Australian street artist E.L.K (Luke Cornish) has risen through the ranks of the Australian contemporary art scene with incredible speed. During his relatively short career, the Melbourne-based "master of stencils" has achieved several significant milestones including becoming the first street artist in history to be nominated for the Archibald Prize.
His latest solo exhibition, titled Not With It,opens on teh 21th of November at Melbourne’s Metro Gallery and features incredible stencil portraits of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, actor Jack Charles, and Father Bob Maguire.
A progressive social commentary that emanates from a uniquely Australian perspective, the collection touches on our global hopelessness in the aftermath of the GFC, the growing divide between the rich and poor and the separation of church and state.
Using up to 85 layers of carefully hand-cut acetate, E.L.K sprays layer upon layer of aerosol paint until his images bear a striking photographic resemblance that gives his work an incredible depth and level of detail.
The painstaking process that results in the highly visceral images not only challenges the defined role of the street artist, but also invites the viewer to experience the people depicted in the portraits in a unique context.
Working within a genre usually associated with the temporal and the spontaneous, E.L.K’s considered and compulsive approach to his work defies the usual conventions of the street art movement to which he belongs.
Although his stencils are a deviation from the somewhat clichéd canon of the urban aesthetic, he does, however, manage to retain the most important characteristics and qualities that are the legacy of the street art progenitors.
Detailed and decadent, E.L.K’s stencils combine the hyper-realism of his unique technique with the mechanical and industrial elements that are the hallmarks of an art form developed in public spaces.
Choosing to reproduce faces that are themselves narratives of sorts - living canvases etched and impressed with the emotions, experiences and endeavours of lives lived to the full - in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing, yet sympathetic to the unique lives of each person, would be difficult for any artist let alone one working with stencils.
Explaining how he achieves this amazing feat, the Metro Gallery website explains that “The emotions that permeate through the eyes of his portraits have great depth, the shadows created by the stencils highlighting their anguish. His subjects all seem to share the same hardship and determination that Cornish himself has experienced, lending to a sense of dire reality in the unreality of his images.”
By producing work that is at once sympathetic to the roots of his sphere of influence and at the same time avant-garde, E.L.K bridges the gap between high art and low art in a way that is aesthetically appealing, appropriately challenging, and does justice to the significance of the people he portrays.
A solo exhibition by E.L.K
Monday 12 November to Saturday 1 December at Metro Gallery
For more information visit http://www.metrogallery.com.au