Hustle Up

Acrylic and Oil on Canvas
122 × 122 cm

To be the ultimate hustler is to take life by the horns and stare death in the face. Johnny Romeo takes this sentiment of living life to the edge to incendiary heights in his brazenly rock’n’roll work Hustle Up, in which a slick, Technicolour skull grins fiendishly as a nine-ball rests in its head. The nine-ball is a nod to the 1961 Paul Newman film ‘The Hustler’, about small time-time pool hustler ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson and his desire to crack the major leagues of professional hustling. Newman reprised his iconic role in the 1986 sequel ‘The Colour of Money’, a point boldly captured with morbid delight in the text assemblage ‘Money Skull Ball’. While the nine-ball resembles its more infamous eight-ball counterpart, with its fatalistic connotations of hard drugs and links to celebrity deaths, Romeo cleverly subverts our expectations by using the nine-ball to comment on the importance of embracing life to the fullest during the dark times of the Corona pandemic. In this context, the skull becomes a life-affirming symbol for the pursuit of hope that encourages us to ‘hustle up’ and never settle for the hum-drum banality of not just the pandemic, but ultimately everyday life. Inspired by Oasis’ 1994 Britpop anthem, ‘Live Forever’, Romeo’s Money Skull is an amusingly ironic embodiment of Liam Gallagher’s swaggering refrain of ‘Wanna live, I don’t wanna die… You and I are gonna live forever’.



Johnny Romeo is an internationally acclaimed Australian painter. Considered Australia’s leading Pop artist, Romeo is spearheading the global Neo-Expressionist Pop movement with his electrifying collision of rock’n’roll swagger, comic book aesthetics and street art. Described by GQ Magazine Australia as ‘part punk, part pop’, Romeo’s Kitsch Pop works are explosive sugar rushes of Technicolour imagery and urban grittiness that are turning heads worldwide.

Read more about Johnny Romeo

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Johnny Romeo

Hustle Up

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