Five questions to Aleks Crossan

Five questions to Aleks Crossan

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Aleks Crossan was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1976 to an American father and Croatian mother. She grew up in Switzerland and moved to Tasmania, Australia, with her family 11 years ago, wanting to find new adventures. Art has accompanied her all her life, starting in early years with circus, clowning, dancing, and acting, in her 20’s having her own dance company and composing music, doing voiceover work for animations, and now in her 40’s finding her way in to visual art after a life time of performing art.How did you get into art?

I have been creative since I was very young. My biggest dream was to be a Clown in the Circus, and there was a youth Circus that I desperately wanted to be part of called “Kinder Zirkus Robinson”. But because my parents were separated and the intensity of the Circus practice didn’t fit in with holiday schedules, they said no. That was one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood.

I took dance classes and had a great kids theatre group that I was part of, and absolutely loved being on stage. We all adored our teacher, Frau Metzenthin. She created a play each year with 100 kids in each of the two groups. She would stand on stage during rehearsal and when we would all act crazy and not listen, she would take off one of her heavy shoes, hold it up in the air, and shout “If you don’t stop this second this shoe will fly!” Sometimes she threw it, and we had to duck. We LOVED her so much, and still talk about her to this day.

My love for theatre continued through High School, after which I went to the Zurich Tanz Theater Schule to study dance and choreography. This opened up a whole new world for me and lead to me building up my dance company. I loved choreographing and composing music for the pieces.

When I had children, creativity slowed down and I focused on family life and being a mother, something that I absolutely love. After we moved to Tasmania and the kids got older and more independent, I performed with local theatre companies and did voice work for cartoon characters for an animation studio. 

When things slowed down in the performing art world a few years ago, I felt the pull to visual art, a subject that I had loved so much in high school. I decided to go all in and take 2 years to focus completely on art and experimenting, playing, learning, expanding. I found an incredible studio space and get to spend a lot of time creating my own art study.

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

My work is very loud. Being in my late 40’s, it’s interesting to reflect on how my personality and character has changed through out my life. When I was young, people would tell me that I was too much, too loud, too intense. I cared about what people thought of me, so this created an inner tension: my natural inclination being different from what was expected of me.

In the last few years, I guess since having turned 40, I don’t care what people think anymore. Well, most of the time at least. I think when I create art, the only way it will work, and the only way it will evoke something deep down in the viewer, is if I can let go of any outside expectation and be authentic and vulnerable and true to myself, creating from a place that feels a bit scary and raw. The place where I think “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing”. That, to me, is where creative people really nail it. When we move in to that scary, edgy space, where we don’t know what will happen, where we kind of watch from the outside, and after were done, we can’t really pin point how we did it and ask “how the hell did I MAKE that?”

So back to the question…my art at the moment is very bold, bright, colourful, maybe a bit childlike…I feel like my works combine my life experience, a little slice of wisdom mixed in with my inner child, and enthusiasm and love for life.How do you go about developing your work?

Music is a huge part of creating my works. Loud music! I prefer working on wood panels rather than canvas, but once I get over a certain size they get too heavy, so I use both. I don’t really like how they give, though. I like to be a bit rough when working.

I try to just get a first layer down with out thinking, just so I don’t have to look at a white surface. I work on several works at the same time so I don’t spend too long on one. First layers usually consist of some sort of mark making with chalk, pencil, crayon, and then acrylics. It always looks terrible!

Then I choose some music, according to how I’m feeling: I listen to a wide variety of music depending on my mood, and often will listen to the same song over and over and over again. It really helps me get in the zone. I had to laugh when I saw my “Spotify wrapped”!

Then it’s really just trying to not think and just paint, reacting to previous decisions, do I do this, or that, taking risks, doing things that scare me…the scary things are usually the bits that I love most in the end! I love making marks with Posca Pens and Oilstick to finish off.Who or what influences you?

My absolute favourite artist is Jason Craighead. I don’t want to emulate his works, its more about what I feel when I look at it. The thing that I’m feeling when I look at his paintings, that’s what I want people to feel when they look at my work. 

Then there’s a very talented artist here in Tasmania, George Kennedy, he is one of the first artists I met on Instagram when I began painting. I want to be IN his paintings. They evoke something deep inside me that I can’t pinpoint, but it’s there and it’s strong. 

There are a lot of artists that inspire me who make completely different work than what I make, it lights me up to see their creations and I often get inspirations from seeing their work. Studio Drift is one of those.Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

At the moment I am working towards my solo Exhibition, which will be at the “Social” Gallery at Salamanca Arts Centre here in Hobart in April. There’s also a fun side project that I’ll be part of. Two friends of mine are hand making skateboard decks for a fundraiser to get more kids in to skating, and I am one of the artists who was chosen to paint these decks. I love to skateboard so this will be a really great project to work on.Learn more about the artist: