Creating Portals to Curious Worlds with The Jumboist

Last month, #the5to9life was invited to the launch of 'Woks of Art' - a unique art installation curated by James Dive (The Glue Society), who engaged local artists to transform barely-cooled woks from the hawker streets of Singapore into vibrant artworks. From attending that event, our writer Claire Benito became intrigued with one of the artists featured in the event and proceeded to curate an interview with The Jumboist at his Sydney studio. Click the above photo and read all about it.

An Interview with The Jumboist

Seeing The Jumboist‘s murals on the street is like stumbling across an otherworldly portal door, accidentally, tantalisingly, left open for you to wander in. You see colourful animals, lush tropical backdrops, playful objects and these mysterious pairs of legs scuttling around. I wonder if the objects are edible like in Wonka’s chocolate factory, or if his creatures will take me on an adventure in my very own version of Wonderland.

As I arrive at the doorstep of The Jumboist‘s workshop, I’m not quite sure what to expect. Like any good interviewer, I’d stalked him on Instagram and found myself lured into an addictive episode of never-ending scroll. His work is playful, joyous and mischievous all at once. So what sort of guy, what sort of mind, is behind these curious creations? What does it mean to see the world through The Jumboist‘s eyes?

The first thing that strikes me about Andrew (aka The Jumboist) is his cool, easy-going demeanour. He pulls up a chair and we sit in the centre of his warehouse-sized workshop while his artist mates listen to hip hop over a table of drying pastel mugs in the far corner. They nod to him as they leave, heading to the pub where he’ll join them later. As we talk he leans further and further back into his chair to the point where I think he might topple backwards, but I can see that he’s pausing thoughtfully to compose his answers, looking to an imaginary sky for the right words.

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It started with a vision he wanted to amplify and capture in time.

Andrew started his art making with a spray can and graffiti tags, but that got boring pretty quickly. “I started to think, right, I could make this a lot bigger, more substantial.” This focus on amplifying the scope of his work is how he named his alter-ego, “The Jumboist”. I just thought ‘big-ness’. What’s the biggest word for big? And here we are. He also just happens to be really, really tall, which I suspect is handy for someone who paints walls a lot.

Whilst he likes the ‘big-ness’ of murals, Andrew also appreciates their relative impermanence in the lifespan of the suburb in which it ‘lives’. “That’s what I like about it. You paint it and it disappears over time. Someone paints over it, it evolves.” He likens it to foodie-ism: “I just love watching chef’s cooking. That’s just pure creativity. It’s made, then it’s consumed and it’s gone and I like that temporary nature of things.”

The Jumboist - Ornament Wok
Andrew was commissioned to challenge the common misconception that Singapore is clinical, strict and polished in an exhibition curated by Tiger Beer and James Dive from THE GLUE SOCIETY, where woks were transported from the vibrant and energetic hawker streets of Singapore and transformed into ‘Woks of Art’.

He creates alternate realities that celebrate the beautiful, transient nature of being.

It’s important that there’s something intrinsically positive in the work that he creates, and the impermanency of his murals mirrors our own relatively small place in the world and how it evolves in turn. “I like the idea of pushing forward into a world that’s got potential. The art is a reflection on the good sides of life, the way things can regenerate, the earth keeps spinning around and we’re just another part of that. We’re not the embodiment of the planet, we’re just one part of it.”

Andrew was recently commissioned to work on a children’s playground in Epping, which has made him realise the impact of Sydney’s unique flora and fauna on his visual aesthetic. “It was part of my growing up – big tall trees and animals everywhere. It’s subconscious and you forget about it, then you start drawing birds later on and don’t know why.”

The Jumboist - Dubbo Wall

He aims to create an effective visual language of symbols in his work, but is patient with inspiration.

The artists he admires are good at making ideas “click” quickly in their own individual style. “Their visual language is so developed that in just one picture you get a very quick impression of where they’re going… I think that’s where artists have found their place in art. The artists I really admire are able to manipulate their symbols into something that’s meaningful, which is such a complex thing to do, as well as doing it in your own way.”

Andrew is comfortable with the fact that his ideas “don’t come flying out of [his] pen.” He admits it can take time to tinker and refine an idea to express it the way he wants to. “I wait for inspiration, I wait for the right moment. I feel like I’m not a natural at it, I find it quite complicated, quite difficult. I challenge the way I do it all the time. I chop and change it so it’s always kind of evolving in some way.”

He accepts creative blocks as part of the process and rides them out like a wave that will eventually subside. “I just stop doing it. I stop for a few days or a week or something. That’s the kind of thing that happens to me a lot. I’ve hit the end of the road with a particular idea and then I wait and all of a sudden the solution just comes to me about how to keep going, how to further it a bit.”

The Jumboist - Giant Jungle Bird

Art is a product of your collected experiences and everyone should do it.

There’s something inspiring and endearing about how Andrew talks about his creative process. On one hand, it feels like he’s got this amazing superpower that allows him to see the world in completely different way to most: “When you sit outside at night and close your eyes and you can hear all the cicadas and what springs out? That would be my vision. It just comes out of that nowhere space. If you think of nothing, what’s the first thing you think of after you think of nothing?”

On the other hand, he’s also incredibly humble about the nature of creativity and sees it as something everyone should feel free to express. “Art is like a bag that you carry everywhere you go. It’s in your subconscious and you fill it up with all different things you find that inspire you. Once it’s full, you take it all out, you unpack it and you start to bring it to life. If you start to feel the temptation to make, just go for it. Just go pfft, start to follow it.”

“I think everyone should do art. I think everyone has got a creative side to them. I don’t think that artists are necessarily better at it than everyone else, I just think artists keep doing it out of sheer willpower. It’s great but can be crazy. You kind of have to be a bit mad to pursue something that’s just always in the back of your mind.”

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What’s next for the Jumboist?

As we come to the end of the interview, I ask Andrew how he imagines his art will be like in five years time. He laughs, and so do I, wondering if it’s a terrible question to ask, but he tells me it is something he’s thought about. “I hope it’s really similar actually. I want to stick with these ideas because I really like the stuff that I’m drawing. But at the same time, I’m always branching out and trying new subjects… It’s about the feeling, the ideas, the sense of purpose and the ongoing desire to make people surprised. I don’t really know where it’s going, it’s probably more about how my mind is taking on new things. Maybe I’m just turning my mind inside out and sharing it with the world, that’s kind of how it feels.”

*Word and photography by Claire Benito.
Get in contact with her via Twitter.