For the past few months, Drewfunk has been steadily, and diligently, working away in his studio on a new body of work – an ink centric collection that takes his familiar creatures into new directions, with variations of repetitious, but never repetitive, patterning and forms.
With his highly anticipated Black Lingings solo outing opening this week at No Vacancy Gallery, one of our new team members, Mel Balkan, managed to grab some of Drewfunks valuable time in the lead up to the show. The conversation that ensured was both hilarious and informative, revealing a deeper side to a talented artists humourous, and yet sagely adept, views on life, art, society, and everything in between …
Mel: Okay, so, who is your favourite artist and why?
Drewfunk: Oh … currently that would be the guy I’m working with, on the same table, in my studio. Yeah, I like Michael Peck! You will meet him after this. He’s just inspiring, he has such a positive energy about him, you know? A good person, and very talented.
Mel: If the creatures that you paint on the streets could sing a song, how would the chorus go?
Drewfunk: Ummm, how would the chorus go? Ah man, that’s hectic – you’re weird! I don’t know, like, maybe it’d be something melodic?
Mel: Well, if they had a sound, or could say something – what would they say?
Drewfunk: They would say something sunny – or they’d sing about summer!
Mel: Ha! Are you finding my questions weird?
Drewfunk: Yeah, its pretty funny actually (both laughing).
Mel: I didn’t want to start off and bore you too quickly, asking things like what university you went to, and where you studied art and all that…
Drewfunk: Oh yeah yeah yeah! Of course! That’s boring you know?
Mel: Well, I thought I’d try and keep it fresh.
Drewfunk: Yeah yeah!
Mel: Alright – so your creatures would sing about summer to people – why is that?
Drewfunk: Well, you don’t get much sunlight in Melbourne, so we get exited about it, you know? In Melbourne, people talk about the weather so much – its ridiculous, don’t ya reckon?
Mel: All the time …
Drewfunk: ohhh man!
Mel: … and its like, you’ve been here all your life, don’t you know? Its four seasons in one day, and can we move on?
Drewfunk: Yeah, its crazy!
Mel: So, if you went to a new city for the first time and there was no art on the street, nothing anywhere to be seen, would you be scared? Drewfunk: I’d be kinda freaked out! Too much concrete, and not enough life – and art is life, you know?
Mel: Would you be more scared of the people? Or the government?
Drewfunk: The government, I reckon, because they’re so controlled already.
Mel: Do you think its crucial to keep the street art community thriving?
Drewfunk: Of course, I think its all around us – street art is here to make art for the people, not only for galleries, but for the community. So, its important for street artists to keep on generating work. Well, for me, my personal opinion, I have to do it not because I want to, but because I have to, in a sense. If I don’t do it I feel depressed – so painting on the street is something that I’ve always done, since high school.
Mel: Does the process feel different, from when your painting on the street, to when your painting in the studio?
Drewfunk: Well, what I’m most comfortable with is painting on walls. So spray painting is my most comfortable medium. My second medium is drawing on a piece of paper, so I reckon both of of them come to hand, but I have to put paint on a wall!! Or, paint on a surface where I have to use paint – that’s just me (laughs)
Mel: Does it make you happy, the fact that people might connect deeply with your artwork, that it might cheer people up?
Drewfunk: Yeah yeah yeah yeah! People tell me stories about my art work all the time, there’s a few examples ..
Mel: Can you share one with me?
Drewfunk: Sure, yeah – I had this guy that came over to have a look at some turtles that I painted on a pillar in South Yarra recently. He shared a story about how he connected with it – like, it builds up a whole element, and he said that it sings to him, in a way …
Mel: He sings to the turtle?
Drewfunk: No, no. The turtles sang to him, or something like that – in a very constructive way. He said it kind of reminded him of Lego, and that’s what inspired the piece as well, so its cool that he saw that in it – I think the things I paint effect people in different ways.
Mel: That’s incredible, any other stories?
Drewfunk: Hmm. I always get feedback on my fish – but my fish kind of look like dicks – as in like penis’s – you know? Its the head really, and how I normally construct it. You know, so its a dickhead? Hehe, how funny is that?
Mel: Do you think there’s some deep hidden meaning behind that?
Drewfunk: They look pretty sexual, I think its because they are so flow-ey.
Mel: Well we have kind of answered this, but do you think art can speak to people in ways that our mouths cannot?
Drewfunk: Yes, of course. Art to me is a whole entity in unto itself. Art is there for a person to see and to feel, you cant really elaborate it in words too much, you have to feel it. To me, I feel more than I think sometimes. You need a balance of both, because you can’t be too feeling – it needs to be in a constructive way, so that people can relate to it.
Mel: Are the creatures you draw representative of your self or people or anyone you know?
Drewfunk: Well, there’s an energy that I have, I think just day to day basis the creatures are evolving, but then the things I do, the people I meet, all it gets infused into that evolution of my creatures. I reckon they have changed a lot since I started drawing them, but they are consistently being refined in different ways.
Mel: how would you compare the process now to the last big change in process and style you had?
