There are many names that are synonymous with graffiti in Melbourne, however there is one that garners unmitigated respect from all corners – Bail.
Throughout the years, Bail has made a name for himself with his unwaveringly dedicated, no holds barred approach to painting. From an early age, this desire to put his own personal mark up on his surrounds has consistently motivated him to expand his outpourings, each work often following the subconscious spurrings of a multitude of internal visions.
At times, these creative products are often whimsical, at others political, or embedded with indirect prods at culturally bullshit circumstances and situations. Poignantly, each of Bails pieces tells a story (if, at times, often convoluted and cryptic), and his work is deeply entwined with the prose that he conveys through both his written narratives and his hip hop lyrics. With rap having formed as large a part of his artistic development as painting on walls has, each aspect furtively promulgates and enriches the other like a desultory, meandering yang/yang orgy of expression.
With his upcoming solo show, Making Bail, about to launch, we had chance to throw the man a few questions, and find out a bit more about his many motivations, inspirations and lyrical annunciations – so read on, and enjoy a small glimpse of the mind behind some of the most prolific, and finest, work we’ve seen around the streets and laneways of Melbourne.
As an artist, there’s little doubt in my mind that you probably started out drawing and shit at an early age – what are some of your earliest creative memories and when did you realise that creating shit was something that was in your blood?
I cant remember a time in my life where I wasn’t building, drawing, smashing, breaking, climbing or writing/telling stories. I would paint everything; we had a chicken coop in the backyard and I would catch the chickens and paint colours on their feathers.
In kindergarden, they would give me watered down paint, this way I could paint all over the fence and at the end of the day they would spray it all off with the hose. Then in primary school, I loved the smell of fresh cut grass, I would tumble out of the class room at lunch time and gather up a massive pile of grass clippings then stuff it into the holes in the wire fence. Some kids would think I was weird – others would help. By the time lunch was over, and everyone was back in the classroom, I’d look out the window with a shit eating grin plastered over my face and see my name written in grass across the fence.
You know that the creative process is a fundamental part of your being, the day you first realise that the voices only stop when you are deep in the moment of creation.
Sometimes they stay quiet for a short while after you are done. But then you hear them. Faintly chattering, off in the distance and you know that you must start the process over, or pretty soon they will be screaming and howling between your temples like a pair of blood crazed baboons ripping at each others flesh.
When was the first time you picked up a spray can? What lead you to painting in walls in the first place, and can you remember your first real mission?
We used to roll down the drains on our bikes after school. Someone would bring a torch and we would go exploring like the goonies, following the cave clan directions deep underground.
We had some really good times in the drains, an hour underground, water rising, fearing death, lying on my back using my legs to pop open a concrete manhole cover because it was too heavy for us to lift. The drains were/are full of graff. We would ride past pieces by Grate (TGC), Trance (CI), Reakt, Perks, Giro etc, and sometimes we would see people painting. We started to borrow poscas from art class or find cans to leave our toy tags. It was a natural progression to start painting.
I always thought people should do some practice in their back yard on an old board, then do 20 drain pieces, then when your finally skilled up go trackside.
That being said, one of my first pieces was trackside and it sucked hahaha. I remember borrowing the paint from the $2 shop and doing the piece then taking my parents to see it the next day.
You’ve been doing this shit for years now – back in the early days, who were the guys around you, or other graff artists that were doing shit around the world, that really pushed you along on your own path?
I didn’t really know what was happening around the world until later. The Style Machine wall near Prahran station was a big influence when I was young. My dad would take me to the Prahran market to get the food and I would always ask to go past the mural. RB7 and Voter had tags every where. Puzle, Rush, giro, Mesk, Occupy, Denz, Reach, Higher were all favorites. Inpak did some of my favourite track-sides ever. Jorz had/has the best characters and always comes with fresh style; every piece, tag or shark throw up perfectly executed. Sdm, CI, TAB, KSA, RDC, Cduse had insides on lock.
Dorps came to Melbourne with Pubes and basically showed everyone here how it is supposed to be done; multiple cromies and one or two burners on every line, street bombing, throwies, insides and burner panels. I dont think anyone else has done it like he did.
Trance (CI/TGC) was way, way ahead of his time. He and Renks pretty much lead the way stylistically. Renks was doing these pieces shaped like guns that were ridiculous, and everything Trance was doing was ridiculous.
How about now? Who are some of the guys you love painting with these days, and whose work really just does it for you – and why?
I like painting with people with a warped sense of humour who can put up with my stupid voices and random outbursts.It is always good to paint with people who are better than you so you can learn. I like the work of Aryze, How and Nozm, some of Lister’s faces have ridiculous line work, Won (ABC), every now and then Sofles does something with paint that makes you get mad, real mad, but then after you get mad you wanna get even. The big piece Insa and Mad Steez did – well that was something, wasn’t it?
In terms of style, where have you most drawn inspiration from for your work over the years – can you pinpoint anything specific? Do you have any formal artistic background at all or are you all self taught?
H R Giger, George Hull, Won ABC, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, Ralph Steadman, Nick Cave, Hunter S Thompson, Alan Moore, George Orwell, Tarantino, Cage. I have tried to study a few times but I find I can only absorb information I deem important so I’m not the best student. I was at RMIT trying to learn and I went to a careers guidance councilor for the first time. I told them of my situation and they riffled through some filing cabinets and retrieved a magazine from deep in the vaults.
“Here,” they said “do what this guy does,” and handed me an article about a graffiti mural painted by some dude.
“Is this a fucking joke?” I retorted. “Is a guy with a camera going to appear and start filming?”
“What are you talking about?” she answered. ”
You just handed me an article about me,” I sad. “This is me in the magazine – so you think I should do what this guy is doing?”
After that I figured I didn’t need higher ed – just hard work and drive. If the guidance councilor is going to inadvertently tell me to be myself, then, fuck, maybe I should.
You’re well known as a bit of a storyteller, most of your pieces that you post up online come along with a narrative – how important is this storytelling component in conjunction with your painted work? How much of it is true, and how much of it is creative license? ;)
I just like writing. I find it interesting. I have many strange and interesting experiences and I enjoy combining them with gross exaggeration, fictitious folly and malicious mayhem from my twisted imagination. I think you can tell which ones are based on an occurrence. I don’t want to be just one thing, so I like to add the written component so that people can see a little further into the world I am representing when I spritz the sprays on the rap letters. Some people might not like it or think I am a tosser, thats ok, there are worse things to be and they can just skip over the narratives.
One day when I am too old to run around painting the town I would like to get serious about it.
Speaking of words – you did a pretty fine album not too long ago, with Retainer under the name Hedge Burners – “Over Spray” – can you tell us a bit about this project and how it came about? Are you still actively working on rhymes and musical projects as well?
Cheers. I have been into rapping for nearly as long as painting. I used to go into all the battles, and I won a bunch: run amok, big day out 03? and used to get into the finals in Revolver and a bunch of others. I got a bit sick of rap and focused on painting for years. I always stayed writing here and there and free-styling but only got right back into it about 6 years ago. I did verses on friends albums; Pisces, Nekta and Flush and Celphysh and some unreleased stuff with Biggs and Retainer, I made some tracks and a few film clips for my self and one for Pisces.
This all led to me wanting to have something to show for all the years that rap meant so much to me. I wanted to put as many songs on the cd and cover as many topics as we could. After the art show, I want to do a few more tracks – some solo, and some with Tains.
Writing, painting and generally existing in the metropolis of Melbourne – how has this city itself helped the way you do graff, if it has at all? What is it about Melbourne that feeds into your work, and what are some of the more interesting stories you can tell us about some of your urban adventures here?
Melbourne had a particular flavour for a long time – I think this was due to a lot of artwork staying up on the train lines. This created this relaxed environment where you could spend hours painting a burner and it could stay up for 5-10 years (if you were lucky). The city you live in molds you subconsciously, so you could probably tell me more about the Melbourne influence in my style than I could tell you.
I used to paint atop the Collingwood silos a fair bit. Anyone who has climbed the still standing castle looking building next to it will know that the last level of the stair case has been removed to stop stupid idiots attempting to climb to the roof. Mayo and I had just painted the silos so we made our way across the rickety, wobbly wooden walkway then began our climb amongst all the dead pigeons and rotting wooden supports.
It is a bit of an effort, so it was nice to stand in the sunshine and admire our handiwork when we finally emerged from the trap door. We took photos and mucked around for a while. When it was time to leave, Mayo lowered himself down onto the banister – the stairs as I mentioned had been removed. Mind you, this is about a 10 story building – so he is balanced on this shitty piece of wood that is wobbling around then he jumps down to a landing.
