Image courtesy  Nicole reed

Image courtesy Nicole reed

Luke Cornish is an Australian artist creating unique, powerful images from handmade stencils. His rise within the contemporary art world has been meteoric, becoming the first artist to be nominated for the Archibald Prize with a portrait created entirely out of stencils. A former blue-collar worker from Canberra, Cornish's apathy and boredom during his early twenties encouraged him to start experimenting with stanley knives and spraypaint cans. Fast forward a decade and a bit, Cornish has literally carved his name into the public's mind.

Sometimes using up to 1000 seperate layers of carefully hand-cut acetate, he sprays layer upon layer of aerosol paint until his images bear a striking photographic resemblance: this is a new form of hyper-realism that is unlike what has been seen before. Known in the urban art world as ELK (not to be confused with the British Graffiti writer of the same name), he uses the tools of a street artist to create decadent, detailed works that envelop the viewer. There is an honesty to Cornish's work, slicing back the layers and reconstructing his muses with astonishing deftness. The emotions that permeate through the eyes of his portraits have great depth, the shadows created by the stencils highlighting their anguish. His subjects all seem to share the same hardship and determination that Cornish himself has experienced, lending to a sense of dire reality in the unreality of his images.

After a few small exhibitions across Australia, Cornish's abilities began to attract public attention. Over the past Ten years he has been granted many awards, including winning the coveted Holding Redlich People's choice award at the 2017 Salon de Refusés, being granted the Churchill fellowship in 2013, being selected as a finalist in the Metro Art Prize of 2011, winning the Australian Stencil Art prize in 2010, the most popular stencil at Melbourne Stencil Festival in 2008, and creating a shortlisted Tropfest film on the making of his Archibald portrait. And finally, the Archibald itself. This represents a shift in the contemporary art world, as Cornish's controversial nomination has proven that stencilling is a viable fine art form that is now competing with more traditional methods.

Cornish's portrait of controversial Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire achieved a new auction record for a work by an Australian street artist selling for AU$34,160 during the Bonhams Australia Important Australian Art auction in late 2013.

Now living and working in Sydney, he has continued to refine his craft, striving to push the boundaries of his medium and exploring the power of art further afield by making a number of visits to war torn Syria over the last few years, to share the medium of stencil art with young people, enduring the hardship of the most brutal war of our generation. In early 2017 Cornish co-founded the 'For Syrias Children' Charity organisation, which works in conjunction with NGO's on the ground in Syria, raising much needed funds for Syrian children affected by the conflict. Cornish has nuzzled his way into the fine art world, showing that even if the pen is mightier than the sword, the scalpel might win out overall.




Exhibition History



2017- Salon de Refusés, SH Ervine Gallery, Sydney (Holding Redlich Peoples Choice Award)

2016- Australian War Memorial, Canberra (acquisition)

2016- Calleen art award, Cowra regional gallery, Finalist

2015- Brisbane Art Prize, Finalist

2015- Deakin small sculpture pize, Finalist

2015- Moreton Bay Regional Art award, Finalist

2015- Calleen art award, Cowra regional gallery, Finalist

2015- Gold Coast Art Gallery, QLD (acquisition)

2014- Black Swan Prize, Finalist

2014- Bond University Collection, QLD

2014- Corrigan Collection 

2013- Churchill Fellowship, Awardee

2013- National Portrait Gallery, Canberra (acquisition)

2013- Sulman prize, Finalist

2012- Moran Portrait prize, semi-finalist

2012- Archibald prize, Finalist

2012- Tropfest, shortlisted

2011- Metro Art Prize, Finalist

2010- Australian Stencil Art Prize, Winner

2009- Ballarat Gallery of Modern Art (acquisition)

2009- Australian Stencil art prize, Runner up

2008- Melbourne Stencil Festival, Peoples choice



2018- No place like home, Tuggeranong art centre, Canberra

2017- Zero to the left, Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2017- Road to Damascus, nanda\hobbs Contemporary, Sydney

2016- Vanishing Point, nanda\hobbs Contemporary, Sydney

2016- Concrete Jungle, Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2014- Louder than words, Stolen Space, London

2014- Clusterfuck, Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2014- Sex & Death, w/ Will Coles, Art Equity, Sydney

2013- Before Afghanistan, Art Equity, Sydney

2012- Not with it..., Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2011- Look what you made me do...., Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne

