This post is something a little different to the norm. We ummm’ed and ahhhh’ed about the format for ages, should we transcribe it, should we make a video, should we edit it, should we chop it into smaller clips? We ended up deciding to just post it as is (with some work on the sound levels). It was such a special experience for us, it felt like we were watching a documentary.
To start off with, we have to thank Dean Sunshine. Dean took Futura on a street tour of Melbourne the day before. As you will hear, it was the best tour he’s done to date and he really loves Melbourne. He’s also a big fan of invurt which you’ll hear about too! Check out Dean’s photos from the day on his blog here.
We were called up for our turn, waiting in club 23 (which Hennessy had booked exclusively for Futura) at Crown.
It’s funny. We planned and planned this interview, and just before we sat down we heard Futura speaking to some other members of the press. He’s such a captivating speaker. Impromptu we decided we would just sit down and have a conversation with him. And while I had my list of questions handy, I didn’t have to ask one of them, Futura covered off basically every thing we wanted to ask.
It was possibly one of the most amazing conversations I’ve had with anyone from the scene, ever. I mean this man is a god father, he’s seen it all come and go and he’s still keeping it real.
We were also blessed to hear about the person behind the artist. We spoke intimately about his family and friends and some of his other passions; photography and exploring new cities.
Anyway, you’ll understand after listening! Kick back, grab a beer, have a listen and enjoy! Also check out the mad shots by David Russell below.
After having spent a really good amount of time in Kuala Lumpur and checking out the streets and walls of Singapore, I picked up stumps and headed over the Pacific on the next part of what has now turned into an epic adventure; San Francisco – I’m in Guatemala right now, so San Fran actually feels a world away!
That said, I fucking loved San Fran. Apart from my shock at how badly the homeless situation has worsened since my last visit there ten years ago (wtf America, how can shit get so bad, seriously?), I have to say it was pretty amazing. San Francisco is a city of so many facets that, well, there’s just no way I can cover it all here. Instead, I’m going to split my visit up into two pieces – one from an amazing day trekking through The Mission district, one covering all the stickers I saw and the one with all the rest – all, I’m happy to say, are big, big posts and are absolutely fascinating.
One thing that San Francisco has, for which I am many others are more than thankfully are, is a veritable plethora of paintspotters – those who seek out new pieces of graffiti and street art to share with those of us who may not be fortunate enough to live in the area. Melbourne has them, and almost every city has them, and for a certainty San Fran has them, spanning San Francisco graffiti and street art every day. So, it was a no brainer when I arrived in San Fran that I’d try to catch up with one of my favourite instagram paintspotters – @pixelina.
I’d been following @Pixelina on IG for some time, and have had the pleasure of seeing a huge bunch of amazing images that she’s taken from all over the city – so when I contacted her and asked if she could show me some of her favourite spots, she was more than obliging. It just so happened, that another of my favourite IG paintspotters was in town on the same day, @purpurella (who takes a bunch of great shots from around LA), so it all turned into one big paintspotting mission in the Mission – honestly, these girls were amazing.
We started out meeting at coffee shop in the Mission, have to say, this was some of the nicest coffee I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t long though, until the crew arrived and we headed off to see what the day had to offer.
Not far away proceeded to walk down a variety of the many laneways throughout the Mission – each harbouring a multitude of art. From graffiti, murals to street art, the cornucopia of colour reminded me in many ways of what we have in Melbourne around Fitzroy and Collingwood, the two had a very similar feel … I have to say though, that there may be a little more art in the Mission than there is in the F&C area … but that’s okay, I’m sure we’ll catch up ;)
Whilst trekking through the multitude of streets, I spotted a store on a corner that had a bunch of art on the walls, and discovered Faze Apparel. I loved this place – these guys are doing really cool things, promoting local artists and artist designed clothing.
The art up on the walls was damn cool, and the threads were fresh – if you’re in the Mission at any time, drop by here. They also do regular art exhibitions as well, in fact, that’s what they started out doing before they opened up the store itself.
We walked through a great carpark that was a couple of blocks down from where we started, and spotted a bunch of great work in there as well.
Towards the end of the day, we found we’;d been walking for around six hours – so one of our last stops was to check out a neat van being painted by some friends of @pixelina – Eon75 (Max Ehrman)and someone whose work I’ve actually followed for a while (big fan of his toy!), Jesse Hernandez. It was a great way to finish off the day and watch some of San Frans finest in action.
Nearby, there was a huge collab wall – one of the parts had this robot, that I fkn loved!
On the way back, there were, of course, more walls to be seen – but probably my favourite one was this wall that Meggs, Ha-Ha and a bunch of others had painted when they were in San Fran for the Young & Free exhibition – a great wall to see on the last part of our journey throughout the mission.
Ended up the whole day exhausted and tired, and having a pint at the infamous Zeitgeist bar – felt like I was back in Fitzroy!!
Again, thanks to Pix, Purp and the others for a wonderful day – if you get yourself to San Fran, you can easily lose an entire day, or more, just walking the back streets of the Mission in search of great art – you cant miss it, its everywhere.
Check out a mass of photos of all the walls we saw in San Fran below … this is the largest collection of pics I’ve posted up here before, there’s about 280 of them – I could have culled, but there’s so damn much that’s good, and I wanted to document it all! In the next two part of my San Fran posts, I’ll post up a bunch more shots stuff from Haight and the rest of the city, murals, stickers and a visit to the newest minted Zero Friends store!
Enjoy – there’s several pages of these images so browse through by clicking on the numbers below!
For thousands of years, philosophers and mathematicians have been pondering the deepest intricacies of our lives – seeking the answers to mysteries that have plagued mankind since he first glanced up towards the stars. Foremost in these explorations, has been the desire to unlock one of the most enigmatic keys to the nature of our existence – the fundamental order attributed to our physical universe by the rules and laws governing the geometric form.
As an artist, Tom Vincent not only pays homage to these millennia of explorations, but further attempts to add to the vast amount of knowledge, theory and thinking that surrounds their inherent philosophical musings. By vigorously expanding both his knowledge and understanding of the many facets of geometric lines and shapes, yet never eschewing nor relying on their mathematical underpinnings, Tom breaths life into what is often an overplayed motif in contemporary art – the results of which are astonishingly beautiful.
Juxtapositions of intricate lines are enfolded within simplicity, shapes meandering between true and construed – all held together by an eager willingness to expound upon the colourful flow of spectrums to which each shape is attributed – it is, simply, art that entrances and beguiles you with its depth.
Tom is an artist who has designed, illustrated and painted walls with spatterings of aerosol across Melbourne, who has now come forth with a unique vision that sits apart from his youthful exuberances, and yet still maintains the trappings of "rebellion" that harken back to his formative years – for what is there more rebellious, than to try to challenge people to see the hidden beauty in the underpinnings of our existence, beauty to which we are, shamefully, all too often oblivious to?
I grabbed an interview with Tom on the eve of his show, Toroidal Fields, this coming Thursday at the Anna Pappas Gallery in Prahran – I hope that you enjoy it, and find yourself as enamoured of his work and artistic philosophies as I.
Tell us about how you first picked up a pen and brush and started doing art – when you were young, what first gave you a feel for being creative?
When I was young I was always drawing in my spare time, just doodling stuff. Then it sort of evolved into drawing stuff onto the bottom of my surfboards and skateboards. I began snowboarding a lot around the age of 13/14 and I was doing graffiti in my downtime and the summer.
A few years later, I ended up breaking some collarbones at a time when I had a lot of snowboarding ahead of me – doing graffiti was a release from the frustration of that happening. From there it pretty much sucked me in and I stopped the snowboarding.
You have an early history of having done a bit of graffiti around Melbourne – can you tell us a bit about it, and how you got into it? What made you want to get up and paint, and who, at the time, were influential in you starting out?
My first exposure to graffiti was when I saw Reset and Sirum painting in the lane way at the back of my house, it just sucked me in right from that moment. I watched them for probably 2 days and I immediately started to mess around with some sketches.
I kept seeing them when they would re-do the wall every 6 months or so and I would be out there watching and learning from them. I started to paint my first piece on our back wall in the lane way and they saw this and gave me a few pointers and showed me some tricks. I had some friends at school who were also into it at the time and we just started to paint. I used to get a lot of motivation from seeing all the really good pieces around and it just made me want to get better and paint more.
Have you done any sort of formal training in terms of art and design – what in the way of artistic education has contributed to your work today?
I haven’t had any formal training with art & design, instead I ended up sharing a studio with David Milne. David is a brilliant hard-edge painter and his technique is spot on. I was in that studio for about 3 years straight out of high school, I ended up living there for a period and it was just a constant barrage of art.
It was exactly what I needed to develop my work, I was completely sub-merged in it.
Tell us a bit about the studio spaces you’ve found yourself working in over the years – what, especially, do you believe that a studio space can contribute to an artists work, and what kind of activities do you usually find yourself conducting in the studio, beyond painting?
I’ve had my fair share of spaces over the few years and i believe it is important to have a work space that is comfortable for you, by that I mean a space that allows you to focus 100% on your work. But it is also good if there are like minded artists around that can give you some feedback on your work and to do some fun things along the way.
Often I find that it is a very fine line between being much too serious or far too relaxed. I guess in the best places that line is blurred and it allows you to maintain a steady work output whilst having a relaxed feel.
Tell us a bit about how you came to be exhibiting at Anna Papas gallery, and why you chose there for this most recent show?
Anna was kind enough and helped me out by showing me, she is a lovely person and I have a lot of respect for her gallery. I really enjoy the actual space that she has as well, and I had always dreamed of showing my work there. She has a really good stable of artists that span a variety of mediums and it was something that I wanted to be involved with.
In terms of the show – I know you’ve been working on it for some time now, and that you had a big bulk of it completed a while back, but what in the duration of putting it together changed in regards to what you were producing, and how did time help to shape the final product as it now stands?
In the beginning the work was changing quite rapidly. Initially I had it all planned out, but as the weeks went by the plans changed. The ideas remained the same, the actual images were changing. Then I just began painting – I decided that I had lost myself in the planning stages so I moved on. I felt the work should evolve organically so I allowed it to take its natural course.
Having the time allowed me to really step back from what I had made and connect the pieces more intricately. I have had the work finished for a month or so now so it has been quite a relaxing time in the lead up to this show, something I don’t think will happen every time.
Some would say that the work that you are doing now is a direct opposite to the earlier work you were doing with graffiti and design – well, I would! How have the two directions coalesced or did you make a conscious decision to move towards a more contemporary feel in your work, or did it just happen in an organic fashion?
The two different styles of work are vastly different. I can tell that the current work is coming from a different pattern of thought than when I was doing graffiti.
When I was in the very early stages of exploring geometry, I was still painting a lot of graffiti. It was always a conscious decision that I wanted to step away from graffiti on canvases, so when I had my first studio I would be painting inside, then I would also paint outside and they were two completely different things. I begun to slow down with graffiti and really focus on painting canvases with out even really thinking of graffiti.
I always had ideas that I couldn’t fit into the graffiti model, so to speak, and this other direction has really allowed me to pursue these ideas.
What is it about geometry that you find most alluring? Some would say that geometry can be a trap of rigidity, others find it the bare basics of the world around us, and yet others relish the mathematical of it – which of these most speaks to you, or doesn’t? What other ideals of geometry most excite you?
I am completely fascinated at how geometry has constructed the material world. Geometry might seem simple to many people, but there are still a lot of things we don’t understand about shapes.
There is a massive history with geometry dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and it is pretty obvious how good their understanding of geometry was. I do love the rigidity of geometry also, but exploring the boundaries of this notion is more interesting to me. I tend to stay away from the mathematical side of it, as this is not my forte, but I will still get the compass out and check the angles etc.
I am a big fan of Plato, Archimedes and the rest of the ancients – to me it is a wild notion that I am learning the same things they were.
You also have a pretty interesting development cycle when it comes to the colours that you use in your work – having seen some of your test pieces and a lot of your work in progress, you’re quite meticulous when it comes to colour placement – is it the technical side of colour variation and spectrum’s that fascinates you, or the sheer variety? What theories of colour do you most look to when utilising it in your work, if any?
