He may well have worked for some huge commercial names, but for New Zealand-born, New Yorker Bemodern (aka Paul Darragh) success results from freely creating art for yourself. Graphic designer by day and artist by night this 20-something is making heads turn at galleries from Melbourne to Manhattan. CH caught up with the man behind the name to talk art, design and all that lies between.
What's with the name bemodern?
It's a fabulous name! It started out when I was living in Wellington, NZ. I used to go to the library and photocopy pictures from '60s encyclopedias and make collages. From doing that I got that sense of, "Hey, just be modern, it's a new vacuum cleaner" but that grew into something more. Being modern is never the future or never retro, it's right now, right here, all the time. Isn't that great? It also talks about an aesthetic that I'm very fond of: Brazilian architecture and Le Corbusier.
Where, when and why did you start out creating art?
Day one, because I had to. We are all put on this earth with a purpose. For some, it takes time to find that purpose. For some, you never find that purpose. For me, I knew instantly I had to create. It's as rudimentary as eating or breathing.
Would you consider yourself an artist or a graphic designer? Which is better for you to be known as?
I am an artist.
See more images and the rest of our interview after the jump.
You're not originally from NY. Where are you from and where have your travels taken you?
I was born and raised in New Zealand. My parents took me to New York when I was six. I literally fell in love from that one trip and knew I had to be back here. I lived in Melbourne, Australia for four years which was fantastic. I loved the lifestyle there and had a killer tan. I also lived in London and Paris last summer while I was waiting for my visa to be processed for the U.S.
Where do you source inspiration?
Life. Although I must say, right now I'm totally inspired by the sets of '80s movies set in Beverly Hills starring either Bette Middler or Danny DeVito (or both). Right now (and always) the word 'faux' inspires me. I love that word, I love how it looks and I love that it's fancy for cheap crap, like me. I'm fancy and cheap all in one.
How would you define what you do?
What I do for work is generic and commercial. What I create for myself, for people, [my] art…well, that's indefinable. It's new, it's modern and it hasn't been created yet. That's my purpose and mission.
Who have you worked for?
Next question, I don't care. You worked for one brand, you worked for them all. You want a medal for understanding a brief? I love that a lot of the time the demographic will be 18 – 42….hmmmmm, what a small category of humanity to appeal to!
Where have you exhibited?
The Family gallery in NZ. In Australia, I did some stuff with Hell Yeah Projects at Robot, in London, I was part of the Bunny Show at Cosh Gallery and in New York with Brooklyn Art Collective for their "Selling the shadow" exhibition.
What's the best advice you have received so far?
You know, when you receive advice when you're a young person it never absorbs. But what you do get is this collective epiphany of all the things people have told you. My best one recently was a realization that I'm still learning and I can only grow, know more, create better, etc.
What has been the biggest obstacle in getting your stuff out there?
It's all an obstacle and it's all easy. It's attitude.
What's your favorite piece of all time?
Um…that's a really hard question. I think it's also because what I do has a shelf life of 20 seconds. I normally hate my work—but when I like it, I know it's good. I guess the answer is whatever I like at that particular moment in time.
Who do you think is doing good stuff in terms of art?
Jen Stark. I just saw a show she had here in NY. I had seen her work online and liked it, but seeing it in real life gave me this fabulous feeling, like "Hey this is new, this hasn't existed before, this is happening!" Also I saw a Takashi Murakami retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum last year and it blew my mind!
What music are you listening to as you answer these questions?
Damn, I've had my iPod on during this whole interview. It's on shuffle and when I get to this question it's playing The National. I kinda want to wait to have something cooler.
Where do you want to be in seven and a half years?
I figure my life really doesn't change that much. If anything, I get a greater freedom with every year. So in seven and a half years I'll be doing the same thing but there will be fewer restraints.
Finally, where can we see more of your stuff?
On my site. I have a show coming up on the 25th of July at a place called Lake Johnson in Bushwick (Brooklyn) called "Make'm Shake Presents: First Contact." It's both an art and music venue. It should be fabulous. I went to their last show last weekend and it was a total riot. Fabulous! So if you're around…come!