Tiny Travelling Gallery

by Insiders Dunedin

Scott Savage ( Jolly Good Show) and Colleen Pugh (a.k.a. Dear Colleen) and are a pair of graphic designers by trade whose hearts lie in the world of Lowbrow arts. The Dunedin-based couple is taking the New Zealand Lowbrow art scene to the world by taking their Tiny Travelling Gallery to two high-profile overseas lowbrow, craft and folk art conventions. We sat down with Scott at his studio to discover more about their exciting crowd funding project which runs till the 8th September.

The term Lowbrow art is not widely known in New Zealand, however many of us own items that fall within the wide spectrum of the term; comic books, art toys, illustrations on t-shirts or skateboards. Often the Lowbrow arts lack grandeur and are often overlooked in the art world, this motivated and very talented couple wish to change this. They believe the Tiny Travelling Gallery is a step towards offering Lowbrow arts the kudos it deserves. 

The pair are taking part in two major overseas events; LA DesignerCon and London Renegade Fair. LA is a special place in the history of Lowbrow art and therefore a fitting home for the New Zealand art to be showcased. The city is a melting pot and sees an overlap of many Lowbrow disciplines from surf and skate culture to underground comics and punk. DesignerCon showcases the some of the who's who of the Lowbrow art scene across a two-day event centred in a convention centre in the city of Pasadena in LA county. Artists from throughout the US and the world (particularly the UK and Japan) travel to the event. The combined visitor number of the two events are over 30,000 people.  

Scott and Colleen have successfully raised over $3,000 on Spark’s (formerly Telecom) Spark My Potential crowd funding initiative that has been set up to enable Kiwis to realise their dreams. They will be the voice and curators of the project while they travel overseas with a Tiny Travelling Gallery featuring a range of New Zealand Lowbrow artists’ work. The gallery will be a custom cabinet where each of the artists will have a small space for the presentation of their work. Initially, the plan was to involve six to eight artists this has risen to over twenty artists after the success of the campaign so far. The campaign has a series of stretch goals that when reached will determine the extent of the project. Scott laughs he has the terrible role and responsibility of indirectly acting as spokesperson for the country. He and Colleen have tried very hard to involve a cross section of artists from different disciplines, experience levels and geographic locations to be represented in the Travelling Gallery. Each of the artists involved have been set a brief for the project.  This brief revolves around size; none of the objects will be larger than 13 centimetres cubed. A range of 2-dimensional pieces will be showcased as well, such as zines, comics and prints. 

The idea is that Scott and Colleen are taking the art on what they describe as it’s very own OE in a showcase of New Zealand creatives to the world. The initial $2500 raised will cover the admin fees of the events, construction costs and excess luggage. Further funds raised allow the pair to explore ideas around making collaborative promotional material, include more artists, organise a travelling exhibition around New Zealand and work towards creating a publication on the Lowbrow Art Scene in New Zealand. 

Scott has a long term interest in the Lowbrow arts. He studied Art History through to post-graduate study while at University.  Although Scott was interested in the art he was learning  about he felt that the majority of it was very traditional and tended to overlook much of the art he was keen on. It was up to Scott to find out about Lowbrow art himself. His Post-Graduate Diploma examined the work of street artist Shepard Fairey of Obey Giant. In the early 2000s Obey was not the huge brand that is it today, around this time there was little discourse on and around the discipline; what had been written tended to focus on street art and comic books. Scott believes part of the reason why Lowbrow art tends to be neglected in critical discourse is because generally it is not given the legitimacy of fine art; there is an area of doubt that surrounds Lowbrow art. The discipline suffers from an identity crisis because it encompasses a huge amount. The worlds of tattoo art, punk rock, kitsch,  comics, street art, skateboard culture, hot rods, surf culture, erotica, circus and sideshow culture can all fit under the umbrella of Lowbrow art. Scott describes Lowbrow art as being a collection of like minded cultures that are on the fringe which  tend to be banded together. However, each has their own facets that make them unique. 

Scott’s primary interest lies in the designer toy world. In 2012, he followed his passion and travelled to the United States as a buyer to DesignerCon convention in Los Angeles. This year he is returning as an exhibitor. Scott found his 2012 trip to the convention very inspiring; many of the artists and designers  attend the convention and are at their stalls available for visitors to meet and talk to them about their work. This way of exhibiting the works breaks down the exclusivity and distance between the artist and the people who want to enjoy the work. 

Scott has always wanted to create art toys, however, felt he had lacked the discipline until early this year when he decided to book a table at DesignerCon and to use the six months ahead of the convention he has been working for six months making his own line of toys to show at the event. Scott’s interest is in limited run reproductions or one-off designer toys, he describes his passion as a very expensive hobby in which he is still learning his craft. Many of the materials necessary to create designer toys are not available in New Zealand and need to be shipped from overseas. 

Colleen is primarily an illustrator and letterer. Recently she has completed a set of illuminated and numbers and has been working with some notable New Zealand companies to create pieces for the showcase.

Devon Smith, Jarred McCutcheon and ex-Dunedinites Nigel Roberts and Sean Duffell will be included in the Travelling Gallery. 

