Anthony Lister

Australia 1979

Street Art, Pop Surrealism

Anthony Lister
Anthony Lister
December 16, 2013

Australia has a vibrant urban art scene that is driven by a number of internationally celebrated artists. One of the most influential contemporary artists hailing from the Oceanian country is Anthony Lister. He has gained a great critical acclaim for his outstanding pop-surrealist graffiti, paintings, and installations that embody a fusion of highbrow and lowbrow culture. Lister’s rich imagination translates into a practically endless diversity of genres and styles, most importantly a form of sophisticated figuration and street art. Having created his own world inhabited by misguiding superheroes, masterful vamps, and alluring ballet dancers, the artist made quite a name for himself in the international artistic circles.

anthonylister - Ballett Dancer, Sydney, 2013
Anthony Lister – Ballett Dancer, Sydney, 2013

Background and Max Gimblett’s Mentorship

Born in 1979 in Brisbane, Anthony Lister attended Queensland College of Art in the capital of Queensland, where he obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2001. Shortly after, he traveled to New York, USA, where he got an apprenticeship under Max Gimblett, the reputable artist from New Zealand. In addition to completing the mentorship with Gimblett in New York in 2002, he underwent a residency at Blender Studio, Melbourne, in 2004. Among his most notable achievements, Lister helped pioneer the stencil and street art movement in Brisbane. His first teacher and the person who introduced him to painting was his late grandmother who showed him the works of Australian painters Arthur Streeton and Brett Whitely. Aged 17, the young artist started doing pictures in the public and signing “Lister” all around his native town.

Lister helped pioneer the stencil and street art movement in Brisbane

anthonylister - work melbourne 2015 like close
Anthony Lister – mural in Detroit, Michigan, 2015

High and Low Culture Clash in Lister’s World

Affected by numerous areas and genres, such as Urban and Pop Art, contemporary youth culture (which frequently comes from television and the “misguided role models”), and expressionism, Lister’s works offer a messy mixture of high and lowbrow culture. Celebrating the essence of Western popular culture, and everything it has yielded, Lister reshapes this joint legacy into something that has the same seductive power and absurdity, thus perfectly representing his quest to describe the society. Over the years, he has developed a scratchy, scrawling, expressive form of deeply seductive figurative style. He employs a wide range of media, spanning from installation, painting and drawing to music and film. A true innovator, he successfully finds a way to merge the influence of rough and dirty techniques and practices of “bad” painting with the tone of graffiti.

Anthony Lister - Mech Man, 2015 (Left) / Heavy Dope, 2015 (Right) like close
Anthony Lister – Mech Man, 2015 (Left) / Heavy Dope, 2015 (Right)

Parody of Modern Life

Drawing inspiration from his surroundings, Lister’s work is a parody of a modern society. His influences are very varied and include graffiti, stenciling, installations, comic book imagery, cartoons and his recollections of childhood. The way Lister sees it, art goes hand in hand with social meaning – they are inseparable. His imagery can be read as having a political and social message that engages with good versus evil, right versus wrong. Characterized by subject matter painted on large areas of monochromatic ground, Lister’s oeuvre reveals the particular tension between figuration and abstraction, which is most obvious in his series of superheroes and villains. With his humorous representation of fictional subjects in the real world, Lister exposes our false sense of security, depicting the issues that our generations deal with.

Lister’s oeuvre reveals the particular tension between figuration and abstraction

Anthony Lister - Mr. Prepared This Earlier, 2016 (Left) / Tight Grip, 2014 (Right) like close
Anthony Lister – Mr. Prepared This Earlier, 2016 (Left) / Tight Grip, 2014 (Right)

Lister’s Techniques and Style

Using charcoal, acrylic, spray paint and oils, Lister creates canvases that depict his misguiding superheroes in a sophisticated form. He employs the rare gray shades of neutral buffing paste used to delete graffiti by local authorities to move away from traditional still life and challenge the way we interpret art, as well as the way we see people. The artist uses comic book imagery for his own means, redirecting popular culture for his personal expression. Heroes and villains are taken out of the panel and placed in a new universe devoid of the usual storyline, dialogue, and scenery. His paintings are not controlled by cartoon contexts. This “adventure painter”, as he likes to call himself, combines superior technical execution of old masters with the free-hand spontaneity of his graffiti background. The results are dark undertones that cloud Lister’s marvelous subjects, constructed from a harmony of daring brush strokes and a bold color palette. Using his mixed media technique, Lister brings his ominous characters to life within each artwork.

Anthony Lister - mural in Los Angeles, CA
Anthony Lister – mural in Los Angeles, CA

Cultural Genocide

Armed with just a few cans of spray paint and the cover of night, Lister established himself as Australia’s foremost street artist. To date, he has painted dozens of walls – with and without permission from both authorities and property owners. In 2014, charges were raised against him for illegally painting a garage door in a Brisbane alley. After the owner called the police, Lister left the country. The artwork was painted over shortly after, which wasn’t the first time that Lister’s creations met a similar fate. For many years now, the Australian government has been combating the illegal graffiti. They even created various programs to eradicate street art, which Lister calls “cultural genocide.”

