Julia Rich, is a Sydney based painter, soft sculpture maker and textile/graphic designer, who goes by the art pseudonym of Zeke’s Lunchbox. A wonderful world of beauty, colour and an amalgamation of sex, humour, fantasy and all that is strange and weird.
Zeke’s Lunchbox began eight years ago, when Julia was in high school. She went to a creative high school, where she was constantly encouraged to create. She wanted an umbrella name to put over her body of work, a platform to develop her skills and explore this universe that she has created.
‘The name has no real story. Zeke is a fictional character, my other pseudonym or my moniker of sorts,’ Julia said. ‘When you open the lunchbox, you delve into this fictional world with lots of fantasy and a smorgasbord of technique and colour.’
In her 2014 solo show called, Zeke’s Werld, she explored this fictional world that she created. In this universe, she is creating and exploring these characters. Some of these characters are well rounded with a lot of personality and emotion.
‘I explore a lot of grotesqueness in my work, that has a layer of humour or candy quality to it. It’s almost like a way for me to cope with my work. I love gore, but even for me it’s too much,’ Julia said.
With all of the elements that makes up Zeke’s Werld, there is something beautiful about these characters. With a touch of realism, you feel for these characters, they beckon you to stare, almost daring you.
‘It’s almost like I am inviting people who wouldn’t like grotesque elements and forcing them to like it because it’s pretty,’
‘As an artist, no matter what, I think you are someone who is obviously pretty narcissistic. So for me, a lot of it is a huge element of control. Controlling the audience to feel exactly how I want them to feel.’
Julia is inspired by films and that clearly comes across in her work. She is also inspired by other artists and seeing their creative process and how they work. This pushes her to work on her own and to further her body of work.
‘I like to watch a lot of behind the scenes of films as well. Seeing a whole team come together to create a movie, really drives me and pushes me,’ Julia said.
‘A lot of the time, I feel really possessed to create, like it’s beyond me. Like something is telling me to do it and all these ideas come from the experiences that I live. They kind of come about in a subconscious way.’
Julia has been creating and making art for as long as she can remember. For her, art is about communicating and connecting with people, visually and expanding and developing as an artist both technically and creatively.
‘When I’m not making art and putting it out there and using my art as a beacon for conversation, I feel kind of lost, like I can’t communicate with people properly,’ Julia said.
For many creatives, a conception starts with what inspires us and for Julia that comes from films, other artists and their work or it might even be fashion and glam.
Her ideas come to her in the most mundane of setting, she might be sitting around and all of a sudden a million ideas will pop into her head.
‘I will then write down a big list of ideas and where they should go and then I will draw up a really rough sketch of everything and label it out,’ Julia said.
‘I really don’t enjoy drawing. People think artists really like to draw. I am not a drawer. I think a pencil or pen are really frustrating, they are really slow.’
Depending on how much time she gets, sometimes she will try and paint her ideas then and there. Building layers and finding inspiration to put into this fictional world she has created.
Julia’s work is all about layers upon layers of paint. Depending on the piece she is working on and the complexity of it and how many elements are in it, will usually influence the amount of layers needed to create characters that have a very realistic feel to them.
‘I paint using a really thick acrylic paint. I paint in a way that looks very 3D or alive. I think the process of really layering is the reason why my work looks pretty realistic,’ Julia said.
Julia describes herself as a kitsch artist, somebody who goes against the grain and has never really been on trend in any way. Listing artists of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who did album covers for heavy metal bands and comic artists as her direct influencers.
At the time the kitsch movement was viewed as a threat to culture, an indirect criticism of the contemporary art world, even though that was never the intention. Artists like Lisa Frank and The Garbage Pail Kids, work that looks really funny, humorous and ironic in nature.
‘A lot of their work was, I say this endearingly, really tacky but it’s technically great. I just think they are underdogs, no one at the time really respected their work, other than other weirdos,’ Julia said.
‘I really relate to those guys, their work has a lot of personality. But it’s not high art in any way. Unless it’s high art people just don’t respect it as much.’