I tend not to try and go by any theories with colour selection, I usually have a few colours I’m particularly interested in at a certain time.
Then, for me, its just a matter of exploring all the different variations of the select colours, seeing how they sit next to other colours and just feeling it out.
I tend to work through colours quite slowly, at first I might not even notice when a new colour starts emanating through my work but then I realise I am completely obsessed with it. I am constantly taking note of colours I see and it plays a big part in general life for me.
What do you hope comes out of this show, what is it that you are trying to say about Tom Vincent, the artist, with this work?
The ideal situation for me would be if everyone enjoys the work, they realise they know these shapes and begin to notice geometry in every aspect of life around them.
That is what I want out of art – to show people that these shapes are important, and that we don’t know enough about them. These shapes have been around us since this planet came into existence, and it remains the governing force in all of the planetary bodies we have found.
After this show, will you continue to investigate geometry in your work, or are there other facets of creativity that are piquing your curiosity? What’s in the future for Tom Vincent?
I will defiantly be continuing along this path, I don’t think I will ever be finished with geometry.
I have a few group shows in the pipelines for the end of the year, so I’m just working towards those and developing the work into a different aspect of this knowledge.
There’s a story I was told by someone in Singapore that really resonated with me on the topic of the arts, culture and freedom of expression, and it goes something like this -
“The government decided to build a new MRT (train) station, but, after it had been completed they decided not to open it. Instead, they left it un-used for a long time. Instead of actually letting the public use it, and have demand follow, they decided to wait for a time when they thought that there would be enough people using it to make it viable to run.
After some time of it being practically mothballed, some students decided that they would do a bit of a protest about it all. They made a whole bunch of shirts with a white elephant on it and gathered at the station – of course, this was quickly stopped. The t-shirt was then banned.”
I don’t know why, that of all the things that I saw, heard and learnt about Singapore during my stay, still resonates with me so much. In my eyes, it actually doesn’t show any kind of failing of what Singapore is culturally, but rather, it shows how much promise the city state has when it comes to underground art; as we all know, there just aint nothing better than a blank canvas!
Some people have actually realised this, and not too long ago a bunch of commissioned work went up down near the waterfront in several of the pedestrian tunnels – someone had told me about it, so I headed down to check it all out.
Its a pretty heavy foot traffic area, when I headed down there it seemed like it was something akin to the waterfront in Melbourne – lots of restaurants hawking to tourists, which is good – more exposure to the art. The RSCLs crew (ZERO, ANTZ, CLOGTWO, SKLO and SHEEP) had a whole tunnel all to themselves – I’m a big fan of these guys, they’ve done some amazing work around the region. They also had a few other guests join them in the project, from what it looks like.
Funnily enough, Time Out Singapore just did an article about it all a week or so ago, and you can read a bit more about it all here – but its a really good overview of the whole thing. They said that they were” ” specially commissioned without having to go through the Open Call process, as the SRO believed that they were the top local street artists and wanted to send the message that this was the type of art they wanted for the project.” but exactly how much free reign they had over what they could do, I don’t know – probably not too much, given what I’ve heard about the somewhat authoritarian nature of imposed curatorial control over public art in the city.
From the Time Out article – ” After completing their research and going through a brainstorming session, ‘we just drew nonstop,’ according to Anthony Chong (aka ANTZ). Their piece features various characters from the past that have played important roles in shaping Singapore. ‘A parallel is drawn to the present, where the many business suits of our current labour force form a new metaphorical building of Singapore. [They] still drive the city with the equivalent hard work,’ says Chong. He adds that ‘this is an opportunity [for us to] try out new techniques and learn from each other, but we seldom expect or stick to the plan. Art is organic and therefore our piece will evolve according to the previous elements or the negative space left.’”
It is really a fkn gorgeous piece, too, and one that goes a long way to showing exactly what the talented community in Singapore can do to these public spaces if they are given the opportunity to do something with their own vigour.
The RSCLS tunnel at Elgin Bridge however isnt the only one, there are several others – I only had a chance to check out one or two more … one that I did like, however, was a duo team – I’m pretty sure by the name of Starry Eyed Dreamers.
Though the larger images were pretty cool, it was the small, tiny pasteups that were found dispersed across the wall that really piqued m interest. They *almost* seemed out of place, but were arranged in different areas of the overall work in some form of thoughtful manner, sitting and resting on edges and disused spaces. This shit was really fun quirkily cool.
At the moment, one of the big issues in Singapore is a report that by 2030 there will be 7 million people in the country – too many, Singaporeans say, and couple that with the estimate that the population could be “half foreign” by that time .. well. Public amenities such as healthcare are being stretched, public transport is heavily crowded, things are getting even more expensive – they know they already pay a hefty, insanely expensive cost of living, but they do so willingly, for the quality of life that the meritocratic government provides – and damn, but its a good quality of life. For many, however, that quality of life seems to be slipping, and they wonder exactly what it is that they are paying out of the ass for, especially given the most recent population projections, and the issues that such a large increase will bring.
At the same time, however, the government is starting to pump money into “the arts” – but it all feels a little contrived, from my outside point of view. Everything is curated, there are laws, regulations and permits required for any kind of public work of art (remember, this is a country where, technically, it is also illegal to gather in groups of more than 8 without a permit, apparently).
After checking out the Riverwalk area, I headed down to a small skatepark next to Summerset MRT station. I don’t know the legality of painting here, but it seems as if people paint here anyways. There were a bunch of pieces up – it was also one of the only places in the city that I actually saw stickers, thank fuck!
I especially loved this “wrapup” of a piece on gladwrap – it was good to see the artists in SG being innovative and making their own spaces!
From the skatepark, I walked over to the National Youth council building, which I had heard was a “legal” place to paint … but, again, with a catch. It seems as if even spaces that area actually able to be “legally” painted suffer from the authoritarian curatorial control, with a sign up telling artists that if they wish to paint, that they can feel free to send in a submission to see if they can be allowed to paint there. Somehow, I don’t think that a top rated street artist such as Lush would ever get permission to do something …
That said, it was another space in the inner city that I actually saw the potential of the Singapore street art scene. Artists of all skill levels seems to have painted there, and it really looked as if the Youth Council was trying to be a bit open minded as to what went up – from characters to pieces. Still, obviously as a Youth Arts space the calibre was wildly varied, but it was great to see. I have also been told that this space is becoming harder to paint at, instead of easier – I don’t know, I didn’t really have time in Singapore (given that Id been laid out sick for several days) to find out, damnit.
Next time, I’ll see how easy or hard it is to get a spot to paint there, and what kind of curatorial controls they actually have in place.
Both of these areas are great spots in Singapore to check out street art – they are very, very central, and though there isn’t too much there, it does look as if it is a fairly active area.
I also happened to come across a small cafe down in the bowls of Far East Plaza that I really thought was cool – with work by ANTZ, DEM and Clogtwo amongst others. I couldn’t get the greatest shots, but its worth the visit if you are in the city to take a look at it!
Most of the galleries that I went to in my stay were full of the same kind of imagery that gives me the jeebies in Australia. Boring, overplayed iconic landscapes, portraits or stuff that gives the word “contemporary” a foul taste in my mouth. Of course, then there is the Asiatic influence – and a heavy dose of mainland styled work. Not having been exposed to a lot of this form of art, including the pop-surrealism works that have some prevalence, it was all rather intriguing – but again, it still felt quite sedate. There is one, however, that I loved – Kult Gallery – which I’ll cover in another editorial post as I managed to get a great interview with the man behind it all.
Perhaps, instead of just putting money towards the arts in a curatorial fashion, the nation of Singapore needs to try a new tact – and maybe just loosen up a little. Let the artists have a bit more control over what they want to do, rather than what the state will or will not let them do. Give them more spaces to express themselves – there are plenty of walls across the city that could use a lick of colour; and there are insanely talented artists there who would be more than willing to fill them.
Money helps, without a doubt, but you can’t buy culture – and in my short stay there, as you can see, has proven to me beyond a doubt that there is a vibrant merging underground art scene that could quite possibly be the saviour of the arts in Singapore, and create the true artistic culture that the government desires.
I have to admit, for all my somewhat critical viewpoint (it’s not my city, after all, and I really have only scratched the surface and don’t really know all that much about it) – I truly fkn love Singapore. If you love art, then its there for you to see, its not a wasteland by any measure, you just have to dig a little deeper for the beating heart of it all. Its my firm opinion that Singapore could well become a truly regional hub for creative culture in SE Asia.
Its not just me that thinks this – I recently read an article by Sheele Savenada over at Yahoo Entertainment (I know, I know) who wrote an article on the after effects of Sticker Ladys arrest (who, thankfully, was only recently found guilty of mischief, not vandalism), and the state of Singaporean underground art – she summed it up quite eloquently by saying
“The dichotomy that exists [in Singaporean art} seems to be tied to bringing a sense of balance to art forms that are viewed as being on the fringes of the art world, and do not have the support or acceptance that more traditional forms garner. But for the arts scene to flourish truly, then perhaps the dampers need to come off so that obstacles aren't quite so insurmountable for those who express themselves through street art."
I agree with this wholeheartedly - this has been a two part article, and I know that when I return to Singapore that I'll be writing even more about it. Being a street artist in Singapore seems like it is a hard thing, but I definitely think that all of the artists hard work will be rewarded in the future. Everything is there for it to really blow up in Singapore, truly, it just needs to be given a little breathing room.
Check out a shitload of the photos I got of the Riverwalk, as well as the Skateparks and Graffiti Cafe below!! As you can see, there's a fair bit there ....
The other night I was home reading blogs, when my good friend Thomas Spiteri messaged me… “Dude… Vhils is in Australia!! He’s in Sydney” he said. If he’d been speaking I know he would have been screaming, I could tell he was excited, and shit so was I! I immediately started googling and found out where he was going to be and quickly emailed the gallery.
Vhils needs no introduction. If you don’t know him or his work, you should, so google it. Here’s the interview. Because of the heads up Thomas gave me I let invited him to ask a couple of the questions. Here’s what Vhils had to say!
Vhils Rio De Janeiro 2012 – Photo by Joao Moreira
Vhils in Shanghai 2012 – Photo by Joao Moreira
LM: What does your name mean?
Vhils: Vhils is just a name I came up with when I was writing graffiti. It has no meaning, it was purely chosen for the letters, which were some of my favourite to write. Like most other writers I went through a few tags before I settled on this one and when I began showcasing my work in exhibitions and galleries I decided to use it alongside my real name.
LM: What tools do you use to make your amazing chiseled sculptures?
Vhils: For walls I use spray paint and ordinary paint for the rough sketch I trace, then hammers, chisels and Makita drills to carve the pieces. For other media, like wood, I use a Dremel rotary tool and chisels. The billboards are cut with a cutting knife and the metal plates are engraved and corroded by acid and then are exposed to the elements to blur the image and gain some rust, etc.
LM: How do you select the characters for your walls? Do they have any meaning behind them?
Vhils: When I first started out, I would use images I cut out from magazines and newspapers, but today I mostly use photographs me or someone from my team have taken in the streets of the place we’re working in. The great majority of these are of ordinary, unknown citizens. This was always my objective, to work with unknown people, to somehow empower them. The idea is to contrast regular people with the over-photoshopped, over-glamourised images presented by advertising, to question the idea of these modern icons and render the city space more humanised in some way, but with real people. In some projects the people portrayed have a strong connection with the place the piece was carved in, like the inhabitants of the Morro da Providência slum in Rio, whose houses had been pulled down in a major urban renewal project the local government is undertaking with huge consequences for the community. These were carved in what remained of their old homes, so the connection here is deeply emotional.
TS: We see your mesmerising murals appearing all over the world. Does the culture of each country play a big part in the inspiration behind each artwork?
Vhils: Yes it does, even when it’s not immediately apparent. The process and tools are essentially the same, and the conceptual approach likewise, but there is always a connection with the place I’m working in at the time – from the general feeling the city or location give me, to local colours and materials. The people portrayed are mostly local as I stated above, and in most cases this is the most direct connection with the place.
TS: Can you tell us a bit about your transition from the typical street art/graffiti tools to what you are using recently?
