Episode One directed by Hugh O’Brien.
Sonny greets us with a smile in the hotel lobby, then makes a beeline for the coffee machine at Paramount Coffee Project where he shows us his barista skills.
“Both coffee and art have gone hand in hand as long as I can remember” he says.
“When I was working full time in coffee, I always made art. I was always exhibiting, mainly group shows around Sydney in places like Fat Space and First Draft Gallery.”
It was only when Sonny met his wife Biddy Maroney, (with whom he now owns design company We Buy Your Kids) that he allowed art to play a bigger role in his life. They started off by making posters for bands, while still working in the coffee industry simultaneously.
“I was making and roasting coffee, to go home and making all these posters for the bands I was making coffee for. I felt like stepping away from coffee wasn’t an option, we still worked in the industry and did design and branding for many restaurants and cafes.”
Sonny’s hard work clearly shows, W$YK has worked with the likes of Disney, Mondo, Playboy, Sydney Opera House among many others, but he still stays true to his hospitality background.
“That’s the thing, I love making coffee, I love hospitality. Hospitality literally put me where I am today, it taught me all these skills and gave me all these experiences that I can translate to whatI do now”.
After pulling a few coffees and a doodling session, we walk through the hotel. Sonny’s pieces can be seen everywhere, most visibly the vibrant pink print in the elevator. Sonny loves that he’s left these artefacts all around and that guests find them tucked away in little corners, corridors and walls.
“For the most part no one’s said anything bad about them, so I guess that’s winning. It feels really good to be a part of this amazing place and I feel lucky working with these guys because it’s always fun and easy – never complicated.”
The visual elements of his work follow a sort of pattern while being unique, often featuring lips, fingers, hands, lipsticks and of course, sharks, but Sonny’s reason for using sharks in his artwork stems from somewhere deeper –
“This is going to sound super morbid, but after my dad passed away I had this thing about not worrying when I die. It’s like I’m falling and diving and when I hit the water, I’ll just swim away. Sharks are these amazing, beautiful creatures, but they’re feared, and I guess what I’m trying to say is – don’t fear death”.
As the day draws to an end, we head to China Heights gallery where Sonny’s show ‘Baby’s on Fire’ is set to preview. Despite being an acclaimed artist, Sonny knows where he’s from and is determined to stay grounded and continue exploring different disciplines when it comes to making his art.
“Looking back on our work and thinking about how it’s changed, I want to say that maybe it’s gotten better? Some of the pieces exist in the context that they might have been painted on canvas – they have another life and live on someone else’s walls. It’s just an extension of a painting and I guess you’d say I’m more of a muralist, that’s a big part of my practice.”
This is the first of a new series with our considered collaborators. Wish You Were Here will explore the dynamic between Paramount House Hotel and the local artists, producers and suppliers that contribute to making it the perfect neighbourhood hotel.
Check out Paramount Coffee Project.
Check out We Buy Your Kids (W$YK).
Check out China Heights Gallery.
Check out Hugh O’Brien’s work.