Berlin-based Australian painter Arryn Snowball has recently worked with poets, dancers, and musicians. Collaboration is intrinsic to his creative process. “A big part of art is sharing it with others. Painting is only art while someone is looking at it; that is already a collaboration between the artist and the audience,” Snowball explains. “I put my trust in process and follow where it leads. Process is at the heart of abstract painting.”
Part of this process is keeping an open studio. “I open my studio door to a friend and they step into my practice.
They bring their practice with them. If we start to talk, to play, then sometimes it leads somewhere,” he says. “The word ‘collaboration’ has an official ring to it, like something workshopped at a meeting. Whereas these collaborations are more like a conversation or a jam session; they are fluid and reciprocal, and go deeper as the night gets on.”
One such conversation, with Australian poet Nathan Shepherdson, resulted in a forthcoming illustrated book of poetry, Slack Water. Snowball painted fragments from Shepherdson’s poems, which were themselves assembled from words lifted from Grant’s Guide to Fishes, a classic Australian text. And Snowball’s call and response methodology applies to his own work as well: text-based works from this series have morphed into the pale abstract paintings he made for his solo exhibition Big Numbers.
Since 2014, Snowball has divided his time between Australia and Berlin, and the German city itself is one of his collaborators. Attracting not only artists, but people from fields as diverse as architecture and heavy metal, the city is a critical mass that drives interdisciplinary creativity. As Snowball says, “Berlin is a big conversation to be a part of, and that has affected every stroke of the brush.”
This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.