Vhils: Most of what I’m doing today actually stems from my graffiti days. This includes some of the tools but also some of the ideas behind my work. I’ve always liked working with abrasive tools and materials, and this comes from the more extreme side of graffiti, from carving tags out with cutters and etching acid, for example. Most people think of spray paint when thinking of graffiti, but for a writer anything that helps get your name up does the job, whether it’s scratching it into a surface with a spark plug or corroding it with acid, brake fluid, acetone, etc. When I first started working with stencils I was just doing the ordinary thing, creating images and giving them depth and contrast by superimposing different layers. The idea of reversing this process – to create images by cutting into surfaces and removing layers – came as I began using old billboard posters which in Portugal are commonly pasted over each other and create these thick amalgamations, which I started cutting into to create compositions. I also realised I could blend this process with the notion of creative vandalism I used to follow when I was doing more hard-core graffiti. One thing led to another and I moved on to walls, where I began using power tools to carve pieces. The basic concept is still the same, though: using destructive means in order to create. I’m always on the lookout for interesting tools and processes.
LM: Where’s your favourite place that you’ve painted/worked?
Vhils: I always feel unable to give a straight answer to this question! I’ve enjoyed working in so many places, cities and countries, and in so many different circumstances, that it becomes very hard to chose one as my all-time favourite. The projects I worked on in Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro last year were very special, both due to the circumstances and the time my team and I spent there (2 months in China and 1 month in Brazil), but I’ve enjoyed all the others just as much. I’m really enjoying working in Sydney at the moment!
LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like?
Vhils: As I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road, travelling between places, I do a lot of the planning and digital work in many odd places, including on trains, airport lounges, etc. In the case of Sydney, for instance I already had a few things and ideas organised before I arrived here, but the main physical work was done here in the place where the exhibition is to take place. I’ve just recently finished setting up a new studio in Lisbon though, and that’s where I’m planning on doing most of the work from now on. It used to be an old car repair workshop and has lots of space and even a goods lift to carry materials and pieces to the basement where these can be stored. It still needs a bit of work, though, but we’ll get there.
LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?
Vhils: First of all to realise that people like my work and are interested in what I’m doing – this is hugely rewarding in itself. And then the opportunity this path has given me to travel around the world and connect with so many different people and different cultures, being able to see what we share in common and also what makes us different and just being able to experience it in person. I have learnt a lot over the last few years.
TS: Who and what inspires Vhils?
Vhils: Many things and many people have inspired me throughout the years. I always find it difficult to be precise, as I am often impressed or inspired by things that seem trivial at the time, or things I’m not even consciously aware of. I’m very interested in history and cities and landscapes and travelling and different cultures and music and films and too many other things to mention. I like the feeling of being a stranger in a city and just watching how things unfold, how people live and behave and react, how things work or don’t work, how things are organised and done. I like the chaos of the urban environment and the different contrasts the city offers.
TS: Can you tell us a bit about the process of your street murals?
Vhils: In basic terms, I start out by working on different elements in my sketchbook and then I digitise these and work them on the computer. I usually divide images into three colours to give the image some depth – this is basically like working on a stencil. I then either project these onto the wall and paint them, or paint them directly, depending on the complexity and the scale. I use black and shades of grey, then mark out the negative spaces in the portrait. I use regular paint, then spray paint, then a brush. Then with the help of my team, we start the carving process, using chisels, hammers and drills. For the larger pieces we also use a scissor lift or elevated platform.
TS: Tell us a bit about the earlier years of Vhils, What was the street art/graffiti scene like in Portugal growing up and how did you become the artist you are today?
Vhils: I got into graffiti when I was about 10 years old, and then took it up seriously when I was thirteen. At first it was just tagging on the way to school and so on, then it became an obsession and I began skipping school to go bomb trains. I lived close to one of Lisbon’s main suburban lines and for a few years that became my world: bombing, studying the yards, planning missions on my own or hooking up with other writers. Then I joined the 2S/3D and LEG crews and started venturing out further afield – painting trains in other lines around Lisbon, then the rest of Portugal and finally travelling around Europe just to paint trains. Although I’m still into train writing and bombing, I’ve always been interested in trying out new things and experimenting with new tools and materials. The scene in Lisbon back then was mostly focused on bombing with a few good writers also doing walls and hall of fame. There were a few other people who had been doing stencils and other stuff for years but it wasn’t so popular and then sometime around 2003 the street art thing exploded and people started getting into it, influenced by what was taking place in Barcelona, which is not so far. I learnt later that there had been a thriving stencil scene in Lisbon in the mid 1980s, influenced by the Paris wave, but this had died out before my time. Graffiti had also started in the late 1980s, and boomed around 1997. Around 2003/2004 I began experimenting with stencils, paste ups and stickers. I immediately became aware of the stencil’s potential. It allowed me to focus on the conceptual side at home, then simply focus on painting while in the street. It also enabled me to explore other imagery and create other types of work. I also realised the results were much more accessible to ordinary people and I became interested in exploring this line of communication. Things just evolved naturally from there. I also became interested in exhibiting my work and started organising a few amateurish shows with friends, and this eventually led to the creation of the Visual Street Performance in 2004/05, which became an annual collective show (held until 2009) and the biggest graffiti/street art show in Portugal to date. In 2006 I was invited to join the Vera Cortês Art Agency, one of Lisbon’s leading art galleries which was a great break for me, and the following year I moved to London to study at Central St Martins and things just picked up from there.
LM: If you had to give one bit of advice to a street artist starting out, what would it be?
Vhils: This is always tough to answer, as people and the circumstances in which they live and work are very different. I think if people are both serious and passionate about their work they will keep at it regardless of the setbacks. So if you believe in what you do and think you have it, persevere. I also think it’s important for people to realise that street art is what you do in the street – non commissioned, unauthorised work – there is no pay-off but personal gratification and that’s the way it should be. Don’t start putting up work in the street because you’re looking to get signed up by a gallery. Gallery work is another kettle of fish altogether. And so is public art, which is mainly what we’re doing nowadays with these festivals and commissioned pieces. I’m fortunate to work in all these settings, but I still also put up work in the street, illegally, and still feel there is nothing like it. So, above all, just enjoy it.
LM: We’re excited about your show Dissolve, What do you have planned for the rest of 2013?
Vhils: Thanks, so am I. After Sydney I’ll be travelling over to Fremantle in Western Australia to do a few walls. After that I fly out to Puerto Rico to work on some more walls, and then down to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where I will have a solo show in April and will publish a book on the project I did there last year in Morro da Providência, one of the city’s oldest slums. After that it’s back to Lisbon for a short while to start working on several other projects. Fortunately there’s no lack of interesting projects, and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy well into next year.
Vhils has a show opening tomorrow night in Sydney tomorrow night. See my next post.
I was having a cigarette outside a gallery opening some years back when I spotted my first Will Coles piece. No, it wasn’t in the gallery itself – it was stuck up high on a bit of guttering, glued in place - I’d only noticed it as I’d been half drunkenly staring up into space. To be honest, at the time I had no idea what the fuck it was (some kind of concrete gun stuck to the wall?) but it piqued my interest enough to mention it to someone, who told me all about him, and therein began my love for his work …
Will Coles sculptural “street art installations” surreptitiously blend in with the cities surroundings. Often, unless you’re really looking for them, you just wont see them – and it is this subtlety to his work that makes me believe his work to be amongst some of the finest examples of Street art in the world.
Downpipes, awnings, concrete slabs – sometimes covertly place but very often, so overtly gifted to the street that one wonders if it is deliberately placed or just a “natural” part of the urban environment.
This is the inherent beauty behind his pieces – the harsh reality of our concrete laden world made manifest with attitudinal pisstaking and poetry, consumer goods laden with solidity and non-functioning precision – replicas of reality, twisted into new forms of surreal visages and repetitiously cast, often antagonistic urban icons.
We had the chance to shoot a few questions off to Will about his work just before his show, and what we got back was absolutely superb. You might notice that we’ve done this one a little differently – Will was a pretty busy dude the past few weeks, so he hand wrote out the answers to our interview questions. Given Wills raw expositions of his work out on the streets, we thought it only fitting to post this one up just as raw, and put it up exactly as he gave it to us!
Read on for a grand insight into the mans work! Click the images if you need a bigger version, or check out the PDFs of the pages below … many thanks Will, Melbourne definitely fucking loves you too.
After the hectic bustle of Kuala Lumpur and an overeating dose of food for Chinese New Year, I headed back to Singapore. My first few days there were, yep, full of eating, and getting back to do some proper exploring was pretty exciting. In all my previous wanderings, I just hadn’t seen any signs of graff or street art. Not a single piece, or tag …
I mean, I didn’t see anything. It was so clean, so tidy and so manicured that I was a little despondent – I’d been told by so many people that if I wanted to see street art, then I was pretty fucked in Singapore.
Late last year I’d also read some news over at BSA that a Singaporean street artist, known only as “sticker Lady”, who had put up some really fkn cool stickers across the city on pedestrian crossing buttons, was facing a hefty dose of potential jail time and/or the cane for doing so. Thankfully, as far as I know, that didn’t eventuate and from all reports the legal system went quite easy on her – but it didn’t really fill me full of much optimism for any potential visit there.
Then, not too long before I left, I saw a piece in Melbournes Blender Laneway by two Singaporean artists, Ink & Clog – and I fkn loved it. I ended up interviewing them for the first issue of our upcoming print magazine, Damn It! (you’ll have to buy a copy when its out later this month to read it, but its a good one!) and my feelings on the place started to shift – here were two amazingly talented artists who were really making some headway with their art in a place reminiscent to Australia back in its zero tolerance, culturally wastelanded 90s period.
I kept in contact with Ink & Clog, and, a week after I arrived back from KL (Id been practically bed ridden when I got back) they invited me out to visit for the afternoon. Thats when discovered Sultans Gate – and my faith began to be restored.
After arriving in Sultans Gate (thankfully the bus took me right there, and I didn’t have to wander around wondering where the fuck I was) I walked down the street, and, almost as soon as I looked I saw something that had been missing from all my glances around Singapore – tags. You have no idea how much even seeing one tag restored my faith – here it was, visible proof that there really was something cool going on in Singapore.
Wandering down the road, I bumped into Ink & Clog heading to go and grab some food, so after a few bites they took me on a quick tour of the somewhat more artistic side of Singapore.
Our first stop was Blackbook – run by Slac Satu and crew. This is the place you go to get your paint, people. They had a good range, too, mostly the local paint – Zenith which was pretty damn affordable and much cheaper than anything we get in Australia. I didn’t try it out, but the colours looked good and I was assured it was pretty decent.
Blackbook being an artist run shop, it didn’t stop at the paint supply – it also has a whole bunch of art from Slac and others adorning the walls, so if you want to pick yourself up some pretty mad art direct from the source, it’s all there for you to see on the walls.
Blackbook used to have a big wall erected that they could paint on that ran behind the shop – I’m not sure if they were asked to take it down or whatever, but it wasn’t present when I visited. I was told that they wanted to erect it again and I hope they do – given that there are almost fuck all places for people to paint with any freedom in Singapore (more on that in part 2 of this article!), I reckon anything is better than nothing. As it stands, they did have a whole bunch of boards about the place that had been painted on – and they all rocked.
I highly recommend visiting these guys when you’re in Singapore – its around the back from Ink & Clog and Bein Store.
Oh yeah, and their cats were all pretty cool. Cats rule (sorry Lukey!).
We then stopped in at a really cool store right next door to Ink & Clogs studios – Bein Store. I loved this place, not only did it have some amazingly cool threads and other locally made products (the freakin watches there were mad), but it was packed full of sweet art as well.
One of the high lights of also checking out Bein was getting to see a bunch of the Hell Lotus custom toys on the shelves.
I’d heard of the “Hell Lotus works that Clog had done, and I remember a passage he said in the interview I did with him for Damn It! that didn’t make it into the piece -
“The Hell Lotus was initially inspired by a trip to Hong Kong in 2011 together with ANTZ, ZERO and Neo,” Clog explained in the interview answers he sent through to me for the Damn It! interview.
