You are peering through a paint-covered kaleidoscope. All the loose coloured objects, beads, pebbles and bits of crystal are in a constant state of ethereal flux. The light gracefully enters from behind the glass, and starts to project exquisitely intricate patterns towards the surface of your eye. Magic manifests, complexity ensues, and as you allow yourself to be transported into this intriguing hyper-reality, a portrait of a whimsically talented beauty slowly and pleasingly falls into focus.
By harnessing the mystical quality of this reflective state, Shannon Crees explores the divergence of opposing themes and the concept of duality – whilst playfully flirting with surrealism in her elaborately decorative process.Her collaged patterns and bold colours depict an abstract interpretation of the things she finds most beautiful. The robust patchwork and dense image-rich compositions are nothing short of a splendor for the visual palette, demanding both the viewer’s attention and respect. Crees sees no reason to hold back on her liberated explosions of colour and contour, where the audience is politely invited to examine and observe her explorations into the unknown.
Shannon Crees is a true maverick of colours, a sorceress of shapes and a mastermind of geometrics. Her work is endowed with dynamic compositions, delicate floral patterns, botanical references and layered, textural, brush strokes. In these works, oft of considerable proportion, Crees endeavors to react to her immediate environment and meld this with the vivid landscape of her fertile imagination.
She is an artistwith a deep well of inspiration, whocasts her spells across any space she deems worthy of a canvas. Crees’ motivation is translated into her work with a distinct flair for boldly graphic backgrounds which envelope her elegantly feminine subjects. Her acute attention to detail sees Crees currently painting two unique paths through the contemporary street and fine art landscapes simultaneously.
Crees’ experience in fashion illustration built the foundation for her unique aesthetic, and immaculate propensity for figurative drawing. Her painterly touch has developed from small-scale canvas to large format street mural production, which is the foundation for a new spectrum of inspiration for Crees as she embarks on an enchanting journey of creative method and visual melody.
Words:Emma Forster & James Watkins.
Can you please tell us a few things about yourself that we might be surprised to learn?
My hand writing is really messy.
I like to put everything in colour order.
I grew up in a hippie commune.
What do you love about art and being an artist?
I love everything to do with art; I think I would have to call it an obsession. The appeal of being a self-employed artist for me is the freedom in being able to choose what I do from day to day.I am the master of my life and I couldn’t live any other way.I have been self employed for 11 years, the whole idea in the beginning was just to make things and sell them.I’m really glad that the path led me to where I am now.
How would you describe your creative philosophy?
My artworks can be a reaction to my immediate environment or an attemptto depict the vivid landscape of my dreams.Recently I have been exploring themes of duel identity: dark and light, good and bad, past and future in artworks verging on surrealism.I have always seen my characters as vessels through which I can translate emotion. The philosophy might change but the motivation has always been a compulsion for colourful creation.
You paint large scale, hyper-graphic murals as well as delicate, highly feminine canvas works. How do you feel the two different approaches feed off, influence and help the other?
The murals are appropriations of my studio work, and a mural needs to be approached in a different way because of the scale, uneven surface and accessibility, so they are somewhat simplified versions.
When I painted walls in London for the first time, I liked the juxtaposition of my soft feminine illustrations, all optimistic and organic with the old walls layered with graffiti. I saw them in a whole new light.
How has other people’s work influenced or affected your own practice?Any specific names and reasons why?
So many artists have influenced me, and with the internet it has become so easy. Inspiration is such a motivating force. Gustav Klimmt was the first that I remember and I guess figurative artwork is something that has always come naturally.
What are your earliest memories of drawing?
I am lucky to be part of a very creative supportive family.I painted and drew at home with my parents from as far back as I can remember. My auntie and I have been painting and creating together for almost 30 years. My grandma also taught me how to sew and knit.
What stages has your work developed through to arrive at your current style?
The most obvious way my worked has developed is from tiny intricate illustrations, to huge murals.Also I have gone from painting for myself to painting commissioned artworks. I guess along the way there has always been a learning curve.When you work for your self there are always time and financial restraints, so I see it as a great game of problem solving while trying to keep it creatively liberated.
You studied and practiced as a fashion designer before taking your art to the streets and canvas. Why did you decide to shift your energy into the visual arts?
It wasn’t a conscious decision; it has been an organic process that unfolded over a period of time. I was a fashion illustrator and designer that enjoyed painting. I feel very blessed that people wanted to buy my paintings and one day I didn’t have go back to my other work.
How has your background in fashion influenced your aesthetic and approach to your work?
I still paint figurative artwork and I think the influence of fashion is still apparent in my work, it’s just all jumbled up with a whole new spectrum of inspiration.
Your works are visually geometric andexplore forms of the human figurewith a distinct contemporary flair. What do you enjoy most about this relationship to render?
I love colour, so geometric shapes are a great way to block them in as a starting point.I am also drawn to them as they counter the soft feminine aspects of my figures and represent the man made environment. So I see them as putting the figure into an abstracted context. My use of patterns is similar but represents a natural environment,collages of all things I find beautiful.
Are there certain types of people you like to collaborate with? Tell us about one of your more memorable collaborations with a fellow artist and what did it involve?
I love painting with all other artists, especially at live events, the festivals and competitions have all been a blast. The biggest stand out was Secret Wars, having a crowd scream for you and being on stage takes the cake. Painting with Pure Evil at Banksy’s Cans festival was fantastic, he’s so good at making everything fun. You learn so much from this interaction and it’s great to see everyone’s different approach to the pressure. We all have such different techniques to arrive at the same destination.
Banksy’s Can Festival. What did you contribute to the foray, and more importantly, did you meet the man himself?
It was the second mural I had ever done, I had 10 hours so I worked from a sketch that I had just doodled because I didn’t have any time to think about it. I met so many amazing artist from all over the world, but the man himselfpainted in the first Cans which was all stencils and the second round was all throw ups. The guys painting next to me painted over his mural, which I was glad not to have bestowed on me. The whole thing was so much fun, there was so much hype around street art in London at the time.We were all grubby and covered in paint and they had set up a mess hall in the middle of it where chefs in perfect white uniforms were serving fabulous food. People were painting the floor, trashed cars, and even the ceiling on cherry pickers. With such a long tunnel being painted, you could smell the spray paint miles away.
‘Sydney woman turns graffiti into gallery art’, ‘Art joins the anti graffiti fight’? and ‘Painting is not the simple life’… are all headlines that have been associated with you and your work. How do you relate to the stereotypes associated with being a ‘street artist’ and ‘the struggles of being an artist’ that the media tend to convey?
I definitely fell into this, so at times I didfeel unauthentic because I had never painted a train, so I guess I have stereotypes of my own. I hope everyone thinks it is hard to be an artist because there is a lot of truth in it. At times I felt like I was trying to move a mountain and that I was completely isolated in my pursuit. Also, even those closest to me didn’t understand the struggle or what I was trying to achieve. Every professional artist’s experience is completely unique and I love hearing their stories.
What are you working on at present? Do you have any ideas about what you’d like to achieve with your work and what direction you’d like it to evolve in moving forward into the near future?
I am working on breaking down the border betweenfine art, & street art within my personal practice. So as tokeep the workload varied and interesting, I would love to be working on installation, exhibition, video etc as well as murals.