5-stars for the merging of fine art, mental illness and stand-up comedy in 300 Paintings, the show where genius meets madness, and laughter ensues.
Presented by: Sam Kissajukian
Reviewed: 10 March, 2023
COVID lockdowns encouraged a swag of would-be artists to hunker down with solitude and give new creative forms a go. But did Sam Kissajukian – a comedian whose livelihood was derailed due to the 2-year closure of clubs – ever imagine he’d create 300 paintings in five months?
Complete with power point and a fast-moving chronology, Kissajukian pokes fun of his feverish time of creation where paintings turned to light projections then shadow puppets, then expanded into currency schemes and experimental museum plans until, finally, inventions stemming from fungi. Since being diagnosed with bipolar last May, the comic sees this time of manic creative output as just that – manic – yet some of those artworks are now sitting with international collectors and being exhibited around the country, so illness-driven or not, his painting is amazing.
As Kissajukian tells his audience about his 2021 derailment in 300 Paintings, he’s making new art (comedy) about a serious issue that caused him to make new art before (painting), so this exploration of art and mental health is twofold. What is art? What is self-awareness? What is bullshit? Humour in art is so often caught up in ego and capitalism (think Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol) but Kissajukian’s marrying of the two feels purposeful in a self-growth kind of way, where an examination of mental illness is at the core. He’s preaching empathy without platitude, he’s lecturing without posturing, and the final product is as hilarious as it is affecting.
Winner of 2022’s Sydney Fringe Festival Award for Best Comedy and Directors Choice Award, it’s not a wonder 300 Paintings has catapulted Kissajukian’s burgeoning painting career and revitalised a stand-up comedy he’d thought he’d well and truly quit. His double-threat delivery isn’t only funny, it’s incredibly authentic and ultimately endearing. And viewing slides of his extraordinary paintings for sixty minutes makes the show so much more than comedy – it’s high art. The show deserves to be lauded far and wide. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before and I’d pay to see it again.
Reviewed by Heather Taylor Johnson
Venue: The Mill – The Breakout
Season: until 19 March
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: $15-$25 (Concession $12-$20)