“We visited the giant sitting Buddha at a mountain tops. I was so blown away that I made a sketch of it in my black book. It was an illustration of sitting Buddha with his head splitting open, revealing a skull, encapsulated in it. Signifying that in us, there’s God, and in God, there’s us. When I got back to Singapore, I was approached by Mighty Jaxx to design a toy for them and the splitting Buddha head illustration caught their eyes. A few changes were made soon after due to religion sensitivity, and was adjusted accordingly to remain the same ideology but yet subtle.
The design of the Hell Lotus got thrown back and forth to make sure that design are firmed, and the prototyped was also checked that the artists impression of the Hell Lotus was perfectly done for the buyers. That was the most important stage for me, making sure that people receive what I received in my head.”
So, having already been worded up on these pieces, seeing them in the flesh was pretty rad. The guys at Bein were welcoming and friendly, and looked pretty proud of their space – and the should be, there’s not much like it in Singapore and we hope to see them do great things in the future.
We then made our way next door to Ink & Clogs new studios that they’ve recently set up – inside, was a veritable treasure trove of cool shit. Paintings, toys, materials and all the things needed to create amazing work – and there certainly was a lot of that around.
Having had a chance to peruse a bunch of their work, I was pretty well left just wanting to buy a whole bunch of it – alas, canvases and backpacks are not really the greatest of travelling companions, but I now have my heart set on getting something for my walls in future!
Of course, there was the obligatory stickered out fridge in their studios as well – with a couple of pretty recongisable additions to it!
I didn’t have a hell of a lot of time to hang out, unfortunately, so just before I left they gave me the only kind of gift an artist really loves a piece in my blackbook. I can’t thank them enough for this, I absolutely love it – and what impressed me also was just how quickly they did it together. This is a well oiled artistic duo, and in under ten minutes they were done and dusted with this gem.
My quick visit to Sultans Gate gave me a real sense of an underground artistic community amongst the high octane, business driven world of Singapore. Fortunately, I can now say for a fact that all those people who said that there isn’t anything worth seeing in the Singaporean underground arts scene were wrong. It may not be everywhere and all over the place like in Melbourne, but its most definitely there.
In the next part of this article, I’ll cover a lot more of the actual art I saw up on the walls, my feelings on the overall “scene” and “artistic culture” of Singapore, as well as a place that is doing some pretty cool shit in Singapore that I’m sure you’ll all love – Kult Gallery.
Until then, check out the rest of the pics I got from around Sultans Gate, Blackbook, Bein and Ink & Clog Studios.
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.
Back in 2010, when I first started Invurt, one of the very first interviews we ran was with two of my favourite artists – Dabs Myla. They were, at that time, just settling in to their new life in Los Angeles, having emigrated to the USA in the pursuit of artistic happiness and a fully fledged creative life.
There’s no doubt in my mind that in the past three years Dabs Myla have not only discovered their artistic dream across the seas, but that they have also forged ahead and made a mark beyond expectations. They are now, undoubtedly, one of the most beloved artistic teams in todays street/graffiti/low brow/pop (well, they do cross it all, really!) artistic culture, and they have garnered a legion of dedicated fans across the globe. Wielding either can or brush with a down to earth, fun loving spirit, Dabs Myla are, quite simply, fucking cool examples of what can be accomplished by feverously pursuing “The Dream”.
Three years after their last Australian show, Hollywood & Western, at the much missed Per Square Metre gallery, Dabs Myla are now returning to Melbourne to do it all again – and this time, they’re painting and installing up a plethora of grand shit at Armadales Metro Gallery with their new show “All Good Things“.
Read on for our latest interview with this amazing pair, and for a few sneak peaks of their coming show …
It’s been a while since we last caught up! So, situation report? Ha! Still in LA, still painting up a storm – but what has been the biggest change or challenge you’ve encountered since we last spoke back in 2010?
MYLA: I guess in the last three years not too much has changed!!
Just painting a lot, we worked ourselves even harder in 2012 than I even thought was possible! It was a really busy year!
I’m not sure if there has been any major creative challenges specifically. We always put a lot of ourselves into everything we do. If it’s a wall or a painting or a T shirt design or whatever we always push ourselves as hard as possible to make it better than the last which can be challenging on a daily basis.
You’ve been keeping some great company over there, with collabs with a whole bunch of different artists over the past few years – can you tell us some of the more interesting and cool work you’ve done with artists in recent times?
DABS: We are really lucky to have so many ultra talented friends! We love to work on walls or different projects with people that we look up to and get along with!
We do always have a great time working with our friend CRAOLA. Even though we have pretty different styles things seems to work out great when we collaborate. Part of that might be the juxtaposition of our styles … but I think it also comes down to having similar personalities and work ethics!
Miami Miami, tell us a bit about the most recent Miami Basel – how did the painting go? (that hand brushed truck you did looked rad) What did you see that blew you away? Why should everyone go to Miami Basel at least once in their lifetime, and tell us all the things we should be jealous of for not having been there!
DABS:This year was the 4th year we’d been to Miami for Art Basel, and it was another fun year last year!
It’s always a good time … that’s why I think we keep finding ourselves back there every year.
This year we painted a big wall with our good friend TYKE/WITNESS and CRAOLA. It was one of those walls that just flowed so easily! We all know each other so well, and have worked together a lot … so it all came together pretty effortlessly! We also did a private commission on a truck while we where there that had been organized earlier in the year.
We did the whole truck with brush and acrylic. It was something we had been wanting to try for a while, and we were really happy with the outcome!
So, Trekell brushes – how good are they? These are the same company that put out the Greg Simkins brushes, aren’t they? Will we be seeing any Dabs Myla brushes in the future?
MYLA: Trekell’s brushes suit both of us perfectly….we both have specific types of brushes that we love to use and Trekell have both kinds. I really like using very small fine brushes that have fairly short hairs for painting the details into the buildings, etc, and DABS has always liked using brushes that are kinda like sign writers brushes which have very long hairs.
When we moved to the States, Craola gave us a few Trekell brushes to try out and since then that’s the only brush we have ordered. Last year we were approached by them to join their artist family which we were super stoked about!
You just recently did an installation and some work for a Hello Kitty show back in December, how did you get involved with that and how did it all go? … so, is Hello Kitty cool? I guess it is, haha, but how do you make it cooler? :)
MYLA: Sanrio is a pretty rad company! They have done a lot of amazing artist collaborations and art shows. We have been involved in a few exhibitions in the past and it has always been really sweet.
For their most recent NY show we were approached by them and our friend Roger Gastman to make a series of paintings and build an installation. Like always. it was fun working with their characters!
I think its a good fit for us, so we are always down to work with them.
So! Tell us about about this next show you have coming up, and what we can expect from it all? What are you going to be bringing us?
DABS: Our show in Melbourne is going to be at Metro Gallery and is titled ‘ALL GOOD THINGS …’
We have made a new series of paintings and drawings for the show, and will be creating a big installation for the show too! This is the first show for us in Melbourne for three years … and we wanted to come correct!!
Hopefully we have!
Obviously, you’ve exhibited here a lot at some amazing galleries here in Melbourne (including Per Square!) – but how does showing at Metro, a higher end kind of space, affect your outlook and the work you’re producing for this homecoming?
DABS: It doesn’t really change anything from our end. We have gone about creating the work in the same way and haven’t really thought about the location or status of the gallery. The work and intent is the same!
… it just happens to be on the other side of the river!!
Do you believe you’re well and truly “living the dream”? One thing I’ve always been interested in … “once you’re living the dream” what takes place of that striving to “live the dream” … and what are you dreaming up for 2013?
MYLA: We are living the dream!! I couldn’t imagine ever being this happy and fulfilled in my life! Working and doing what we want every day and doing it together!
I think, for us, what takes place of “striving to live the dream” is to make sure that the “living the dream” doesn’t go away – and making sure it continues forever!
Big thanks to Dabs Myla for their time and images, as well as to Dave Russell for his progress shots of All Good Things …
Theres often a definitive focal point in the work of George Diamandis that does exactly what is intended – it draws in the viewers gaze, seeking the nexus of the work, and as your focus drifts, the detailed surrounds unravel themselves into a contiguous whole.
I first came across Georges work about a year ago, after a somewhat interesting journey up to Maitreya festival. From the initial glances at his sketchup, to the placement of colours and geometries across the boards he was using, for all its apparent chaotica of intersecting lines, there was nothing that wasn’t concisely planned.
Having worked within graffiti for many years, George has, like many others, begun to explore the richness of letters, form and geometry as an avenue towards fine art. From what we have seen thus far, this new direction has suited his form perfectly.
With his very first showing of work coming up at House Of Bricks, we caught up with the man to talk all things graffiti, the renaissance, mathematics and his move towards the gallery walls with a freshly invigorating, emboldened body of work …
So, tell us, back when you were younger – how did you start out? When did you first pick up a pen and start to draw?
In my family home, there was often paper and pens around. From a young age I would apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Being of the curious nature, naturally I would experiment with objects and test my surroundings. At a young age, I also took a liking to cursive and elaborate writing – especially when done with speed in fancy signatures and autographs.
How about graffiti? You have mentioned that you have, for the most part, been involved with graff for quite some time – can you tell us how you first started out in it?
I would regularly see graffiti in my neighbourhood, some writing that read: “Prodigal sons give birth to daughters” and in another location “Eat this information”. I didn’t know what it meant, or even that it was graffiti, but I questioned everything, how long was it there? Who wrote it? What did they mean? Why? Etc. It amused me nonetheless.
I remember seeing tags and pieces in the early 90’s when my parents would drive across the city to visit relatives and family friends homes, I took notice of it, and made connections with the names. I appreciated the style, but also that a person had travelled to this location well before me, and left their name for me and everyone else to see – “RB7” is a name that comes to mind.
Although I respected laws and customs to some extent, I didn’t fear the “destructive” act; in fact I didn’t really think about what I was doing, I just did what I liked because I could. I was bombing and piecing in Melbourne city from the age of 12, but over the years, sometimes, I would stop painting for months.
While most of my peers were getting heavily into drugs and violence, graffiti was my only escape; at the same time I could be creative and exercise physical activity. For example, climbing, running and cycling all over the city.
How about stories? Every writer has a story – what have been some of your most interesting ones of the things you’ve painted, and the people you’ve painted with, along the way …
There are too many stories and writers to mention. In brief, I think that, for trains, once you have the right approach to paint and bomb it gets simpler, and while exciting it was usually the same old story.
Conversely, the streets are interesting and complex, especially as a young boy when everything is new. So many unexpected things happened. Although the people of the night are funny and made for good stories, Melbourne can be a very aggressive city from the police with both their attitude and behaviour, to the general public who are usually alcohol fuelled while on the streets by night, and will usually not tolerate graffiti.
You have moved into fine art a lot more over the past few years – what actually prompted you to move more in the fine art direction? A lot of writers have moved into the “fine art” world these days – some hate it, some love it, most just accept that its a part of the game – what’s your take on it all?
I think that art and life are synonymous. You will find that the principals of art relate to all aspects of life for example: Unity, Harmony, Variety, Balance, Contrast, Proportion, Pattern and Rhythm. I studied art in high school but went on to study commerce at a university level and found the same relationships occurring in the planning, organising leading and control theories of business management. So for me, there is some truth in art. If you take away the letters in graffiti style and put it on a canvas all of a sudden it becomes abstract art … So it’s all the same to me, people get caught up in all these definitions, “street art” “tag” “vandalism”.
Having said that, graffiti should not be in art galleries, this is really when its not graffiti anymore … the illegal side is the spice. Free for the public. Real graffiti with no rules or authority to abide by, just pure art that is a truly human gesture.
Your work has a hell of a lot of geometry to it – we love it – where did this style emerge from, beyond graff? What is it with geometry and lines that you love the most?
The typical styles that were seen in the early 90’s graffiti of Australia, France, Germany and America are the basis of my graffiti culture. But I wanted to open myself and try to go towards new directions.
For my fine art, I am influenced by the romantic renaissance art of Italy and France from the 14th century that relied heavily on linear perspective and balance and thus geometry.
How about your use of colour? How important is colour in your work – most of the pieces we’ve seen have had a lot of vibrancy to them – is choosing a colour palette an innate thing, or do you put a lot of thought into it?
To be honest, I don’t care a lot of the time; I must be free when I paint, like I am on a trip … I paint what I want and when I want. I continue until the balance and other principals I spoke of earlier are right in my mind. After doing it many times, I have become better at getting the balance of colour right. It is just a matter of correctly using the principals or art.
As in Mathematics, we use quantity, structure, space, and change, to seek out patterns. Mathematics in Greek translates to “knowledge, study, and learning” I prefer to use paintings rather than equations to accomplish this.
Can you tell us a bit about the show you have coming up at House Of Bricks later this month? What kind of work will you be bringing to it, and what do you hope to get out of it yourself?
Well, it was never my intention to be an “artist” who exhibits work at galleries. I never showed people my art in the past. It was really the only thing that I could have complete control over, without someone trying to interfere with it. I began to show some people, and the girls really took a liking to it, which motivated me haha.
More importantly, and seriously speaking, I was lost, and my art was the only thing that I could turn to that would calm me. My art allows me to work hard and avoid vice and idleness with guaranteed results. My time and energy when painting leaves no room for philosophical speculation that can often overwhelm me. I had doubts about exhibiting but it is important for me to finish what I start. The exhibition will be made up of acrylic and ink paintings and drawings on canvas, card and paper, as well as some original prints.
Is this your first show, or have you done a couple before? What kind of shows and events have you worked or exhibited at?
I am an amateur with nothing to lose, just getting started; this will be my first exhibition.
The works have been painted mainly between 2010 – to present, however there is also some from as early as 2004 that I thought I would include. There will be around 25 artworks displayed. As for events, I was invited to paint at Maitreya festival in Victoria 2012, where I met you – it was a good time (thanks to Lach).
So, what will you be doing after the show? What other plans do you have to push your art in the coming years?
Who knows what I will be doing next, I don’t want to be labelled as such, I always need to spend time searching for new ideas and be creative. Perhaps the exhibition will open doors, and I will be able to collaborate with other artists for bigger projects involving film and music in the future. Peace to Dark Neggror and Zonk Vision!
As a conclusion some dedications:
Dedications to: Graffiti artists – WCA crew, Jumble (SDM), Renks (Melbourne) and MAC crew (Paris)
Other – DWS (homeboys), Deanne, Vittorio and Francesco, Kate Miller, Johanna Baudouin, also Alex Miller (Australian author), C.P Cavafy (Greek poet), Descartes (Search for truth by the light of nature) and Nietzsche – ZARATHUSTRA LIVES. – George Diamandis January 2013
The thing is, though, is that after the Jill Meagher tribute piece in Hosier Lane was painted over, the media (and many other media outlets) in all their “cant get news right” wisdom actually attributed a completely different piece as having painted over it.
“News” outlets such as the Herald Sun made a big song and dance about it, skerricked up some lame quote from someone who occasionally walks through the lane, as well as one from Robert Doyle, and made it out as if the piece being painted over was a terrible, heinous act by a bunch of vandals. Even worse, was that they didn’t even get onto the story until a week after the piece had actually initially been painted over – by then, they had already missed the story. Instead they decided to publish an image that wasn’t the correct piece, and then attempted to vilify a group of artists because they had painted graffiti over … a piece of graffiti.
The real story, however, was that the wall had initially been reclaimed by a bunch of awesome female artists paying both homage and respect to the “tribute” piece in the best way possible – by bringing attention to the plight of those affected by violence and sexual abuse. If anything was appropriate to replace that tribute to Jill Meagher, it was what these ladies did. Then, when you think it couldn’t get any worse, was that when the media outlets that reported on it were given the real story, they completely ignored it. It was no longer news to them, they’d all already magic’ed up their own sensationalist version of the truth and moved on to the next “news” cycle.
Imagine our surprise.
This story speaks for itself, directly from the artists who painted over the Jill Meagher tribute piece in Hosier lane two weeks ago. Unlike the Herald Suns, Channel 7, 3AW “news”, The Irish Times and The Suns (to name just a few) hugely incorrect version, this is what really happened down at Hosier Lane.
Please read on, and share it around – not just for the reason that it is the real story, but for fact that it is a wonderful act by a group of women who wanted to bring attention to the terrible actions of the darker side of humanity, and those who suffer because of them.
For the record a group of five women reclaimed that wall on Friday 26th October at 5pm. Why? Because it was our right, and to be perfectly honest, no-one else had the courage to do it.
After the tragic death of Jill Meagher, a visiting graffiti tourist decided it would be a nice gesture to show his respect by painting his condolences on a world famous wall – which at the time was covered with some of the most technically amazing, and aesthetically beautiful graffiti that Melbourne has ever been fortunate enough to see.
The irony is that this simple act showed an absolute disrespect to the artists whom he went over, as well as to the local Melbourne graffiti community. The mainstream media took hold of the story and ran with it. The Melbourne City council even proposed to ‘protect’ it.
Meanwhile, I decided that something had to be done about it. How dare this mural remain in my city? How dare the general population of Melbourne glorify a victim of sexual violence by sensationalizing an illegal graffiti mural? I was really fucking angry. I reached out to my local network of female graffiti artists and proposed that we reclaim the space during the official Reclaim The Night march on the last Friday of October. We took it back as a protest against sexual violence on women and children, and we took it back so that beautiful ephemeral art could once again be created on that wall for all to see.
Since that Friday night, several artists have painted on the wall. Unfortunately some of those artists were blamed for vandalizing the RIP Jill mural. I contacted each and every one of those online and printed news article journalists to provide our story and explain the reasons behind the re-paint, but not one of them wanted to hear it. Mainstream media don’t want the truth, they want sensationalism.
You know what? Fuck them! We own the streets and we will paint whatever we like on them.
You’ve heard my side of the story, here’s what the other ladies had to say.
I wanted to paint Hosier Lane because it’s the graff community’s wall.
It’s nice to be able to relax and paint in the city sometimes before work and it’s awesome to check out new pieces. 20 metres of wall, taken away from us permanently, was just wrong – the fact it was just a stomper which covered some really burner pieces, is just disrespectful. It’s one less spot to paint and that RIP mural belonged on the lines really.
We left Jill’s name anyway, 1m of wall for a tribute is fine with me.
I’m annoyed at the media for publishing an incorrect story. The family is probably feeling worse now because they’re being told that the stone placed where the body was found was removed and the tribute art was painted over. The media have done more damage than good (no surprises there). If they had the real story, they would have known the pieces covering the art was not only for Jill but for all women. It has also portrayed some graffiti artists as cold hearted – which simply isn’t the case. When the public and police saw us painting over the art and knew the reason, they were very understanding and supportive.
We all dream of a better world where violence and abuse is unheard of, unfortunately this is not the case. It happens on a daily basis to women of all shapes and age. Nearly two thirds (57%) of Australian women will experience assault in some form in their life time which develops long-term effects on all relationships and within the community. Quite clearly this is too much, this needs to be stopped. When I was invited to paint hosier lane on behalf of ‘Reclaim The Night’ I was wholeheartedly involved as this is an issue close to home. This was an opportunity to give me a voice and to use public space at night without fear, this should be an everyday right. We are all human and we all bleed red just because of gender, someone should not put restrictions on their lifestyle.
On the matter of painting over the RIP Jill mural, this was by no means any disrespect to her or her family, this was to raise awareness to the real and unfortunate attacks on women that occur on a daily basis. Traditionally Reclaim The Night is a march, however my interpretation is to say that we are never to blame for rape or violence. Those who commit the crimes are to be blamed, we demand the right to be able to live without fear and demand for an end to sexual violence so we can enjoy our freedom.
Reclaim the Night is a annual worldwide march by woman for woman. Victims of rape, mental or physical abuse and domestic violence need to stand tall together and demand our human rights as females, and to feel safe in our streets. Painting over this mural with female graffiti artists was in respect to what happened to Jill Meagher and all woman of all countries who have been sexually violated. This act of painting was to speak out to woman and girls that rape and violence is not on and needs to be stopped now.
When I was approached with this idea, I was honored to be able contribute and help raise awareness of ‘Reclaim the Night’ – what better place to spread the word and have the opportunity to speak to others passing by than Hosier Lane.
I hope a message was sent out to the public that what we did was not a sign of disrespect for painting over the mural, but simply a way of raising awareness to others in the community to speak out and help one another. Woman and young girls should absolutely feel safe walking Melbourne streets alone. We left the ‘Jill’ section of the wall out of respect to her and her family, and it is sad to see that the next artists to paint the wall went over this. I hope that more people will choose to join the annual marches and tell their friends about it. We need more woman standing up for our rights and to help stop Violence against Woman.
I wanted to keep drawing on the media coverage of this repulsive act, that women and children, even men, are being sexually violated by predators and unjustly victimised by persons of the law.
The bottom line is we should be safe in our streets, that’s our right no matter what age, sex, social status, mental state, attire or anything else the law can put in the mix that ‘forced’ predators to act in this way.
Reclaim your right, reclaim your night!
(Please click on the image above for a detailed view of the actual work that replaced the Jill Meagher Tribute Piece)
Ed. We’d like to say a big thankyou to Joske, Lilar, Maiden, Skies and Moisel for sending us through this story. We wish that the media had of actually paid attention to this, and we share your disgust at how the whole thing was handled by them – why invent the truth when the real story is so much more important?
We hope that your words find their way to all those who need to read them.
Tonight will see the launch of a book that many have long looked forward to – the culmination of a passion project that we’ve followed from its inception. Having been “paintspotting” around Melbourne for years, Dean Sunshine started sharing his captures way back in 2010 – opening up his blog, Land Of Sunshine to the masses. Back in March, 2011, Dean became a regular contributor here on Invurt, sending through his monthly roundup of Top 10 pieces he’d seen around the streets of Melbourne – and Dean and I have been great friends ever since.
Now, he’s taken that collection of thousands of photos and somehow, extraordinarily, managed to cut them down into a book – named, of course Land Of Sunshine. How he managed to do this, I have no idea – but the result is 300 pages of incredible art from across Melbourne in the past two or three years. This isn’t any old work, either – it is the cream of the crop in many ways, much of the artwork inside it will be familiar to you if you’ve followed Melbourne street art over the past few years. If you’re just getting into it, well, its an amazing introduction and primer to what goes on down here in the ‘Burn.
I’m not going to talk too much about Dean here, because I was honoured enough to do so for the introduction to the book itself – theres plenty of jibber jabber in there. So please, read on for a little bit behind about one of the best people I know amongst this crazy world of the Melbourne street art community …
How long have you been enamoured by the Melbourne street art scene, and where did your affinity for art on the walls spring from?
I’m lucky to have grown up in Melbourne during the hip hop/graffiti explosion in the 80′s. Being an impressionable teenager I was hooked straight away. Over the last twenty years I have been surrounded by ever changing art on the streets whilst driving across Melbourne as part of my daily work routine. For the last five years, I’ve been taking photos and documenting the street art scene – my blog, Land of Sunshine, was started in 2010.
How long have you been working on the book and where did the idea to do it first come from?
I started to think about producing a book earlier this year after realising there was a lack of printed matter showcasing the overall scene in Melbourne, specifically the last few years. As I had all the content (over 12,000 images) it only took three months from starting the process to pressing print.
What did you want to represent with this book, and how did you want to accomplish this aim?
I wanted to represent the post stencil Melbourne street art acene and specifically to showcase the artists and pieces that have impressed and inspired me over the last few years – there are so many … it was very difficult to cull them to just 300 pages …
What were some of the more challenging aspects of putting together the book, and what were some of the unexpected difficulties you encountered along the way?
I think the most challenging aspect of doing a book is the content, but as I had hard drives full of images that was pretty easy. Sorting the artists’ images and organising the other chapters definitely took some time, but again, not too difficult. The hardest part of it all was acknowledging that my photos needed re-touching for print, and that I didn’t know how to use InDesign to get the files ready for the printer.
With the keen eye and help from both Elizabeth McLeish and Georgina O’Connor these two issues were skilfully taken care of. Once I started this project it could not be stopped – it literally took over my days and nights, and I’d often wake up with even more ideas.
