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The Colourful Artificer

From his days with shock rock band Jimmy and the Boys to his current role as global creative director for Sydney’s annual Vivid festival, Ignatius Jones has transformed the way we look art, architecture and innovation.

The Colourful Artificer

Actor, musician, journalist, cartoonist, events director, Filipino-Australian Ignatius Jones has a resume that reads like a lifetime achievement award. Born in Manila, the 57-year-old launched his career Down Under as the frontman for Jimmy and the Boys – by the end of the 1970s, they were one of the most popular acts on the country’s live-music scene. He went on to appear in numerous TV shows, including Culture Shock, before being appointed creative director of the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies, a role that he still believes is one of his greatest achievements so far.

His spectacular perspective and creativity – which went a long way to then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch proclaiming that the event was the “… best Olympic Games ever” – put Jones in high demand for event direction around the world, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he was scooped up by Vivid Sydney to commence a role that would see him creating an evolving legacy of ingenuity, drama and forward thinking.

As global creative director for the city’s winter festival of lights, music and ideas, Jones was tasked with changing the way we think about art: by making it accessible and approachable, interactive and collaborative.

“Generally, when people hear the word ‘art’, they tend to run away screaming, because they associate the word with something that they don’t understand and will never be able to afford. They associate it with elitism, with museums; places where stuff is hung on a wall, behind a red bollard – a red velvet rope and where you can’t raise your voice. I love museums, but I think to the general public … there’s a feeling that they’re for dead things. What we really want to do is take the art off the walls and put it on the streets, and we want to do that metaphorically and physically”.

With a proclivity towards the collaborative, Jones’ curatorial process is more hands on than most. Vivid invites designers, architects, engineers and artists from around the world for proposals: “Yes we do curate them, but we curate based on what is brought to us”, he says. It is filtering through these proposals that Jones finds the most rewarding. His eye demands only two things; it has to be beautiful, and it must be functional.

“Going back to the creative industries, when you think about the discipline that we call design, what it really is, is the meeting place of art and technology. Those two disciplines getting together – one all about the rigour of practicability and one about communication, emotion, yearning, even protest sometimes. But they come together really well and design has now become incredibly influential.”

“It’s not a melting pot, it’s a tossed salad, where each culture maintains itself as itself. But together, the shows create something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because all these different parts add something the other is missing”.

And what can we expect of the 2015 edition of the festival? “You know, people ask me, ‘what’s the theme this year?’ I answer, ‘same as last year … innovation and creativity’.”

Vivid Sydney runs from May 22 to June 8. Visit for details.


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