Plasticscene 2019 - Frank Mullet
02 December 2019 by Sancho Murphy
PlasticScene is a multidisciplinary exploration of organic pattern and texture using synthetic materials presented by Frank Mullet on exhibition at Sancho's Dirty Laundry pocket gallery until the end of January 2020.
Frank Mullet is an artist in so called Australia who’s focus is on growth, life and filling space. Experimenting with mixed medias to develop an evolving installation representing a shrine to nature and culture.
A byproduct of consumerism, establishment-hippie culture and a Penrith birth, they hope to bring joy to current concepts of emotional escapism and survival in a fearsome world. Creating a nostalgic dream planet with plastic life.
Frank Mullet is interested in creating a synthetic world as an exploration of childhood invention and imagination - aimed at making creativity affordable and accessible to everyone whilst also finding a balance between reusing, recycling and salvaging accessible materials to immerse themselves in the world of material possibilities with potential applications.
This interview delves into the artist's choice of subjects and sources with Plasticscene 2019, discussing the inspiration/influences behind their strange and wonderful creations. Originally studying Print-media at the ANU School of Art, then progressing onto Textiles, Frank Mullet is a self-described mixed-media fiend - as they see it - "It somehow was the perfect combination of my love for pop cultural junk, reusing plastics, hoarding precious objects and making things with my hands."
When did you first start making with plasticine?
I liked plasticine a lot as a kid and i’ve always been passionate about claymation and stop motion animation. My initial foray into the 'plasticscene' body of work was between second and third year of my second crack at uni. My first attempt at Art School was through Print-media but I had a lot of untreated mental health shit, and was drinking probably too much and generally being a pretty loose cunt. When I went back I was a bit older and heaps more focused on my personal goals. I went in through Textiles but i’ve always been a mixed-media fiend. I had the idea of exploring pattern and surface design in a way that related to natural forms of repetition, like cells, moss, moulds, corals and all that groovy stuff. I knew I wanted to work with plasticine because I love working with lowbrow materials in my art. For starters, they’re super affordable, but they’re also really accessible to the viewer. People have memories of plasticine, people know how it moves, they understand immediately the level of skill and patience that had gone into making one of my petri dishes.
How has the public responded to your current work? Has the public’s opinion caused you to change your style in any way?
Well, for starters, I stopped using plasticine because so many of my friends and peers were constantly furious that they couldn’t touch my work. Because of all the holes, and beads, and detailing and textures people were constantly touching them and damaging the pieces, or whinging at me really really loudly about how badly they WANT to touch them.
I mean, obviously that delighted me, but it’s not super sustainable. I started by branching out into polymer clay, I made some small pieces that are very tactile and a range of earrings and other merch but I wasn’t satisfied with the texture and had to work a lot slower than previously to not crack the surface. Plus, it’s expensive and my whole shtick is also centred around smashing out bulk art so I moved on to this really beautiful and comparatively affordable selection of air drying clays generally marketed at 3-5 year olds.
I’ve had a conversation with you before about monetising Art and how you feel about it….tell me more.
I guess it would take approximately zero seconds of internet detecting to figure out that I’m an Anarchist, so unsurprisingly I have huge issues with the idea of monetising anything at all.
I have issues with our definitions of 'Art' for starters, something I feel like craft ladies and Jisoe fans have in common.
I have issues with artists having to spend massive percentages of their time making merch and not their art just to survive.
I have issues with the value of a single piece of art not being comparable to the value of the artists.
Honestly I can’t answer this without a few thousand words.
What obstacles do you face in making and exhibiting your art?
Look, it’s the same old game right, I don’t have a lot of money and nobody hip, sexy, cool or interesting enough to like my work has any money to buy it. We’re all sad, gay and poor and trying to do our best. I don’t really have that much of an issue getting a hold of materials, I have enough support for that and I’m a fucking wizard at finding the cheapest deal online, but I’m very prolific and I’m definitely running out of storage space.
Are you trying to achieve a certain outcome or look? OR experimenting? You have a very distinct style. Are you generally satisfied with your artwork?
I think that the aesthetic outcome of my work is mostly to create something that looks like it could be alive within the boundaries of my own tastes. It’s an ongoing experiment to create something that you desperately want to touch but are also kind of scared of, so I am generally really satisfied with where I am at. But I’m very prolific, when I do sit down to work and make some pieces I can make between 50 and 200 little sculptures in a day, and I wouldn’t be where I am if I wasn’t deeply critical of each one and didn’t treat it as a constant experiment. Development excites me and I don’t believe in perfection.
What is a Frank Mullet?
I used to call myself Effie Dee. I don’t fucking know why. It started as this dumb joke on my initials cause they’re FDMB Effie Dee Emmy Bee or some teenage bullshit. Anyway, after a long time I realised that I hated how femme and floaty and innocent it was, and I also hated separating my work from myself or feeling like I needed to brand my art to sell it. I’ve been getting more open and passionate about expressing myself and what I believe in and being pretty ruthless about making sure that if you want me for my art you gotta access all the political memes and pop culture bullshit and slutty selfies that come with it. My name is Frank Bleeker, and I’ve got a mullet. it’s sick, it looks good, makes me feel like a more honest version of myself and it’s fucking insanely low maintenance. Literally no downside.
You mentioned on your Instagram account recently that this body of work you’ll be exhibiting at Dirty Laundry may be one of the last times you show works involving plastic based materials – what brought about this decision?
It’s just getting increasingly harder and harder to justify so many aspects of my work to myself. All the materials I use are cheap, plastic, mass-produced materials designed for disposable single use, ordered from factories in China where I have absolutely no feasible way of knowing the working standards. Early in my work that was sort of part of the shtick, because I do love the idea of making something beautiful and alive from something so cheap, and generally disrespected, and my whole aesthetic is firmly about filling space, and growth and mass production has a lot of connection with that.
But I realised that while my work is about nature, and about plastic, it’s also not really meant to be a political statement, and I don’t want my art to feel like I’m trying to “say something” because I think it distracts from the viewers experience. I think I’m also just trying to prioritise some direct action for a few years.
Do you make every-day? Could you ever decide to stop making and do something else? How essential is creating to your personal wellbeing?
I mean, yes and no. I do something creative every day. I’m constantly making hasty phone edits or sketching ideas or doing some kind of little form of expression. But I also count all my daily acts of making as part of myself and my artistic expression. I like to cook, I mend clothes and sew, my housemates and I are trying to grow as much food and as many seedlings for our friends and family as possible. I never ever thought I would be able to go a day without making some art, but I’m trying to make my lifestyle into the art you know?
Please describe some interesting memory facts of your self....... ANYTHING really!
When I started getting ready for honours at Uni (which I never did because I had kids and then they appointed Julie FUCKING Bishop to be chancellor and fucked if I'm giving a minute of my time to an educational facility that thinks that's a smart idea) I did a lot of analysis of my childhood. I really wanted to figure out what about my life really made me end up the way I am, and it helped me redefine myself and my work. I travelled a lot with my parents as a child, I struggled in school, my mum was an art teacher and cook, my childhood home was metres away from Wollemi National Park. I can see how all these things sculpted me but I think the most singularly important memory is this: When I was a kid, my dad bought this game for me called EVE. It was made by Peter Gabriel and basically involved exploring a landscape made of digital collages to click and collect samples to take back to a big warehouse and build songs. But it also had a lot of art, and interviews with people from a variety of backgrounds talking about art and sexuality. Yayoi Kusama's work featured very heavily, and while I haven't been able to play it for years, because I don't own any computers with an operating system that old, I still think about it probably at least twice a week.
I've always been a big dumb gay collage artist, and even now as someone who primarily works in sculpture and textiles I would definitely consider myself a collage artist still. I want to get into music too, making mashups and audio collages, so if anyone wants to teach me how to do that, sick. Peter Gabriel is directly responsible for that.
Favourite any other artists?
At the moment the most singularly inspiring instagram account I follow is _elisadaprato_ she's a chef in Italy who works with wild harvests of herbs and flowers in her kitchen. She really opened my eyes to how much of a plant can be edible and changed my perspective on food and cooking completely. Hiromi Tango, Dan Lam, Louise Zhang, Gonkar Gyatso, Chiaozza (Adam Frezza and Teri Chiao), GiantPansy, Eva Stalinski, Gentle Thrills and Hillary Hanrahan (who will be super embarrassed by this but here we are.. Maybe make her name even bigger).
I love artists who make Bulk bullshit so I love Fiona Hall despite her colour palette not pleasing me at all. I can't remember the name but I once saw an exhibition at the MCA that was just household objects absolutely perfectly replicated in plasticine including pencils that had been SHARPENED and there were little plasticine pencil shavings on the ground. Blew my mind!
Would you want to collab with anyone and who would it be?
Well, for starters, almost all of the work I've made in the last three years has been with the loving support and assistance of my best friend Laura McCleane (@bongcock69 she's the best). We live together and let me tell you living with your best friend is one of the greatest things you can do for your spirit. I literally want to collab with everyone though. Collaboration is so important to me. I really don't believe in individualism or it's importance. I don't want to be great, I just want to be part of something great. Im taking time off moving house to write this, and we're about to move in with one of my longest friends and we've sort of been ~planning~ on collaborating for decades and now here we are bittttccchhh.
What are your general thoughts on Canberra and where we are at?
I think it's weird to have town pride based on just living somewhere. As a white person it can be kind of nationalistic and gross. I like Canberra a lot, especially as a social place. It's a real picnic city, which I love. I'm also glad to live in a territory with a heavy greens influence, but Canberra has a really massive gentrification problem, rent is criminally inaccessible and so many real estate agents are terrifying demons who'll walk around in those suits just Looking Like That. Unsettling humans.
While some really fabulous programs are coming out now to reinvigorate spaces (full disclosure: I'm doing a few things in T H E B U B B L E at Haig Park) I am also aware of the criticisms of City and Government agencies spending many thousands of dollars on, for example, say a mural instead of I dunno, resurfacing skate parks.
Frank Mullet is currently exhibiting & selling hand-made, Plasticscene 2019 framed art and critters at the Dirty Laundry pocket gallery (located in the shop's front window). Exhibition runs from the 26th October 2019 - 31st January 2020.
If you see something you like but would love it customised or perhaps you want something made-to-order, the artist is available for commissions!