The pair ultimately hopes to take the project full circle by touring the show around New Zealand galleries and later creating a critical publication or short film for the general public to take something away from this as well. Scott believes the success of the exhibition will be determined on how well it is received once it returns to New Zealand. He believes the Spark funding will only take the project so far, for real success in raising the awareness of the New Zealand Lowbrow art scene the exhibition needs to connect with the public. Scott admits Lowbrow art is not for everyone, but this is not the point, rather it is about giving it legitimacy and making sure it is not disregarded. Both Scott and Colleen have put in countless hours to date and many more to come no doubt. It is an exciting project they have embarked on and one the very talented duo are sure to do justice to. 

View the Spark My Potential Campaign:  http://sparkmypotential.co.nz/project/tinygallery

The artists involved:

Scott and Colleen have an amazing list of artists already signed up to take part. They represent a good cross-section of experience, outcomes and styles in the NZ Lowbrow art scene:

PINKY FANG | An illustrator, designer and creator of all things bright, weird & wonderful - with a particular penchant for cats. | pinkyfang.co.nz

GRIMOIRE | Grimoire lives on a remote station under the Ruahine Ranges on the East Coast of New Zealand. Grimoire uses pens, pencils and ink to draw obscure and unfortunate creatures and landscapes. | grimoire666.tumblr.com

JARROD MCCUTCHEON | Creates playful, colourful, often juvenile illustrations influenced heavily by current youth culture. | tinyurl.com/qfyte4h

DEVON SMITH | Devon stays up too late, drinks too much coffee, and draws a lot. She has a B.F.A with a major in painting and is currently an apprentice tattoo artist. | devonsmith.co.nz

PAUL SHIH | An all-round artist, who brings to life exciting characters of vivid imagination which play wickedly in the fuzzy worlds of illustration, toys, games, and more. | paul-shih.com

PODGY PANDA aka Richard Kuoch | An artist, illustrator, animator and graphic designer from Auckland, who has exhibited worldwide. He has just come back from America where he had his second international solo show. His creative motto is “Blink, Smile, Share” by creating characters that show his fun and unique take on life | podgypanda.com

BECK WHEELER | Beck Wheeler is a pop surrealist who makes art out of paint, wood, found objects and digital media. Her works create a visual language which explores character based narratives through neo-tribalism. | beckwheeler.net

MICA STILL | Mica’s artwork will sneak up and frighten you in your dreams while making you laugh out loud in the light of day. Enjoy the ride. | micastill.com

GARRY MCLANACHAN | Illustrator, animator and best of all a designer of funny, charming characters, based in Auckland. | eyesorecreative.com

HADLEY DONALDSON | Illustrating, animating, poster artist. Hadley is often found adding his humorous take on the world to the streets of New Zealand through poster design. | hadleydonaldson.tumblr.com

ALAINA RHIND | Christchurch based pop surrealist who creates highly detailed mysterious illustrated landscapes filled with wonderful weird creatures. | alainarhind.com

LAURA SHALLCRASS | Laura is an artist & illustrator living in Queenstown who lives by the motto "I just want to make beautiful things and get enough sleep." | laurashallcrass.co.nz

JEM YOSHIOKA | Illustrator and comic artist making stories and pictures in Wellington. | jemshed.com/

NIGEL ROBERTS | A Duds artist in Auckland, loves painting letters, letters that jump. Boing. | flickr.com/photos/tenzedwt

KELLY SPENCER | an illustrative visual artist with a soft spot for critters, delicious lettering, and all things India. Based in Wellington, with a tendency to wander. | kellyspencer.co.nz

SEAN DUFFELL | Sean Duffell is a Wellington based Graphic Artist, predominantly acting as a decorator of public spaces with his bold, abstract, nature inspired imagery which can be found on walls throughout NZ.| ghstie.com

JAKE MEIN | a prolific photographer capturing the dynamic, elegance and culture of skateboarding in New Zealand. Jake works with a number of prominent skateboarding publications including Manual Magazine. | jakemein.com

TANE WILLIAMS | Some dude who doodles. | tanewilliams.com

GREG STRAIGHT | artist, illustrator and graphic designer best known for his strong graphic edge and exciting use of bright hues. | gregstraight.com

JENNA ADAM (aka Ninja Bears) | Ninja Bears are kawaii handmade plushies that transform into many different things, they are friend to you and will protect you from evil. | nijabears.co.nz

EMA FROST | a Auckland based artist making charming creatures that hide in unsuspecting places making themselves visible to only the most discerning eye | emafrost.co.nz

CAPILLI TUPOU | Capilli Tupou is an artist specialising in old school traditional style tattooing. As a New Zealander of Maori (Te Rarawa) and American Samoan heritage, Capilli brings his own unique Polynesian slant to the style. | capillitupou.com

ADRIAN VERCOE | With a background in graffiti and skateboarding, Adrian is a documentary photographer capturing street culture portraits around NZ and overseas. | adrianvercoe.com

OTIS FRIZZELL | Otis Frizzell draws and paints. He has done for over twenty years. He's getting quite good now. | facebook.com/WestonFrizzell & theluckytaco.co.nz

More artists are to be announced!

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