Guy Porter


Guy Porter lives in Sydney and has exhibited most recently at Breathing Colours Gallery in Balmain. His website is he has a newer work right here.

Teachers and Students; you can download a worksheet on Guy Porter’s interview here.

How long have you been making art?
Since early childhood – as long as I can remember!

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?


What are the main medium/s you work in…
Acrylic on canvas.


Artist’s statement…
I would describe my paintings as post-modern in that they shamelessly synthesize various eclectic influences. These include abstract expressionism, comic art, and Asian art – particularly Tibetan and Japanese painting.

My paintings feature narratives, most of which arise from the subconscious. That is, I do not set out to try to consciously put forth a ‘message’ to the viewer. Instead I paint what comes to heart and very often the experience of the viewer grants me insight into the meanings of the paintings. I have always believed that the viewer’s interpretation of an artwork is valid and useful, even if it is not what the artist intended.

The contemporary art scene, both in Australia and abroad, is filled to the brim with conceptual ‘high’ art which has the tendency to alienate large portions of the population. In many ways, my work is a reaction against this trend. I hope that it can appeal to individuals of all ages and of all backgrounds.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
I am interested in the relationship between humans and animals. While humans are also animals, we dominate the planet to the detriment of the environment and other creatures. My paintings allude to the futile efforts of humans to subjugate other creatures, sometimes with comical results.


What are you currently working on?
A painting called “Rock N Roll Dragon-Slaying”. It has 3 serpent-like Chinese dragons intertwining beneath a giant hibiscus tree. Around the edges are hundreds of little men playing drums, electric guitars.

What fascinates you?
The moon, stars, and that cosmic sense of being.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Why are you an artist?
I can’t help it. It is like an itch. I just keep painting every day.


How did you get into art?
I have always loved art. In high school I first decided that I wanted to be an artist and began drawing and painting to the exclusion of all my other subjects.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
It is limitless.

Your art education was…?
Chelsea School of Art, London 1995-1996
Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore 1996-1999
RMIT 1999 BA Fine Arts (Painting) – Distinction


The craziest thing you did at art school was…
I made a parody of Damien Hirst’s preserved animals using soft toys and teddy bears.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It felt like a hindrance at the time but ultimately it was helpful and I miss the art school environment.

Have you always been interested in art?

What is your earliest memory of art?
Splattering paint on paper.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yes, I grew up in Singapore and I have been influenced by the various South East Asian cultures, which form a melting pot in that country.


What or who inspires your art?
I was very inspired by my first art teacher in Singapore – Mr Teo Eng Seng. He is a renowned artist over there and is very eccentric. I learnt much from him about art theory, particularly about overcoming boundaries.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?
When people started buying my paintings in Australia.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I paint in flat colours. Matt acrylic is the perfect choice for this reason. It also dries quickly so I can work over the same area the same day. It is also water-based and less toxic and less malodorous than using oils with turpentine.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
Yes. I’ve somehow managed to crystallize all my previous influences into my own style.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)
These days I’m more influenced by CG, digital, and fantasy art. I get more inspiration for painting from watching Lord of the Rings than by attending galleries.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
Both you and others enjoy your work.


What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
I tend to see paintings in my mind in their completed form weeks or months before I start painting. I often make preparatory drawings but try not to get carried away otherwise the painting itself loses spontaneity. Sometimes I just write down an idea for a painting. In the past I would spend more time sketching and preparing to ‘execute’ the work. Things have loosened up since then. In this regard you could consider my paintings as drawings, which I have coloured in.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
For me, it is more important to have clarity about simple concepts than complex ones. Complex concepts are best left to the subconscious and often emerge later once the work is completed.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
The twentieth century taught us that any attempts to define ‘Art’ simply provide an opportunity for someone else to try to break that definition. It is like a dog chasing its tail.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…
Yes, I’ve had several commissions over the last few months.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Very important, although the conceptual artists would disagree.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
A few. I have a friend in Pakistan who is a Stuckist artist (Asim Butt). I love his paintings and we correspond regularly. We’ve been talking about doing a collaboration.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
My next solo show will be at Breathing Colours Gallery, Balmain, from 3rd-14th June 2009. I’m currently working on several major paintings for the show.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Nope, I love it.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Rubbish. You can pick up your career at any stage.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any hand-painted Tibetan tangka painting. A big influence on my work.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
My main struggle has been living as a nomad most of my life. I’ve lived in several different countries and have had to re-invent myself each time I move.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Not really but I have a sketchbook for ideas.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I keep reworking them until they do.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
I seem to have developed more as an artist by ignoring what my teachers and lecturers told me.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Be true to yourself.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
There seems to be something of a taboo about having cartoonish characters in paintings in a fine art context. Some galleries have brushed me aside saying I’m an ‘illustrator’ or a ‘fabric designer’. People expect paint to be thrown at the canvas and it seems that pop art is the only acceptable way to introduce comic / cartoon type characters into a contemporary gallery. My work challenges this notion. The way I paint is the most effective means to convey what I want to say, and it really shouldn’t matter if stylistically it resembles ‘Where’s Wally’ or Leunig.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
I paint from imagination.

