A look into the creative mind of jack-of-all-trades Christopher Zanko

Christopher Zanko creates timeless works that represent the nostalgic suburbia in which he grew up. The artist, who hails from the picturesque seaside town of Thirroul (just north of Wollongong) is fully invested in his works, so much so that he never clocks off.

Even when he’s on the road with his band The Pinheads he’s scouting for more potential subjects; the faded pastels of fibro weatherboards, the mid-century finishings of old miners’ cottages, the utilitarianism of ramshackle housing commissions. His works breath new lives into his subjects; their curves and finishes rebirthed through paint and canvas.

Hailing from the sleepy seaside town of Thirroul, artist and musician Christopher Zanko channels the coastal suburban nostalgia of times gone by.

We recently caught up with the artist and musician to discuss his life down south, what inspires his works and the creative process from the start of a piece to its final product.

HAPPY: What’s your creative space like? How does it influence your work?

ZANKO: My creative space/studio is an old florist shop in Bulli, on the south coast. From the outside it appears as a white shoe box – it’s very small and the front of the shop has been boarded up, enclosing the 1950s-style double bay windows inside where I work. It’s an awesome space and very private, people don’t drop in often as it’s difficult to tell whether I am in there or not. The style of the building falls into the era of houses I often represent in my artwork, it was not intentional that I ended up with the specific space but I like that there is a strong link with the work I create.

HAPPY: Describe your creative process.

ZANKO: My process begins from a photograph of a house or building that I have taken whilst travelling around the suburbs, either locally or when I’ve been travelling on tour with the band that I play in (The Pinheads). From this photograph I draw onto a wooden board, incorporating pattern and little signifiers in the composition, I then carve out parts of the image, similarly to lino printing (most people did in high school). However, I do not make a print from the relief carving. I paint into the carved areas and finally roll black over the work, where the textured and coloured area remains free of the black outlines and shadow that now sits over the top.

HAPPY: Where do you draw inspiration from? Does this change between projects?

ZANKO: A lot of my inspiration comes from the people around me and conversations in my local community, whether that be other artists, musicians or anyone doing anything I find cool and engaging. I find my partner, Ashley Bundang (Classic, Ciggie Witch, Bored Shorts) has been a massive source of inspiration for my work lately, through her passion for music and creativity it has really set off a lot of my art and helped me further my understanding for why I choose to pursue and enjoy being creative.

HAPPY: How does where you live or where you are creating affect your art practice?

ZANKO: I grew up and live on the South Coast of NSW, about 15 minutes north of Wollongong in a small town called Thirroul. Growing up and being witness to the strong changes in our area made me more aware of the shift in style of housing and also the nostalgia I hold for the old style homes such as fibro housing commissions, miners cottages, weatherboards, midcentury modern etc. I would rather say where I live informs my work, rather than affects it. The conversations I have with the people around me and the responses to my work I often find or am made aware of different aspects of the suburbs and the houses a lot of my generation and those before us grew up in.

HAPPY: Who are some locals artists/photographers that you love that we should check out?

ZANKO: Artists I really love are India Mark, Nick Santoro, Frank Nowlan and Lucy O’Doherty. Musicians I really love are Luke Spook, Loose Fit, Bored Shorts, Classic, Tropical Strength, Shining Bird and Spike Vincent.



Christopher Zanko is represented by Egg & Dart Gallery (NSW) and Edwina Corlette Gallery (QLD).