James Ettleson: Rubik's

2 - 23 February 2023
Exhibition Text

On the surface, James Ettelson’s work has always been a celebration of colour where intricate detailed patterns and visual motifs invite the viewer to experience his everyday life and the ways in which he sees the world around him. The polychromatic patterns, short, quick mark making and carefully layered lines that render his subjects also evoke notions of pixilation. It seemed a natural progression for him to move into the digital art space.


Following the success of his first NFT (non-fungible token) project, Ettelson was invited to attend the 2021 Art Basel in Miami. When he returned home to Australia, he spent a year experimenting, cross pollinating ideas between digital and traditional mediums.


His new exhibition, ‘Rubik’s’, is an enigmatic amalgamation of visual and artistic forms his work has resided in over the course of his career, integrating his painting practice with his new found venture into the realm of digital art. This exhibition launches a new series of prints painted on an iPad. Full of fresh colour and candid commentary, they delve deeper into the artist's quest for understanding culture. 


Nike symbols, the famous Coca-Cola sign at Kings Cross, Video Ezy, and McDonalds branding appear in the work, nestled amongst intricate patterns and signature motifs. The brands become artistic forms themselves, where consumption becomes art. Warhol did the same with his Campbell soup cans, repeating them over and over until they became something of substance. This imagery is nestled amongst pixelated flowers, cats, fruit and eyes watching with blank focus; natural versus digital, real versus meta.


‘Rubik’s’ also introduces us to Mekong, a recurring character and familiar motif in Ettelson’s digital work. The face with an upside down banana for a mouth has become a tag for the artist, an alter ego peering out from his work, staring at the viewer with voyeuristic candour. Through Mekong we are invited to journey through these works, following as Ettelson explores the twists and turns that brought this show into focus. Much like the Rubik’s cube, these pieces invite us to seek our own solutions and find joy in the process.


James Ettelson has exhibited throughout Sydney and has been featured in several notable publications, including GQ Australia (2021), Monster Children (2014), Real Living Magazine (2014), Brace Magazine (2014) and Stab Magazine (2012). He has previously collaborated with boutique Australian surf brand, McTavish, for their art board series. His work is held in private collections in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA, as well as in Artbank and the public collection of Ovolo Hotel, Woolloomooloo.

Installation Views