Stuart Sale – barnstorming brilliance
By ALEC SMART
Originally from London, since 2015 mixed-media artist Stuart Sale has operated from a studio in Faversham Lane, Marrickville. It is here, in between running a busy painting and decorating business, that he creates bold and imaginative stencils, murals, collages, videos, geometric shapes and digital ‘crypto art’.
Stuart has just returned from what he described as “an impromptu road trip” that took him around Berry and inland to Kangaroo Valley, the lush and picturesque mountainous district north of Nowra.
But he wasn’t sketching landscapes. Stuart was motivated after inquiring on a local community Facebook page whether anyone had a shed or barn in the region they wanted painting – for no fee.
The feedback was fantastic: “I had over 50 responses,” he declared. “I was interviewed on ABC Illawarra radio and made the papers! I think they are doing a follow-up story too. It was so unexpected, as I was just looking for a rural project to do during a week I had booked off work.”
And how many barns now feature his artwork?
“I painted six works in six days of travelling around,” he revealed, “hatching projects off-the-cuff, day-by-day, from all the responses. I now have a huge amount of interest doing more rural paid gigs from this giveaway project. Funny, hey?”
A few of Stuart's many murals decorating Faversham Lane in Marrickville. Photo: Alec Smart
For an introduction to Stuart’s work (without having to drive 160km/four hours to Kangaroo Valley!), we recommend a stroll along the illustrated laneway of his Marrickville studio to appreciate the large murals he’s painted. They feature movers and shakers (and a few villains) from the world of music and movies, plus a magnificent lioness – the latter reportedly his favourite piece.
How did he start redecorating the laneway?
“After completing a large mural at Bondi beach consisting of 100+ iconic portraits I decided to paint a few of these portraits much larger in the lane. For fun. To test out my new projector also.
“After painting 6-8-10 I started to question why I was taking my artwork out and about when I had a whole street right here? Right next to my studio, all my ladders, materials, power, lights, and the rest.”
And all the fabulous artwork is Stuart’s?
“I think barring one or two Graf pieces that I didn’t want to go over, the entire lane is my work,” Stuart confirmed. “All the portraits for sure. I think there are over 130… It started when I painted John Lennon on my own roller door on a Sunday morning… as a fun project for myself. This led to me getting obsessed with completing the whole lane in the same style (2/3 tone stencil).”
Stuart’s large wall murals often feature personalities and characters from the world of music, film and the arts. Is he inspired by Pop Art, which, similarly, uses images from popular culture, often ironically?
“Yes I have always loved pop art and it has been an influence,” he said. “I studied printing for a time, very similar to stencilling essentially, and am drawn to process-based art. I like to work an image, through apps, filters, tonal studies.
“I often project larger murals [onto walls, prior to painting] to sort composition, then quickly complete them the following day. The choices of characters comes from my own personal influences amongst other iconic contributors to history.”
Stuart’s June 2020 memorial to George Floyd, painted on a garage near Enmore Park, was a topical and moving reminder of an awful injustice. His painting of two Indigenous boys beneath an Aboriginal flag at half-mast (in Sydney St, Marrickville), is also poignant. Does he often venture into social and political subjects?
“I need to feel very strongly about a subject in order to take part in the conversation, like I did with these two works,” he considered. “I’m not a social or political artist as such and only pipe up if I’m upset about something.
“That said I don’t actually say much as I find it difficult to put my thoughts or feelings onto a page or say them, even. I communicate better visually, I guess, so a poignant artwork can say a thousand words like those two pieces do for obvious reasons.”
As well as wall murals, what other art commissions and projects does he undertake?
“I paint commissioned paintings to order, mostly portraits, and am currently working on various digital NFT projects with fellow artists at @futureartio and @knownoriginio.”
NFT = non-fungible token; data added to a file that creates a unique signature marked with code to differentiate it from any digital replicas.
“I have also started taking orders from rural customers to paint wildlife on large barns and sheds in regional NSW.”
A beautiful lioness that graces Faversham Lane in Marrickville. Photo: Alec Smart
Stuart was the creative mind behind the Love Art exhibition at Vivid Festival in May 2014, which began, curiously, with hearts appearing randomly all over Sydney. What inspired that and are there still stencilled hearts on walls around town?
“Yes there are still a few hearts around if you know where to find them,” he affirmed. “The hearts were my first dip into making street art. It was basically an experiment on how far you can push vandalism. If you paint big love hearts around the place surely you can’t be arrested for that? Its doing a good thing right?! Cheering people up?!
“I don’t know, but really it was a fun time and I did loads of them. I still sell prints of them as it goes. Everyone seems to like a love heart on a brick wall. Maybe I was onto something!”
Stuart is a co-founder of Creative Circle Collective, which hosts art workshops at music festivals, events and public spaces, like the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall.
Artworks for sale: https://knownorigin.io/stuart-sale
Urban Ballerina - an example of Stuart's digital art.