Andrew Bourke (aka Sirumvsvenom or Sirum1) is not only an artist with exceptional talent, but a genuinely nice guy who’s personable and well respected – always with a ready smile and up for a chat.
A semi-rural upbringing and a passionate interest in nature is evidenced in Andrew’s work. Many of his pieces depict reptiles (especially snakes), Australian birds and wildlife.
He prefers to work solo and considers that he does his best work in doing so. “I’m currently experimenting with mixed media on canvas. Building up texture and playing around with new approaches. Sometimes the strokes are fast and loose and, depending on application, it’s a technique that I can also apply to the streets. Sometimes the themes are abstract or organic and often based on my photographs,” he said.
He was a participant in Wall to Wall street art festival in Benalla in 2015 and 2016 and his pieces have featured the region’s local hero, Ned Kelly.
This year’s wall depicted Ned in his final moments before the Glenrowan shootout.
Andrew is self-taught. His earlier works had a strong sense of design that went hand in hand with graffiti.
”I just fell into the scene and became a ‘writer’. It made sense to me at the time. I was young and art was the one thing I excelled at when I was at school,” he said.
“Graffiti was the perfect platform for me to express my creativity and showcase my work. In the early 2000s I enrolled in a graphic design course. It wasn’t hands-on enough for me and I deferred after six months.”
“Over several years I continued to build this up into a small, creative business – Komplex Graphix. However, I was still painting graffiti and my craftsmanship in this area took me around the world.”
“At the same time my signage business was taking off with some large corporate projects. However, with increasing tiredness and the arduous nature of my many projects, I began to feel something was missing.”
In 2011/12 Andrew embarked upon a three-month road trip through Queensland and the Northern Territory. Seeking a lifetime experience, this was to become the most important thing he could have done.
“It made me realise how much we take for granted – the immense beauty of what surrounds us. It was an opportunity to meet interesting people and discover new places. A truly inspiring experience.”
On his return, a feeling that he wasn’t being true to himself as an artist and a soul-destroying project became a turning point.
Recently Andrew has become a passionate photographer documenting wildlife, landscape, indigenous culture and heritage.
“These are my constant sources of reference. I feel that my style/technique is starting to come together – with the technical side that emanates from my graffiti painting coming to the fore.”
Andrew went on to say: “I feel that artists who come from a graffiti background excel because of the years spent honing their craft on the streets. So when they transition across to other areas of art, you can see this technical skill carried through e.g. Guido van Helten, Fintan Magee and Matt Adnate.”
“And as for me, none of my youth was misspent. It was all part of a great adventure and learning experience.”
“Playing around and incorporating this look with a semi-realistic one. A fusion of street art and traditional graffiti. Subject matter and composition often influencing my technique. I like to challenge myself and after all we learn from our mistakes.’’
I asked Andrew his opinion of the state of Melbourne’s street art.
“That’s a loaded question,” he replied. “Someone said to me there’s an exceptional bunch of artists who are really raising the bar with their work. It’s as impressive as it’s ever been. These artists are gaining international acclaim and deservedly so.”
“Although I’ve been painting for 20 years, I feel that I’m only just starting out. We never stop learning. Until recent times my focus was graffiti and it will always remain a love of mine. It’s an integral part of my story but now I feel it’s time to time to carry my creative journey inward.”
And I for one, look forward to seeing where his creative journey of self-discovery takes him.