INTERVIEW: Chris Marie, Art Flava + Flava Fashion



For two decades, Beaumaris artist Chris Marie, put his passion for fine art on the back burner to focus on a career in commercial graphic design. But like many creative minds, the ideas never stopped and today, he’s working full time as an artist and streetwear designer for ArtFlava and Flava Fashion.

We caught up with Chris to talk his creative processes, the role of the artist, American pop culture and its impact on his work, and where the brands will be heading in the next few years.

You have a pretty distinctive style, how long have you been doing this?

I’ve always painted, but in 2006 I had the idea of mixing the visual mediums of digital with fine art material like charcoals and oils, then manipulating the works through digital processes and using modern materials like acrylics, glass and fabric. Everything’s done here (in his gallery/studio), I’m happy to use these modern materials and modern printers to be able to produce art pieces. 

The last twenty years of graphic art, I did miss something…and that was [painting] so to reconnect back to this in the last three years has been a rollercoaster…because this is my gallery. I put myself out there. This is me.

We saw this store in the Concourse and thought it looked like a beautiful gallery, so we thought we’d see how it would go to slowly open up Art Flava and the brand. We opened in 2014 and I had two pieces up for a year. I had no time, I was doing a lot of commercial work.

I really kickstarted things in 2016, and spent a lot of time on Art Flava, then through that whole process, Flava Fashion was born. 

Did you find it difficult to transition from being an artist to a graphic designer?

The whole concept of fine art is about painting or sketching on to canvas, but to be able to mix it all up (fine art and graphic design), I struggled initially, but then I just opened up to it and let it develop and grow, and I think my technique and style is evolving organically because of that.

When I’m making art, I just think about creating something new and fresh, I’m creating something that I feel no one’s really doing. 

It must be really exciting for you to be able to do this for a living…I think for a lot of artists, their goal is to be able to make a living out of their art. Were you scared?

[Laughs] Of course…but the support of the wife though…she absolutely said “Go for it, give it a go.” We signed a three year deal here and I thought ‘I’m going to do it, I’m gonna give it a go…’, and the momentum started. No one knew Chris Marie as an artist before. I think they slowly are now…

How’s Flava Fashion going? Australian streetwear is quite different to American streetwear and that culture. You’re obviously heavily inspired by American culture like NBA, hip-hop…

I remember in the 80s we would rock the nightclubs…no one knew hip-hop and we were wearing hip-hop gear in the 80s out in the streets, out in the city. I would wear flat-tops…so we dressed the part. 

As a youngster, you don’t give a shit. We just went out there, we wanted to express ourselves. That in itself is creativity. But we never even thought about how intense or how much drive we had to express ourselves through clothing, through the way we look, through fashion…I’m 44 years old, now I get it. Now I get the power of fashion, the power of looking good, the power of music, the power of sport. They all interconnect. 

Everything is inspired by what I grew up with. I used to get up at 6 in the morning to watch Astroboy. I loved playing cards so I’ve done a series of cards with Tupac and Biggie Smalls. A lot of my work is heavily based on popular culture. The basketball hero series [Westbrook, the Beast] are my charcoals that I’ve digitised.

What other influences do you have?

Andy. I studied Andy Warhol and how he was able to really recognise popular culture and to actually paint brands. That was the initial influence. Jean Michel Basquiat…he and Andy Warhol  were friends. And even David LaChapelle…he took the last photo of Andy before he died and that’s how he became big. 

I love Van Gogh…I used to paint a lot, and I can probably see myself doing that going forward. 

What do you think you’ll be doing in five years?

I’ll be hopefully travelling the world, painting. Who knows? Hopefully people will recognise me and  say ‘Come over here, let’s meet and let’s paint something’…I can visualise that, that would be cool.

I’ll continue to paint, I’ll continue to grow the brand. I’d love for this to go commercial, and really help connect the brand to a larger audience and really build it.

At the end of the day, if I die and my name is somewhere in the history of art, I’ll be happy. But that’s my dream. I’m going back to art…after a 20 year hiatus, I’m dedicated to my art for the rest of my life. 

Update: since we chatted to Chris, ArtFlava and FlavaFashion have continued to build and strengthen their digital presence. To view more of Chris's work, head to ArtFlava and Flava Fashion. Buy both brands at the ArtFlava online store

Follow Chris on the socials for all his latest news:

ArtFlava Instagram | Facebook
Flava Fashion Instagram | Facebook