Musical influences?
Ravi Shankar, Tool, John Maclaughlin, Alanis Morrisette, Daft Punk, anything and everything, you name it!

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
Often viewers understand more about my paintings than I do. I don’t set out to try to communicate something.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
My aim would be to produce some sort of reaction in the viewer. If a painting communicates something specific then that would be an added bonus.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
How much hard work goes into painting the larger more detailed paintings!

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…
See above about trying to define art.

What discourages you from doing art?
Nothing at the moment.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Not with my current methodology but it was an issue in the past, so I know how it feels.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
The title is actually very important for my paintings. Sometimes I rely on the title to throw the viewer off guard.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
For me, that point of creation where you put down the initial pencil sketch for your painting – that is sacred. The rest is just colouring in.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
I finally admitted to myself that I was an artist after years of self-doubt.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
This is challenging for me and I am endeavouring to improve in this area. It is not easy pricing paintings.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
When five different people wanted to buy a painting I had already sold.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?
Only if the painting was sold to a friend.

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?
Each of my paintings has an underlying narrative. The narrative often evolves as I paint and the meaning often only becomes apparent once the painting is completed.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
Art for arts sake.

If you have been working as an artist for a while, how do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?
I’m happy that they are being enjoyed somewhere by someone.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
To ignore them.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?
Too small at the moment, but I’m expanding it.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Fast for compositionally simple paintings, slow for compositionally complex paintings.

What would you say are the top three things that make you successful as an artist?
1) Painting what and how I want to paint,
2) Hard work,
3) Making art a process of giving as much as it is a process of self-gratification.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
I do feel better about myself and the world after a long painting session, so yes, in that sense it is therapeutic for me. When my paintings make other people laugh, it becomes therapeutic for them too.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
I would agree with this. However, usually if people like something they will know it straight away. People buy paintings on impulse. Chasing someone who is ambivalent or is ‘thinking about buying’ is rarely a useful exercise.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I play guitar.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I prefer to work alone.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Lots of light.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
My early work suffered from mixing materials around too much. These days I stick to acrylic, although I use whatever I can find that is the right colour and sometimes use emulsion paint for backgrounds.

What or how do you respond to the term “starving Artist”?
It is a cultural stereotype, you don’t need to starve to make good art.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you that might be connect to your art?
I am moved most by the behaviour of animals, particularly my cat and dog.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
The subject.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?
I combine a smooth painting technique with energetic expressive overall compositions.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
In the evenings, but I do make myself paint from early in the morning in order to stay productive.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
I used to be more egotistical – the paintings were all about me. Now I paint for other people.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I am coming out of my shell – I’m now looking for ways to bring my art to a wider audience.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
From imagination.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
Current paintings are always on my mind – when they are finished it is a relief.

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist that really made their mark in art history?
The German philosopher Schopenhauer said that the hunger for fame was the last desire for the wise man to give up.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?
I like how being an artist makes you enigmatic.

The problem with the art scene today is…
Conceptual art.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Work hard.

Compiled and Edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Artist. © 2009+


7 Responses to “Guy Porter”

  1. Stefan Maguran on January 20th, 2009 8:05 pm

    So many interesting things – I love your optimism, your love of what you do , your attitude towards conceptualism and your paintings. I wish I could get to see your show. I wish you luck. And joy.

  2. Eamon on January 20th, 2009 8:40 pm

    Another interview and another view… man oh man, and the work is so playful, well that’s my view.

    This work should be out there and so many others too, these interviews give us a view of the art world so few get, those that go to exhibitions and there are not too many of those.

    People should be signing up here to get the updates, and so many artists must be on the list to be interviewed as every now and then a new interview pops up! I find these so interesting to read!!! part of me wants to know who is coming next and part of me just loves the way they happen randomly.

    Great work Guy, keep on keeping on but hey it sounds like you are doing that already, Woo Hoo. 🙂

  3. Hazel Grant on January 21st, 2009 6:54 am

    An interesting and insightful (of you) interview Guy. I am so happy it’s all happening for you. We miss you here, but hey as you say “be true to yourself” and you are so obviously enjoying life, certainly comes out in your paintings! Keep on tracking and keep on updating me – I love it!

  4. Zuzanna O on January 21st, 2009 8:31 am

    Guy, it’s great to see and hear both how far you’ve come since high school, and how much is still very familiar! Wish you all the best for your upcoming shows and really regret passing by unknowingly last year. Zuzanna, friend who took the other fork in the path.

  5. Guy Porter on January 26th, 2009 6:14 pm

    Thanks for your comments everyone! 😉

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  7. Karen Shirley on July 27th, 2009 12:16 pm

    I find his work uplifting and delightful. how refreshing! Thanks, Guy!