300 Paintings – An Adelaide Fringe Review

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When the first rounds of lockdown happened during COVID we knew some intense mental health issues would surface. For comedian Sam Kissajukian it certainly did. His work performing as a stand up comedian had stopped and instead of his world crashing around him, it went in to overdrive.

Sam decided to place himself in a self induced lockdown with the goal of becoming an abstract artist. He wanted to channel his energy into painting the states of his mind, moods and dreams. What resulted was 300 paintings created in 5 months of isolation.

Now this show is pitched as a ‘comedian’s take on art, the artistic process, mental health and it’s ties to creativity’. But to be honest I think the joke was on us. From the very first painting I was blown away by Sam’s artistic talent and as the show progressed I expected him to reveal he had actually been to art school at some point in his life.

Not at all, according to his bio Sam ‘studied engineering, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Sydney, working in project management for a few years before’ .

As Sam takes us through a slide show of his work I can hear the audience around me ooh and aah at the unfolding visual art.

However 300 Paintings is more than just an artist walking us through his catalogue of work, in this show Sam is also talking us through the techniques, the mediums and the creative process. All of which is fascinating but what is most revealing is the creative process, as we find out, is a manic episode that latest for 5 months and eventually led to a diagnosis of bipolar in May 2022.

Prior to COVID Sam was working full-time as a touring comedian. It was an unconventional lifestyle that allowed him to learn how to function with bipolar. Then when he was forced to stop, it all unravelled.

Sam’s ability to combine incredible abstract art with stand up comedy, while unpacking the realisation he was living with bipolar makes this some of the best de-stigmatising work I have seen.

This 60 minute journey is one of awareness for everyone in the room. In 300 Paintings Sam articulates how his diagnosis fuels his work, but also allows him to step outside of it and catch it when it is becoming a bit too much.

The show is on at The Mill which is a perfectly intimate setting. Away from the distractions of the big garden venues we can go on this journey of highs and lows with Sam. His delivery is beautifully balanced giving us scope to digest what is going on for him at this time while laughing along.

This is not self deprecating humour that many stand up comedians can fall in to but one in which we can feel comfortable with the funnier side of what Sam was living through. Because it was not just making art, there were pitches to hedge-funds and CEOs with a swirling of business ideas and inventions in the mix.

300 Paintings gave me everything I want in a Fringe show, I laughed, I was enlighten and caught some great art. Five stars.

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