You’ve gone and checked out a large amount of work up on the walls – what have been some of your favourite locations/painting sessions you have seen?
Anytime you see these artists at work it is inspiring – I am in awe of their incredible talent when all I do is push a button on a camera.
Some memorable moments include late night pasting with D*Face (right next door to Malvern Police station) … watching DMV paint the huge piece in Chinatown … spending an afternoon with Hush and ELK painting my warehouse … driving around Brunswick and Fitzroy bombing with Will Coles … There’s More Festival in Brunswick where we had 40 artists painting the whole exterior of my warehouse … hanging with Slicer at an epic abandoned warehouse in Yarraville … watching Adnate paints those phenomenal faces … pasting with Phoenix and at other times Drab … hanging with the WSW crew while they paint both north and southside … helping CDH erect the Atlas piece opposite the NGV on St.Kilda Road … painting with Unwell Bunny and Mysterious Al at the Brunswick warehouse … bringing cold beer to Drew Funk as he painted the whole side of a building solo in St.Kilda …
(Urban Cake Lady)
Where do you see Melbourne and its art in regards to the international street art community? What do you believe it provides in terms of art up on the walls that other countries may not, and what do you believe that it doesn’t offer, that other countries do?
A few years ago a friend of mine said Melbourne street art didn’t rate internationally – he even sent me a list of global sites with no mention of Melbourne. I disagreed with him, so I set out to prove him wrong. I have travelled quite a bit and, without sounding too biased, our street art is world class!
I think Melbourne has such a large diverse range of different art on the streets – in many cities you just dont see such a range of styles. I think the only thing we lack are huge murals on whole buildings – like you see in Berlin. Those just stop you in your tracks.
Tell us a bit about the preparation that you have done for launching the book, and what some of the more interesting behind the scenes aspects of it have been?
Last weekend I was supremely fortunate to have some of the best Melbourne artists put their time, paint and energy into painting the space for the book launch. Andate, Kaff-eine, Slicer, Lucy Lucy, Heesco, Shida, Mysterious Al, Facter, Jack Douglas, RAD, Hancock, Junky, Eleven, Steve Cross, Choq, Ryan Boserio – I thank you all and it will never be forgotten, nor will the smell of paint fumes.
Tell us a bit more about where the book will be available and how people can get a copy of it?
For the past two years Dean Sunshine has embarked on a passionate mission to capture the vibrancy and beauty of street art across Melbourne.
With a long history of association with graffiti and street art, Sunshine has witnessed countless works in action, discovered hidden gems and documented artwork loved by street art communities and dedicated fans both locally and around the world.
Dean’s blog, Land Of Sunshine, has been a beckoning destination for all who enjoy their photographic fix of art on Melbourne’s streets and lanes. With this print version, Dean has created a 300 page book titled Land of Sunshine, the first in many years that represents the globally recognised Melbourne street art movement in its cross-genre entirety.
Over a hundred Melbourne artists are featured, with special exposés on a dozen specific artists who have made their impressions on Melbourne’s walls, including: Adnate, Be Free, CDH, Deb, Drab, Heesco, Kaff-eine, Makatron, Phoenix the street artist, Slicer, Suki and Urban Cake Lady.
All the photographs contained within the book have been captured by Dean on his many paintspotting adventures. The wide variety of mediums used and the Melbourne street art community as a whole are also well represented with chapters on walls, paste ups, exhibitions, international artists and installations.
“Land of Sunshine is a moment of captured time in the kaleidoscope of art that has adorned Melbourne in this, the second decade of our ‘new millennium’. In my mind this book, in regards to Melbourne street art, is as critical a piece of cultural documentation as any other produced.”
I can pinpoint where I met E.L.K. to the exact moment, and I can remember quite clearly, exactly, what was said and what happened. In fact, I wrote about it, so even if my memory had of, by chance, been a little hazy its all there.
It was, truth be told, something of a “moment” for me. On the one hand, that moment was the beginning of an entirely unexpected friendship with a man whose friendship I both respect and treasure, and on the other it was one of those moments that a writer looks back on and goes “I was there!” with some amount of pride (intermingled with a slight fraction of awe) – because, sitting here a year and a half later, at that time I had very little idea of where E.L.K. would be with today.
Neither, of course, did he.
Some of his words to me, back in the park where we first met, echoed in my mind as we sat down at The Vic last week, drinks in hand.
“If you can make a living, successfully,” doing what you love doing and doing what you’re good at,” he remarked “ … it’s the dream!”
In the past year and a half, a part of this dream has, in truth, come true for E.L.K. His love for art, his passion and dedication over the years have paid off in many ways, and he now spends his “working hours” creating his art – but even being granted a partial aspect of his artistic dream hasn’t come without its own trials.
“I thought it would take a lot longer to get where I am,” he remarks, humbly as always, when I catch up with him. “I thought, ten years maybe, realistically. But it really has been a big couple of years.”
“I do feel tired,” he laughs. “Not I need a nap tired – I’m fucking drained!”
The fact that he can laugh about it all, however, marks that he has also taken it in his stride – because it really has been a big fucking year for E.L.K.
After moving to Melbourne from Canberra, it seemed as if it was all systems go right from the very start. Although now residing in Richmond at Paradise Hills, E.L.K. did a short stint at Blender studios, where he immediately got to work on a new portrait piece of the much loved and notable Fr Bob Maguire.
When he first submitted Fr Bobs portrait to the Archibald prize, E.L.K. was less than certain as to how it would be received, this was, after all, one of the biggest contemporary art prizes in Australia. That it was selected to take part in the actual competition itself was not only a major win for street derived art in general, but it was a phenomenal boost for the career of an artist who had literally worked his ass off – it was another win for the acknowledgement that street derived art has a place in Australian contemporary art, and E.L.K. was at the forefront of it all.
“Its been a really big wave – a huge wave,” he explains when we start talking about his reflects on the Archibald “experience”.
“Not so much the Archibald itself, but the buzz surrounding it, the media surrounding it. Nothing prepares you for it. It’s what we all want – but when it actually happens, fuck, you can’t go back from it. Actually ‘making it’ can be pretty scary – but once you face it … well, not so much. ”
Beyond the media, the promotion and the entire “mainstream” rigmarole behind the Archibald, being a part of the whole process and event also gave E.L.K. something that he believed he was missing, something worth more in his mind than all the rest.
“It gave me more confidence,” he confided. “Which really was something I was lacking, within myself and with my art.” He sits back and takes a drink before putting on a wry grin, “Yeah, it was definitely an awesome ride.
“I felt like I was almost tapping into the zeitgeist,” he continued, talking about the entire experience. “The subject, the timing an the award, and it was just the right time. I think the Art Gallery of NSW was looking to introduce street art into the award, but they just hadn’t quite had the right piece. So, the planets aligned and it just … I felt like there was something a lot more spiritual going on behind the scenes, which is funny, coming from an atheist, but there was more to it I felt.”
E.L.K.s Archibald piece none withstanding, as a hardcore atheist, there was more than one “spiritual connection” that came from the experience – the other being the formation of a friendship with his subject.
“I’ve become quite close with Fr Bob,” he says, smiling. “He’s a great guy. I’m like a 33 year old, and he’s much older … but we’re quite the same – kindred souls. He just says it how it is, and that’s something I’ve always done, and said. I may not always be right, but that’s my perception. With Fr Bob there’s no bullshit, and I respect that. It’s just nice to come across. Particularly in regards to the art world, you come across a lot of bullshit, so it’s nice to have a bit of truth.”
“We do talk quite regularly. I had a call from him last week and he said ‘what’s this about my face popping up all over town” he laughs, obviously making mention of the many Fr Bob stickers that have surreptitiously been springing up around Melbourne of late “… I kinda said, well, I can have a chat to them if you want, and I can see if they’ll stop doing it!”
Not only did E.L.K. form a bond with Fr Bob over the work, but it also lead him in a new direction with his work. Whereby previously, his work focused heavily on the portrayal of issues and other societal concerns, he found himself recently changing direction towards a more classically orientated bent – portraiture.
“I’ve actually concentrated a lot more on portraiture and less on the street sort of social commentary work that I’ve done,” he explained. “I think id like to establish myself more as a portrait artist than a stencil artist, to be honest.”
“The whole process of selecting a subject, meeting the subject and making the art and capturing that subject is great. Also, for me, and mainly, just the whole unveiling of the piece to the subject can be really touching.”
As a man who has for time now been acknowledged as a master of his chosen technique, with stencils comprising up to seventy different layers of high degrees of detail, as well as an individual who has tackled subjects including war, religion, consumption and greed, it is this human touch to his new works in portraiture that have him flowing with exuberance.
“I don’t know what it is about it – its all, imagery creation,” he says, laconically, “but it really has nothing to do with technique anymore. It’s all about subject and content. I have the technique down pat – but getting the right image, and making it all work, that’s the hard part.”
Thus, his upcoming solo show at Metro Gallery, “Not With It”, is something of an explorative body of work for E.L.K.. Of course, within the show are several of his older themed pieces of social commentary, older themed work, but the body of the show, and the epic mainstay for a certainty, is in the portraiture that he will be displaying. Having been through a portion of the maelstrom of “success” and not gone down with the ship in the process, it seems that this has had nothing but a positive effect.
“It was really about pushing myself, in many ways,” he explains, “and to not worry about it too much. Just man-ing up and getting into it – which is what I did – but it wasn’t easy.”
In fact, when we caught up at Paradise Hills that night, before our sojourn down to the pub on Victoria Street, E.L.K. had only just finished a portrait of aboriginal actor Jack Charles. The work is massive, one of the largest and most intricate pieces that I have ever seen him produce. The shades and tones of the work left me breathless, and as he pulls up a photo of it I can’t help but think that for all the “success” that he has had thus far, that this is only the beginning.
“It took me three weeks to do that piece,” he says, almost belying the effort behind it. “It was all about pushing things further … I can’t do what I used to do. I can’t sit down and cut for a hundred hours … it’s really good, but I’m tired.”
When we think of something that has gone wild, or is wild, or exists in a wild state, our thoughts often travel back to those Sunday afternoons in front of David Attenborough, watching the beasts in their kingdoms via for supremacy in the ongoing cyclic battle between “eat or be eaten”.
Sometimes, when we wake up on that same Sunday, we’ll have a message from a prior evenings drinking partner exclaiming “fuck, your mate was a little wild last night” with all of its negative connotations; the wild of booze or rage filled action or that glimpse in the eye of someone not quite there nor connected to the reality surrounding them.
Then there is that other type of wild, of course, a deeper, more profound and elusive type – the wilderness of the spirit. This is the unconscious, the personality, the passion, yearning and loving. the devout mission and the quest of individuality that so many espouse – this is the wild with gumption, the pizazz ridden wild that we artists and creatives thrive within.
When I think of my friend Mikaela, it’s that “wild pizazz” that comes to mind. Pint sized, inked, swaths of colour and a single minded aim to create imagery and make her mark. Not any kind of marks, mind you, but the smallest of kind, points of ink dispersed across a page, emulsified by proximity and calcified with determination. Shades promoted from blunt nibbed dots to fully formed imagery which encompasses the “wilderness of wildness” in all its various, synonymic beauty. A true wilderness, in all its glory, built from point upon point upon point, until even the slightest of detail becomes an integral part of its form.
These are the rock stars, the burnouts, the idols, the beasts and the burdened. This is an artist delving into her personality and her work, exploring the world before her and placing it where all eyes can see it.
So, tell us a bit about your younger years, and how you started out with this creative streak of yours?
I started drawing from a really early age probably about four or five. I remember when I started school, all I ever did in class was draw (usually Ninja turtles and Ren & Stimpy characters). My mother always encouraged us to express our creativity, and with her being a junior primary school teacher I had a vast array of art products always at my disposal. I was very shy until my teenage years, and drawing was my way of showing the world my personality.
You’ve predominantly worked thus far as an illustrator – would you classify yourself as such? What draws you to illustration, and what other mediums do you aspire to master?
I guess I would refer to myself as an illustrator, yes.
I remember reading old copies of Alice In Wonderland and the Narnia series as a child and being drawn to the way that the illustrations really helped to further tell the stories and give a beautiful feel to each character, that they were able to convey so much without any colour, and so simply.
