BLA! A double winner for Gold Coast art buddies

For the second year in a row, Burleigh Brewing Co has hosted its wildly successful Brewing Local Artists (BLA!) event. The night is a celebration of all things local creative, from food and beer to music and art, with a group of talented exhibiting and live artists taking over the space for an eclectic showcase. Each year, attendees vote on their favourite artist, and in 2017 the result was a draw. Gold Coast artists Toren Vansleve and Mitch Fleming took out the joint honours on the night, so we decided to catch up with both of them.

In an extraordinary coincidence, Toren and Mitch actually work together, and are friends, as well as art buddies. Their pieces are very different however.

Not all that glitters is gold 2017 – Toren Vansleve

“It’s called a mixed media relief,” explains Toren about her work.

“I draw everything up digitally first and then think about ways to make it 3D from there through different layers. In those ones in particular I was doing some gold leaf embellishing on parts of the layer to bring a different element to it.”

Mitch’s piece is also a mixed media effort, a collage which is based on some hand-drawn printed elements and layering.

“I guess there’s some element of masking, or some kind of overlay on the face. That’s something that I seem to be drawn towards,” Mitch tells us.

“I did that in a night. But I’d been thinking about it for a couple of months. Procrastinating!” he laughs.

Both artists have only been exhibiting for the last few years, and were both shown in the inaugural BLA! In 2016.

“It’s only the last couple of years that I’ve started putting my face out there and trying to get into more things and participating in the arts scene,” says Mitch.

“It’s still not as much as I‘d like to. Three years ago was the first time we’d both shown; we had a joint art exhibition.”

“I have only been doing this kind of stuff for a little while,” continues Toren.

“When we did the last show last year, I developed this style then, building and getting bit more layers. I might move onto something else, you can chop and change depending what’s happening at the time.”

The pair have found having each other there to be incredibly helpful in their respective artistic journeys, Toren explains.

Masquerade 2017 – Mitch Fleming

“If one of us is keen [to put on a show] the other might be like ‘sure, okay let’s get it done.’ It’s better if you have someone to help you with planning the art show and doing the artwork for it. You can be deterred because it takes a lot of time, but two minds are better than one. I guess it’s also good ‘cause we work together as well so we can be honest with each other.

“There’s no such thing as too harsh!” interjects Mitch.

“Yep,” agrees Toren. “It means if one of us goes ‘it’s really good’, you know it’s coming from the right place. We’re both in design already. With my partner Nick it’s like ‘I don’t really trust you!’”

“Well, he’s biased too,” says Mitch. Toren smiles.

While they’ve only been showing for a few years, the path to exhibiting artist has been a long one for both of them, with Toren creating little pieces throughout university and earlier.

“Nothing I would ever present to anyone,” she clarifies.

“Just for my own benefit and creative release. Everything’s just been practice. Even when I look back at the first art I showed I feel that way about it, and that’s not a long time ago.”

As for Mitch? “I can’t remember a time I wasn’t creating something with a crayon or a pencil.”

Both raised on the Gold Coast, Mitch and Toren have been able to witness the changing face of art and culture throughout the city. In particular, we discuss the rise of these combined events, where music, art, food and drink come together to create an experience which appeals to a wider audience.

“There’s big turnouts for these kind of events, the younger community have different priorities, lots young people don’t want to go to just an art gallery,” says Toren.

“It’s great that venues like Burleigh, venues that aren’t typically art driven are trying to push that side of things,” Mitch continues.

“Every time we do a show our friends say ‘this is really fun, we should do it more often.’”

And they will. You can check out their Instas: mitch.fleming and vonsteeeeeve and keep an eye on Burleigh Brewing’s website for more awesome events throughout the year, in addition to their regular Fridays and Sundays.

IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography

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