superchat amsterdam: craig redman

© craig redman / photography: ying ang

still in his early 30s, craig redman has come quite a long way. half of renowned creative duo craig & karl, redman grew up in australia where he attended art school and first established himself as an artist. but as fate would have it, he landed a coveted green card and relocated to new york. spurred on by the city's frenetic energy, his career skyrocketed to new heights never imagined and with a slew of illustrious clients and projects under his belt, he has now reached global cult status. redman recently visited amsterdam to attend the opening of his since never exhibition of colourful portraits at the garage. superfuture sat down with the busy creative to fire a few questions about the show and his sought-after creative output.

could you tell us about the since never exhibition that's currently on at the garage in amsterdam? i certainly can. so, basically when i first started doing portraits years and years ago, they were studies of my friends. this was when i was living in sydney. it was like capturing a particular point in my life. and now that i don't live there anymore and don't get to see them very much, they kind of become this nostalgic thing to me. when i moved to new york other people started to ask me to do their portraits and eventually i started doing celebs and stuff like that, like president obama for new york magazine, a whole bunch of italian celebs for an exhibition over there and wayne rooney for old trafford. and so, this to me is kind of my way to get back to where i started, which is exploring friends and people that i've met in the last twelve months. as opposed to just focusing on celebrity portraits which i've been doing for a few years now. 

how do you go about making these portraits? do you interview these people to know more about them in order to better depict them? absolutely. but these here at the exhibition were a lot easier because they're my friends and i know their personalities, which of course plays into the way that i treat the colours that go into each person, or like if i know there's a little tick that that person has i'll do an emphasis on that. celebrities are a bit more difficult. sometimes i get to meet them, and sometimes i don't. i go to them and shoot a photo and then i do a quick sketch to figure out which elements i want and which ones i don't. the next step is taking it into the computer and i get it near the finished product. the painting itself is a process of masking.

take the d'angelo portrait for instance, it has ten to twelve different masks. he's a kid i met in new york. he's a big fan and he wanted to come around to the studio and we hung out for a bit and i thought: you're awesome, i'm gonna shoot you and do a painting of you for this exhibition. he got really into it, he was doing different ways he could style his hair and different ways he was going to do his bandana. it's basically led a process of working from the bottom back. as said, my portraits have up to twelve different masks and each section will be a mask. so, this cheek area is a mask and there are six coats to each colour. you white coat and sand it, white coat and sand it. the reason i do sand is because that way i keep it supersmooth and superflat, otherwise it gets a little textured. i usually start with lighter colours first and finish with the black.

in your career you've already done so many different things. do you consider yourself a graphic designer, illustrator or perhaps a contemporary artist? i consider myself all of them. i know that in theory you should choose one and do it, but i feel like that concept feels a little bit dated, why do i have to choose? i studied design so that's my big interest. i love putting my work on products and stuff like that but i equally love doing painting with my business partner karl. we do a lot of products with brands, we're doing what i like to do and we don't take on projects that we don't like. it's a brand we like or a project that we like, that's how the decisions are made. in the last couple of years exhibitions and installations have been the most worked on thing, but it may change again in the coming years. i'm happy to take it as it comes. ideally i'd like to be able to do everything.

your darcel disappoints character spawned from your move to new york city. what other effects did the city have on you as an artist? once i moved to new york i really realized you can actually do whatever you want. i guess there's some cultural hang-ups from living in australia, living in a smaller city. when you get to new york you realize it's not that difficult to achieve what you want, it's all possible. it's the barriers you think that are there, in fact aren't there. when i started darcel disappoints, i was like: what have i been doing the past ten years? you kind of feed off the vibe of the city, you've gotta make it work, especially the first couple of years. my life has completely changed from what it was since moving there.

your work seems emblematic of the modern age. how has modern technology influenced your creativity? it wouldn't be possible without technology. the way i produce my paintings is dependent on technology to make it all happen. i grew up in that environment, so to me it's just the way it is.

this is your first exhibition in amsterdam. have you been here before? never. it's superexciting, it's part of the reason i wanted to do it. i had a couple of days before the show to walk around and explore the city. i went straight for the museums: stedelijk museum and rijksmuseum. it was really beautiful, and i loved rijksmuseum's recent renovation.

your work is quite well embraced by the world of fashion and lifestyle. how do you relate to and view these industries? to me it's not surprising because all of my friends work in fashion, basically. i'm kind of inadvertendly in that industry anyway, just by association. so, to me it seems like a natural process. the one thing i really admire about the fashion industry: it's a hard working industry. it seems frivolous from outside but then you go in and, wow, people go crazy. in particular - if you include interseasons - you have to come up with four new concepts huge concepts every single year. and you get judged by thousands of people that come to your shows. heaps of my friends are fashion designers and i always get asked to do a print for a collection or art direct a shoot for a campaign. so, fashion is always around me somewhere.

how do you explain the appeal - or success if you will - of your work? i think my work is visually very direct. i don't's accessible and doesn't seek to alienate people. you know, on the surface it is what it is. it's well-composed, it's got appealing colours. you can look at it on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper there's a always extra details of intricacy as well. whether it's emotional or physical details within the work. people who are fans of my work stay for a while because they discover all these little bits. 

what are your current fascinations or obsessions? i really like true crime documentaries because it's such a ridiculous thing to be into, haha! but my true interest is the new york art world, basically. i do art galleries every single weekend, i do a little bit of collecting as well. right now i'm really obsessed with new york-based swiss artist olaf breuning. he does a bunch of different stuff, a lot is composed photographs. the piece that i own is of his friend brian dressed up in a ridiculous costume stretched across a table. he does sculptural stuff and performance art as well, a big mix.

have you got interesting new projects up your sleeve that you can share? well, karl and i are heading for australia shortly to launch a collection of sunglasses in collaboration with sunshades eyewear. it's going to be a crazy unisex collection with one particular style for men. it'll be released under our own name and there's five styles in total, in three cool colourways. there's a simple black pair but then it gets crazier. our fav pair is like a squiggle across the face. so the idea is you're drunk at a friend's party and someone drew a fat line across your face. and the lenses hang off that. we've also got a new accessories collection coming out with mcm. it's a range of leather bags and briefcases for men and women. it's going to be launched first in switzerland at artbasel and then in shanghai. we've got a mural which will be launched in shoreditch, london and we're doing illustrations for a music festival. people basically come up to us and ask if we can do stuff for them.