An Interview with Daniel Papantoniou
I first came across Dan’s work in the form of mischievous comic style frogs. And then his flash tattoos.
Which was a bit confusing when I went to Dust Temple in Currumbin where he was having his solo exhibition – Twisted in Motion. I was half expecting a combination of flash and maybe a few cheeky frogs here and there. It wasn’t – I was pleasantly surprised.
I actually went to the same school as Dan but he was a few years above me. So it was good to catch up with on a steamy summer morning in Currumbin industrial at the back of Dust Temple. We talked about his exhibition, nearly failing art at school, spit shading, frog colonies, painting collabs and the joy of learning about the history of art.
So, what have you been up to since leaving school? Did you go straight into tattooing?
I studied fine art in Brisbane and then started my tattoo apprenticeship – that was about 7 years ago. Last year I was living in Berlin.
I got a year working holiday visa and moved over there with my girlfriend, Louisa. I had my portfolio and went around to a bunch of tattoo shops. I started working at Electric Reaper and I learnt a lot. Plus, Berlin was a good place to base myself from so I could travel around Europe. Berlin is crazy – it really inspired me.
Did you study fine art so you could make a career out of being an artist?
Ah, not really. I just wanted to become a better artist because I enjoyed it. I actually nearly failed art at school haha.
Yeah, I think I got a C- or something. They wanted me to talk about my artwork and I just couldn’t. I didn’t really like to talk about it at the time, I just wanted to do it. I enjoyed it. I’d rather art about art then write an essay about it.
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What’s Twisted in Motion about?
My intention was to depict iPhones, cigarettes and lust in an attempt to discuss acute addictions and how they have morphed our existence. I wanted to explore different types of art. It’s really hard for me to just stick to one style. That’s what the aim of this exhibition was, to stick with one style and do 15 of them. I started with one painting in Berlin, just mucking around, and then I realised that I really enjoyed it.
I was expecting a mashup of flash and frogs for this exhibition. I had no idea you did paintings like this.
I think I enjoy this style of painting at the moment but who knows. I might like to paint oil paintings in a years time. That’s the hardest part for me – sticking to one media or genre of painting. It’s like being alright at 10 instruments rather than being really good at one.
Have you thought about just focusing on one style?
I just have fun trying different shit. I do think about it – just sticking with one thing like oil painting. But I just have too much fun doing other styles. Being an artist in just one style is too limiting, for me, at least.
What about the Frogs? Tell me more about Alright co?
It started about 2 years ago with my girlfriend. It was a good way to learn about getting shit made and to learn about the different quality of shirts and prints. Printing art on products a real art form in itself. It’s nice to actually feel something and work with on something tangible. Tattooing at House of Solace has been my main priority at the moment.
How did you think of the frogs?
I was just practising to draw frogs. Then I put clothes on them, then it turned into a colony of frog friends. Maybe it could be a children’s book someday haha. It’s always good to have that sorta stuff up your sleeve. They are actually in an exhibition at the moment down in Coolangatta.
Are there techniques that apply to different styles, like, tattooing, cartoons and the paintings you have on display inside?
Yeah of course. Some of the paintings in here is the same way that I paint old flash. It’s called spit shading. Which is when you use your spit to actually shade and blend out the inks. If you see a blend in any of the paintings inside, I have used a brush in my mouth and the other in my hand. The consistency of spit is different than water.
What, I had no idea about that.
Yeah I’d love to hold up a black light and see how much of my spit is actually on the canvas haha. My Boss at Electric Reaper in Berlin taught me how to spit shade. Which I’m forever grateful for. He actually tattooed my back as well – a big wizard coming out of a skull playing the flute.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I like to do the same thing I do with tattooing and go back in history to learn about what artists did 50 or 150 years ago. I think it’s important to realise what people have done in the past if you want to progress. I have to realise that my stuff won’t be better. But It’s important to take notes from people from the past in order to move forward.
You mentioned that you collaborated with some other artists – that painted their own work within your painting. What’s that about? Is that a common?
I don’t know if people have done it before, it just kinda happened. It started with just some artist friends coming over to my house and painting. They paint their own sections within the paintings. Five of the paintings inside have other artists featured inside them, Like, Sam Arnold, Harry Macintosh, Dan Mason. I didn’t really care what they painted, as long as they had their hand to it. I just told them that they had a little section, I didn’t care what they did, as long as it was their own. It’s kinda like how I get my tattoos done, I just want an artist to put their own work in a certain space.
I love that idea. What is your plan for this year?
Just keeping doing art and different styles. I’d like to paint some bigger murals and maybe some smaller ones. I’m not really too sure haha. I just wanted to keep learning.
Here is a podcast Dan did on SANS END while he was in Berlin: