Comics aren’t what they used to be.

Josh Skinner

Super Man painting. Mixed media on canvas 2007 170cm x 170cm painted in Brooklyn

Pulling a coloured spray can away from his dripping canvas of a semi-naked Wonder Woman, Brisbane born artist Anthony Lister peers into the camera and announces that ‘he is not trying to change the world or save it; he’s just reacting against the world trying to change him’. Lister, who is known for his diversity – Roy Lichenstein / Ralph Steadman-inspired amalgamations of Superheroes – has ultimately conjured a different perspective on the real life crisis that binds superheroes and reality’s pin-pushing ideas together (Crawford, 2010 p.210). For Lister, Jesus “may as well be Superman, God is better understood as the force, and the Devil is more easily recognized within the actions of our politicians and global corporate entities”.

Beginning as an urban artist in the backdrop of Brisbane and Sydney’s inner city suburban streets, Lister incorporated and pioneered styles and trends much anticipated from international booming artists at the time like Banksy, Neckface and Blek Le Rat into a movement, which placed Brisbane on the map in stencil art. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the Queensland College of Fine Arts in 2001 and then moved, in 2003, to New York under the mentorship of Max Gimblett (McGregor 2010 p.31).

Finishing his mentorship with Gimblett, Lister moved his style into a botched and visceral depiction of television, pop culture, comic book imagery and cartoons. For Lister, “Television is everywhere, Australians are raised by Americans on TV. TV has become the contemporary mode of meditation, to replace the fire place”. This allows Lister to paint the ‘parodies of modern life’. He continues, “What I read, what I see, what I do, who I know and what I eat for lunch, it’s all relevant for me. I guess I am in a perpetual state of accepting the obvious as a valid source of inspiration”.

Lister’s work, like Alan Moore’s celebrated Watchmen or Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight, began to reveal unsuspecting facets of re-examined and glorified characters of comics and televised super heroes (Farr 2007). His depictions of heroes like Batman or Captain America aren’t depictions of heroes fighting crimes and saving the world from stereotypical evil masterminds, rather they are fallen, often tied up or ‘just plain downtrodden and vaguely abstracted, much like our childhood memories’.

However Lister is an artist that ‘one could say is in an unique position’, in the sense that he is both accepted in the underground art community as well as the mainstream (Sherwin 2008). More importantly, he incorporates his family’s values into his work. In an interview with MyArtspace in 2008, Lister remarked that his most innovative experiences with art are with his children and their works on paper.

Lister has presented solo exhibitions in London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York, and has work represented at the National Gallery of Australia Canberra. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York with his family (McGregor 2010 p.32).

Sources:

  1. Interview with Anthony Lister. MyArtspace Feb 05, 2007
  2. Crawford, Ashley “Anthony Lister” in Australian Art Collector Magazine (Issue 51 Jan-March 2010)
  3. McGregor, Ken & Zimmer, Jenny Anthony Lister: Macmillian Mini Art Series Number Thirteen Macmillian Art & Publishing, Victoria (2010)
  4. Farr, Kristen “Anthony Lister: Cracker Got Snapped By The Pops” (Jul 17, 2007) in “Art Review” at KQED Arts. A.C.T. San Francisco, CA  4 Aug 2010.
  5. Sherwin, Brian “Art Space Talk: Anthony Lister” (Jul 28 2008) on MyArtspace>Blog Palo Alto, CA, 1 Sept 2010.

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