Scott Elk in Sydney

Billowing on banners, printed on posters and featured in multiple venues around Sydney, the artwork of Scott Elk is enjoying great exposure, and for good reason. The Sydney-born artist’s illustrations mix media from photography to screen prints, from design elements to typography. The modern amalgams instantly come across as multi-layered works reflecting a depth of thought and artistic practice. Whether exploring issues of queer identity or playing with variations in typography, Scott Elk represents a leading voice in queer art through his powerful and evocative work.

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Scott Elk, Mardi Gras 2010 Season Posters: Rocco D’Amore as the Gay Clone, Mini Cooper as Marlene Dietrich, and Rob Magee as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Courtesy of the artist.

As the commissioned creative force behind the poster images of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2010, Scott Elk created six characters to illustrate this year’s broad theme: The History of the World. Recreating and modernizing icons from (gay) history, Elk used styled photos (in which models posed as Neptune, Joan of Arc, the Vitruvian Man, Queen Elizabeth I, Marlene Dietrich and a Tom Finland-like gay clone) to produce historic-looking screen prints complete with a modern graphic edge.   The roughly black, red and white prints on view in their original form at the Mardi Gras Gallery at Tap Gallery until March 6 (and in a modified form on banners and posters) set up a very fertile dialogue between present and past, text and image, and explore ideas of queer history and gender identity.

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Scott Elk, History of the World Series: ‘Gay Clone’ and ‘Elizabeth’, 2010. Hand Screen prints, 52 x 52 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

In his uncommissioned artistic work, Elk focuses more on the geography of numbers, variations in typography and their relationship to the human world. His hand-painted numbers (numbers being a fount of fascination for the artist) create their own universe. The artist produces multi-faceted work (playing with bingo sheets as a backdrop) that captivates and inspires in its complexity and its brute honesty.

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Scott Elk, Detail from ‘Cocaine Sex Pest / I Mean I Love You.’ Mixed Media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Work drawn from Bingo v2.0: The Seedy Underworld of Subculture and Sex by Numbers depicts a landscape where numbers crowd around individuals in various states of undress and involved in different degrees of fetish. The numbered landscape, on large, immersive, life-sized canvases, serves as a metaphor for the degree to which the binary code of computers floods our lives, as well as an exploration of the meaning of numbers in relationships. Previously masterfully installed as a continuous mural at the Urban Uprising Gallery, Elk’s design-inspired work is now broken up but still strike with attitude from the walls of the Clarence Hotel until March 7 and at The Midnight Shift in Saddle Bar indefinitely.

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Scott Elk, ‘Untitled Beadie 02’ and ‘I Inherited the Feature Wall From my Mother.’ Mixed Media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.
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Scott Elk, Detail from ‘He Only Loves Me When I’m Leaving Him / I Fucken Love it When He Comes.’ Courtesy of artist’s website.

Elk’s voice and vision are undeniably strong and unique. The Australian artist is undertaking a very mature exploration of complicated issues of the representation of the body, gay identity and subcultures using his own language of numbers and his own style of imagery. To witness Scott Elk’s work is to become immersed in a fascinating and powerful landscape, one that plumbs the depth of contemporary life in an edgy, honest and modern way.

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Scott Elk, ‘Closing.’ Mixed Media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Visit Scott’s website for news of his latest exhibitions. A selection of work is currently on view at the gay club called Midnight Shift in The Saddle Bar, 85 Oxford Street.