2011- This is why we can't have nice things..., Oh really Gallery, Newtown, Sydney

2010- How you like me now Bitch?, Front Gallery, Canberra



2017- For Syrias Children, fundraising exhibition

2017- Sign of the times, Gold Coast Art Gallery, QLD

2016- Stencil, Next Gallery, Paris

2015- Stencil Master, Urban art festival, Amsterdam

2015- Fine lines, Sydney story factory fundraiser, Sydney

2015- Brave new world, nanda/hobbs, Sydney

2015- Bricks to canvas, Aarwun gallery, Canberra

2015- YourKidCan'tDoThis, Ambush Gallery, Sydney (curator)

2015- Contents Under Pressure - Stencil Art in Australia 2003-2010, Burrinja Gallery, Melbourne

2015- Public, Perth

2015- First Landing to Last Post, Parliament house, Canberra

2015- Wonderwalls, Port Adelaide

2015- Project 504, Sydney

2014- Public Street art festival, Perth

2014- RightNow, Liechardt, Sydney

2014- ADIDAS Stan Smith show, Melbourne

2013- Sulman prize, Art Gallery of NSW 

2012- A cut above 2, Espionage Gallery, Adelaide

2012- Archibald prize, Art Gallery of NSW

2012- E.L.K x ADNATE "killing it", Molecule gallery, Melbourne

2012- Project 5, Sydney

2012- Melbournes burning, Paradise hills, Melbourne

2012- Young guns, Linton and kay, Perth

2012- Climate change, Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2011- Surface Tension, Ambush Gallery, Sydney

2011- All stars show,  Espionage gallery, Adelaide

2011- Things to come, Metro Gallery, Melbourne

2011- Facelook portrait show, Dark horse experiment, Melbourne

2011- The new feild, Dark horse experiment, Melbourne

2011- Metro art award, exhibition of finalists, Melbourne

2011- A cut above, Espionage gallery, Adelaide

2011- Sidewayz Art Exhibition, Sydney

2011- up close (colour by numbers), sydney

2011- Expo for Mattia, Naples, Italy

2011- up the bend, Rancho Notorious, Melbourne

2011- Paste up exhibition (ragad art kalliatsis), Hungary

2010- Space Invadas, National Gallery of Australia (merchandise in Giftshop)

2010- Don't push mong, China heights, Surry hills, Sydney

2010- Australian Stencil art Prize, Oh Really gallery, Newtown, Sydney

2010- Don't push mong, Canberra

2010- Pop rocks, Urban Uprising gallery, Sydney

2010- Sweet streets, 1000 pound bend, melbourne

2010- Friends with knives, crewest gallery, Los Angeles

2010- Urban art 10A, BSG, Melbourne

2009- Old Skoolin, Art whino, Washington/Los Angeles

2009- Get Trucked, per square metre, Melbourne

2009- Melbourne Stencil Festival, Melbourne

2009- YourKidCantDoThis, Sydney Show, North Bondi

2009- Urban Art Agenda #3, Ballarat, Melbourne and Brisbane Powerhouse

2009- September, Dirty Pilot Group show, LA, USA

2009- Spin that thing, vinyl show, Famous when dead Gallery, Melbourne

2009- In2change Exhibition, Belconnen Community Centre

2009- YourKidCantDoThis, Melbourne Show

2009- YourKidCantDoThis' Canberra Show, Legislative assembly

2009- "Stencil" Art Whino Group show, National Harbour, MD, USA

2009- Australian Stencil Art prize, Exhibition of finalists (runner up)

2008- Spray 1387, Tehran, Iran

2008- Melbourne Stencil Festival

2008- Cacophony Group show, Manuka

2007- Cacophony Group show, The Front Gallery

2007- M16 Group show, M16, Canberra



2017- Art Almanac, July 2017

2017- Art edit Magazine, Issue 13

2016- VNA magazine, Issue 33

2015- StreetArt Basel and region, Die hot-spots I'm Dreiländereck (Kai Hendrik Schlusche)

2015- Surface (Søren Solkær)

2014- Planet Banksy (KET)

2013- Street Art Melbourne (Lou Chamberlain)

2012- Stencil Repubic (Olly Walker, Laurence King publishing)

2010- Art monthly Australia (cover)

2008- Art monthly Australia