It’s my turn, so I lower myself down the same way. Just as my feet are almost on the banister I screamed “fuuuuuuck” – a nail had popped through the webbing of my hand.
My natural reaction was to pull my hand away. Every part of me was saying get your hand off the nail, but my instincts kicked in and I found a foot and handhold for my free hand before I ripped my hand off the nail.
I looked straight down to the fall below, a spurt of blood still speeding towards what would have been my certain death. We laughed about that one when we got to the ground, but that was probably my 9th life right there.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibition – its been a while since we saw a bunch of your work up in a gallery. What will the show entail, and how does it represent a snapshot of your artistic practices as they are today?
It is a mixture of things. Some abstract works that I did for no reason other than that I find them aesthetically pleasing. Then their are some grotesque paintings that are commentaries on life I suppose. Some prints.
A mixed bag. Fun for the whole family.
Whats changed in graff since you started out? How have things gotten better, how have things gotten worse? Where do you stand on all these debates on what constitutes graffiti as opposed to street art, or do you not give a crap about all the political bullshit side of things? Have you found that your attitude towards it all has shifted a lot from when you first started doing graff when you were much younger?
I think the lines have blurred between street art and graffiti. Graffiti artists have always done characters and productions so I’m pretty sure that is street art anyway right.
I do both. I just don’t like how many shit street artists there are and how they don’t put in hard yards, or represent anywhere good, but they’ll plug their shit work all over the net and get kudos from clueless muppets who think dog shit sprayed gold is good art (which it is, but that’s another thing) – then they get an inflated ego and act like they are not a silly misguided gronk.
But its all gravy, life sorts everyone out.
So, after the show, what do you have planned for the rest of the year, and, indeed, the future? What projects lie unrealised, where would you like to travel and where would you like to take your work next?
I want to finish this stupid fucking book I have had in the pipelines for years, but it fried my scone so it has been on the back burner.
I want to travel – always, maybe try and get involved in this big mural art bs while the boom is still reverberating. Some more raps, some more sprays, maybe some writing, maybe some filming/acting/directing.
Maybe I’ll learn to shoot laser beams out of my eyes.
Over the years, Idol Motions has transformed himself from a bomber prowling the streets of Perth, into one of the cities most promising talents. Having started out smashing walls and lanes back in the mid-90s, Idol had a life changing epiphany whilst wandering through an abando – and since that moment, he has continually pushed himself, and his work, to the challenge of heightening his skills both on, and off the walls.
Having run with the infamous Hellz Kids, exhibitions and other projects with both the 6025 Crew and Artist Anonymous Collective, as well as strong ties to the Perth Hip hop community and the S.B.X. crew, Idol motions has been there, done that, and continues to do even more. Clean lines, colourful flares and a penchant for iconographic hip hop entities and natures denizens, Idols pieces are the culmination of years of dedication and hard work, and, most importantly – his work is full of hints at the simple joy that he possess of loving the shit that he does.
Having recently held a successful show with S.B.X. mate Paul Deej, and having just jetted off to Milano in Italy for a new project, Idol Motions is an artist who we have had our eye on for quite a while now – and one whose work we’ll continue to enjoy as time progresses. We had a chance to throw the man some questions not too long ago, and we were pretty happy to read all about his work, and we’re pretty sure you will be too – read on!
Without beating around the bush – the bits of your bio I’ve read, you’re pretty open and honest about the fact that you had a less than ideal upbringing, but that it also helped you to find a path for yourself away from the drama of it all – how important has it been for you over the years to have such a strong creative outlet, and when did you first realise that this was the path you had set yourself upon?
Cheers for putting me on. Really honored to feel like I’ve bullshitted enough people to give a damn about my craft, HAHA!
Ok, since forever, I’ve never really been a people person. “I know right?!” such a generic answer”. But ye, that mixed with anxiety due to feeling like I had to keep busy to avoid people, really gave me an excuse to zone in with art and ignore the rest without coming off as anti social. It was the one subject at school where I felt in my zone. Didn’t have to talk to impress. Just let ‘em peer over my shoulder from time to time and say thanks whenever a complement was given. Year by year, the attention grew slowly boosting my self confidence. When I reached high school I felt like I had something to prove. But this time in a positive light. Felt good. Felt confident. Felt like all the other subjects were rubbish. Now looking back, feel a lot of regret for not taking all the other classes seriously. End result, felt stupid. hehehe!
