Saxon Duke China Wild

Saxon Duke. China Wild - background

My name is John Ogden aka Oggy and it is my great honour to launch the China Wild exhibition by Saxon Duke.

But first, I want to acknowledge the Cadigal clan of the Eora nation on whose land we are gathered tonight. They once camped along a beautiful stream that passed through here. The European invaders renamed it the Tank Stream and it was the first water supply for the new settlement known as Sydney Town ... before it became polluted and turned into an open sewer.

The Australian Aborigines are arguably the world’s first graffiti artists. The subjects of their rock art ranged from mega-fauna to spirit figures, pictures of Thalacynes and Maccassan boats.  I’m not sure if the Gadigal were a major artistic influence on Saxon but I do know that Keith Haring’s work and sense of fun and style absolutely engaged him. This American artist and social activist responded to New York City street culture of the 1980s, and Saxon has in turn drawn inspiration from the vibrancy of traditional graffiti with camouflage like patterns to create a flowing nature to his works.

China Wild was born during the course of a couple of whirlwind trips Saxon took through the South of China over a period of a few weeks in 2011 & 2013 with good friend James McAlister & his Father Warren who has a guitar components factory there. 

It's a wild world out there, and it struck Saxon that “The absolute perfect disorganisation of the streets alone in some parts became so overwhelming, and at times dangerous you would find yourself mentally exiting the picture to retain some sanity.”

Painting in the street to Chinese was something new and Saxon soon learnt they take it pretty seriously. On the second trip to Shenzhen they were greeted by 20 something fellow painters, media, TV crews, walls prepped and ready to go. After experiencing Chinese driving on the dash from one event to the next Saxon resolved to leave something behind in case of the unfortunate event of a car accident where he was torn to pieces in”.  In his downtime Saxon started to develop a non-commissioned compilation of the pandemonium of daily experiences into a more tangible pictorial language. Using childlike cartoon characters made the daily occurrences seem both humorous & light hearted. 

Shenzhen, the electronics capitol of the world, with its chaotic & lively markets injected vivid colour into the equation.  The 20 selected pieces shown here are part of a larger body of work using both canvases and discarded surfaces as his canvases. The work was completed in Australia from a mindset forged in China.

I have worked as a freelance creative for over 4 decades, so I know that to be an artist can be an incredibly difficult journey. The role of the artist as a seeker of knowledge is timeless, and requires great bravery and commitment. Bukowski said that Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.  

When most boys dream of being an astronaut, Saxon wanted to be a dentist when he waslittle kid. His mum said dentists were robbers, so he settled for graffiti supplemented with a career in advertising on the side. A more creative band of robbers. Dentistry may have been a safer career than the artist path but had he gone this way we wouldn’t have this fabulous art. Besides, who would want to go to Dr Duke after one of his legendary weekends.

Brian Eno once said It is time to stop thinking about art as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.Naturally talented artists are a blessing and I am very happy that Saxon didn’t become a dentist. Once committed I think he may have even surprised himself after his first solo show on the tail of a trip to China in 2011. The show was a huge success … selling everything on the opening night with private collectors in both Australia & the USA.

I am one of the collectors who love his skill in making these mad kalidoscopes and I am truly honoured to be asked to launch this show. He has captured this crazy, sweaty, messy energy we call life in his own distinctive style. In this diverse exhibition he has managed to keep his personal style in every image.

I fear that one day soon when the rest of the world catches on to this whirl-pool of energy from Sydney I will not be able to afford his artworks.  

Thanks you for coming.