Stefano Ives is an English born, Australian artist imbued with boundless artistic talent who primarily works in the mediums of illustration, sculpture, designer toys, and performance.
Combining the technical proficiency of the great artists of history such as Da Vinci, Dali, Normal Lindsay and others; with sci-fi themes; and a love for renowned French artist Jean Giraud aka Moebius – Stefano has created a complete surrealist world.
His autobiographical creation Cloudboy wanders a post apocalyptic landscape that has seemingly blossomed back into lush, green, life.
Cloudboy seeks his lover but is continually thwarted, and occasionally helped by a seemingly endless army of strange gods, curious machines, and ethereal monsters.
Importantly, Stefano’s art exists perfectly both as stand alone objects, and interconnected aspects his thematic whole – No matter whether Stefano is working in permanent mediums such as illustration, sculpture, and designer toys; or ephemeral mediums such as performance.
With Stefano’s July 20th Solo Exhibition fast approaching (held at
1 Newman St, Preston VIC, Australia – and on show until the 28th of July 2019) we thought now was the perfect time to sit down with the man behind Cloudboy ask him a few questions about his artistic process, experiences moving from England to Australia aged 12, love for the ‘Burning Man’ festival, life in general, and a whole lot more.
Read it all in the interview below…
Name and D.O.B?
Stephen Ives, aka. Stefano Ives aka. Stef aka. Cloudboy
15th of February, 1970.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
City, State and Country you’re from?
Born in England, came to Melbourne when I was 12.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
A pretty much perfect childhood living on the outskirts of Lewes in southern England: a huge pile of Lego, fruit trees throughout the garden, rolling English Downs as my backyard, perfect summers, snow in winter, Guy Fawkes night, a 1000 year old castle, I’m sure it wasn’t all perfection but it felt like it.
* Age 10 – continuations:
Probably more of the same but I know that I’d discovered the world wasn’t perfect, I was crap at soccer and that my penis wasn’t just for pissing.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
Glen Waverley High School, being a weird English teenager in suburban Australia really sucked. I think this was the year my ‘friends’ decided they didn’t want me hanging out with them, a year later I was back in and someone else was out. I really didn’t understand why people couldn’t be nice so I just receded into my own fantasy world, drew a lot and bottled up all my emotions.
I was making model kits… enthusiastically and badly.
* Age 20 – young adult:
Clubbing I believe, trying to fit in and not really feeling it. I wasn’t doing the chems as I still didn’t really trust anyone, a bit of alcohol but I never got away with it as I get terrible hangovers.
I was just about to drop out of RMIT (studied graphic design, entirely failed to get into any art courses after HSC).
Oh and a year into my first girlfriend
(I think the first drawing of the future Cloudboy was done around this time).
* Age 25 – adult mode:
About to split up from my first girlfriend.
I’ve been immersed in Melbourne hospitality for a number of years now as a chef in some particularly hardcore kitchens, I have no life, I’ve had a creative block for five years, I can barely finish a drawing, I’m bitter, boring and have no direction.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
Oh this is much better.
I pulled my finger out when I was 26, realised I had to direct my existence (I had some good friends by now which helped a lot), got back into drawing and had a creative rebirth, had an exhibition, sold everything, went travelling in South East Asia, did some developmental work on myself, got out of cooking but stayed in hospitality.
I think I’d just started sculpture and realised it was a piece of piss for me, something about it not being contaminated by schooling.
* Age 35 – meanderings:
Got out of hospitality and into yoga, working in the Organic section at the Queen Victoria Market, went travelling again, this time to India, Europe, Croatia and London working in the Borough Markets, ended up living in Denmark.
Got picked up by a gallery and had some success just before the GFC came through a couple of years later and wiped out the art industry. At this stage my sculpture is really getting some flavour, my 2D sucks, I think I was still trying to oil paint which is what an artist does… right?
(First version of Cloudboy built when I was 31).
* Age 40 – middle age creeping:
I’ve been to Burning Man (2007)! but I’m in a relationship that is on its last legs.
