We all know it – life really is completely random – yet many of us don’t embrace such a fact as a real ethos, instead we relegate the chaos in our lives to simple expressions of "wtf" and "huh?"
As his moniker simply implies, Random is one artist who has long since embraced the chaotic disorder in the world, and turned it into his own personal motto. Traversing a wide range of disciplines, from painting to graffiti, and now with a large focus on body art, Random is one of those artists whose travels and tribulations have forged a unique path by which his creative impulses are explored.
Having recently held a solo show for Aucklands Art Week festival, we had a chance to throw a few questions at the man himself, and get the low down on his work, and what it is about his art, DIY ethics and his travels to Japan that have spurred on his journey …
Tell us a bit about how you started out on your artistic career, and what it is that propelled you into the hard working life of an artist?
Well… like most people, I started doing art at school. But never thought (or was ever taught) it could be anything other than a class to be taken at High School. It wasn’t until later, when I was around 19 that I started picking up a pencil again. This time it was the local graffiti art coming out of Auckland, New Zealand that inspired me.
From then on, the will and drive to create just got bigger, until eventually the point came where I had to make a decision to leave my 9 to 5 job as a mechanic to pursue a fulltime career in Art – it was the best decision I ever made!
Good question. Well, of course there is the obvious Japanese influences that come out in some of my ideas. After spending two years in Tokyo and now studying Japanese at University, it seems to be ever present in my art.
But as far as ‘stranger things’ that influence the direction of recent works … it would definitely have to be my lack of funds. Having almost nothing really makes you use what you got around you and now I think about it, ‘Found Objects’ make up the majority of my artwork. Using old weather boards, inorganic objects, car panels, found picture frames, industrial rubbish and A LOT of used skateboards, I do find that these items already have character even before the first brush stroke.
I like that.
Do you find that you are flexible across all mediums, or do you constantly sway towards one? You have a good breadth and scope of work – from painting to aerosol, is it important these days to be extremely versatile?
I struggle with this idea myself. The ideas I get for art are forever changing and my influences and themes morph and grow with every show. I might paint a skateboard with acrylic and aerosol one day. Next, a cut n’ paste collage on mixed media, then I could be spray painting my friends bedroom after that. People within the art scene tell me to stick with a medium, that way my work can link and become recognisable, but every idea I get seems to be different from the last – I like what I am creating these days, so I guess I will stick with that for now.
But being versatile in my general art practise I think has no negatives. Because I haven’t restricted myself to anything, I have got to be a part of some wicked projects. From competing in this year’s NZ Body Art Awards, to spraying the entre side of a school gym as their Artist n’ Residence, to doing the interior designing, creating and painting of Redbull’s ‘Hangar Café’ in Auckland University.
Dopeness. I always enjoy the final part of the whole process…and that’s the exhibition itself. This show symbolises the end of almost a year’s work and I’m just stoked when it all is finally on the wall and I have that 1st celebratory beer in my hand, no matter how financially successful a show is – this one was no exception. Had a great opening night with nothing but good company and a lot of booze. I am also very pleased with the space itself; a converted community hall on the side of Mt Victoria, overlooking Auckland’s waterfront. It’s a great set up.
I was always going to exhibit around this time of year, but I must thank Cleo Barnett for linking my show up with Auckland Art Week. What a great event to be a part of!
Can you tell us a bit about your time in Tokyo, and what you did whilst you were over there? Tell us a bit about the art scene in the city, and how you found working there as an artist? What made you return to NZ after such a prolific stay?
Simple … deportation. It really is a long story, but it just comes down to paperwork. Being an artist with no university degree, and no ten year period of work experience in my field meant that I was in that 1% group of foreigners fighting to stay -with no real option.
Yet, I absolutely love Japan, and I did start setting myself up to make that my second home. I headed over with the intention of remaining a full time artist but found out very quickly that with my lack of contacts and language skills, art was not going to get me by. So I was bartending six nights a week to pay the bills, and painting every spare moment I had.
Slowly I started joining collaborative shows in Tokyo, including the "Hats Off" Custom Cap Exhibition, where I was lucky enough to exhibit alongside some of the graffiti artists responsible for starting the whole art form … COPE2, PERSUE, CANTWO, SMASH137 – that was a wicked opportunity.
Just like anything, I just kept up my practice and slowly things started happening. In my second year I became the Art Director for a creative space in downtown Shibuya and curated my first international art expo, inviting eight artists from four countries, including NZ Graffiti artists Cinzah Seekayem and Cracked ink. Just before leaving, I got to put on a solo art show myself. I can’t wait to get back there to continue on, just gotta give it a bit of time, haha.
Beside Tokyo, you have also exhibited in quite a few other countries – where would you like to push your art most, at home or abroad, and what are some of the ways in which you’ve managed to crack into international galleries – is it hard work promoting yourself outside of your own region?
Very! Unless you have an agent in another country promoting your visit, advertising your work, or you have something creating a buzz about you or your art, coming into another country can be a slow, sobering experience. No matter what I had achieved in little old NZ and how popular my art was becoming, it meant nothing when I landed in Japan. And I found myself having to start from the very beginning again. This felt unconstructive to me and I don’t recommend it. I left just as I was gaining momentum in NZ and have returned 2 years later to a country that had new artists in my place. Again, I had to almost start from scratch but this time in my own country. Maybe I left at the wrong time, maybe I should have continued working with the contacts I had made, maybe the experiences I had in Japan helped me progress far more than staying in NZ would have…these are the rhetorical questions that I can’t ever dwell on. If you are serious as an artist, you will learn from and be influenced by all experiences.