Drewfunk: I think I’m a bit more organised when it comes to the process now, so there’s a “procedure” in how I do things. I can paint and draw the characters a lot faster than I used to be able to. Without planning it, or sketching it, its already in my head. This current show that I’m doing at No Vacancy – its all the creatures that I have always drawn, so its simple, daily creatures, like birds turtles and all that. This is like a repetitive version of the same characters but done in a much larger scale, all in black and white – clean lines.
Mel: Do you think that’s at all significant to the organisation that your feeling at the moment?
Drewfunk: I think so. Constructively, kind of like building blocks, you know like a brick wall but a bigger scale
Mel: does it feel differently to when your painting?
Drewfunk: It’s helped a lot when it comes to painting. I’ve become more confident with my can control using a spray can or a brush you know? Once I know how to do the lines on paper, I can study the lines to work out how I can do it on a wall or a piece of canvas.
Mel: what’s been the main tool you have used to create for this show?
Drewfunk: Yeah its all basically pencil work to start with – I draft it all out with a pencil. Then I ink it in on top of that. When I ink it in, it changes the shape of it – you know?I really like the fine liner, 0.5!
Mel: Is there anything you would like to mention, or talk about for your solo show?
Drewfunk: Yeah, it’s on the 24th of March, you should come!
Mel: I’m definitely gonna be there.
Drewfunk: Its at No Vacancy Gallery. I’ve never done a solo show with them, so I reckon its about time. I just love that gallery, because of how its built – just inside the ceiling. I like the ceiling a lot – its upstairs now.
Mel: Is there ever any pressure for you with gaining more fans of your work?
Drewfunk: Not really. To me, there’s one thing that I like I do – what I do – and I do what I do best, you know? I just do it no matter if there is good talk or bad talk surrounding it, it’s just do what I do. As long as I do it, I’m happy, and I’ve learned that no matter what people say about what you do, that as long as you do it, right, and you do it the best you can do it, then that’s all that matters. So I just do it! Ha! The most important thing, is that I impress myself, before I impress others. You have to be headstrong in that respect. People follow trends too much these days, and, being an artist, you need to be your own entity. If you keep following the trends, you’ll eventually fail, I believe. The trend will die off and there’ll be new things ..
I’m just gonna come to a point, where I’m discovered as that trend.
Mel: … as your own trend?
Drewfunk: Yeah. You’re special, because of what you are.
Mel: Do you feel like that comes through in your work?
Drewfunk: Of course, without a doubt . I come from an Asian background, and I draw my roots. To me that’s a stronger sense that I have, as a person. Yet my roots are also in graffiti art as well, and that’s infused in my own Chinese Culture. I’ve been doing that for years, and, for me, that’s what I want to enhance. I want to paint like the old school Chinese painters, and how they do one, perfect brush stroke, so I can do it with one stroke of a spray can.
Mel: So all the animals in your artwork are all traditional Asian animals?
Drewfunk: Oh, not really. They have that look, I don’t know, lets just call it the “Drewfunk style”. It’s perfecting what I have, really refining it in an old school manner, so that old school Chinese artists can reflect on what I’m doing, and they can look at it as an evolution. I think everybody can relate to it, not only young people.
Mel: So you paint entirely from your head, you don’t work with references?
Drewfunk: Mostly I prefer working straight out of my head. I like looking at stuff, but I don’t like tracing images or anything like that.
Mel: So, what animal are you?
Drewfunk: I reckon I’m a turtle bonsai dragon hehe
Mel: what animal can I be?
Drewfunk: I’m not sure yet!! (ed. a few days later Drew sent Mel an email telling her she was a flamingo …)
Mel: So, if you could change something in the street art scene, what would it be?
Drewfunk: As in the whole community? I just want see more quality work, you know? There are a lot of people putting quality work out there – but kids do bombing and all. Street art should be looked at and appreciated in a certain way - its many different art forms, but the idea you put behind that as well … well, Banksy wouldn’t be Banksy if he didn’t have his ideas, that’s why he is so well known. Its his ideas, and his mischie,f that makes him so clever.
Mel: Who are some of your favourite street artists at the moment?
Drewfunk: Currently? I like Shida, Kid Zoom – yeah! The people I share a studio with, and E.L.K. from Canberra.
Mel: So we just need to keep fighting corporate bastards?
Drewfunk: I took a picture of the graffiti cleaners the other day – they use a graffiti tag as their logo – but do you know they spend two million dollars on that car they use? But the city needs its graffiti, a growing community has graffiti; its freedom, its a voice out as well. There are so many freaking billboards brainwashing you all the time, Coca-cola, McDonalds – argh! Titties!!!
Mel: I think I’d be scared if artists lost the battle to that …
Drewfunk: No way, they will never lose the battle – don’t worry about that. Society is made up of two different groups, the art community and the straight people – the corporates – you know? People that climb up the ladder to organise us. We need that, but they are attracted to the arts and music, visual art – we’re the leaders, and they’re just following us. Yet, they’re the “constructors” as well, and the community works like that – you need artists, that’s just how the world works.
Mel: That’s a good theory, you should run for government, The Drewfunk Party….
Drewfunk: Nah totally not – that would be bad!
Check out Drewfunks webpage for lots more information and images of his work. Also check out the No Vacancy website for details on Black Linings, his upcoming solo show. Drew also has a new limited edition print for sale at Stupidkrap – and it looks great!