It isn’t hard to guess that as a child, Thai born, Sydney based artist, James Jirat Patradoon, consumed his fair share of cartoons and comic books. It’s only now, now that he’s all grown up, and perfected the time-consuming skill of screen printing, that he’s been able to make his own. In a style influenced by Lichtenstein, Patradoon utilizes a familiar, what he terms “generic” aesthetic, to render nightmarish and wickedly violent imagery that frequently includes masked bandits, pro-wrestlers, gorillas and rockstar skeletons.
Collaborating with companies like Adidas, MTV UK, Theatre of Disco and Mountain Dew, has meant far and wide exposure for this young COFA graduate; quite a feat for an artist only 24 years young. But like all of us in our mid twenties, Patradoon is experiencing a minor, quarter-life crisis; declaring that he is now sick of his practice, and wants to move onto a style that is more hyper-real. His new change in direction is perhaps a case of art imitating life, and the young superhero tearing off his mask only to evolve into something greater. Patradoon is humble though; telling us that his greatest achievement is being able to survive after moving out of his family home. He would never dare to admit, that when it comes to art, he really can fly.

James Jirat Patradoon will be exhibit as part of Pedestrian and ABSOLUT’s State Of The Art series this Thursday. To RSVP click here.

James, how would you describe your art making practice?
I guess my work conveys a mood more than anything. When I think about what I’m trying to make, I consider the mood first, then the kind of imagery to communicate it, and the characters I could use. Sometimes the mood is victory or love, or regret, or even boredom.
I’m quite intrigued by your gangster theme, it seems to run through a lot of your works…
Well, the whole thing behind the gangsters and the biker gangs comes from the fact that I grew up during the 80’s and, you know, the ultimate bad boy was sort of like Charlie Sheen or Ferris Bueller or even the Outsiders and, James Dean. The way I see it, these guys are forever trapped in this teenage body where they’re trying to assert themselves as being older, hardcore dudes. My work has been almost a way of communicating the awkward place between being a full grown masculine man and still being stuck inside teenage dreams.
And even stylistically as well there’s this clash between adult and child. I mean, the subject matter is quite violent but then you’ve got this comic book style. Did you grow up reading a lot of comic books?
Yeah, I was actually really into comic books growing up. The reason for the comic book subject matter is that I’ve always wanted to put my work in a place that makes you feel like you’ve seen it before. Most of the time when you go to art school there’s this idea that you have to develop your own style, but I kinda moved away from that. I mean, I really liked Roy Lichtensetien’s work growing up, and it was ages until someone told me he actually just appropriated his images from comic books. I thought he just drew like that. So, up until that point I was, thinking, “wow, this guy draws the most generic images ever”, but he just draws them really confused; and I wanted to draw like that. I go through comic books like crazy and I wanted to present that somewhat generic nostalgia through the images. Sometimes style gets the better of me, but most times I try to restrain it so that it’s just something really, really generic, and coincidentally, somehow that’s just became my style now, so when I get hired for jobs, people kind of expect it.

It’s not completely generic though. It has a violent element, especially in your black and white works. There’s this edginess to them which is quite unique…
Well the first series I did was right out of art school and that was really kind of violent, but somehow really, really poppy, and also a bit happy at the same time. Then, as I started making work and I started getting known for having this really bright, bubble gum colored work, I really started not liking it anymore. With this latest work I wanted to go somewhere different. I nearly had a month to do the series this Summer and it was such a wretched Summer, so I was making this really dark and really eerie work and I ended up coming up with these images that were different to my other stuff. Usually I love drawing the faces and the characters because they express so much emotion, but for some reason, I just decided, that I didn’t want any faces, I didn’t want any colors…
My next question was going to be why the anonymous faces?
Well, I wanted to explore the superficiality of online networking and the ability to build your identity. With things like Myspace and Facebook and online blogs or whatever, you present yourself to this huge audience that you don’t even know, and you pick what you want them to know about you. So, you get these people constructing their different personalities through signifiers like hair and makeup, and stuff like what they claim their music taste to be like. Before I put masks on all my characters, and it was a bit obvious that I was saying, “Everyone’s wearing a mask, everyone’s hiding behind something” but now I guess, I decided that these guys wouldn’t have faces at all. I don’t know why I got so bleak this Summer. I guess it could be the weather, but I went in a different direction, and now people are asking, “who are these people?” But they’re just soulless, you know…

