The art of skating-David Griggs

2003/221/1 Skateboard , with prototype graphic, "skateboarding saved my life", mixed materials, artwork by David Griggs / skateboard by Riot Skateboards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2003
Skateboard , with prototype graphic, “skateboarding saved my life”, mixed materials, artwork by David Griggs / skateboard by Riot Skateboards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2003. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Artist David Griggs reaches into the elements of popular and street culture, horror movies and the street sport of skate boarding. His art sources its inspiration from contemporary images and materials. David Griggs’art has had growing recognition since 1994 and he won the Archibald prize in 2013 for his portrait of TV Moore.

Griggs’ used skateboards as his canvas for over five years until the early 2000’s. This artwork gives skating a context other than a mode of transport or plaything. By using a skateboard as a canvas for his unique style, the artist is reflecting contemporary street culture and youth attitude.

David Griggs is a Sydney based skater, painter and sculptor. With this skateboard, “skateboarding saved my life” he has taken a contemporary skateboard, and creates a ‘horror’ graphic on the front. Usually he skates with the board adding ‘marks of the city’ or ‘marks of use’ to the artwork. David Griggs was awarded the 2003 Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging artists; Willoughby City Art Prize in 2001; and in 1997 he took the Sir William Dobell Art Scholarship.

Skateboard , with prototype graphic, "skateboarding saved my life", mixed materials, artwork by David Griggs / skateboard by Riot Skateboards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2003
Skateboard , with prototype graphic, “skateboarding saved my life”, mixed materials, artwork by David Griggs / skateboard by Riot Skateboards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2003

This object was created by the artist for display in the Museum’s temporary exhibition Sport: more than heroes and legends, September 2003- July 2004. It was displayed in the extreme sports section.

Skateboarding emerged in Australia during the 1960s after originating in California somewhere between the late 1930s and the early 1950s. The original skateboards were made from a plank of wood, the wheels were made from steel and derived from roller skates. By the mid 1970s the modern skateboard had arrived, wooden deck, aluminium alloy trucks with steel axles and urethane wheels. Skateboard design has been through many transformations including board aesthetics. By the 1990s new boards came out annually and essentially all skateboard manufacturers used the same shape, materials and construction standards. Graphics have been used to differentiate products and increase appeal. While older decks had some kind of design on the underside the design is now on the topside.

Although skateboarding emerged in Australia during the 1960s, it is now accepted as a legitimate extreme sport ranking alongside surfing and snow boarding. Kids on skateboards are part of the Australian cultural landscape. The subculture of skateboarding is one in which skaters create their own rules, dress and ways of talking.

Another Australian artist to interpret the world of skating is Shaun Gladwell, his mesmeric videos of skating remove the viewer from the street and into a dream.

Written by Anni Turnbull,  curator

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