It’s unlikely you’re not sure who Anthony Lister is. Even if his name doesn’t ring a bell, if you live in a major Aussie city you’ve probably seen his surname and art plastered on walls around your town.

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Lister isn’t just limited to the streets – he’s also phenomenally successful in the more high-brow realms. He’s one of the 50 most collectible artists in Australia, has work in the NGA, and has done collaborations with everyone from Hermes to The Standard Hotel to Vogue.

In terms of Australian street artists (although Lister himself doesn’t like the term, “it’s far too short, I’d rather
a more liberal label if I must have one”) he’s one of the biggest names we’ve ever produced.

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Now, there’s a candid and deeply personal documentary that spans his career, from it’s humble beginnings as a ‘hobby’ in his teens, right through to international fame.

But the real drawcard of the doco? 20 years of personal footage that show the joy and heartbreak that comes from Lister grappling with nurturing his young family while gunning for his shot at artistic fame.

It packs a serious emotional punch and gives a raw look at the realities of becoming a successful artist. We had a chat with him about how it felt to have his life so transparently presented on screen.

PTV: This film gives a deep and personal insight into your family life, something a lot of fans might not be as across. Were you nervous about how personal you got in this documentary? 

AL: I believed in Eddie (Martin) as a filmmaker from the start, and based on that fact and my belief in freedom of expression and non-censorship I felt it was necessary to take a backseat to telling this story. Even though most of the footage is what I’ve shot over the last 20 years, the story that came out through Eddie’s eyes was a far more different and serious a story than what I would have portrayed. Taking the film for what it is, I could imagine that if I wasn’t myself, watching my family going through such an abnormal experience, then I would hope to be potentially inspired to take greater risks than I did myself.

PTV: Are there any scenes in this documentary that make you uncomfortable?

AL: A: To be honest, I’m kind of uncomfortable through most of it, only because I’m not really in to looking at myself in a physical sense, so I kind of saw it once or twice and now, you know, just keep living. There is so much that Eddie left out and so many problems that I constantly have to solve that I don’t have enough time to watch one film or one about myself.

Smug – Charcoal on paper – A1

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PTV: What are the best and worst elements of being an artist?

AL: For starters, I have a problem with the label ‘artist’, it’s far too short, I’d rather a more liberal label if I must have one, therefore the question would be the most difficult part of being a painter. Now that’s a good question. Questions like this are quite difficult. Look just go see the movie and you will see all the difficult shit, but it’s all about maintaining a solo sense of humour and a kickass work ethic, that’s the way of staying on top of it.

PTV: You were charged for 12 counts of wilful damage based on your street art in Brisbane. Can you tell me about how that experience influenced your art process? Did it make you hesitant to work on the streets anymore?

AL: Even though I did get convicted, even though it would cost me $78,000 to fight it, even though it took a lot of energy out of my life, I did it for kids. I have an arts degree and at the time was in a position and was sick of being bullied by authorities and I decided to fight Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Police for the purpose of drawing attention to the fact that it’s ridiculous for what many consider art to be breaking the law. I’m not a violent man, never been a violent man, but to think that groups are going to bully me and worse than that children alike who do the same, disgusts me.

Bondi Beach – Sydney AUSTRALIA

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PTV: Do you have any regrets in life? If so, what?

AL: No. I’m too busy moving forward to bother looking back. It’s always been my objective to be open minded, positive and optimistic. I’m too busy holding on to be hung over.

Have You Seen The Listers? is currently showing at select theatres across Australia. Head to their site for locations.

Image: Supplied