5 Questions with Dave Bowers from Doug Bartlett

Posted by Angela Tandori on

Alongside Nick Morris, Dave Bowers is one half of the raucous energy 'Doug Bartlett'.  Here he dives into the hectic process behind each work, his childhood landscape and friendship with Morris.  Have a gander at Doug Bartlett's new collection - 'Why don't we paint the town?' here.

How did you come up with the name 'Doug Bartlett'?
The name Doug Bartlett comes from our two childhood favourite AFL players - Doug Hawkins (Footscray) and Kevin Bartlett (Richmond).  We wanted a name that was distinctly Australian and slightly irreverent as we felt it would suit our brash, impulsive style.  Plus the fact that our work focuses on suburbia, popular culture and mass consumerism.  Not sure how we would have proceeded with the name Pablo Da Vinci. Or Leonardo Van Gogh...

How do you find the collaboration process?  Has Doug Bartlett made you closer?
The collaboration process is pretty intense and I would say it has made us closer.  Not only actually painting together, which you can only do long-term if you're close friends.  But dealing with the nuts and bolts of shipping art, organising exhibitions, travelling, sharing expenses etc etc. It’s a bit like a marriage sometimes. As far as the painting goes, we have a rule:  you can paint over anything and the other person is NOT ALLOWED to complain.

Also on the process - how spontaneous are you guys?  Do you agree on a theme or concept before starting, or just wing it?  
For the first few years of our collaboration we were 100% spontaneous - no plans, themes, colour palettes planned or anything.  Now we tend to discuss at least the theme.  We work in a studio in Torquay and are currently witnessing urban sprawl on a massive scale.  Watching the rural areas being chewed up is confronting so we’re shifting our focus to this theme.  We're also exploring the new cultures come in and replace the old - starting with an indigenous culture, then an agricultural culture, now a mass consumerist, celebrity driven culture.

I love your references to rural and coastal Australian culture - what interests you about surf/skate/Australiana culture?
I guess most artists start with their own histories and familiar landscapes.  Nick and I have lived along this coast for decades so we are intertwined with surf culture.   You develop a sixth sense for the wind shifts, the tides and the swell.  All the contours of the coastline, and all of the miles of road in between surf spots. So it’s our own landscape really.  

I think surf culture in Australia was right at the forefront of the break down of traditional conservative Australian attitudes.  People dropped out and lived in shacks and fell in love with the sea and the freedom it held.  People dodged the draft and went surfing, they embraced freedoms their parents were too scared to even dream about.  Paddling out still feels like that to me.

If you had to describe Doug Bartlett in three words, what would they be?
Spontaneous. Loud. Unique.