Everyone seems very adult, settling down, mortgages and kids, I make shit out of toys, I appear to be good at it but it doesn’t get you much aside from some underground kudos in a dedicatedly capitalist western economy… perhaps real estate would have been a better idea…
(Second rebuild of Cloudboy… possible reason why my relationships don’t last).
* age 45 – middle age meanderings:
Been to Burning Man 4 times now (twice with the fabulous Jasmine Garbin my partner until just recently), found my tribe (Coco Poco Loco) a crew of Australian Burners dedicated to community, creativity, costume and general good times.
Still doing shows on disparate ideas but now my creativity is blossoming outward into costume, performance and larger sculpture.
Find your edges, then step over them.
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
So I have several answers to this, but first a 6am synopsis…
Art as we know is just a label that is used to denote the output of a particular micro section of society that has taken humanities distinct ability to think things into existence literally, personally and whimsically and has become so addicted to the habit that they become better than the majority of the rest of humanity and are therefore denoted the title Artist.
The commodification bit is just desperation by them (as they need to eat) and opportunism by others (trying to make a buck), both fighting against Maslow’s Pyramid by shifting the importance down and up respectively.
I had a wonderfully creative childhood, my parents not having quite as much say in their destiny due to the exigencies of their parents made sure my brother and I did.
I must have got just the right levels of encouragement and dopamine feedback to continue outside of the proscribed areas you are slowly confined to as society tries to turn you into a real estate agent (not: my brother didn’t, he became a real estate agent…. kidding, he was a plumber then got into IT).
But here is the split, I don’t remember doing much sculpture at school; a figure made of clay and some disastrous pottery, everything else was drawing and a little painting. So for me sculpture was entirely uncontaminated by schooling, it followed a whimsical line from mudpies, Lego and model kit making right through to where I am now, it’s pure play, there are no rules just the expression of the particular filters that make up my particular view of reality.
Drawing went through the wringer, comparison, conformity, multiple techniques (technique is actually very important but misunderstood), grading, professionalism, college (urgh).
This is why so many artists come out of Art college creatively dead. The point is yes you have to learn techniques and even a little context to find your place in the world, but at the end of the day you need to throw all that away and play, find your unique expression and go for it.
So when did I first start making art? Either as a toddler when I was first able to manipulate the world to my own ends or when I had my first show at 27 and somebody said I was an artist.
I’m not even a particular fan of the term, so messed up and fraught with hideous experiences of going to exhibitions by VCA grads (yes they rejected me!) and seeing toilet rolls stuck together with gaffa tape, wankers milling around pretending that the Emperor has great dress sense and the only visible sign of effort is an essay on the wall using every big word the author could find and the compulsory ‘confronts the audience’ line.
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
My mum and dad, Lego, Moebius, a massage a friend gave me, my first show shortly after, various hallucinogenic experiences, my friends and partners and getting older.
Describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!
It’s pretty similar for all three areas, I will get an image or ‘thought form’ that feels true and then I go about bringing it into being.
I have very little shortage of ideas (eg. for my last show The Resistible Rise of a Bear of Little Brain what got into the show about 50 works covering sculpture and drawing, was around 5-10% of what I had on the list) and I don’t really go through angsty, self-flagellaty artist crap to produce it, it’s about trusting my inner voice, and playing and teasing the final form out of whatever medium I have chosen, there is a lot of joy and fun.
It’s not to say I don’t have negative emotion but I use it in the same way. When my father died a few years back (following on from my mum death 12 years prior) I spent 15 months mourning and creating a show, I played in the space of sadness and loss, grieving through creativity.
* Your sketches and watercolors?
For drawing the ideas come from the same place but everything has to be done from scratch. The way I see it if I want a ball shape in sculpture I just find a ball shaped object or roll one out of polymer clay, if I want one in a drawing I have to draw a circle, work out where the light is coming from, shadows, secondary light reflection, how am I rendering it (ink, pencil, line, colour….), so the visualising tends to be more about building the scene like a set in my mind and bouncing light around it to see how it reacts. Then this all has to be funnelled down through you to the pen/ pencil and bloody hope your skills come into play, for me it’s just technically harder, although I’m getting better.
