Head Above Water – Sydney

After a successful opening last week in Brisbane, Luke Shirlaw’s Head Above Water opens this Wednesday in Sydney at Goodspace for one night only, and continues in part at Ironlak Art & Design Sydney from Friday 29 Sept.

Documenting 15 years of the Ironlak journey

Back in 2002, brothers Levi and Heath Ramsey sorted out the paperwork for the business that would ultimately launch Ironlak to the world. Earlier still, around 2000, Luke Shirlaw – a kid from Townsville who was working at Kmart, painting graffiti, and studying graphic design – met Levi via an internet chatroom, and kick-started a friendship that would vastly alter the trajectory of many people’s lives. As Ironlak moved through its business and cultural journey, Luke would remain a constant fixture in the development of the brand. Originally designing the logo and can, and helping from the sidelines – eventually taking a full-time role as marketing/creative director.

‘Head Above Water’ is a photography exhibition celebrating the highs and lows of 15 years of Ironlak, as witnessed through the lens of Luke’s camera. It’s a story of art, graffiti, and friendship – but also one of both freedom and struggle. The title speaks to the constant grind of life and business.

Luke explains; “From traveling in China, we often speak of the need to ‘flow like water’ – to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and keep cool under pressure. You know, ‘when life gives you lemons, you paint that shit gold’. Given how turbulent business life can be – especially in pursuing an idea that you care deeply about – it can be easy to feel like you’re always only just keeping your head above. Treading water, and getting nowhere. This show reflects how far we’ve come, the impact that we’ve made, and those who have shared in the journey with us. It really has been an amazing ride. ‘Head Above Water’ is still a mantra of persistence, but has evolved today to remind me to rise above the chaos, appreciate the achievements so far, and enjoy each day as it comes.”

The exhibition also marks a new beginning, as Luke moves on from Ironlak to focus on his own creative marketing practice.

This is the start of what was…

Head Above Water Ironlak Team Wall Planning Luke Shirlaw
2007, Ironlak Team (Sofles, Tues, Linz, Reals, Sirum) planning an early team wall in Byron Bay, Ramsey brothers looking on in the background

Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw Dubai
Two USA Ironlak Family members coolin’ in Dubai. Taking a break from the absurd ‘World’s Longest Graffiti Scroll’ project

TREAS Dubai Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw
Treas working the graveyard shift in Dubai. His section of the ‘World’s Longest Graffiti Scroll’ project

Dieci Does LECANS Netherlands Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw
Does painting a wall in the Netherlands to mimick the design of his Limited Edition Artist Series Ironlak spray can

New York City graffiti Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw
Augor and ‘Spoke’ Taking the piss in the Bronx, NYC

Phat1 TMD China Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw
Phat1 showing the locals how it’s done in China

STORM Copenhagen Head Above Water Ironlak Luke Shirlaw
In the Copenhagen tunnels with Storm

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