Five minutes with Luke Cornish (ELK) | HerCanberra

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Five minutes with Luke Cornish (ELK)

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The phrase ‘Have a Go’ might conjure feelings of pride or make you cringe, depending on where you sit on the political spectrum.

But no matter your thoughts on the recent election, the phrase looks a whole lot different once artist Luke Cornish (aka ELK) is done with it.

His striking artwork, Have A Go, is just one of three bodies of work now on show at ANU’s aMBUSH Gallery at Kambri, as part of Luke’s new solo exhibition.

Part impassioned political commentary, part street art, part documentary, Have A Go is a homecoming exhibition for Luke, who grew up in Canberra.

We caught up with Luke to talk politics, apologies and Canberra commute times.

What do you want your artwork to convey?

All good art should aim to elicit an emotional response from anybody that views it. Love it or hate it, I don’t mind, just don’t say ‘It’s ok’.

With this body of work, I’m trying to convey that the world is being run headfirst into a dystopian future by ecocidal maniacs, rich old white men whose sole interest is retaining power at the expense of everything.

Enjoy the show.

Can you walk us through some of the works being exhibited at aMBUSH Gallery at Kambri?

There’s actually three bodies of work in the show, and although starkly different in material, concept and composition, they directly inform each other, referencing my artistic journey over the last few years, from the war-torn streets of Aleppo in Syria, to the sunny shores of Bondi Beach (I did a thing there, you might have heard about it.)

The first body of work ‘The Sea’ was inspired and created from three trips I made to Syria over the last three years, at the peak of the Syrian conflict.

The work is neither political nor religious, it is really a documentation of the day to day lives of the people caught in the middle of this conflict, as they endure the hardships of war and economic sanctions.

The second body of work, ‘End times blues’ is actually just a bunch of paintings I did while I was trying to work out what I wanted to do next.

I realise this explanation may present as somewhat uncultured, but if you don’t want authenticity, probably check out another art exhibition. This work explores life in the toxic environment we live in.

The third body of work, ‘Have a go’ was evolving from around the time of the ‘Not welcome to Bondi’ incident–I painted a mural in Bondi raising awareness for the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in Australian detention facilities, it ignited a national debate, about free speech, and then got censored. It was on the news, all of the news.

These paintings are a response to the censorship of the public, journalists in particular, by the faithful leaders of our nation. Under his eye.

If you could describe your art in three words, what would they be?

Pretty fucking irreverent.

If you could be Prime Minister for a day, what would you do?

That would be a busy day. I’m sure most of it would be taken up by making apologies. Apologising to the Indigenous people of this country, again, and meaning it.

Apologising to the women of this country for not doing enough to end the violence they endure and the inequality of pay they tolerate, and apologising to the children of this country for jeopardising the future of this planet by not making a concerted effort to shift to renewable energy and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

I’d apologise to our closest neighbours East Timor and West Papua, for ignoring them when they need us most.

Secondly, I’d also redirect the money we spend on military actions against Syria and Yemen into Education and fighting climate change…[I’d also] legalise abortion in all states, after lunch.

Lastly, I’d hold a media conference at the press gallery announcing my resignation, and give the job to someone who needs it, not someone who wants it.

What do you feel are the most important issues in Australia at the moment?

Apart from what I mentioned above, I think the most important issue we need to address as a nation is that our leaders have been compromised by corporate and religious power. Sadly it’s not us they’re leading anymore.

What do you miss about living in Canberra?

I miss the things that I took for granted growing up here, like how beautiful this city and its surroundings are, and how conveniently nestled between the snow and the sea it is.

I also miss that getting caught in peak hour traffic only adds about three minutes to your commute.

the essentials

What: Have A Go, a solo exhibition by Luke Cornish (ELK)
When: Showing until 29 September. Open daily from 10 am – 6 pm weekdays and 12 pm – 5 pm on weekends
Cost: Free
Where: aMBUSH Gallery at Kambri, ANU

Images courtesy of the artist

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