visual art

Fred Negro: King of St Kilda

Fred Negro has just knocked off his shift cleaning toilets. One of the best cartoonists in the world – according to some – doesn’t mind his day job. He’s done it for a long time. “It’s just a gig,” he says. “I always wake up early anyway, and I’m finished by 10 or 11.”

Negro, artist and musician, is a Melbourne icon. He is the creator of Pub, the comic strip that ran for decades in street press which chronicled in lurid, scatological and frequently pornographic detail the ratbags and raconteurs of the bayside suburb of St Kilda.

For a long time in the 1990, Negro lived in the suburb’s Esplanade Hotel. “I had the key to the pub. I was like the king of St Kilda! I just had to clean the joint,” he tells me. At the Espy, you could reliably find him drinking and drawing everything going on around him.

The late Rowland S Howard once said you hadn’t made it in Melbourne until you’d appeared in one of Negro’s Pub strips. That was quite something coming from the Birthday Party guitarist, who had his own laneway in St Kilda named after him after his death.… Read more..

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The pop art legend hiding in the hinterlands

In the lush subtropical hinterlands behind Noosa Heads, 90 minutes north of Brisbane, a short dirt road takes you to the home of one of the pre-eminent artists of the last century.

In a large, bright studio, down a short incline from the home he shares with daughter Zoe and her partner, Peter Phillips – who made his name in the early 60s in the vanguard of British pop artists along with Derek Boshier, Allen Jones and David Hockney – continues to paint.

Along with large, more abstract recent works and some of his earliest sketches, a few of his most famous pieces are here, including the giant Art-O-Matic Riding High (another painting from the same series, Art-O-Matic Loop-Di-Loop, was used as the cover of a 1984 album by the Cars called Heartbeat City).

But Phillips left behind the style which made him famous, and which he helped pioneer, a long time ago. “I definitely don’t favour the early work,” he says. “I am excited about some of the newest pieces, possibly because it is what interests me most at the moment.”

Recently,  Phillips, who is celebrating his 80th birthday, opened his studio to the public as part of the Noosa Food and Wine Festival.… Read more..

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