So, your art-making has evolved quite a lot, but you went to COFA originally, is that right?
Yeah, I did about four years at COFA. I studied print-making and mastered in screen printing.
And when do you think you literally “mastered” the art of screen printing?
I originally just did screen printing because there was no one in the room; everyone was doing etching, and etching has a lot of nitric acid and turpentine and all this other crap and I was like, I can’t really be bold with it. The screen printing room was also in a completely different section, so I just went where there was some peace and quiet and yeah, they just kind of left me to my own devices. But I think probably about the second or third year in, I started getting really, really confident with the medium. A couple of years after graduating I was a tech officer for the printmaking department over at Hornsby Tafe, so that was really cool. But the problem with screen-printing of course is that if you’re not doing it in art school or you don’t work in an art school, or if you don’t have an uncle who owns a screen printing place, it’s not really possible. People ask me where I screen print, and I have all these little loops holes, but now, coincidentally, I’m kind of over it at the same time…
Oh, really?
Yeah I’m just taking a year off screen printing…
So, what are you moving on to now?
Well, now I’m playing with all different media. The latest series I did is a mix between mechanical pencil and the digital medium. I wanted to create a hyper-real looking thing so, I use, the oldest medium of all, drawing, and amped it up digitally.
So how does your process work?
I’ll do a rough draft of how I want it to look; so I’ll have a little sketch book or a napkin in most cases, and then I’ll redraw it properly, and then I’ll do the photo reference for it and use the photo reference to do a cleaned up version of the image. Once that’s all done, I do the colors digitally and then I start putting them on to the screens.
How long would a work generally take you?
In screen printing it would take ages. Sometimes the image wants to complete itself so you can come up with an idea one night and then you can stay up all night and finish it. Other times, images like “Shock Play”, which I did for Oxford Art Factory, took me a year. I drew it on a jacket in January, and then I totally got over and it wasn’t until about December of that year I decided I should probably finish this image now, and so I threw a head in. So that took me a year, but I was really happy with it.

How did you get to paint Oxford Art Factory anyway?
It was a favor for a friend, Nick Garner who runs Das Super Paper. He was having a party for the magazine. I didn’t really know how intense it was going to be because I had never really done a wall before, so I kind of just thought fuck it, I’ll just do it, you know, because I’ve never done it before. It took three days and three nights. I had to get my house mates to come in and help. And it was up for about a month.
So, the transience of the work doesn’t bother you?
Well, the thing is, like as opposed to doing something in the street, like if you do something in a space and they want you to be in that space, even if it is only for a month, you’re welcome there for a month. Whereas, if you do it on the street like I’ve done before, by the time you get your friends to come have a look they’ve taken it down. And, it’s just like, well, you know, what’s the point in that? Unless you do something really high up, then no one can be bothered taking it down.
So what other creative collaborations have you been involved in?
Yeah, it’s really random actually, after graduating Uni, I started getting all these emails from people, asking me to do illustrations and things like that, but then I started collaborating with Diesel in Italy. I’ve also just recently done some stuff for Adidas, but they originally approached me to do a portrait of a tennis player, I can’t tell you his name, because it’s confidential, but basically I did this portrait of this tennis player and didn’t really know who he was; but apparently he was important, and so we did it and I made him look really awesome basically. He was a blue zombie with had raging hair, massive biceps and like these fire eyes and stuff…and I thought, is this going to be too intense? But the art director was like, “No! it’s really awesome I’m going to show my bosses”, and he showed his bosses and it was all good and all approved, they showed the tennis player, and it was fine, and then I think, about 6-8 months down the track, I got an email from the art director saying that he’s at the factory now getting the shirts printed, but the tennis player has changed his mind – he doesn’t want to be remembered as a zombie. Then they asked me to redraw him. I was thinking, wow, I’m working for Adidas, so I don’t really want to piss them off. So I agreed to redraw him, and I think I ended up submitting six different versions of him.
And then what happened?
He didn’t like any of them. He thought he looked mean, or that his biceps were too big, or that his hair wasn’t really like that; so we just thought, well, this guy isn’t going to be happy either way. So we just scrapped him.
Yeah, they just told him he wasn’t going to be getting a shirt that season. I still got paid though. So, then we did this other collaboration with clothes featuring my characters all wearing Adidas. So instead of leather jackets, there are three stripes everywhere. I think they’re coming out in Fall/Winter. It’s cool working with Adidas, those guys are up for anything.

So, art really is paying the bills for you right now?
Yeah, well, I used to work 9 to 5, you know 40 hours a week for like two years, and do the illustration thing at night, and then as I got older I found that I had less and less energy to do that. So now I’ve been able to stop the whole nine to five thing and I’ve got a studio above American Apparel on Oxford St, so I’m just spending a year focusing on art and enjoying the commissions.
Any other future projects in the mix?
I’m doing a couple of snow boards now actually, I thought it would be really cool, because I’m always interested in trying out new stuff. So you know, I’ve had my stuff on t-shirts before and jeans, so snowboards are a whole different medium. I’m also trying to plan a show this year with Ben Frost. We’re trying to get together and collaborate on some work because it’s always really interesting to work with other artists; you always get sick of your own stuff. I’m already sick of my stuff now and I just finished it a month ago; but yeah ,I’m really interested in working with Ben. When I first met him he was completely supportive of everything and he took me in and just helped me out with so much stuff, so I’m really grateful to him.
Well, good luck with everything! But before you go what do you think your greatest achievement has been so far?
Greatest achievement, probably living out of home. I’ve got very small benchmarks of success. The fact that I can still survive, and I’m okay just making art; that’s a massive achievement for me.
All Images Provided by James Jirat Patradoon