I would love to learn to paint, especially aerosol. I have dabbled in the past, but my can control was terrible, which I blamed on my small weak hands. I am blessed to be surrounded by many friends who are ridiculously talented with spray paint so one day maybe I will ask for some lessons. I also may branch into using colour at some point … who knows.
Pointillism. What the hell. That would definitely drive me insane after so much of it – what is it about pointillism that you find an affinity with? Rhythm? Shade? Movement? Flow?
I think that I was originally drawn to pointillism due to my love of old fashioned style illustration as mentioned above, I also tried my hand at cross hatching but I didn’t enjoy doing it as much. When I started out I saw it as a “cheat way” of shading, as it meant I could just use the one pen, and not worry about grading.
Now that I’ve been doing it for quite a while, and become more intricate with the dots, I find it amazing how one little minuscule dot can completely change the look of someone’s face, or change the light of an image. I get into a rhythm and ‘zone’ when dotting away too, its become strangely relaxing now. I like the notion of creating light and shade with something that is so delicate.
Can you tell us a bit about The Wild, your upcoming show at Egg Gallery? What will it entail, and will you be showing?
The Wild is my first ever solo show, before this I have only ever been a part of one group exhibition. Putting this show on was a huge step for me as it was me deciding to finally take my passion seriously, and try and push myself to the limit. I work best when I push myself out of my comfort zone, and The Wild is me doing just that – into the world of portraiture when in the past I focused mainly on anatomy and tattoo flash inspired work. It features 25 brand new works on paper, all black and white.
What does that term mean for you – “wild” – in its natural state and its societal state, what are the commonalities that you find affinity for – and how would you refute the notion of “being wild” as being a clichéd idea, in a time when being wild seems par for the course?
My whole life I have never been classed as part of the norm, whether due to my appearance, my interests or my way of looking at the world. While back in my teenage years, this really brought me down and I had problems with conformity, I now see “being wild” as being an enormous compliment- that of being untamed, unaffected by what the majority tells you that you should be. There are so many instances these days in pop culture of manufactured ‘wildness’, or trying to be different, but it is all so transparent.
The real “Wild Ones” to me are those who accept their flaws yet don’t flaunt them, and don’t realize how beautiful their differences make them.
We’re going to take a stab in the dark, and figure that even though you’re not really saying what who or what the portraits in the show are, and say that there is a good majority of musicians in your work – only because we know you ;) How have those idols of yours within music shaped your art?
I grew up in the punk and grunge scene back in Adelaide in the mid 90’s, and back then music was my world, it moulded me into who I am today.
Being somewhat of an outcast and a huge tomboy, I was drawn to those genres as they were ruled by fellow misfits – I felt like I had found my home in that crowd. I remember getting Dookie by Green Day on cassette for my 10th birthday, and if anyone remembers that artwork it is the most amazing and crude illustration, it had such a DIY feel to it. That sole piece of artwork resonated with me for some reason, and after that I found myself obsessing over cover art, the fonts the bands used, the controversial yet cheeky imagery bands like Green Day, Frenzal Rhomb and NOFX etc would use. My walls were covered in music posters and drawings I did of my favourite bands CD art.
I then started getting into skateboarding imagery too due to the many collaborations between the two fields, obsessing over artists like Ben Brown and Pushead, and wanting to one day be the female version. That then in turn led to my love of tattoo art, as tattooing pretty much comes hand in hand with the punk scene, which shows in my earlier work being a mix of flash and cheeky gore. The musicians I have focused on in the exhibition are either ones I personally admire for always being themselves, or those who are widely idolized for being pioneers within their own genres, whom I know will have touched someone else’s lives like my heroes did mine.
The gauche and the grotesque – perception of these things is often determined by the viewer; how do you represent these aspects of your work in a positive light?
I think I try to do so with a cheeky attitude, yet the old punk aesthetic as well, keeping it simple.
I think that there’s a great juxtaposition between the delicate nature of pointillism and say, the subject matter of a severed hand. I also, in terms of portraiture, try and make the ‘ugly’ look beautiful, in the soft tones and shading, so that the viewer can see the subject in possibly a different light than before.
As a first solo show, how have you found the entire process of putting it all together? Has, at the end of the day, the work informed the show, or the show informed the work?
The whole process has been a huge learning curve for me, I had no idea just how much goes into putting a show on, especially when doing it all yourself. I have had a great help from one of my friends letting me use their studio space to prepare everything, if I didn’t have that I think I would’ve had to cancel it!
Its been a bit of both worlds really, while the general theme of the exhibition has remained the same since my original proposal, the direction has changed a lot along the way which has been exciting. Originally it was going to focus on Animals and mythical creatures, but then after experimenting with my style, I found an emotional connection with the final subject matter which I didn’t have before, and I think (and hope!) that will show in the work.
Its become my heart and soul, my little baby, and while, right now, I’m a little overwhelmed, it’s already the best thing that I have ever done.
So what are you going to do next? What kind of projects would you like to work on in the future, given time?
Coming up I am working on quite a few collaborations with various artist friends, on some Skateboard deck designs as well as with a couple T Shirt labels. I would love to continue working with apparel, as I have a huge passion for street wear, and would love to get to do some large scale work installation work too down the road and maybe even get involved with something like Secret Walls.
I want to try anything really, I’m all about pushing boundaries so who knows!!
The greatest rewards that have manifested over the past few years of writing on this site are the friendships I have made along the way – the sheer joy of writing about things that I love gives back more than enough, in that respect. People I have written about or talked to for here, for example, often become good friends – luckily for me.
When I first interviewedKaff-eine some two years ago, I didn’t know her from a bar of soap. We’d never met, and yet hers was work that I loved on first sight – and, ever curious, as I tend to be, I was given a chance to send her some questions about a show she was putting some work in – Fibre Femmes.
Since then, much has changed in Kaffs world. She’s become a full time artist – (unlike me, she has made "the switch"), and yet for all the "How the fuck does she do it" that came before, I still don’t know how the fuck she does it all – even given that she now spends all of her time painting. Her work over the past year has gone in amazing new directions.She has multiple creative projects on the go, outside, inside, between the covers of books, and, also, she is about to do her first actual solo show – for someone so accomplished already, this keeps taking me by surprise.
Most importantly, however, for me, is that she has become a good friend – and whenever I do manage to purloin some of her valuable time (ha, she’d probably throw that one back at me), I’m always bowled over by her sincerity, humility and passion. Kaff is just good people, and what you see in her art is a sublime reflection of her own self. She may not realise this, but her work really does reflect many aspects of both her demeanour and personality, and I think that may be why it resonates with so many people; it is honest, identifiable, unpretentious and, quintessentially, "Kaff-eine".
I fucking love interviewing Kaff, and I hope you enjoy reading this piece about this remarkably talented lady, as much as I enjoy writing about her…
So – the first time we chatted was way back when you were doing Fibre Femmes. How was all of that, anyways? and as it was one of your first group shows, how do you believe things have evolved from there to where you are now? It is still a highly regarded show, now, what are the aspects of it that you have carried through with?
Oh, Fibre Femmes was great! It was such a fantastic introduction to exhibiting, + meeting some people who have since really become great artistic collaborators + friends. Things have evolved so much since then; my own personal style, the people + opportunities I’ve been lucky to intersect with, it’s been an amazing ride.
I reworked + developed the original Deerhunter characters from Fibre Femmes into what are now some of my central characters; this has lead me in a different direction with much of my work , it’s unexpected but neat. The other thing I’ve carried through from that exhibition is my work with Precious. I didn’t know her before the show, + since then we’ve developed an awesome creative partnership. We do heaps of work together; we’ve painted collaborations with her characters + mine, we’ve done collabs between her poetry + my characters (on the street + in exhibitions), we constantly bounce ideas off each other, + we have heaps of super plans for the future!
We also talked back in January, when you were putting on Urban Scrawl with Precious Little, Blacklodge and Tig-tab – this makes three interviews, Kaff! :) We did see that show, and loved it to bits – how did it all go, for yourself, personally?
Urban Scrawl was super, both in terms of artistic output, + the friendships that grew during the making of the art, which was entirely collaborative. I’d never tried to paint to somebody else’s ideas let alone their poetry, so I loved the challenge of interpreting Presh’s heartbreaking poetry in my paintings. Lightpainting with BL + TT also meant that I got to know them really well, + to have some amazing artistic adventures with them. The whole thing really pushed me artistically. This year my time has been colonized by other projects, they’ve been busy too, but I’m looking forward to getting back together with them + doing some more exploring + photographing together.
Since all of that, you have left your 9-5 job, and become a full time artist. How have you found this transition and what have the challenges associated with it all been?
It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve been working 7 days a week since then, flat out painting books, walls, exhibition pieces + commissions; leaving the office in June was the only way I could get all the painting jobs done. The transition was smooth, I just stopped going into an office for 40 hours a week, + used that extra time to paint! The only real challenge is not letting myself get too weird when I lock myself away in the studio + don’t leave the property or speak to people for days at a time.
I’m caring less about this now, though.
We’ve been a huge fan of your new work over the past year or two, especially the work that you have done outside of the city limits – do you often travel out to the country to do work, and how does the juxtaposition between the two reflect on the work that you do in both locations – is there a difference, or do both environments reflect the other?
Oh, good question. I love driving, love the countryside + I like to paint in peaceful locations hidden away from people, so it makes sense to seek out remote locations to paint in. I’d love to have the time to do more country painting, but the past few months have been taken up with other projects so I haven’t done as much as I’d like. I have some fun remote projects coming up over summer though, so that’s rad.
I tend to seek out decaying + abandoned spaces in both country + city areas, + the work that I paint is pretty similar in either location. The main difference for me painting in the country is that I can easily find ‘clean canvases’, paint in areas where nobody else has painted (which I love the most), + there is much less chance of getting caught.
There’s one thing that I have always wanted to ask about – and that is in terms of the nature of your work. One line of correlation that I draw, is in the urban "feral" aspect. I remember watching a doco not long ago about foxes and urban environments, and the like … – building on the last question, I’m interested in this synergy of yours between urbanity and the natural world that you love so much, there is very little "artificial" themes in your work – so, tell me, where are the robots? Just kidding! But, seriously, what other themes and directions would you like to move your art towards, in the future?
Haha, I knew you’d have to drop robots in here somewhere!! I guess I paint the things that most interest me, + at the moment ‘natural’ things like animals + human bodies have my attention, + combining the two in one character is pretty interesting for me too. I don’t have a conscious plan for the direction of my work, it’s pretty organic, with each painting giving me ideas for the next one. At the moment I want to get outdoors + develop my large-scale painting technique as much as I want to create new characters.
If anything, I think I’ll continue to develop the Deerhunter characters, I’m having heaps of fun with those.
You have two books coming out early next year, for One Day Hill and Scholastic – can you tell us about each of these books, and what they involve? How did you get involved in doing these books? We heard the story about one of them, the bushfire one, and it just sounds so fantastic …
Aw thanks! One Day Hill (the publisher) approached me with some manuscripts, + asked if I wanted to illustrate them. The two stories are lovely Australian stories for children; one is a true story of WWI battle at Villers Bretonneux + the incredible friendship that subsequently grew between the town + Victoria, Australia, a beautiful legacy of a bitter war nearly a century ago. Part of the story involves the little French town saved by Victorian soldiers in WWI repaying their debt to Victoria nearly 100 years later, when Victoria was devastated by bushfires in 2009. It’s a little-known story, I didn’t believe it was real when I first read it! The other book is a quaint story about a little run-down caravan that gets rediscovered + loved again, it teaches preschool kids about manners, it’s very cute.
I took them on for the challenge of painting things that I would never normally paint (like caravans + battlefields), + to have my work seen by a different audience. It has been awesome to work with such a great publisher, they gave me an open brief, basically said interpret the manuscripts in my own way + paint whatever I like, however I want to paint it! I reckon it’s pretty rare that that happens, I feel like the luckiest book illustrator around.
Scholastic is distributing both books, so they’ll be widely available.
