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Artist in Residence: Justin Maurice Scivetti

Artist in Residence: Justin Maurice Scivetti
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The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the most creatively inspiring events of the year, and to celebrate the occasion we invited artist and horticulturalist Justin Maurice Scivetti to join our Artist in Residence program. Justin is a remarkably talented figurative landscape painter whose work explores the built and natural worlds. At once realistic and enigmatic, his colourful landscapes offer an otherworldly view of Australian architecture, and to mark this year’s Mardi Gras, we installed two of his artworks, ‘Daily Walk’ and ‘View’, in the windows of our Paddington store on Oxford Street, the historic heart of the festival. Here, Justin reflects on his practice, his passion for gardening and why he’s inspired by Paddington.

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When Justin Maurice Scivetti was young, he was gifted a large set of Derwent colour pencils. He loved the colours so much he filled sketchbook after sketchbook until the pencils were so small he could no longer hold them. It’s only fitting, then, that Justin would go on to become an artist, filling entire canvases with colour. “Apart from spending a lot of time at the beach, I was always interested in anything creative. I remember always wanting to draw. While other children wanted to play sports or games, I was drawn to anything that involved making or being creative,” says Justin, who grew up in Maroubra, south east of Sydney. 

Now based in Melbourne, Justin is the sort of person that has a dream and makes it happen - not only is Justin an artist, but he’s also a horticulturalist. “I was always fascinated by the botanic gardens and dreamed of one day curating or designing gardens,” he tells. “In my mid 20s I moved into my Nona’s old house with a garden and realised I had no idea about plants or what to do. I thought maybe it's time I learned how to care for plants and potentially pursue this dream.” And so he did. After gaining an education in fine arts, Justin studied horticultural science. Though these disciplines might at first seem incongruous, each practice informs the other. “Gardening requires a lot of patience and care to make things grow and bloom, and I feel that the lessons I learn through nurturing plants reflects and informs my process of making art,” he explains. 

It would be easy to assume Justin feels a deep connection with the natural world, but as he puts it, “I was and still am a city boy. I think I really like the idea of the natural world, and see it as an escape from the urban jungle, a place to reconnect, slow down and foster a connection to something outside of ourselves.” His time is harmoniously divided between his art practice and his career in horticulture and landscaping. “I like the balance of working in blocks to hone in on one thing at a time and really get lost in it,” he says. Three days are spent in the garden, “working with plants”, and the rest of the week, Justin says, “I leave for play and making art”. 

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Colour is essential to Justin’s work, and he uses it “to explore the subtleties in atmosphere and light”. In the studio, Justin says he’s continuing to experiment with colour, “but also with layers and texture to create a certain depth to make the painting sing”. Though his artworks are representations of very real landscapes, they can be described as otherworldly and enigmatic. “There are a rainbow of emotions that go into my artworks, but I do strive to create a quality of stillness and contemplation in them with a sense of happiness and excitement,” Justin says. “In the past I've always been inspired by far away places and holidays and trips abroad, but currently and over the past couple of years I’ve been inspired by more local landscapes and places, urban scenes and old buildings.” Right now, he adds, “I am in preparation for my next solo show, inspired by, and wanting to make works featuring Paddington in Sydney.”

This brings us to Justin’s Artist in Residence installation at the Assembly Label Paddington store. Being a part of the program during the Mardi Gras festival holds particular significance for Justin, who says, “As part of the community it makes me proud to showcase and share my artistic practice during this celebration of equality and it gives me the strength to own my identity.” While in town, you’ll find Justin visiting the local galleries, stopping by Fred’s for dinner, and wandering the streets, soaking up all the neighbourhood has to offer.

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My personal style…

simple, smart, with a bit of fun.

I can’t work without…

coffee.

The last book/song/film that moved me…

the film ‘Holding the Man’.

Currently playing in my studio…

Allah-Las.

Favourite architectural period…

Modernism.

My enduring creative inspirations…

Fairfield Porter, Richard Diebenkorn, Edward Hopper and Jeffrey Smart.

I’m dreaming of travelling to…

Japan.

My secret talent…

ability to mimic the sounds things make.

Proudest career achievement…

being part of Sydney Contemporary art fair with Saint Cloche Gallery. Even though the fair didn't go ahead physically, it was a very proud moment to showcase my work alongside my contemporaries and artists I admire.

Best advice I’ve ever received…

You do you.