Steve Cross – ‘The Black Ocean’


‘The Black Ocean’ is the first instalment in a series of oil paintings from Issue 30 feature and long-term visual artist, Steve Cross.

Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Steve relocated to Melbourne in 1999 to pursue a career in tattooing. In the ensuing years he honed his craft, cementing a reputation as one of the country’s best artists.

In 2007 he opened his own shop, the acclaimed Korpus Studio, in Brunswick. But he never lost the love for his first creative passion – graffiti.

Photo: @p1xels

Steve has been painting walls both nationally and internationally since 1988. In that time he has created hundreds of large-scale murals, showcasing his varied style and passion for street art.

While both these careers have seen his artwork showcased very publicly – on walls, and skin – this is the first time Steve has exhibited any of his oil paintings.

This selection has been worked on over the past three months, in private, and away from inquisitive eyes. As such, this first selection of work is deeply personal, and perhaps the most revealing of all Steve’s mediums.

The Black Ocean represents Steve’s obsession and compulsion to create; the paintings representative of the internal struggle an artist encounters when immersing themselves fully in the creative process – and the isolation that brings.

The subjects are caught in moments of internal disquiet – floating and falling into an endless ocean of inky blackness.”

Leading up to this, Steve’s first solo show, he took some time out with Damo to talk about ‘The Black Ocean’

This is your first solo show. What made you decide now was the time to bite the bullet (or jump into the black ocean as it may be)?

It’s been a bit of a natural progression to get to this point. I’ve been a part of a lot of group shows since my first in 1988. I’m at a stage now where I guess I’m ready to expose this hidden part of my life. I keep my ‘artist cards’ pretty close to my chest, and I mostly toil away on my own. But it feels like the right time for people to start seeing some of my more personal work, and The Black Ocean is a record of that.

Photo: @p1xels

Your show features works using oils and also aerosol works. Why did you choose these mediums, and how do you find the transition from one to another? If you had to choose, would there be a favourite?
I’ve been teaching myself oils for about five years, and painting with aerosol for a 30. From when I was young I always knew I’d end up being an oil painter – and I never had any idea that aerosol would become such an accepted medium. The transition from one to the other is something I’ve been exploring in this project. It’s been an interesting journey…


Where did you find the motivation for such a large show. Between being a full time tattoo artist at one of Melbourne’s most prestigious studios, as well as having a young family, time is surely at a premium for you….
Every waking hour is accounted for these days. With 5am starts and 1am bedtime, I get a lot done! It’s all about compartmentalising my brain, so nothing spills into the other. It’s something that I’ve had to learn. My partner is also very accommodating. We both work, hit gallery shows and socialise quite a bit. Producing art work, running (my studio), Korpus, tattooing and painting are just part of every day. But yeah – it’s busy!

Can you tell us about your favourite work from the show and why that is?
To be honest, I’m really liking most that I’ve produced. It’s been a cathartic process, and every piece means something to me. It’s all very personal, so nothing stands out over anything else.

You appeared at Melbourne’s inaugural Meeting of Styles over the weekend as part of TFC crew. What’s the process like participating on such a big production compared to working alone? Do you have a preference?
I love my friends (crew) and I’ve known them for around 30 years. With everyone living all over the country we paint together whenever we can and we pick up where we left off. Painting alone is also something I love. I’ve been tattooing for 19 years and being in close quarters with your client can take its toll. You crave being alone – producing work in silence is an awesome thing.


If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Hmmmm, I’m don’t know. I look at, and study, artwork all day, so I’m constantly in awe of other people, dead or alive. I’m excited about who I might collaborate with in the future.

Photo: @p1xels

You’ve had some lengthy studio stints working up to this show. What pushes you through music wise?
I listen to a lot of Burial (soundscape), Cinematic Orchestra (film soundtracks), Ragga and Hip Hop. It all depends what mood I’m in.


The Black Ocean’ opens at Melbourne’s Juddy Roller this Friday, 15 April 2016.