Creative Faces: Buff Diss
An insight into the street artist using tape instead of paint, what makes him tick and his takeover of the Miller Design Lab creative events series.
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Melbourne-born artist Buff Diss has been filling the streets with his geometric artworks for the past 14 years. Eschewing paint, he works primarily through the medium of tape to create dextrous designs that are not only striking in and of themselves but also create a "relationship" with the spaces on which they're displayed and present a "conversation with the architecture". Using a street art-like style, Buff Diss occupies a unique space in the art world, swapping the permanence and illegality of spray paint for a more novel approach. And it's with this style that he'll take over the Miller Design Lab — an innovative event series we're hosting with Miller Genuine Draft at Melbourne's SoHigh Gallery, featuring some of the most exciting contemporary artists and musicians Australia has to offer.
Here, we talk creative inspirations and aspirations with the artist and about his latest taped-up work to be revealed at the Miller Design Lab on Friday, March 22.
A typical work day for Diss starts to the waking call of his infant son. And then it's on to an early surf or skate, coffee, emails, sketching and brainstorming for new projects.
"I try to spend as much time with my son as I can, sharing the workload with my wife by balancing projects — [it's] easier said than done," says Diss. "Then [it's a] nice dinner with a good strong red, [and I] put the little fella to bed then catch up on my Feedly."
A former computer science student, Buff Diss has turned back to his roots. He's found an interest in the possibilities allowed by augmented reality for two-dimensional artforms and how he can work these into his art. "I'm keen as to set up a Donkey Kong emulation on a mural, where different sections of the painted mural transform to platforms and are populated with playable sprites," muses Diss. "I'm really keen to get back into coding so I can add AR functionality to my future work."
But at present, the artist will keep things analog as he takes over every tapeable surface of the Miller Design Lab space on Friday, March 22. Buff Diss' large-scale, bespoke piece will take shape in realtime, as he works and contours tape and linear mesh into bold, graphic murals that represent a map of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee River — the home of Miller Genuine Draft.
"I'm mapping out historical aspects of Miller Beer in modern medium," says Diss, distilling his mammoth project into a single line. Each geometric shaping will appear four times alluding to the "four times cold filtered" brewing process of the beer. And at the event, you can watch as he works in response to music and builds to a 'big reveal' moment.
With such an interest in architectural terrain, it comes as no surprise that Diss's favourite country is Taiwan, where he completed a project in New Taipei City back in 2015. "It's such a special place, [with] incredibly varied landscapes from mountains, forests and islands," says Diss. "But [it's] the people and the free approach to art there [that's] addictive."
Along with his admiration for Taiwan, as well as New York-based streetwear designer Jeff Staples (the global curator of the Miller Design Lab), Diss notes that there's a lot of inspiring stuff coming out of Australia's contemporary and street art scene. He particularly follows the likes of Adelaide street artist Order (aka Seb Humphreys), installation artist Georgia Hill and painters Matthew Fortrose and Laith McGregor.
Whenever interstate, Diss makes sure he hits his favourite spots, including Sydney's China Heights Gallery and dining institution Tetsuya's; Hobart's MONA "for the wine" and The Source "for the art"; and Adelaide's Apothecary 1878. At home in Melbourne, it's gnocchi at Lover and ever-changing art at Collingwood's Blackwoods Gallery.
Currently reading Musashu by Japanese writer Eiji Yoshikawa, watching Tawainese film The Assassin and listening to British punk-rock band Idles, Diss's interests are seemingly far-spread, both geographically and topically. But a good red wine, he insists, is a constant in his ever-expanding curiosities.
As for his future plans? Buff Diss is going more traditional. "Having worked outdoors for so long I'm going to start painting canvas this year. Wish me luck."
Images: Kate Shanasy.
Published on March 13, 2019 by Cordelia Williamson