Drawing is endless, it is the purest form. I love it and hate it but I won’t stop practising it.
But sculpture is my joy.
* Your sculptures and toys?
After the initial idea for a sculpture I go through my various scrap boxes picking out likely stuff to use, my brain has a pretty good idea where everything is in my studio, there is a loose collating system, even if I don’t consciously know where something is I often find an impulse to scrabble around somewhere and generally come out with what I need.
Then it’s just a process of putting it together.
When I’m not in the studio (especially when cycling) I keep playing with the work in my head, trying different things out. This is also going on for future works, I’ll be working on something and suddenly find my mind has pulled out an idea for a show several years away, only in note form (I currently have 17 future shows sketched out), I’ll play with the idea a bit cross referencing it with what I am presently doing then toss the idea back into the subconscious.
* Your installations and performance works – such as ‘Hattree’?
Same as above just more emphasis on making it idiot proof and safe, big metal things hurt people if they fall over.
There is also the interaction to consider and that’s a cumulative thing, you have to road test the piece to see what breaks and how people play with it.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
It’s a contemporary art hustle (I’m into exploring my creativity).
Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
None, (I’ll be over here in my scraps pile playing).
Favorite other artist(s)?
Jean Giraud (Moebius), Heinrich Kley, Joel-Peter Witkin, Lyonel Feiniger, Frank Frazetta, Henri Riviere, Hokusai, Ellen Jewett, Shohei Otomo, Rene Gruau, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Felix Vallotton, Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Odds and Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Same as any kid I guess, Lego was the main one because I could make anything out of it.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Some girl called Sarah in primary school, no idea why.
Does sex change everything?
No, maybe, depends… but not expressing your sexual side does.
Please describe what you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?
20% mining, 20% property ‘development’, 20% racism, 10% white SUV’s, 10% nappy talk, 10% sheer selfishness (slight deviation from our traditional apathy), 3% America (please no), 3% China (fuckit, I wouldn’t mind living in some crazy cyberpunk asian city), 2% old white conservative fucktard political boys-clubs, 1% activewear, 1% an amazing country with enormous potential.
Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
Superman because he is so pure, just use him as a butt plug, no illustration necessary.
Who would win in a fight and why: Tin Tin (the comic character) Vs. Cloudboy (Your creation)
[Please draw the battle in all its violent beauty!]
Sorry don’t have time at present (although I am planning a series of Tintin vs. Cloudboy t-shirts and one is a fight) gotta spend all my energies on drawings for the show… but Tintin would probably win, he punches bad guys all the time.
What are the top 3 items you own?
I own lots of things I treasure, I don’t like things that are built crap, I don’t like waste, I like things that last and are well designed.
Even the plastics I use in my studio are very high grade.
So saying these are three stand outs
1) WW1 Swedish ammo belt, gorgeous craftsmanship and design, made to outlast the man wearing it, seen me through many a festival and several Burns.
2) An original set of 1920’s Oxford Bags that I got in San Francisco for $75 (I spent another $400 on repairs). Insanely beautiful cut and drape, they don’t make them like this anymore. I have at least one suit from every decade from the 20’s in my collection.
3) Pepe my 500mm walnut wood pepper grinder, bought him in Florence in 1992, been with me ever since, occasionally gets mistaken for a table leg.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Learn, experiment, know your brain, don’t make it a habit.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
You haven’t got enough space… but when I dream it’s super weird, full psychedelic technicolor and I’m always butt naked from the waste down, it’s great.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Nothing in particular, just that I did my best.
If people wanted to work with you or buy something – how should they get in touch?
Email me on email@example.com
Any collaborations on the horizon?
A friend is planning some serious lighting for the next iteration of Cloudboy, we’re aiming for White Night.
Any major projects you want to hype?
I have a show coming up on the 20th of July, 1 Newman St, Preston VIC 3072 – warehouse in the rear of Vintage Garage.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list drop me a line at the above email.