It was while gaining a degree in fine art from RMIT that Wyatt Knowles discovered his medium. The Melbourne-based artist chafed at the dogmatic approach to art of academic spaces and instead soon found freedom creating collage pieces that made use of the discarded or “throw-away thing”, as he’s called it.
“I work in a range of mediums,” says Knowles. “Sharpies, pastels, paint, collage, then usually scan it in and mess around in photoshop. My desk is a mess and looks a lot more like an ‘artist’s’ studio than a designer’s.
“I guess you would call it “graphic art”. Kind of sits somewhere between graphic design and ‘fine’ art. In my opinion.”
“I didn’t enjoy uni a whole lot, as I felt it was just a whole lot of people using big words and ‘art speak’ to make up for their bad artwork. I still liked making art but didn’t really want to have to write about my work for gallery proposals etc, so I kind of turned to graphic design and making flyers for bands.”
Which is a humble way to say he’s work has been sought out by some of the biggest artists in the world today – Post Malone, Tyler the Creator, Ariana Grande and Alicia Keys – creating their tour merch and promo designs. Wanting to piece of that pastiche nostalgia, brands Holiday The Label and Ksubi have also utilised his talents for limited run clothing, riffing off the same scrapbook vibe that has filtered down from the music world.
“Post Malone’s (at the time) creative team reached out to me and have had me work on a bunch of designs for merchandise. Feels like somewhat of an accomplishment to have my work used by big artist’s in comparison to when I used to just make flyers for gigs of bands that I was in, where six people would show up. Also some big ones that I can’t talk about right now, hopefully soon I can announce.”
(ICON came across Knowles’ work while watching a recent collection at fashion week. During one of the collections, one of the stand-out motifs featured in the clothes turned out to be his work. However, licensing around these things can be a roadblock for independent artists discussing their work. But as the man himself said, hopefully soon it can be announced.)
While trying not to fall into the trap of “talking about the art” that Knowles wanted to avoid, it does bare mentioning that his work taps into a bigger question within creative practices today.
Back in 2016, stylist extraordinaire Lotta Volkova remarked that the subculture as a practice no longer existed. It is, she elaborated, about remix – the shuffling of codes and forms to create something that speaks to the individual on a personal level rather than grandiose statements.
It also highlights the platforms and way that artists such as Knowles disseminate their work. Digital environments are built for remix, for collage and pastiche. It also makes finding an audience much quicker than your traditional indie gallery launch.
“As much as I hate to say it, my whole job pretty much exists because of Instagram. It’s allowed me to connect with people all over the world and work for a bunch of big people.
“Digital platforms have really changed the game for artists – both negative and positive, I guess. What role does traditional art practice have in an environment where remix and diffusion have become the norm? And what’s more important – originality or authenticity? Can they even be separated? I guess digital platforms just increase the amount of artwork and artists that are visible to you. So I guess it’s kind of a good thing because it makes you strive a little harder to stick out from the sea of work that is all kind of ehhh. I hope my work is starting to do that.”