“I get visually interested in just about anything. I just look around, pick some aspect of my surroundings and give it a go.”
Victor Shergill is an inquisitive type. An artist who keeps a keen eye on the world around him.
The way Victor creates is a sign of the digital times. Think finger painting but on your phone screen. Using an app called Heavypaint, the Sydneysider brews calming scenes through smears and strokes.
From warm rays piercing through church windows to car trips at magic hour to folks frolicking joyfully amongst the trees – Victor immortalises moments that stay with you.
Art has always been in Victor’s atmosphere. “I remember my aunt showing me how to draw a sphere with a pen using hatches at my Grandma’s house in Melbourne. I think I would have been 5 or 6.”
In his day-to-day life, Victor works in the fields of animation and film design. He sees his artworks as a kaleidoscope of “colour and lighting situations” that assist him in his ongoing explorations in these fields. Jokingly, he mentions that he’s been dabbling in art for such a long time now that he can’t “throw in the towel or he’d lose face.”
A host of Victor’s artworks spawn from the mundane – a lighter on a table, the corner of his bedroom, a cordoned-off park bench and a phone charger plugged into the wall. Although they’re ordinary vignettes, the way they’re immortalised on a touch screen has me thinking deeply about the stories behind each and every frame.
When asked how he chooses what to capture, Victor talks openly about his short attention span and the way he hops from one medium of inspiration to another: “I might find a photograph to study, then get bored of that and make some dumb shapes out of my imagination. And from there I might go back to the natural elements around me.”
As much as he loves churning out pieces with no direct links to each other, Victor is keen to “be more curated on the next series and think a little more cohesively going forward”.
Known to his followers on IG as @squibtoy, Victor posts pieces more than most. Since the beginning of 2022, the digital finger painter has been on a mission to create artwork for every single day of the year. Setting himself this monumental task has helped him solve the problem of how to integrate his practice with the beast that is social media.
I rate the idea. I’m a firm believer that if you’re creating you may as well share it with the masses and see what lands and what doesn’t.
Sadly, Victor kicked off this mission just after the tragic passing of a previous girlfriend. “I remember my Dad saying something like ‘just take it one day at a time’. So it felt right to organise myself around a task that I could control each day.” It’s a cliche but one Victor heard plenty in the months following the incident,
“time is the only healer for the wounds of grief.”
Before we delve further, Victor is quick to caveat that he hasn’t in fact managed to do a painting a day but that doesn’t bother him one bit. “That’s life. I suppose this too is an analogy for dealing with grief. Things are already broken and ruined, so what’s to gain from being unnecessarily harsh on myself.”
Having dealt with the grief associated with losing loved ones too, Victor’s thoughts ring true. In what’s already an awful situation, there’s nothing gained from being hard on yourself. Never forget but in time turn your attention to healing.
As I chat with Victor, there’s an infamous face that pops up a number of times in his art that I’ve got to ask about. None other than…Saddam Hussein.
“A close friend told me a story about how he escaped Iraq in 1991 after their invasion of Kuwait…his idiosyncrasies shaped the life of my friend, who in turn is shaping my own…I suppose the shape of his face trapped my interest that week.”
Interestingly, Victor’s depictions of Saddam follow him by the decade. From aspirational youth to confident world leader to authoritarian ruler.
Outside of Saddam’s portraits, Victor celebrates humans doing the things they love. In one frame, a woman dives beneath the sea, finding peace and quiet. Whilst in another, a hiker gazes out over a gorgeous natural valley, taking it all in. Although it’s impossible to make out his subjects’ facial expressions, their feelings of enjoyment shine through.
“I feel joy just breathing. I love my life and I am so grateful to be alive.” Victor tells me.
Oddly, Victor draws little positivity from dragging his fingers across his iPhone. “I feel buried under my artwork, an unshakeable burden.”
The burden he speaks of comes from an insatiable thirst for perfection. “Perhaps if I focus on making the next picture, eventually they’ll be perfect. When my art is perfect, I’ll have joy there too.”
Victor, for your sake and ours…we hope you find it.
Studying Saul’s work there’s a playfulness and zest to every subject matter he tackles. In one piece, a painter whistles a merry tune as he heads off for a day on the job. In another, a jolly fruit vendor juggles oranges in a commissioned work for Atomic Beer.
What Kim puts down on paper is stunning, an unbridled depiction of sexual pleasure. Wielding an array of watercolours she brings raunchy and arousing scenes to life. In one work, women explore each other’s soaking bodies in the shower. In another, a man enters his partner as they writhe under the sheets.
The Australian artist (now based in Berlin) leans into the growing posthuman and ecocritical art movements which focus on decentering Human beings and reminding us of the interconnectedness of all life; fauna, flora and beyond. Sparked by her innate “curiosity about if and how other organisms think, feel and communicate”, Rofe uses her work to remind us we live in a “more-than-human world”.
Caleb paints on impulse. Allergic to the word inspiration, he paints with little preconceptions, allowing the images to surface on the canvas before him. In his latest series PAINTINGS, Caleb has created portraits of the unknown. To him, they “feel like ghosts or old photos”.