b. 1975, born Sydney,
Lives and works in Sydney, Australia
In David Griggs’ graffiti-trash canvases, tattooed skeletons and religious rituals collide with gun-toting cartoon characters and the Ku Klux Klan. Griggs’ journey into this street carnival of politics and spirituality began at the age of eighteen, while photographing scenes of Indian and Nepalese poverty for an underground newspaper. Later, he spent time with refugees on the Thai-Burmese border. But it was the cacophonous confluence of cultures experienced during a 2005 residency in Manila that really revolutionised his practice. Griggs’ recent paintings are a personal response to what he saw in the Philippines: death, violence, poverty, religion and sex, all writ on the huge scale of Manila’s candy-coloured advertising banners. In a ‘reverse collage’ process riffing on the city’s visual complexity, Griggs commissioned banner painters to translate selected travel photographs into paintings, which Griggs then tagged with tattoo imagery, skulls, text and other symbolic elements.
David Griggs lives and works in Manila, where he continues to gain inspiration for his practice, and is rapidly gaining attention for his energetic and seductive canvases. In 2007, he won the Primavera Artist Prize having been selected for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney’s: Primavera exhibition showcasing the best of Australia’s artists under 35 years of age. In 2008 Griggs was included in Art and Australia’s major publication, Current: Contemporary Art from Australia and New Zealand. Griggs’ work is held in major public collections throughout Australia, including Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the University of Queensland.
BASELINE / 2023
New works by David Griggs’ for his exhibition ‘Baseline’ stem from a starting point that is imaginary. A baseline for what is the question. Historically though, Griggs’s starting points have mainly been derived from a topic, a gesture, or a lived experience. These new paintings unfold differently; the only keys to a direct link regarding anything tangible are in some of the titles. They offer very direct answers. One painting simply titled ‘Ultrasound’, gives off a blue aesthetic that is dependent on our understanding of being poked and prodded by such a machine. Then what to make of the other paintings? In another, a jovial skeleton with one leg is balancing next to a tennis ball? Oh wait, the answer is simple. He was thinking about mortality after having an ultrasound in the morning, then he went to the studio after, then he went home to watch the Wimbledon men’s final. A baseline? This makes some sense, but what about the raw, crude yet extremely technical approach to the physical painting process of Griggs? There is chaos, and refinement all on the one canvas. There is a sense though that every mark is approached as if his life depends on it. This energy is both unsettling and exciting. Imaginary imagery or baseline points of reference, either way it is violently clear that Griggs is 110% unapologetic.
Griggs uses an ambitious scale to draw viewers in, with subjects including people, politics and phobias, abstracted and smashed together with surreal conjunctions, his style is wide-ranging, restless and eclectic.
“Most recently my process is to make detailed paintings, before disrupting them with a more gestural application, to try and wash away the mechanisms we have as painters” - DG
A survey exhibition, created by the Campbelltown Arts Centre David Griggs: Between Nature and Sin toured galleries in Australia (2017-2019), his works have been curated into exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; Den Frie Center of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; along with exhibitions in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, USA, Belgium, Germany and Indonesia.
MEDITATION SEX MUSIC / 2019
In a mass-produced culture held together by feed after feed of advertising, self praise, critique and a solid amount of bad energy. Is painting still a bourgeoisie sport? Is painting just as superficial and as irrelevant as an Instagram models fan base? Probably!
However when we take away the hype, the idea of the celebrity painter and think for one minute about what painting means we can still find that the physical act of painting is still a primal need. Is this primal need to paint important? Yes!
To communicate, to distract, to create beauty, to express pain, to make marks, to be back in the cave, to live by a mantra that repeats like a breath reminding us we are here. Am I just writing all this to make my own painting practice seem more interesting than other painter’s practices? Yes!
Because I normally bring marks and paint together. Now I can make sentences that might be as special as the shit I paint. People reading my special words will be wowed and understand my paintings, then beauty and good energy will flow through these peoples veins. And blah, in truth this painting show of mine is just that. A painting show, I make paintings.
Why not? I need to!
I do not know!
I do not think about it! I’m a painter so I paint. Oh, and about the paintings? The process is life, fluid, good vibes. I paint nothing and in painting nothing, I paint everything lol. I do hope you enjoy these paintings because my internal world is all there to be seen.