Anthony Lister - mural in Miami, FL, 2012
Anthony Lister – mural in Miami, FL, 2012

Work of Unique Sensibility

The prominent artist has participated in numerous individual and collective exhibitions held all over the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, and his native country. In a career that spans two decades, he has become one of the most prominent driving forces in the Australia’s street art scene. Reputed for his breathtaking, thought-provoking works of a unique sensibility, Anthony Lister continues to surprise with his captivating graffiti, paintings, and installations.

The artist is represented by Hang-Up Gallery in London, Lazarides in London, and Robert Fontaine Gallery in Miami.

Anthony Lister lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Featured image: Anthony Lister – portrait, photo credits Metro Gallery
All images courtesy of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Still Here, A Decade Of LazaridesLazarides Rathbone, LondonGroup
2015Mad Props Street CredNew Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2015Black Door LimousineRobert Fontaine Gallery, MiamiSolo
2014Hurt People – Hurt PeopleLazarides Rathbone, LondonSolo
2014Power TrippingJonathan Levine Gallery, New YorkSolo
2014Art14 LondonLazarides Stand, LondonGroup
2014Art BaselMiami, USAGroup
2014An Even ElevenThe Shooting Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2013The Beautiful MiseryOlsen Irwin, SydneySolo
2013Anthony ListerRobert Fontaine Gallery, MiamiSolo
201310 Years Wooster Collective 2003 – 2013Jonathan LeVine Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2012Unslung HeroesThe Outsiders London and NewcastleSolo
2012And Then The Wind ChangedNew Image Art, LASolo
2012Au CourantTim Olsen Gallery, SydneyGroup
2012Streets of the WorldOpera Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2011Bogan ParadiseSydneySolo
2011Street FacesMetro Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2011The Underbelly ProjectMiami, USAGroup
2011Outpost FestivalSydney, AustraliaGroup
2011Paper WorksCircleculture Gallery, BerlinGroup
2010Memories Not IncludedChalk Horse, SydneySolo
2010The Beauty Of FailureShow & Tell Gallery, TorontoSolo
2010How To Catch A Time TravellerLyons Wier Gallery, New YorkSolo
2010Art BaselMiami, USAGroup
2010Disorder DisorderPenrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains, NSWSolo
2010Never Judge...?Stolenspace Gallery, LondonGroup
201010th Anniversary Fecal Face group showThe Luggage Store, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Never A Dull MomentWhite Walls Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009Anthony ListerNew Image Art, LASolo
2009And then the Wind ChangedNew Image Art Gallery, West Hollywood, CASolo
2009Winter Group ShowWhite Walls Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009Beach Blanket Bingo - A Summer MixerJonathan LeVine Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2009New FigurationJames Makin Gallery, Melbourne, VICGroup
2008MIARTMilano, ItalySolo
2008Elms LestersLondon, UKSolo
2008Helsinki Biennale 2008Helsinki Biennale, HelsinkiGroup
2008ContainAnonymous Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008The Big Show 3Silas Marder Gallery, Bridgehampton, NYGroup
2007Art MiamiNew Image Art Gallery, L.A.Solo
2007Year 07 Art ProjectLondon, UKSolo
2007Super is as Super DoesMetro 5 Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2007Cracker got snapped by the PopsUpper Playground, San FranciscoSolo
2007Allarmi 3, Nuovo ContingenteComo, ItalySolo
2007Rest on NailsLyons Weir Gallery, New YorkSolo
2007Ground Breaking: New Space, New PerspectiveLyons Wier Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2006Saturday Morning Prime TimeSpectrum Gallery, LondonSolo
2006SupermarketMetro 5 Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2006Backdoor ConfessionalHarrison Galleries, SydneySolo
2006Observations of ManlinessCriterion Gallery, Hobart, TASSolo
2006Draw TourFuse Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2005Smells Like White OutMetro 5 Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2005Plastic MechanicalArt Galleries Schubert, Gold CoastSolo
2005Twice on SundaysFox Galleries, BrisbaneSolo
2005Wrapped Meat LyricLyons Weir Gallery, New York2Solo
2005My Daughter’s Panic AttackBrian Moore Gallery, SydneySolo
2005UntitledStudio 14, RomeGroup
2004The Finer Points of MonkeyismArt Galleries Schubert, Gold CoastSolo
2004SubtitledFox Galleries, BrisbaneSolo
2004PrimeQueensland Art Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2003Places & ThingsFox Galleries, BrisbaneSolo
2003White Lies BeneathHelen Gory Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2002Issues & AestheticsProject Gallery, Queensland College of ArtSolo
2002dis place meantFox Galleries, BrisbaneGroup
2001Urbanised InfluenceFox Galleries, BrisbaneSolo
2001Play it forwardQueensland College of Art Graduate ExhibitionGroup
2000Young BuxCampbell Mahoney, BrisbaneGroup