Alister Karl draws pictures. I have known this ever since I first met him at life drawing at Brunswick Arts back in 2005, when Joel Gailer ran it. In 2006 Alister Karl and three other artists took over the running of Brunswick Arts.
Alister Karl exhibits his drawings. This is, surprisingly, not a common artistic practice in contemporary art world where a traditional media like graphite pencils are rare amongst the photography, videos and installations. And it is not that he is some conservative traditionalist hanging on to pencil drawing regardless of current trends. He does not ignore trends when it fits with his artistic practice, like wall drawings.
Alister Karl draws pictures of large back-hoes, those machines for excavating. “This machine is a tool that we use to create the places we live in and destroy the places we live.” Writes Karl. Karl, like Francis Picabia and other Dadaists, admires the machine aesthetic. It is an aesthetic of alien functionality, caterpillar tracks and hydraulics. Are these real machines or Tonka toys? The aesthetic of boy’s mechanical toys has been marginalised by mainstream art.
Alister Karl draws with precision but he is not so obsessive that has to finish every detail. His completed drawings deliberately look unfinished, like works in progress, and with such mechanical drawing it would just be a matter of time to complete it. The incomplete is a major feature of his drawings as it emphasises the human who makes the drawing. In one of the largest and most complete instantiation of Karl’s backhoe drawings, exhibited at Brunswick Street Gallery, the drawing is on 4 large MDF panels leaning up against the gallery wall. The panels do not form a rectangle, they overlap and one panel is raised up on a couple of bricks.
I have known Alister Karl as an artist and as part of the curatorial committee of Brunswick Arts for the last four years. I have seen his art develop and focus over this time, however I have only mentioned him once or twice in my blog writing. So this entry is to, in part, redress that imbalance and also to provide a bit more depth to an examination of his drawings.