PHOTO 2024: Darren Sylvester

Interview by Bianka Covic
All images courtesy the artist and Neon Parc Melbourne

To celebrate the PHOTO 2024 International Festival of Photography we talk to multi-disciplinary headline artist Darren Sylvester.

Darren talks to Melbourne Milieu about what led him to become an artist and the ideation and creation of his exhibited works for the festival.

Body be a Soul, 2023, archival inkjet print, 160 x 120 cm
courtesy the artist and Neon Parc Melbourne

Hey Darren, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you to becoming an artist?

I’m an artist who works across a lot of mediums however essentially, I’m a maker of things – I dream it, then make it. In the photography part of my practice, it’s studio-based, where I build sets and props and use a 4x5 large format camera with transparency film to create large, saturated photographs. I remember being a kid and breaking wooden clothes pegs apart and that became the base of sailing ships. Matchstick for a mast. Paddle pop stick cut as a keel… I guess it started there.

You’re the definition of a multi-disciplinary artist, using photography, music, sculpture, installation and even recently, glass blowing — take us through your creative process, from ideation to creation, and how you decide best suits?

An idea comes first. Art is the only occupation left where you can do anything. Literally what I imagine, is the art. Then the idea dictates the medium; should it exist in the space and be sculpture? Or is it a world to create and then compress through photography? If it’s a sculpture, then what is the best material to represent the idea? You just keep asking questions on every level and you’ll end up with something.

There are links from work to work, and show to show in my practice to see. For example, I had a photograph of a guillotine a year ago, which in turn became sculptures of glass decapitated snowman heads like Keef, which in turn became photographs of Snow Angels.

For PHOTO 2024, you will be exhibiting The Doom Buggies, talk to us about this exhibition.

I wanted to make scenes reminiscent of pop videos that were more open ended. Scenes that are similar to a film technique called ‘dream theatre’, where a film contains a scene that cuts away from the narrative into an internal space. Singing in the rain (1952) has an epic dream theatre sequence of dancing which was mimicked in Barbie (2023) when all the Kens face off and dance. The flowing scarf in the Singing in the rain sequence was an influence on the work Pirates par excellence (2024) with these Pepsi red and blue silk scarves I fashioned together. These spaces I build, are filled with people who act out psychological games reminiscent of the choreography in pop videos, using doppelgangers, identical dressing, high and low fashion and so on to explore themes of mortality and consumer desirability.

Your image Body be a soul (2023) from Uncanny Valley: Photography, Tech and the Hyperreal will be on display near Parliament and will be one of the largest images in terms of scale and impact for PHOTO 2024 — what thoughts, feelings and emotions do you hope to evoke in viewers (some of which will walk past it multiple times a day!)

That work, Body be a soul (2023) began with a shock glimpse of myself in glass or mirror that reminded me, ‘I’m a body’, and then translating that to an image of the body separated from mind. The mirror is cut into the shape of a skull, so it’s part Hamlet, part 70’s horror film also. It’s probably about trying to live in the moment and seeing yourself as part of something bigger. I would hope that passers-by might subconsciously register this, and if it can shift a way of thinking to be more present for a moment in some people it's worth it.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

I honestly like drinking Chardonnay and playing with my Corgi, George Michael.

Lastly, what are you working on next and where should people follow you to see more of your work?

I’m taking a break. I began this exhibition in June, so it’s been 7 months to pull together. I hope to have my fourth LP music record out end of year, so will get back into finishing that.

My Instagram follows behind the scenes and my website, has everything archived.

Darren Sylvester PHOTO 2024 Events
01 March - 24 March

Uncanny Valley: Photography, Tech and the Hyperreal
Treasury Precinct
20 Spring St, East Melbourne
24 hrs

The Doom Buggies
Neon Parc
15 Tinning St, Brunswick
Wed – Sat, 12 – 5pm

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