Spotlight | Jon Vargas, Artist
where geometry meets the PSYCHEDELIC
Chilean artist Jon Vargas settled his family in Toowoomba a few years ago.
Off the back of his recent exhibition at Dunmore Gallery, we caught up with Jon to discuss the realities of ‘making’ it as an artist in Toowoomba, and how we can better support the community. This is an important conversation to have, even if you don’t consider yourself ‘arty’. We know that our street art has become recognised around the country, but how can we capitalise on this attention?
We spoke to Jon about making psychedelic art in a conservative market, how we likes to spend his weekends, and what he’s working on next.
Name: jonathon (jon) vargas
Occupation: artist (fun!) and Store Manager (boring)
Known For: bright, geometric screen printing art
Born: santiago, chile
Local since: 2015
First things first: why Toowoomba?
I have been living in Toowoomba for almost four years now. I am from Chile and I did a stint in Canada. It was such an awesome time. I learnt to speak English and I met my soulmate there.
My wife is a Toowoomba local and we decided to kick start our lives here. We thought it would be easier to settle near family, until we decide where to move next. Toowoomba is a great place if you are trying to escape of the hassle of a big city, but you still need some access to the facilities of a bigger city. I like that everything is walkable and the parks are great places to hangout or just contemplate.
what do you do?
I do a few different things. I am a screen printer. My business is called Wild Animals Printing Studio. I have done some printing for Bunker Records, Toowoomba Film Society, First Coat, Toowoomba Regional Council and LIT Festival.
These days murals are a gig that I don't want to let go of. It is an amazing feeling to put yourself out onto something that is bigger than you. I painted a section of wall at Ground Up with my wife. It was such a great experience. I paint a lot. I try to showcase my work as much as possible, trying to sell my art.
I like to keep my practice as simple and honest as possible. A bit of honest practice. Keep it as personal and “artisan” as possible. Basics are everything. It has some limitations and big challenges but is very rewarding when everything works fine and the planets all aligned.
What have you learned about running a business in Toowoomba?
It’s very hard, challenging perhaps. People are very particular here in Toowoomba. There seems to be a lot of pride in supporting our locals but the reality is that we don’t. We don’t have the spaces to promote art work unless you basically give your work for free. It sometimes feels like if you don’t belong to a certain group it’s very hard to emerge.
A big opportunity is to get a space in town where you can sell merchandise or products. I have been working on toning down on some of my more ‘psychedelic’ artworks, because it can be quite conservative here. There seems to be a lot of demand for farm themed works or art focused on flowers and animals... because, you know, the Carnival. The deal is in not giving up, and to keep trying.
I’m convinced that we can broaden our horizons if we join forces.
I feel that the art community is very close and we support each other. When I moved here, I knew no one (apart from my wife). I like that I have been the outsider. It gave me that perspective on both levels. It has been a benefit for my practice and helps me to not feel attached or labelled.
What does an average day look like for you?
5:30am our human alarm (my son, Benedict) wakes the neighbourhood. We cuddle and hang out and at 8am it’s go time for work. ‘90s hip hop on the radio is my jam and coffee is a necessity. 6pm back home and after dinner the creativity kicks in. There’s more ‘90s hip hop and some classics from my top 1000 (I have been building it over a few years...I don’t mean to brag, but it’s GOOD!).
Honestly it just depends on the day. I’ll work on my paintings or design something on the computer. Other days my wife and I paint together. Old furniture is something that I have been exploring lately. I haven’t been screen printing much . For me it’s more like a summer gig. That being said, we have a few projects that are ready to see light in the near future.
Other than that, I catch up on social media and chat with my peeps in Chile.
What does your ideal Toowoomba weekend look like?
I’m not much of a weekend person, but I enjoy the company of my wife and Benny (my son). We create together in the afternoons and play some board games or just chill. Very simple really, when projects are around weekends are super short and I make my whole week work around that weekend.
Only a Toowoomba local would know…
That we have too many roundabouts. Boyce Gardens are our best kept secret. Super Rooster chips are LIFE!
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
PERK UP: Bunker Records was amazing to check the crates and chat with the gang. Nowadays I go to Ground Up (a little too much!).
RELAX: Benny and I have a little morning ritual on Tuesdays. We drop my wife at work and go on a date to Ground Up. It’s so cool to chill with him like that. I love that we get that time together.
EAT: The Parmi at the Irish Club... Yummmooo!
INDULGE: I am a bit of a shoe-aholic. I like Vans. Also every now and then I will splurge hard on Ironlak and Golden paints.
SHOP: Local op shops, the tip shop at the dump, some online art supply stores and Magnolia.
CATCH UP: Ground Up or a park date.
BE INSPIRED: Local art scene, my wife’s brain (she is the ideas man), friends and Instagram.
See Jon’s work here.