You see, I dropped out of year ten. Roamed the streets of Perth with graffiti bombers. Got drunk in ally ways and passed out. Woke up delirious and got chased by cops. Slipped onto trains with the same lame ass excuse as to why I didn’t having a valid ticket. Get home and pass out. Woke up later that afternoon and do it all again.
It didn’t take long to get bored, so one day my mate DAZER decided to show me this abandon building just out from the city center. By this stage I had already seen heaps of graffiti bombing and throw ups. To be honest, it didn’t interest me at the time but what I found in the dingiest of all places was something different. It was like finding a hidden portal into a new world. The ceiling above had a huge hole allowing light to shine in. Looked like a scene out of The Prodigy – Fire Starter. Right there to my left was a freshly painted piece. I had never before see anything of that caliber. The piece had a sunset background with silhouettes of birds and rats with this awesome DASH piece just floating in almost a defense-like stance. Arrows, cutbacks, fades, high lights, crisp can control through n through. That was the first time I had witnessed and properly acknowledged proper graffiti art. Straight away, I had to see more of this and from that day forward I would never see the city the same. 1997 was to be the beginning of something special.
Days later I started practicing in quiet hidden industrial areas. Keep in mind, I did my fair share of ‘bombing the system’ before.
When exactly was it that you started throwing shit up on walls, and how did you get started out? Who were you knocking around with, and what experiences with other artists and environments out on the street spurred you on?
Styles and forms, graffiti and canvas – at the end of the day, what most impacts the style with which you work within? Is it the mediums, the walls or the paints, or is it all a big combination of the above? What and who motivated you to create your work?
I started to go public in 1998. By this stage, i had proven my hand styles to be worthy of representing Hellz Kids. Along side TRITS, HERBS, DAZER, OAK, DEST, NEXT ABC, SINCH, RENZ, SENZA, FITZ, DEKS ONE, REPS, TOMAHAWK, and of course the main man ELMS ONE, just to name a few.
At any given time when I was out n about bombing there would usually be at least 3 or 4 if not more of us. There was always competition on who could hit the hottest spots, have the nicest hand style or even just try to put up the most. The competition never ended. We were all so hungry for the top rating from each other. I think because of that alone, it really taught me in a big way to always paint like its your last piece. Trying to outdo the last. I didn’t even take photos most of the time. Besides the fact that I was already super paranoid, it was about fighting through the butterflies in the gut and embracing that adrenalin, while still being able to leave a stylish piece for the rest of the onlookers to enjoy between peak traffic that morning.
Damn! Wish I took more flicks!
After painting walls for so long I felt like I was only exercising repetition. To me that wasn’t enough any more. I needed to change it up. I needed to do something with meaning. Something the viewers could relate to. Even challenge their thought process and/ or beliefs. So I decided to pack up graffiti for a while and experiment with different mediums. Ink and Water colours on paper, Acrylic on canvas and wooden board, metal, aluminium and even glass. During the few years of playing around with different things I also decided to study up a little on art history. Doing this helped me to get a better understanding of being a true artist and the history behind many references that are still used today. Clarify the direction I wanted to pursue and also how to go about it but mainly, properly evolve my style into something uniquely different from the rest.
It was about 2003 when I decided that I was ready to test the walls with my new vision. The first thing I’d realized was the different textures of the walls. Something I never would have bothered to take notice of before was now a contributing factor to my thought process accompanied with what style, colour, theme, even what type of paint would work best on the chosen surface. I’ve now started to realize how complex art really is. Applying that knowledge to graffiti made the imagination run even wilder. Now that’s when the real fun began!
Working, creating and loving in Perth, tell us a little about how the city itself has helped to shape your work? How is Perth these days for artists such as yourself? Do you feel it’s opening up more to less traditional forms of art, and the artists who create it?
Yep, for sure! Graffiti art/ street art is definitely starting to take a front seat in Perth culture. Though it still feels like Perth is trying to find its original characteristics by borrowing other cities cultural back bones. Kinda like a person filling in a colouring book and calling them self an artist. I think if we as the people of Perth City, and as a whole in W.A., want to make a mark, but we need to stop looking over the shoulder of the Eastern States for answers. We need to start thinking on our own. The reason I say this is because its no different as to an individual artist trying to build a style that others can distinctively recognize. At first its all trial and error. Then we find things and references that inspire us to recreate. (This is the part where I think the Perth’s culture is stuck). We then take these recreations into our studios to manipulate, dissect, then reinterpret into our version of what we want the audience to see and this takes years. Basically recreating originality/ inventing new culture.
