Next month, the highly anticipated Semi Permanent Festival will return to Sydney, celebrating its 20th anniversary of facilitating the exchange of creative ideas between talent, community and brands.
For those that don’t know, Semi Permanent is, essentially, a platform for creativity and business; a space where like-minded artists, creatives, brands and businesses can come together, network, connect and discuss the future of the creative and design industries. Founded by Murray Bell in 2002, it was Bell’s vision for a digital world that led him to the creation of one of the largest and most respected creativity and design festivals in the world today.
“Twenty years ago, I had this real sense that things were moving towards this digital space – which of course was and remains the case – which gave me this feeling that live, in-person experiences would become even more valuable,” explains Bell.
“We’ve been doing some really exciting things in the digital space, as the pandemic has forced us all to, but there’s a certain energy that can’t seem to be transferred through video conference. That element of spontaneity, and of something being shared together in real-time, makes Semi Permanent special. After a few years away, I’m incredibly excited that we’re returning to our hometown of Sydney for our 20th anniversary this May.”
“Semi Permanent has gone from running in a fairly traditional conference format to being something that can be experienced on multiple different levels. We’ve got talks — they remain the anchor of the program — but also performances, workshops, exhibitions, screenings, and so on. We’re hosting an art and design book fair for the first time this year. In tandem with that.”
Playing host to an array of installations, workshops, exhibitions, experiences, parties, networking opportunities and more, its ever-growing lineup for 2022 is beyond impressive. Over 34 speakers will take to the stage at this year’s Semi Permanent festival, with key visionaries including Jason Juma-Ross, regional Director of Technology Strategy at Meta; Hannah Tribe of Tribe Studio Architects; The Betoota Advocate; Bünyamin Aydin & Lamia Aydin of Les Benjamins, plus more.
To understand the event from a local level, ICON caught up with three incredibly talented Australian artists who will be participating in this year’s Semi Permanent Festival.
Kris Andrew Small – Graphic Artist, Sydney
Joining the talented list that is presenting at this year’s Semi Permanent Festival in Sydney, what are you excited about most at this year’s event? I am so excited to be a part of the lineup, it’s super nuts and really nice to have my name in there! You get so much energy from the audience and get to meet so many amazing people at events like this, so I am really excited to meet people and see their faces outside of a Zoom window.
Your designs are amazing, Kris – where does your inspiration derive from? Thank you! I don’t think I have one source, I always say people’s inspiration should come from their life and their story. I love colour, probably because I grew up somewhere that was quite tropical and I was surrounded by it. I talk about queer issues because I am queer. I spent a really long time living in Europe so I am much more influenced by European design than Australian. I found artists from a really young age that I think make work that speaks to me. So it’s not just one source, it’s all these experiences in my life that have led to my inspiration and to form my own style.
And how would you describe your artistic style? I think the word that sums it all up is ‘movement’. I have a busy mind and I am restless a lot of the time; I think that comes out in my work and is the link between it all. So I can sway between styles and mediums and it all still will look somewhat cohesive — at least, I think anyway.
You’ve worked with some stellar clients and have had your work presented in some of the world’s biggest galleries. What have those experiences been like and what have they taught you, perhaps? I’ve been very lucky to have been given a lot of amazing opportunities, I do feel like I worked really hard and took a lot of risks for it though. It’s been very surreal for the most part though and often feels like it’s happening to someone else. On the flip side, it’s something I’ve always kind of wanted so it feels oddly natural. I don’t think you get used to it though, sometimes I have to pinch myself for sure, but the way I see it, I am just getting started and I have so many things left to achieve and so many projects left to make.
What’s planned for you this year? What can we expect to see and any goals you’d like to achieve? I’ve got a pretty exciting and big year, to be honest. I mean the world is again not in a great place, and I feel that for sure. But I am pushing on because we can’t just shut everything down forever. I’ll be in NYC for a while for a project I have coming out around Pride — I’ve been working on that for almost two years and it’s been one of my favourite projects ever, so will be so nice for that to finally be out in the world. I don’t say no too much; I kind of like to see what opportunities come my way and try to make the best I can with them unless, of course, I think the project isn’t right for me or I don’t agree with it morally.