I do however, find NZ to be a culture that promotes and embraces art. If you work hard, you can make a living as an artist here – I am sure this won’t be the case in other places around the world.
Via correspondence I have been lucky enough to exhibit in collaborative shows in New York, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Osaka. These too have been a major learning experience, not all positive. After being accepted into the Hong Kong show and paying the artist fee, I thought it would be a great opportunity to fly over from Tokyo to be there in person for the opening, only to find the details of the show had been exaggerated and the space/display/organization of the exhibition proved itself to be somewhat of a scam. Something 99% of the international artists would never have been aware of. But like I said, I used this as a learning experience and am now more inquisitive when being invited to other international shows. Visit this video link to see how dodgy this show really was …
How do you find the street and urban arts scene in NZ lately? We see a hell of a lot of goodness coming out of there, it feels like its expanding aplenty – what, who and where are some of the top picks in NZ in terms of art right now?
TMD crew based in Auckland, with writers like Askew, Deus, Phat1, Fiasco, Berst, haven’t stopped spreading colour to our streets ever since securing the No.1 spot at the latest Write4Gold World Graffiti Championships in Germany last year, with NO THANKS to Auckland City Council!
You would think it was something we would embrace and celebrate here in NZ, but with the Rugby World Cup currently on it’s been the complete opposite. With major Auckland murals and local graff spots all being painted grey. Auckland is still a city run by old people, and I find Wellington and other minor cities in NZ have a way more tolerant attitude toward aerosol art. Very sad. This hasn’t stopped the serious writers though, and recently our ‘Street Art” scene has been blowing up too. Stencil artists Cut Collective are at the forefront of that, and help bring international artists over as well. Nelson, in the South Island just held NZ’s first Banksy exhibition.
I am really hoping that after the attention of the Rugby World Cup has moved somewhere else, Auckland’s best can band together to bring colour back to our streets … with permission, or otherwise.
Body painting – are you still working on your calendar with the painted girls and such? How do you find body painting as a medium, and what are some of the difficulties encountered when painting live flesh?
The ‘Love Generation’ calendar was the first intro I had to the medium of Body Art, but that was in 2009 and the demand AND opportunity to paint half naked women has grown massively. Last year, while in Tokyo, I started getting the opportunity to do Live Body Painting in clubs and events, something that wasn’t new over there, but after returning to NZ, I noticed that Body Art, especially the live aspect of it, was almost nonexistent.
So, this year, I have promoted that side of my art a lot more and have been getting live Body Art gigs at monthly club nights like ‘Sketch’, as well as Bfm Radio and First Thursdays events bringing me in to add another dimension to their gigs. I’d like to say there are no real difficulties with Body Art. Just like my attitude toward using mixed media and found objects, I find the body already has aesthetic appeal even before that first brush stroke and this only helps to exenterate the art I paint on the girls even more. Sometimes finding a model that can sit still can be a challenge though. You sometimes forget that you have a canvas that drinks, needs to use the bathroom, talks, dances, whatever. This is all a part of live Body Art – I dig it.
Tell us a bit more about your views on the legal side of things – we’ve seen that you’ve had a couple of issues in the past, regards to urban painting, what are your philosophical views on the nature of legal vs. illegal art?
It is very dangerous to ask a graffiti artist about what they think of art on walls. I could rant for hours about how a colourful mural created by a local far outweighs the patchy grey paint that soon follows, and is always considered by the authorities as cleaner, safer, and better for the community. Like I said, this city is still run by out-of-touch people who don’t get that this is a legitimate artistic genre. An outlet for artists that call our city their own, and should be allowed the opportunity to spread colour and creativity within it. Our crews are considered some of the best in the world, and are still slandered and squashed out by local councils and law enforcement.
To me it’s so backwards – there are some cities out there in this world that ARE forward thinking and would provide a great model for Auckland to look at. Melbourne, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Sao Paulo, Paris are only a few of many cities that co exist with graffiti art, and embrace it in most instances. Even our capital city has a better attitude toward graffiti, with a few designated spots that writers can come to and spread their art. One day my generation with be in the councils, governments, law enforcement, and communities, and hopefully Street Art and Graffiti will have its rightful place on our walls, where it should be!
What would you like to see yourself doing in several years time, and where do you hope you will be at? Do you plan on travelling to any far flung corners of the world to paint in the future?
Definitely doing exactly the same thing……creating. No matter what the premise. I really think I will be doing this until the day I die. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s a way of life for me. I’ve tried being a mechanic, a salesman, a cashier, a driver, a teacher….but all occupations suffered due to my mind wondering and my pen not being able to stop doing its own thing.
I do have the travel bug after my short time in Asia, but I can’t speculate where my art will take me. If I start planning stuff I might miss out on other opportunities, so for now I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve been given the opportunity to paint for a music video in Sydney as well as do live painting at a festival in Okinawa, but I’m in no rush. I am half Canadian but have never really made the most of that. Toronto has been a serious option to go for a while, and there is something about Cuba that will probably take me there one day.
As you can see I have ideas and options, but for now I will just continue to go with the flow – like a leaf blowing in the wind – can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!
Check out Randoms website here for more cool stuff from the artist! You can also check out his Youtube channel here.