Kyle Hughes-Odgers, aka Creepy, has been a notable player on the Australian art scene for some time now. Known predominantly for his street art, the past few years has seen Kyle stretch out of what would have been quite a comfortable space to stagnate in.
Personally, having been at the opening of his previous exhibition, ‘You Just Have Your Eyes Closed,’ I had thought at the time that this was it – he’d done it. I hadn’t ever seen Kyle’s work in a ‘hey, that’s fine art’ kind of way but the magnitude of pieces, the continuity of the exhibition and the evolution of his style were all firm indicators that Kyle had established himself in the fine art world. As the old adage goes – If it’s not broke, don’t fix it – I had assumed that style wise, Kyle had hit his peak. His work was honest, appealing and respected. ‘You Just Have Your Eyes Closed,’ was two years ago. In that time Kyle has continuously evolved and his work, both fine art and street art, has blossomed. He has travelled and exhibited extensively, his craft has matured and his skill has grown exponentially.
It’s been two years since we last spoke, can you tell us briefly what youv’e been up to in that time?
I’ve been a bit of a drifter – traveling for projects and painting walls. NYC a couple of times and I had my first European solo show in Berlin and worked on my first children’s book ‘Ten Tiny Things’ published through Fremantle Press in Australia and some film projects with Chad Peacock.
Your upcoming show, ‘A Thousand Lights From A Hundred Skies,’ opens this Friday at Turner Gallery. What’s the story behind the title and can you tell us what to expect from this exhibition? Will there be as much content as you had in your first show at Turner Gallery, which was something like over one hundred works?
The show title is named after the largest painting, which is 284 x 876cm. It’s an abstract aerial view of a non-descript city at night. There are 27 paintings in this exhibition; there is a lot more work in the individual paintings than my last Turner show. Which had 113 paintings but a lot of them smaller, simpler works. I wanted to make a more focused, intense body of work.
You seem to be able to switch easily between large scale murals and small delicate work. Which do you prefer why?
I prefer both. I like spending time in the studio to focus and create a body of work for months and to contrast that quietness with painting outside on large-scale mural projects. It pushes me creatively to work in different locations, across different scales, mediums and textures.
In the last two years or so, you have been producing artwork in your own name as opposed to ‘Creepy’. Is that a conscious decision to differentiate between your street art and fine art?
Yes. I was 22 when I first started making street art under the name ‘creepy’. That was almost 10 years ago now and a lot has changed. I was associating the alias ‘creepy’ with one particular creative activity, but my work has crossed into a wider spectrum of many different projects and mediums both inside and outside.
It just seemed logical to start working under my real name for any project I’m involved in.
In Feburary of 2012 you had your first European solo exhibition, ‘If We Can’t Control the Boat…’ at Okazi Gallery in Berlin. Can you tell us what the show was about and how you managed the logistics of having an exhibition so far from where you are based? How were you received?
‘If we can’t control the boat, let’s control the ocean” was a fairly bleak title. The show was a look at the obsession some humans feel to be in control, although in reality we can merely only ‘steer the boat’ so to speak and there are many things out of our control. It was a reminder that we are essentially clinging to a rock that orbits around a ball of fire somewhere in an infinite universe. It’s easy to forget that. Logistically it was pretty straightforward, I painted 80% of the work in my studio in Australia and worked on an installation and few works when I was at the gallery. The show was received well and has led to other projects.
You’ve been involved in some pretty heavy weight international group shows of late. Can you tell us about some of the exhibitions you’ve been involved in? Any stand out shows or artists you’ve showed besides?
It’s always good to be involved with international group exhibitions, especially being based in Australia. It’s great to have the opportunities to be showing work along side other artists I have respected for a long time. A few highlights would be the ‘BRIGHT’ tradeshow in Berlin, MMX Berlin gallery week, ‘Street Art Saved my Life:39 New York stories’ in L.A and the Kingbrown show last year in NYC.
In 2012 you spent a little time in Port Hedland, which is primarily a mining town in the Pilbara region of W.A. Can you talk about how that opportunity came about and what you got up to?
The Port Hedland project is part one in a long running idea to paint in very unique and remote Australian locations. It’s something I want to do through out my life. I think the isolation and space is fascinating. I’ve always wanted to work on painting projects that showcase this landscape and remoteness. I’m interested in how these places and projects would be received by people from other cultures living in high density urban environments, New York City, Paris, Tokyo etc. The best way to do that is through film and the internet.
Through FORM the opportunity to travel to Port Hedland and paint 2 large murals came up. I wanted to go exploring and find some other unique places to paint while I was in the Pilbara. Filmmaker Chad Peacock was commissioned to come up with me and document the project. We spent 9 days up there painting and filming the murals in town and exploring the desert. Id been given a few hints of possible places to paint in the desert and what we found was better than I had imagined. The abandoned double decker bus was an amazing wreck to come across and a very interesting object to paint, I would love to know how it got to be out there.
The two murals in the Port Hedland were supported through BHP Billiton’s Community Grants Program and by FORM. The two walls were kindly ‘donated’ by Port Hedland Police Station, Westpac Bank and Richard Noble with support from Boom Sherrin.
July last year saw you illustrate the book ‘Ten Tiny Things,’ by Meg McKinlay. How did that come about? What was the process like for you?
It was great – I have always wanted to work on a childrens’ book so I really enjoyed the process. Fremantle Press sent me Meg’s story when I was in New York in 2011 to see if I would be interested in working on the project. The story resonated with me, encouraging people to be more observant and appreciate the interesting things that surround us everyday, to be more active and to get us out of our comfort zones.
I treated it like an exhibition and dedicated a set amount of time in the studio to painting the book.
Hidden Shoal have just relesed a video by Chad Peacock of your mural work in Cambodia. How did you come to be involved in this? How was did the experience of painting in Cambodia and what did the locals think of you and your art?
Chad was heading up there for another project and he asked me if I wanted to go on a trip and we could paint and film on his days off. I had never been to Cambodia and really wanted to visit Angkor Wat. I ended up painting a few different spots on the trip but the footage used for the Apricot Rail video clip is just from one particular day of painting. The wall I painted is on the side of a school that teaches English and provides one meal a day to the local Cambodian kids from the near by village.
It was about an hour from Phnom Penh and we had to catch a ferry and go on motorbikes to get to there, so not many tourist get to this place. It ended up pouring down near the end of the day and we knew the last ferry was leaving so I had to finish the wall in the rain. A few of the locals helped me out and we got it complete in time. It was an amazing day and great to meet some of the kids from this area and speak to some of the locals who are doing very important work there.
Cambodia is an amazing country and I was so glad to have the chance to visit.
I’ve read that you are working on a huge steel installation for DMG architects. You must have to hand over your work at some point to complete this process, does that make you nervous or are you really excited to see your work in a new kind of medium?
I like working across many mediums so it’s interesting to see a new process and material. This project is more sculptural than past works.
There are a lot of people involved to get a project of this scale complete and my work is only one component of that.
What’s on the cards for 2013 after this upcoming solo show?
I have a solo show of smaller works and the official first screening of the film “We will know when we are home” by Chad Peacock which documents my residency in Port Hedland. It opens on the 15th of Feb at the Port Hedland Courthouse gallery. Then I’ll be heading to NYC mid year for some projects, then to Europe for a solo show, and some other secrets in the pipeline.
follow my instagram @khughesodgers