Nick Thomm – Artist, Los Angeles
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Semi Permanent Festival in Sydney? Being able to share my work with a live audience is something I’ve missed over the last two years during the pandemic. I feel like it’s a crucial part of the process as well. Whether it’s a show or a talk or whatever, it’s so important to have that real-life connection.
Where does your inspiration derive from? Everything. I’m sure lots of people have this feeling, all day every day I just enjoy creating. Then within specific projects or concepts, I will find a more refined form of inspiration. For example, my abstract paintings are inspired by the idea of being able to freeze a feeling or emotion, I’m trying to capture that moment in a painting. So you can go back to it and revisit it later. Then my graphic or sculptural works are more specific for each piece.
And how would you describe your artistic style? I find this hard to do because then I feel like I box myself in and I can’t grow or change. I’d use words like spectral, hypnotic, hyper-colour, new media, and experimental. All of those things combined in one.
Originally from Australia, what spurred the move to Los Angeles? Do people view your work differently in LA as opposed to Australia? I actually moved to New York first. I was there for 5 years, then moved to LA 3 years ago. Initially, I was just chasing something bigger. I love Australia, but I really wanted the challenge of a bigger city like New York. After about 5 years there, I found that LA gave me a much better work/life balance. It’s also much more convenient to get back to Australia and see family and friends (and my dogs). If there’s a difference between the way people view my work in the US vs AUS, I think it would only be because I do more gallery shows in the states, and in Australia, I probably do more installations/experiences.
In layman’s terms, can you describe the concept of “URL to IRL” within the framework of your artwork? IRL to URL is a shorthand I like to use to refer to my work or ideas which I think people expect to be “digital” because that’s what my aesthetic can appear like. So when I say URL to IRL. I’m just saying, maybe you expect to see something like this on a screen, but I’m now placing it in real life for you to feel and experience physically. Whether it’s a painting or a projection on a building, I’m blurring the lines between digital and physical worlds so you can experience them as one.
What’s planned for you this year? What can we expect to see and any goals you’d like to achieve? I’m looking forward to getting back into doing some shows. There will be a couple in the US and Europe as well. I just did my first sculpture release, so there will be more happening in that area. I’m also working on a project outside of art too. I’m more inspired when crossing industries and mediums, I used to do it a lot more when I was less busy, but spending two years locked in my house just making paintings, it’s inspired me to get back into working on a wider range of projects and sharing some other ideas I’ve got.
Serwah Attafuah – Multidisciplinary Artist & Musician, Sydney
Your artwork is amazing, Serwah – where does your inspiration derive from? I take inspiration from a range of different places depending on what I’m creating at the time, but a lot of my work is conceptually inspired by my emotions and experiences.
And how would you describe your artistic style? I’d describe it as a mix between rococo, renaissance and Afrofuturism
You’ve worked with some stellar clients and have had your work presented in some of the world’s biggest cities. What have those experiences been like and what have they taught you, perhaps? It has been great! I would have never dreamed I would be working for such awesome clients some of whom I’ve looked up to for years, or to have had my work shown in so many places. It taught me that being yourself, persistent and putting your art out there no matter how out of the box you think it may be can totally pay off.
You recently participated in Sotheby’s ‘Natively Digital’: A Curated NFT auction – how was that, and what are your thoughts on NFTs from an artists’ perspective? It was a fantastic experience and I’m very grateful to have been invited to be involved. Sotheby’s and the team are very tuned in to what the NFT community is all about. I personally love NFTs and the combination of blockchain technology and art, it has completely changed the way I view art and my career as an artist moving forward.
What’s planned for you this year? What can we expect to see and any goals you’d like to achieve? I’m trying to keep more tight-lipped about my future plans but generally, I love to be able to finish a body of paintings and perhaps record some new music too.
The Semi Permanent Sydney Festival will run from May 25 – 27. Get your tickets here.