. There’s so much art out there, may as well explore with it.
How long have you been creating?
Doing it more than a hobby, kinda hit me in grade 11, so around 3-4 years. But I guess I’ve always drawn and done stuff like that as a kid. I’ve enjoyed making stuff. Without being dramatic, I’ve got a little fatal addiction with it now, it’s starting to take over my life.
Haha, I guess it’s a good addiction, there are worse things out there.
Yeah, I dunno, sometimes.
Would you say you’d get a lot of your inspiration by nature?
Yeah, nature always creeps back in, it has so much to give. You can look at it in so many ways.
Especially you can work with so many colours and styles, you got the ocean, deserts, skies.
I’m heading into the outback scene actually, gonna do like a little Australian artistic pilgrimage almost haha. Get real spiritual.
Haha get in there.
I’m keen too, I’ve only ever been on the coasts really. I heard it’s a real mindfuck on how much space there is everywhere. Not that we’re congested here but apparently out there it’s nuts.
Yeah, it’s dead.
Have you been out there?
Been to Darwin, travelled around there.
Have you ever cracked the shits on any of your artwork?
I’m always grumpy haha. I’m only happy when I see it on the walls and even then I’m not sure some of the times.
Do you have a feeling of achievement or relief when you see it on the wall?
It’s more of a content feeling. But the word content can be dangerous cause if you start using it with every piece, I feel like you’ll become soft and lose a bit of self-criticism which I find important to have. Yeah, you kinda don’t wanna turn a blind-eye for your ego.
Is art the only field you practice with, do you do anything else?
Well, I guess creatively, I play in a band every now and then. But I wouldn’t say that’s a serious outlet, it’s more just a real fuckaround. Art is more of a priority. And I’d definitely call myself an artist rather than a painter cause that just putting a restriction on yourself which isn’t really needed.
Yeah, introducing yourself as a painter seems you’ll only work within those limits.
Yeah, you pigeonhole yourself. It’s just silly cause I’ll paint a landscape today then tomorrow I’ll do something with a square.
So do you prefer listening to music whilst working?
I listen to music sometimes but it doesn’t influence my work. More of just a bonus on the side. Sometimes it can be good, kinda shuts out your conscious when you listen to it real loud I’ve found. When you’re just trying to put paint on paper, it stops you from thinking too much.
It can amp you up though.
Yeah, listening to Sonic Youth while getting head deep with a painting can really get you in that sort of zone, gives you that push. Or some deep house, keeps the pace going, keeps you bopping along. Haha.
Has your art been featured in any artshows this year?
Not so much this year. I had this one-off random show. Me and my friend met this guy from Melbourne, that was my first group show which was cool.
How’d that go?
Yeah, it was fun. It was a good excuse to go down there cause that’s a crazy city.
Melbourne’s pretty insane.
Yeah, cool place.
I like the beach too much though.
I’m a softie for the coast. Yeah, but I mean like I’ve done the art prizes here and there.
Do you find it difficult to get exposure?
Yeah, there’s a lot of young people doing art but I feel like there’s not many outlets for us to show it. But at this stage, I’m not really too worried about exposure. I’d rather get my practice down pat.
Do you go to many art shows in the city?
Yeah, being at art school, there’s always something happening around that area.
So, I’ve realised I’m such a sucker for the free booze.
Yeah, haha, we all are. Don’t get me wrong. Arts the bonus, you go there for the free alcohol.
Yeah but nah, but nah but yeah.
It’s kinda like that. There’s so many shows in the city, I was talking to a friend about it and there’s something happening all the time.
Yeah, once you get latched onto it, it’s nonstop. I mean from Wednesday to Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Maybe even Monday, there’s something happening, keeps you on your toes.
I didn’t realise Wednesday nights were a thing.
Yeah, Wednesdays are a real hotspot. It’s like a Saturday.
I went out on one and was surprised by how many people were getting amped.
It’s funny when you don’t see a lot of art, you think of art galleries and artshows like Hollywood and people in their suits.
It’s not really like that all.
Maybe when we’re older?
Yeah, we’ll worry about that tomorrow. Maybe next week.
Do you have any upcoming events or working on anything you’re pretty stoked about?
Yeah, I’ve been trying to swap traditional roles for the frames, canvas and paints. I’ll use a canvas and cut it up and collage it in a sense it becomes the form, it kinda holds it up, having it more of a practicable quality rather than a decorative one. With terms of what paint I use, I stick to hardware stores. I’m really into enamel, it’s gotta bit more beef to it than acrylic. I’ve never really hit it on with the oils, it’s kinda the shine and that kinda of quality about it, it’s a lot to take into account. Yeah, I just go to the hardware store and I like the idea that the colours I use is whatever’s been leftover.