Shaun Daniel Allen (Shal) is a Yugambeh born / Bundjalung artist painting vibrant, textural works.
The tattooer and hardcore/punk musician that started painting as a meditative practice, has since become a nationally acclaimed artist. Exhibiting works at major galleries and working with big name brands while expressing his connection to Country.
Carhartt WIP AU visited Shal in his Sydney studio and asked him a few questions about his practice
From tattooing to fine art, how and when did you make the transition from skin to canvas?
I was working in a street shop in Qld (Westside tattoo), and I was burning out spending all my free time drawing tattoos of things I wouldn’t otherwise want to draw. All part of tattooing really (and great for growing as an artist) but at some point you have to do some things for yourself too when your life is revolving around a creative output. I began painting these textural, meditative paintings in the garage on the floor. Just really zoning out and letting whatever happens, happen. They began to evolve, and I began trading and gifting them with some friends. A few of those paintings were seen by Ed at China Heights gallery, and when I was down in Syd visiting he convinced me to stay for a bit and work in the studio, spending some time figuring out where it was all going through making work. From there it just kept progressing and here we are.
You use natural ochre in your artworks, could you explain where you collect this from and the importance of how its collected?
I was lucky enough to assist Uncle Rick when I was home on some public artworks using ochre. It felt really incredible to be painting with a medium from the country I was from and standing on. Powerful. And such strong colours. I will only collect ochre from home, and from country I have a connection to. Always ask first. And thank the land for allowing me to take a bit with me. (it definitely lets you know when you’re not meant to take any) Part of this process sometimes includes some longer walks; but the time on country is always something I am grateful for.
The process of creating the pigment can have many differing results. Can you describe this process and how the time of year can affect the natural dyes you use?
The process is a bit longer than going down to the shop and buying a paint ready to go. I’ll get the ochres back to my studio in Syd and spend some time sorting and breaking up the ochres by colour. Once it’s time to paint, I will break these up even more, mull it with a binder to the desired texture and start painting, hopefully having made enough to finish the piece I’m working on. Even when I’m making batches of colour from the same ochre, collected at the same time, it can sometimes vary slightly colour wise. I never want to make too much and waste any, and sometimes making too little can come with colour variations. All part of the fun of natural materials.
Could you touch on any mentors and inspirational figures that have contributed to your art making practice?
I feel like there are so many. I am truly so lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented and inspiring friends and peers who are happy to share. All the mob making art everyday and telling stories inspire me so much. Otherwise, Dan Boyd and Otis Carey are two people I’m fortunate enough to have around me that both inspire, and help me with advice whenever I ask or annoy them. Edward Woodley from China Heights continually guides and helps me immensely. All the artists at China Heights. All the mob I’m lucky to have around me. All the Sydney tattoo crew. So many hours of watching everyone work, or speaking to them about their passions. It all contributes to everything I am doing; makes me want to make more and be better/grow all the time.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your artistic journey so far?
Meeting more mob and making more connections through painting. Never would have thought it would open me up to all these amazing interactions and conversations.
Do you have any plans or considerations for your art making practice in the future?
Always so many plans. I have lists of things I am always wanting to work on, or accomplish. Materials I’d love to work with or change. New paintings and subjects. I’m really just hoping to keep making things, within a whole range of mediums. To travel and meet more people to challenge how I see things. And to keep myself happy and learning.
Thank you Shal for your time.