by Mark Barwald in New Art on Thursday 12 August 2010

I caught up with emerging Sydney artist, Anthony Bartok, at the opening of his current show at Global Gallery titled Modern Living. I’ve been following his work for a few years and every show is a stylistic 180 degree departure from his previous one. This one is no exception. I’m not sure which is more unnerving, the grey Bacon-esque serial killer portraits from 2009, or this current series of large-scale, empty interiors, painted from real-estate sales collateral.

Tell me about Modern Living?
‘Modern Living was a bit of a response to the world around me, in the context of de-personalised, secularised, soulless living. It’s that top end of town apartment way of life that I wanted to explore, and how it can be seen to symbolise us as a species in the early 21st century. In diggings of ancient Roman streets, we use the grand villas as examples of how the rich lived. Mosaic floors, art, banquets, baths — they used culture and good company to display their wealth. They could afford to ‘live well’ in the old sense. What would our $3,000,000+ Pyrmont apartments say about us? Clean lines, big dead spaces filled with light. It looks more suited to performing open heart surgery than to living’.

How long does it take to complete a work?
‘Too long. People ask me all the time, and if I was told the amount of time it took in hours (for a particular painting), it wouldn’t mean anything to me. “Oh really? 61 hours? Great”. You don’t think about it. Usually I work on a few at once, just to keep me engaged, and to keep a common uniformity among them I guess. This series took the longest by far. Some works date back a couple years, I lost interest in the methods they demanded. So last November I booked a show for 3 weeks time and did an exhibition of serial killers in that time. I needed the release of freedom they gave, I’d missed drawing faces. Short answer: it varies’.