BACK TO BASICS -
The Adelaide Review,
While David Griggs’ Mediation Sex Music explores similar themes to his previous exhibition, Horror Business, it’s a drastic departure in terms of approach and style.
“This time I wanted to make a series of paintings that are my internal world but are also very positive and full of energy,” Griggs says. “It’s the flipside to the Horror Business approach.”
Griggs, who now resides in Sydney after relocating from Manila a year ago, changed his approach in order to create these works. Instead of sourcing images and using notes from his diary as a starting point, Griggs went to the studio and just let the physicality of painting take over.
“It was about paint and being in the moment, being present and feeling that energy, your physical self and your mental self at one with the canvas,” he says. “It was weirdly liberating.”
Through the process of creating these paintings, Griggs spent time re-evaluating what it is about painting that he loves. He realised that approaching it from a very simple, primal perspective gave him the most satisfaction.
“I was dealing with paint and colour, I was dealing with texture and scale,” he says. “I was looking at the basics of paintings but at the same time trying to develop a language I didn’t know I had yet. I enjoyed the process and didn’t care if I succeeded or failed, I just went for it.”
Griggs wanted the work to have a human element to it, as he explains: “I wanted the physicality and movement to be really present in the work. I added a lot of linear marks, which I have never done before – it was very direct.”
The way Griggs has applied the paint to the canvas is different to previous work and again is something he did instinctively. “The paint is very thick – it’s more like drawing than painting. I still use a lot of brushes but a lot of the linear markings are straight from the tube. This was something I hadn’t done before, but it felt like the right approach at the time.”
While the ideas and concepts behind Meditation Sex Musicare similar to previous work, and the process of creating the works is still cathartic and a type of therapy for Griggs, these new paintings have a freedom not seen in his early work.
“While there is still a lot of depth and complexities within colour and composition, which is innate in the way I work, I wanted to be excited by painting again and to do this I had to try something different and learn from it,” he says.
BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN
/ CAMPBELLTOWN ARTS CENTRE / 2017
Campbelltown Arts Centre presents BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN, a survey exhibition of works by acclaimed Australian artist David Griggs who currently resides in Manila, the Philippines. Famous for his bold anarchistic approach, Griggs takes the everyday and flips it to expose the cracks, exhuming the raw undercurrent of a society.
Drawing from political imagery, underground media and protest, local histories and personal experience Griggs manifests a narrative to capture daily life. He documents intimate chance moments and the deliberate actions of his friends, and strangers, within an unidentifiable Manila.
BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN features a decade of past paintings, photographs, videos, and the premiere of COWBOY COUNTRY, an epic feature film following the story of a kidnapped American Filipino teenage help captive for ransom. Set in a fishing village and produced collaboratively with the community, this film features Soliman Cruz, the late Dante Perez and Melanie Tejano.
This unconventional installation of distinct works fluctuates between real and imagined and features a series of new murals and manufactured structures that will shift the way we experience painting. Twelve years in the making, this exhibition will take you on a journey along the back streets of society that echoes many localities, but at its core is Manila.
Curated by Megan Monte
HORROR BUSINESS / 2015
Horror Business is simply about my struggle with depression. I have been dealing with this struggle on and off for 10 years now. It’s difficult and complex to discuss, however it’s something that should be talked about. Depression is an international epidemic. When I’m not doing well, my brain wanders into some dark places. I started the Horror Business paintings as a way to say, “OK! I have to be strong, I have to learn to cope with this ailment, accept it as part of my being”. And I thought, “OK! Some of my irrational thoughts weigh heavy, so I kept a journal to write these thoughts down”, as a way to try and exile them. Then I used the notes I had written to make paintings from. My irrationality is a really powerful thing, because you’re living it daily and then turning it into a vision. Imagining a vision, a thought so vivid that it puts fear right into your heart then trying to have the strength to paint it. It’s scary for me, but I just thought, “No! What I’m going through I should use as a form of therapy, paint it, and if the paintings are morbid or dark then so be it”. Like the painting of the dancing skeletons in a bubble. I had this thought, what if I don’t have any skin? I had come to a place where I felt ready and strong enough to use my own nature as the content in my work. I decided that I should paint in black; grey and white to best capture my own Horror Business.