Most people know Daimon Downey as the former frontman of Australian award winning band Sneaky Sound System. These days, he's more known for creating bold and colourful works of art in his home studio in Bondi. X Files speaks to Daimon about where it all began, his creative practices, how his aesthetic has developed over time and his upcoming exhibition 'HALF-MASKED...how little it takes to say a lot'. 

From the beginning, tell us more about yourself. You have many interesting passions which have led to successful careers. From music (co-founder of Sneaky sound system) to restaurants, to artistry, tell us about your career journey.

As an ambitious 18-year-old Bellingen boy I had just finished studying fine art and photography when I moved to the 'Big Boys City' (Sydney) with a suitcase of pastels and paints and a mission to become an artist and make a little noise. My amazing parents have always been super supportive of all my decisions leading into the world of art, from leaving high school early to study art and moving solo to the big smoke. Their support gave me the confidence to find my groove. Back in the day, I had some pretty odd jobs, from carving the roast on Sunday's at Maniacal day club, selling cowboy boots on Route 66, running kids birthday party's at Luna Park, being a doorman at Globe nightclub and selling schooners at the Cricketers Arms hotel in Surry hills. I loved working! 

During this time, my art was still happening but it was bedroom stuff given away when I had one too many drinks. Then came the switch-a-roo... I met my friend Angus and I started rapping over his DJ-ing. One thing led to another, and we started Sneaky Sound System. Not long after, Sneaky Sundays became huge. We were gigging almost every night and then the stars started to align. Connie came on board and we made some hits and the rest is electric history! 14 years later, I sung my final song and left the band to get my feet back on the ground and hands back into art.

In the first year after leaving Sneaky Sound System, I put together an art fair with Charlie Hinkfuss called MCM House ART FAIR. I invited over 60 artists to show their work over three days and it went OFF! Wild and energetic, it was the perfect setup to enter into the scene and I ended up selling 6 paintings of my own. Not long after I had my very first solo show and it was a sellout. I'm so thankful for this because I had no backup plan if it didn't workout. This was it, I had my aesthetic, I was rushing off a huge show and it was working out. 

Next came an opportunity in the hospitality world, a great little bar venue in Double Bay. We called it Pelicano, a great little success and that has only just shut down after 7 years (an institution in Sydney timeline terms) I also had a crack at an 80s night club in the city with Tim Holmes A Court called Bondys. It was awesome but a total flop. And, an Italian restaurant in the CBD called Lemon Tree but again that was a nail bitter all the way. I love the tangible creative decisions that hospitality demands as it is relentless, exciting, colourful and honest. While all this was happening I managed to pull together more art shows for NYC, Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth. Now its just full time painting and I have never been happier.

When did you realise you could transition these skills into art?

I realised it is not so much a transition but more a thread. A common purpose of a clean aesthetic throughout. Certainly, all these experiences have helped refine and filter my process.   

Your different passions and careers all have something in common...creativity. How do you stay creative and where does your inspiration come from? 

It is the colourful card I have been dealt with. So, through necessity comes creation. My choice to make art from a young age has forced my hand to stay with it. I'm out of the 'real job' market even if I wanted be in it so staying creative is a necessity and one that give me immense pleasure. I'm inspired to create by the willingness of people to accept it, ideas come from everything, everywhere but an audience is also key. 

 How do you find the balance between being a businessman and being a creative? 

That scale that definitely tips towards the creative side. I have a tendency to want to do it all myself, I love the puzzle and the build but I’m learning to get the help where I need it.  

Do you think art was always your calling? When did you first start creating?

I have always joked that I would have been scribbling on the walls of mum's womb if I had a crayon so it's clear where my head was at from very young. I had a lot of time creating growing up in Bellingen. TV was far off the radar so imagination was encouraged. It was a town that entertained the alternative, so I remember my creative side being nurtured not just by my parents but by the town and the teachers. I knew from very early on that it wasn't so much my calling but that it just felt normal. 

Talk us through your creative style.

A balanced, positive alternative to a complex, hard world. I love colour! I want people to live in it more, to wear it more, to use it more. Not in a psychedelic mad messy way but in a soft mesmerising considered way. I have a few styles in my painting but all with the same approach. Balance, colour, and freedom within the confinements.    

When creating, how do you measure the success of your art?

Your heart races, you know you're onto a good thing. it just feels right. I start to imagine it places and you want to show people without hesitation. 

Your new exhibition ‘HALF MASKED…how little it takes to say a lot’ is coming up - tell us the inspiration around this collection and what we can expect to see.

It's the first time I have dedicated a show to a subject and this will be show of faces. Abstracted to the point that it will sit on the edge of expression... how much can I take away before it disappears? There will also be some straight edge used and that is also new for me so its exciting to lay it out and show new things. The show idea began with tiny collage pieces then I have transferred the idea into large canvases... the framing with be an integral part of the work as is with a lot of my past smaller works. 

It's a very poppy show...bright solid colours. 

How do you find the happy medium between creativity and commerciality with your art? Is this something you think about when creating?

Bills are bills and art is art. I have no problem if they get on with each other. There is a lot of BS in all artistic mediums and scenes that if you have some success in a commercial landscape then you have sold out or are worthy of seat at some tables. If I have been commissioned to create something for a brand or a space they have come to me for my ideas and ability to be myself so its all made from the right place and if thats a bill payer then bring it on.  

 

 Do you have a favourite piece of your art which you have created?

I love the mural at Reas at Wategoes. She fits in perfectly but I always get a kick out of the ceramic vases I made for Said Failed 80s nightclub Bondys

Has there been a favourite moment in your career to date? 

Its been a wild ride and I have celebrated many moments but its the time when you realise you made the right choices that get me. 

What is next for you?

I have just released for the first time ever my limited edition prints of work from past shows which is super exciting. Also, the show that was COVID-19 cancelled will be showing in October in Sydney plus a little show soon at a gallery in Berrima on the Southern Highlands then...

Keep up with Daimon on Instagram, and check out his websiteImages: Ashleigh Larden

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