Luke Cornish

Australia 1979

Urban Art, Stencil

Luke Cornish
Luke Cornish
November 23, 2014
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Luke Cornish is an Australian  artist, also known under the moniker ‘E.L.K’. He is creating unique, powerful images from handmade stencils and was the first artist to be nominated for the Archibald Prize with a portrait created entirely out of stencils.

Growing up in Canberra, Cornish worked blue-collar jobs before picking up stencil art as a hobby in the early-2000s. All of his work is done by hand through cutting out sheets of recycled acetate with a scalpel. Some of Cornish’s stencils contain over 80 layers! The subject of his Archibald entry, the infamous ex-priest Father Bob Maguire, contains over 30 layers and was influenced by Cornish’s association of him with his own grandfather. An atheist, religious iconography occurs frequently in his work.

Using up to 85 layers of carefully hand-cut acetate, he sprays layer upon layer of aerosol paint until his images bear a striking photographic resemblance: this is a new form of hyper-realism that is unlike what has been seen before. Formally known as E.L.K, he uses the tools of a street artist to create decadent, detailed works that envelop the viewer. There is an honesty to Cornish’s work, slicing back the layers and reconstructing his muses with astonishing deftness. The emotions that permeate through the eyes of his portraits have great depth, the shadows created by the stencils highlighting their anguish. His subjects all seem to share the same hardship and determination that Cornish himself has experienced, lending to a sense of dire reality in the unreality of his images.

After a few small exhibitions across Australia, Cornish’s abilities began to attract public attention. Over the past five years he has been granted many awards, including being granted the Churchill fellowship in 2013, being selected as a finalist in the Metro Art Prize of 2011, winning the Australian Stencil Art prize in 2010, the most popular stencil at Melbourne Stencil Festival in 2008, and creating a shortlisted Tropfest film on the making of his Archibald portrait. And finally, the Archibald itself. This represents a shift in the contemporary art world, as Cornish’s controversial nomination has proven that stencil is a viable fine art form that is now competing with more traditional methods.

Cornish has continued to refine his craft, striving to push the boundaries of his medium and creating picture-perfect stencils. He has nuzzled his way into the fine art world, with work held in public and private collections around the world, most notably his portrait of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, which was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia in 2013.

Luke Cornish is living and working in Sydney, Australia.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014Louder than wordsStolen Space, LondonSolo
2014ClusterfuckMetro Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2014Sex & Death, w/ Will ColesArt Equity, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2014Public Street art festivalPerth, AustraliaGroup
2014RightNowLiechardt, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2014ADIDAS Stan Smith showMelbourne, AustraliaGroup
2013Before AfghanistanArt Equity, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2013Sulman prizeArt Gallery of NSW, AustraliaGroup
2012Not with it…Metro Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2012A cut above 2Espionage Gallery, Adelaide, AustraliaGroup
2012Archibald prizeArt Gallery of NSW, AustraliaGroup
2012E.L.K x ADNATE "killing it"Molecule gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2012Project 5Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2012Melbournes burningParadise hills, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2012Young gunsLinton and kay, Perth, AustraliaGroup
2012Climate changeMetro Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011Look what you made me do....Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2011This is why we can't have nice things…Oh really Gallery, Newtown, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2011Surface TensionAmbush Gallery, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2011All stars showEspionage gallery, Adelaide, AustraliaGroup
2011Things to comeMetro Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011Facelook portrait showDark horse experiment, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011The new fieldDark horse experiment, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011Metro art awardexhibition of finalists, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011A cut aboveEspionage gallery, Adelaide, AustraliaGroup
2011Sidewayz Art ExhibitionSydney, AustraliaGroup
2011Up close (colour by numbers)Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2011Expo for MattiaNaples, ItalyGroup
2011Up the bendRancho Notorious, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2011Paste up exhibition (ragad art kalliatsis)HungaryGroup
2010How you like me now Bitch?Front Gallery, Canberra, AustraliaSolo
2010Space InvadasNational Gallery of Australia (merchandise in Giftshop)Group
2010Don't push mongChina heights, Surry hills, SydneyGroup
2010Australian Stencil art PrizeOh Really gallery, Newtown, SydneyGroup
2010Don't push mongCanberra, AustraliaGroup
2010Pop rocksUrban Uprising gallery, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2010Sweet streets1000 pound bend, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2010Friends with knivesCrewest gallery, Los AngelesGroup
2010Urban art 10ABSG, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2009Old SkoolinArt whino, Washington/Los AngelesGroup
2009Get TruckedPer square metre, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2009Melbourne Stencil FestivalMelbourne, AustraliaGroup
2009YourKidCantDoThisSydney Show, North Bondi, AustraliaGroup
2009Urban Art Agenda #3Ballarat, Melbourne and Brisbane PowerhouseGroup
2009SeptemberDirty Pilot Group show, LA, USAGroup
2009Spin that thing, vinyl showFamous when dead Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaGroup
2009In2change ExhibitionBelconnen Community Centre, AustraliaGroup
2009YourKidCantDoThisMelbourne Show, AustraliaGroup
2009YourKidCantDoThis' Canberra ShowLegislative assemblyGroup
2009"Stencil" Art Whino Group showNational Harbour, MD, USAGroup
2009Australian Stencil Art prizeExhibition of finalists (runner up)Group
2008Spray 1387Tehran, IranGroup
2008Melbourne Stencil FestivalMelbourne, AustraliaGroup
2008Cacophony Group showManukaGroup
2000Cacophony Group showThe Front Gallery, AustraliaGroup
2000M16 Group showM16, Canberra, AustraliaGroup