Paint the streets: Lister vs The Zookeeper

Paint the streets: Lister vs The Zookeeper

From the secret laneways of the CBD to the walls of the Valley and bright murals in West End, it’s obvious there’s a growing passion for street art in Brisbane. Hannah Doody meets two artists who are decorating the walls of our city.

By Hannah Doody | 8th January 2016

Meet: Anthony Lister (Lister)

Anthony Lister

How would you describe your childhood growing up in Brisbane?
I’ve always been drawing and scratching into things. Brisbane hasn’t always been the most conducive environment to be a compulsive creative but I’ve struggled through and found my feet regardless.

How did you first get into street art?
It was a project put together by Brisbane City Council in 1997 where I ran around and painted a whole lot of traffic switch boxes. From there, I’ve just tried to stick mostly to uncommissioned work.

What do you love about your work?
I love that each piece is a challenge and that I’m only as good as my last production. This keeps me on my toes. I love that I have a voice to people.

What was the moment you realised you had really made it?
Probably when I stopped delivering pizzas at the age of 22.

Anthony Lister

What has been your favourite work to date?
I couldn’t choose one but I’d definitely say a piece with nudity that is possibly vulgar.

Your work is on the walls of Geoffrey Rush and Pink. If you could paint for anyone in the world, who would it be?
John Lennon if he were still alive. That’s it.

What are your feelings towards the Queensland Government’s attitude towards street art and graffiti?
I don’t feel positively about the lack of positivity towards community creativity and the activation of it by the common public. I think it’s quite close-minded of the Queensland Government to be so controlling of such as important asset.

Meet: Joel Fergie (The Zookeeper)

The Zookeeper

How would you describe your childhood growing up in Brisbane?
I’ve always been surrounded by creativity. I’m from a family of five kids who have each been heavily involved in different creative ventures. Being one of the youngest I always found myself being hugely influenced by whatever my older siblings were into. I think it was my admiration for what my older siblings did, paired with my need to outdo them that pushed me to what I do today. I definitely owe my family a lot for pushing me to keep trying.

My childhood consisted of moving around a lot. I was born in Canberra, moved to Darwin when I was two, then to Adelaide when I was 10, then on to Brisbane at 14. So growing up in Brisbane was very much about friends and being a teenager doing typical teenage things. When moving to Brisbane I was heavily into skateboarding. I would spend the majority of my teenage years skating and this took me around Brisbane, exploring new spots and skate parks with a big group of mates. I’d say that was a major influence on my appreciation for graffiti and street art (although, back then, “street art” was not a common term to me).

How did you first get into street art?
I first came across street art and graffiti while catching the train and riding the streets and skate parks of Brisbane. These were the ever-changing galleries where I found myself really taking a shining towards a little hidden subculture. It was filled with mystery that always left me wanting more. I loved the anonymity involved and the fact that things changed so frequently. For me, it just felt like an endless possibility. I could never get enough and always wanted to progress.

I understand you went to QUT to study Visual Arts. What was your motivation behind this?
Towards the end of school I was still tossing up what I wanted to do after year 12. The only thing I really cared about during school was art, so I decided to explore different avenues for me to continue doing art after I graduated. I had heard about Visual Art degrees but had no idea what that might entail.

It didn’t look like my OP was going to give me many options but thankfully QUT offered a course where acceptance was based on a portfolio. So I whipped together all the things I’d made throughout grade 11 and 12 and thankfully, after an interview and a bit of hard work, I was accepted into the course.

It was hard work for me; I really struggled with my perceptions of what art meant. It was only towards the end of the degree that I gave in to my doubts and expectations and I started to learn and grow creatively. As much as people tend to label Arts degrees as redundant, I am really thankful for the perspectives I gained during my time there. They were hugely eye-opening times for me.

The Zookeeper

Why the alias, “The Zookeeper”?
The Zookeeper alias came from a bunch of things. I obviously love animals and that played a big roll in me using it. Like a majority of people out there, I have an obsession for David Attenborough. I think over time I found myself using animals a lot in my work. I generally depict them as metaphors in order to convey ideas and concepts. I feel like through using animals in my work there are endless options to explore. The Zookeeper just seemed like a natural progression.

What are the common themes or ideas that run throughout your works?
Common themes in my work are nature, positivity, truth and exploration. I like to let my works evolve on their own and allow myself to really get buried in detail when necessary. I like the idea of contrasting the subversive nature of graffiti and street art with positivity, I think that people can be quick to judge so I like to throw their expectations of the term graffiti or street art back at them. I think there’s a nice tension there that I’m always trying to explore.

What do you love about the work that you do? 
I love that my work takes me to different places every day. I love that it has a very social element in it but also a hugely personal and internal element in it. I feel like my work allows me to focus on such a massive range of things at once. That’s what being an artist is all about. You’re forever changing. I used to HATE change once, now I’m addicted to it.

What has been your favourite work to date?
I can’t say I have a favourite work in general. Usually you walk away pretty discouraged as an artist. There’s always a feeling of not being satisfied. I think I am most satisfied by work that has been unplanned and loose, when it just seems to work and fall together. I think that’s the nature of art in the street. It needs to be loose and free. I think that’s always important to keep reminding yourself. Street Art is something that’s becoming widely accepted. I like to remind myself of where it has come from.

How would you explain your signature style, or the techniques you use?
Probably a mixture of realism/surrealism/conceptual.

What are your feelings towards the Queensland Government’s attitude towards street art and graffiti?
I think Brisbane has taken a hugely positive change in embracing the culture. There’s no way it will go away and I feel like they’ve taken to embracing the positives more so than trying to destroy the negatives. But this is still a massive element we face in Brisbane. Walls still get painted horrible flat colours. People are always going to be afraid of things they can’t control or understand. As much as I’d love that to change, it’s human nature. I guess for myself and all the other artists out there we’ve got to challenge those perceptions. If this wasn’t an issue, then I don’t think any of us artists would be where we are today. We’re the few that represent the many.


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Article by Hannah Doody

Hannah is a former journalist at Style Magazines. When she is not exploring new parts of the world, you will find her at music festivals, or on her eternal quest for the best breakfast in Brisbane.


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