Having never encountered anyone, face to face, who was really against her work, Julia says that she welcomes reactions of the sort. When the audience fails to feel something towards her work, it reinforces mediocrity.
‘I feel people definitely respect my work on a technical level. I can understand that not everyone is going to want to put that in their house. It’s really hard to take, it would be hard to live with my work, they are creepy, possessed beings,’ Julia said.
Many creative understand the need to practice as much as possible. Not only to become technically capable but also to become confident in your medium of choice. When you first start on your creative journey, you can’t expect to be good at your chosen medium without working hard.
When Julia first started, she wasn’t as technically confident as she is now. Using a lot of bright vivid colours and layering them and feeling confident with her use of colour comes down to having somewhat mastered the technical side of things.
‘Colour is really intuitive to me, it just feels really natural. It’s the freest thing that I can do really, I can’t work without it. When people ask me, why colour? Because that is the only way that I know how to do it,’ Julia said.
Julia’s use of colour has created a sense of wonder and fantasy with her audience. There is an element of escapism notable in her work, almost like her work has a sound and is edible, a candy quality that conjures up memories of when we were kids.
‘It’s like you can almost hear the worms mixing or when you put your hand in clay and it squishes around. The edible element, I think is the relatable part where people are like, ‘Oh candy, that’s not scary anymore, I feel safe’,’ Julia said.
Julia has had a busy creative year. She was involved in a group show in Manchester that explored women’s aesthetics. Then she found herself in L.A. in a show called, The Booty Worship Show.
‘Artists were invited to do their renditions of the booty which was great. I would love to do more shows that are really about humour, talking about the lighter side of life. I connect so much with artists who don’t take themselves seriously,’
Julia was also involved in an art festival in Newcastle called, This is not art, a collaboration with her art partner, Terhor. Together, they took over a space on a project called TeeZee, which explored the duality of their art practice, do they clash or do they work together?
‘Terhor is also my partner, we met three years ago and our work together has evolved so much, it feels semi-natural. We clash quite a bit because we have different processes with how we work,’ Julia said.
‘I think he really pushes me on an intellectual level. A lot of the time I can really get caught up on the aesthetics. I think it’s pretty narcissistic when you are collaborating with people because you are kind of just telling each other how awesome you are, which is kind of fun but also really silly.’
Many creatives can relate to the idea of setting expectations that are too high. When Julia first started her expectations where naive, over extending herself, believing she could do it all. Now she is a lot more confident with the whole creative process.
‘Working hard through the whole process, you know exactly what the expectations are and you are not over planning. Expectations are realistic now. Most of the time I know what I am getting myself into,’ Julia said.
Julia has a busy year ahead, she has a collaboration with a nail company, where she will be designing the nail detail that people can stick on and wear.
‘There is a lot of glam in my work, beauty is a big theme in my works. It would be great to get into the beauty industry a little bit more,’ Julia said.
She has a podcast coming out real soon, called D and A, she is still working on the name. Two designers and two artists will discuss the industry in Sydney. If anyone is to listen, Julia says, not to take their advice seriously. Just listen to the podcast and be like, those guys are just doing their thing.
Julia also has a residency with Brand X coming up, in Surry Hills. She will be sharing the space with Terhor and for three months the space will be transformed into a gallery, a studio and a shop.
‘The public is welcome to come in, talk to us, and see the process of how we work. They can watch us paint or buy any of our merchandise. We will hopefully have a lot of apparel ready, lots of jewellery, t-shirts, some art prints and lots of trinkets,’ Julia said.
Julia wants to use the Brand X residency to work on her soft sculptures. She has a lot of ideas that she wants to develop and build upon her body of her.
‘I think to have the space that is big enough for me to make the work, and then be able to put it directly on the wall and people are able to see it straight away, that’s the best part,’
‘I hope to just communicate really well on how I feel and how what I am conversing at the time with that piece is being received by those who feel the same,’ Julia said.
‘That feels really successful to me, the goal has been achieved then. Just connecting with people is really the main goal.’