Right, so, you have over the past year formed a great relationship with the Signed & Numbered crew, and are doing a show with them and the JA crew at Just Another Project Space – how did that all come about? What so you love about the space?
Yes I love the Signed & Numbered crew! Jacqui is so lovely, she has been an enormous help with the whole print-making process (I’m such a luddite) + I love the way she markets the artwork there. I’m stoked to be a part of her store.
The exhibition came about when the Just Another crew took over the spaces at the rear of S+N a few months ago. I was checking out the Just Another stand at the Melbourne Art Fair when Melika offered me a timeslot for a solo in the space (which wasn’t yet built!); I thought she was kidding, but a week after the show it was confirmed, so it kind of happened by surprise! I knew I already had heaps on with the 2 books, but there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to do it, so I went for it. It was a big leap of faith for me, I hadn’t worked with Just Another before + hadn’t even seen the space, but I’d seen the events that they’d held in the past, + knew that they’d come through with something rad. Which they have. And now I’m part of the Just Another agency, so it’s even more rad.
And Boneyard – this is what people really want to know about – the very first solo show from Kaff-eine. Huh? Somehow, I keep thinking that I’ve been to shows from you before, but then realise they’ve all been group projects. How has this differed, from your previous shows?
I’ve hardly done any shows at all! I’ve only done a few group shows, so this is a big leap for me. This one is definitely different – it is all my own vision, from the concept, to the artworks + the design of it within the Just Another Project Space. It is a different body of work too, a real development from the previous pieces I exhibited.
Are there otters? If no otters, please tell me why. Or dinosaurs. Or an otter riding a dinosaur, holding a toy robot. Oh hell yes. Wait, back to the question – thematically, what do you love most about the work that you have done for Boneyard and what have you really enjoyed exploring with it?
Haha no, but I love otters! Ok I’ll paint you a bloody dino-riding cowboy otter holding toy robot guns after the show!! I promise! Hehehe.
I’ve really enjoyed the freedom of painting whatever was in my head at the time – it lead to work that was darker, more elegant + sophisticated, + it gave rise to a tighter painting technique. I’ve loved bringing some of my street pieces to life on paper in the studio, I’ve been wanting to try that for months. The whole process has given me some great ideas for future exhibitions.
So, after you’re done with all of this, after you’ve hopefully sold a bag load of work and you have a little bit of respite – can we go painting again? :) x
OF COURSE YES!
I loved painting with you in the past! I’m really looking forward to a summer of outdoors painting fun with awesome people, it’s going to be supersweet.
Let’s go + paint dinosaur-riding otters with robots.
Modern illustration is an indomitable beast. Drawing from a rich history and legacy, illustration has transgressed beyond the barriers of ancient papyrus, rich pages of mediaeval Illuminations and zinc plated lithography prints and to emerge into a world of high end inks, pens, markers and, of course, digital software.
Although the technology that enables the modern illustrators world has progressed far beyond those used in times past, the fundamentals has remained constant. Imagination, a good eye for contrast and shadow, and of course, fueled by the mastery of the most simplest of artistic expression – the line. When we look at modern illustration, and the many various ways in which it expresses itself today, we see that mark of history within it – but, with the materials available today, and the influence of the world that we live within, we see an overlay of indulgence for precision. Illustration, like many arts, is like the unfolding of a babushka doll, (or the attempt to by the LHC to unravel further layers of the physical world) – an ongoing voyage deeper and deeper into the artists own journey of discovery, wherein, unlike a Babushka doll, there are no limits to how deeply one can delve.
Alex Lehours, is a thoroughly modern artist, with deep roots in illustration, painting and design. Self acknowledged as having drawn upon erstwhile masters of both ink and paint for technique,and paying homage to the rich wellspring of classical art, his work blends this homage of influence with the vibrant, passionate, and distinct styles made popular by imagery found within tattoos, comics and popular art. Like all artists with an illustrative penchant, each new piece of Lehours progresses his form and technique, and creates something new and unique – not only for himself, but for others. When we talk about the evolution of an artists practice, it is artists like Lehours that we take a keen eye to – having an eye for technically collated pieces that are still able to, oxymoronically, have enough chaos within them that they do not feel staid and boring (as Adobe has a great hand in hopefully feeling much guilt for), we are, admittedly, a little biased in this regards.
As much as we try not to have too much of a personal opinion, it has to be said that if you can’t draw, then you just can’t fucking paint – thankfully, else this article would be sunk and this preamble would go nowhere , Alex Lehours can do both.
In the lead up to his show, Pandemonium Paradise, at Just Another Project Space (in the read of Prahrans Signed & Numbered), we had a chance to throw a few interview questions in regards to his work to Lehours himself – and, thankfully, he took the time out of his pre-exhibition madness-get-shit-done scramble to tell us a bit more about his work, and to let us ruminate, just a little, on the shear grandeur of the painted line …
As with every artist, you must have started out somewhere! What are some of your earliest creative memories and when did you realise that art was a path that had chosen you?
I have always been into drawing and illustration. From a very early age my real passion was art. During school all I cared about was art and from there I knew that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career.
It has only been in the last two years though that I have found my feet in the art world and hopefully I can keep going for a long time.
Your work consists of a large amount of exquisite line work, there’s almost something quite classical in its feel, but there’s a modernity to it that loudly proclaims everything we love about modern illustration. Where would you say you have primarily derived the style that you have developed, and what are some of the key influences you have drawn upon over the years?
I am glad you have made that observation because that is exactly the affect I was after! Yipee I’m doing something right! I have always loved the art of the great classical masters such as Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Da Vinci. Although my work doesn’t fall under the “classical art” category, those artists are definitely an inspiration of mine and I think that is where my classical vibe comes from.
I like combining vintage with new in my work and as a result you get a mix between comic, pop and tattoo art. I think this is where my style has derived from. I always try and incorporate a lot of sub culture with different elements that others wouldn’t expect.
I like to describe my work and style as a “chaotic explosion of colour, humour and absolute randomness”.
How do you find the life of a full time freelancer? Having to be a jack-of-all-arts and continually pushing yourself in new directions in order to cover different creative markets and jobs, do you ever find yourself yearning to focus on one thing, or does the continual jumping between different projects and mediums spur you on?
The life of a full time freelancer is is crazy! In both good and bad ways ha! I love the freedom of being my own boss and answering to myself as well as being able to work on projects that I am passionate about. However it means I am my own boss and I have to look after everything else non-art related. All I want to to is draw and paint not worry about remittance forms and chasing invoices for tax purposes blah blah. But hey if that is the only down side, then I have nothing to complain about!.
Becoming a freelancer full time is the best decision I have ever made. Although you don’t know when you next pay day is, the challenge and pressure makes you got off your ass and do things to get work and work that you really want to do. I am also still trying to get into a good habit of shutting off work at a set time each day. It is way to easy to stay up until 3am every morning trying to fine tune a job … stop that, stop that now!!
I don’t mind the continual jumping between different mediums and projects at all. If anything it is helping me develop my skills in all different areas. There are jobs that I do to pay the bills which don’t have a lot of creative freedom but then there are jobs that I can really sink my teeth into and go nuts – like a lot of the mural work I do. So I feel there is a good balance there.
I wouldn’t change being a freelancer for anything. It has allowed me to take part in a lot of great projects as well as meet new clients and I really think i have grown and developed as an artist since becoming a freelancer.
How do you find the wage struggle with being a full time freelancer, and can you give anyone starting out in the freelancing area any wisdom from your experience so far?
To be honest I have been fairly lucky since becoming a full time freelancer. every time it looks like work has dried up I will receive a couple of emails and just like that several new jobs open up. I guess its all about connections and networking. If you do a good job for someone then they will show their mates and from there they may need some work done too.
As far as money goes you just have to be logical when it comes to earning. I mean if you don’t know when your next pay day is then don’t go and spend all your money on new threads. The best advice I could give to people in the same position as me is get involved and take on as much work as you possibly can. At first cash flow may be an issue but from those first jobs that pay small amounts some big pay day work will come through. It is also important to try and get deposits from your clients before you start the work. This should cover you for anything needed for the job as well as wages etc … cash flow is the key!
As a freelancer it is so important to promote yourself and with the new digital age it is so easy to do so. Show your new work on your website and blogs and social platforms like facebook and Instagram. You will be surprised by how many people see it and you never know who needs some work done for them. Don’t be afraid as well. Even if you feel out your league just back yourself and something good usually comes out of it.
Tell us a little about your mural and public art pieces – as someone who does a fair bit of design and illustration work, how do you approach such a large canvas and what are the differences for you between the two?
At the moment mural work is my absolute favourite thing to do! I love working on a large scale and creating pieces for the public eye. Most of my day to day work is illustration based. Whether it be on the computer or on some paper it is obviously a much smaller scale compared to a large wall.
Mural work was a bit of a jump from the usual work I did and it did take me a while to get the hang of it. It is much easier to control the composition and proportions of your piece when it is sitting in front of you on a screen or a bit of paper so it took some practice to be able to do this on a wall.
Other than the scale I approach a mural just the same as any other design I do. I have my concept sketches worked to scale, I use the same sort of materials and love every minute of it. At the end of the day a wall or bench or whatever you are painting on is just another type of canvas.
You have a show coming up pretty soon in Melbourne at Just Another Project Space, titled Pandemonium Paradise. Can you tell us a bit about the theme of the show, and what it entails? What will you be bringing down to Melbourne with you, and how will this show differ from what you have done in the past?
I do have a show coming up on the 12th October. It is my first ever solo exhibition and will consist of watercolour, aerosol and acrylic works. ‘Pandemonium Paradise’ is an exhibition that highlights the cynical, raw and humourous characteristics that play a major role in my work. Bringing together elements of contrasting families, the show explores the subtle harmony, delicate balance and precise equilibrium between good and bad, calm and chaos, beauty and ugly, Pandemonium and Paradise.
Came up with that myself ;) hahhahaha!
Ill be down in Melbourne for that entire week and will be working on a mural at the space for the show. I don’t want to give too much away but it will all be a lot of fun!
All the shows I have done in the past have been group shows, and now that this is a solo show it heaps a lot more pressure on me to get things done in time. I am enjoying every minute of it though and can’t wait for the opening night.
Earlier this year you actually went up to Darwin to do a piece commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the city by the Japanese, the final piece was incredibility cool – how did you get involved with this, and can you tell us a bit more about the project?
I was actually approached by a good mate of mine, Barry Shackleton, who I went to uni with. He moved up to Darwin a couple of years ago to run his own graphic design business No Hands Design. One of his Clients, Associated Advertising & Promotions, approached him for an illustration and from there he contacted me.
The Darwin Port Corporation commissioned us to create A mural 6m wide by 3m high to be printed on to large ACM panels and bolted to a wall on the Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin. The mural was unveiled on 16/02/12 to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the 1942 bombings by the Japanese in World War II. It is permanent fixture and pays tribute to those who were affected and lost their lives on this tragic day.
I was very proud and honoured to be a part of a project that had such a significant impact on Australia’s history.
We saw something mentioned about a label as well – what are your future plans of expansion into the clothing arena, and can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done in the fashion realm in the past?
I had planned on starting a full apparel label but decided to step back from that and release some limited edition t-shirts. So far I have two designs available for both mens and ladies. Only 30 of each design have been produced never to be done again. They can be found on my web shop. www.alexlehours.com
In the past I have created t-shirt designs for several clients including Buried in Verona, VNA Magazine, Mad Mex and T-Bar. I also won a t-shirt design competition for the hip hop group Thundamentals. This design was then sold on their national tour last year
So what’s next for Alex Lehours? Beyond your upcoming show, where to from here? What does the rest of the year, and 2013, hold for you?
Next for me?? Well after my show a rest! I have been working non stop for a few months now and in desperate need of a break hahaha! From there I have a couple of big mural jobs lined up which will full up the rest of the year for me. I am just hoping to keep going, get more and more work and see where it takes me – for now, I am just enjoying the ride.
Invurt webzine provides information on AustralAsian street, urban, illustrative, graffiti and other genre defying, nu-contemporary art to readers around the world. It specialises in events and artists who are working, displaying and visiting Australasia – particularly with a focus on exhibitions, live art and other events the artists are partaking in.