Right now I see Perth like I see Mr Brainwash … All cut n paste with a short attention span. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying Perth isn’t trying. It just seems like everyone here is more about trying to keep up with the cool kids instead of being our selves. Hey, to me art is no different to any relationship. You can go for something fake or something real, but in the end it all falls back on you.
Can you explain some of the regular tools of your trade? What are some of the essential pieces of equipment or medium that you just cant live without? Favourite paints, caps, pens, tunes?
Besides the fact I’d go crazy without hiphop and instrumentals, I never really cling to one thing. Every time I find my stride with certain tools something always goes wrong like run out of a certain cap, finding the one marker you need is lidless and dried up or that one brush you’ve been using religiously for the past month falls apart. It might be that I’m a tad rough with my tools, but in regards to that its kind of a good thing. It teaches me to constantly utilize between tools, keeping me from getting to comfortable. I think if you stay in your comfort zone, you find your self hesitating to be assertive with the motions of progression within the W.I.P (work in progress) when the unexpected happens: eg, Running low on buff colour. If your a real graffiti writer then I’m talking to you. hehehe!
If I have to make a choice though, I guess I choose spray paint. Without graffiti I probably wouldn’t have taken art seriously. But again, due to my health complications I have been trying to stay away from the paint fumes and focus more on ink on paper. Really diggin my crazy A2 designs at the moment.
Within your work, I have noticed you do seem to have an affinity for nature – a lot of your past characters have revolved around portraiture of animals and other fauna, what is it about the natural world that you love to portray?
When i was younger I spent a lot of my time living in mining and country towns. With not much to do id find my self drawing and at that time things like cable tv and internet wasn’t available. So the only references I could find that inspired me was from what was around me.
Birds, buffaloes, fish, snakes, mother nature. Choosing to spray these themes on walls years later in suburbia was my way of saying, “you can’t take the country out the boy”.
Tell us a bit about some of your previous shows and other projects you’ve been involved with – and what other creative endeavours have you found yourself amongst over time? How about your upcoming show with Deej? How did it all come about, and can you explain a little more about your hip hop influences, and what parts of the culture itself that spurred you into doing the show?
The shows that I have been involved with over the years were mainly team ups with 6025 Crew and Artist Anonymous Collective (A.A. Crew). Both of which I have the utmost respect for, and represent to the fullest!
Where hiphop ties into this is years back when I was still running strong with Hellz Kids. Few of the H.K. boys had a side crew called S.B.X. aka Syllabolix. You’ve probably heard of the crew from the well respected likes of DRAPHT, MATTY B, DOWN SYDE, CLANDESTINE and the hiphop legend ROBERT HUNTER, on Triple J or any UNDERGROUND radio station. R.I.P HUNTER! The one thing that a lot of S.B.X. fans don’t realize is the whole time there was a graffiti sprout from that family tree. Just to name a few: DASH, SOUNDZ & ACTION (XD Crew),DEEJ, TRITS, ELMS, HIGH 5, KID ZOOM and the list goes on.
I was lucky enough to become a part of the growth of S.B.X. back in early 2000 and with that , opening doors to meet and greets with other national and international hiphop stars such as FUNKOARS, HILLTOP HOODS, KRS1, IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE, MF DOOM, GHOSTFACE KILLAH and more.
Just recently I had my mate PAUL DEEJ invite me to a joint project called HIP HOP. Conveniently enough, i was messing around with black ink pens and was trying to find a body of work to apply it to. As straight forward as the theme seems there is a bit of a twist to the presentation. For starters, it was mainly aimed at the 90’s, (the Boom Bap era). Paul chose to work with Gangster rap and underground. I chose commercial. The layout in the gallery was to represent the battle between two artist like the ongoing rivalry between commercial and underground, “The Face Off”. I decided to show repetition by using different mediums to recreate some of the original works. I also hung my originals in between graffiti prints to represent similarities within the strategy of pop culture infiltrating the underground scene.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year, and, indeed, the future? What projects lie unrealised, and what would you like to investigate with your work next?
I’v actually been sponsored to go paint over in Italy for a couple of weeks. Super excited about this! I also have a couple of group shows with 6025 Crew lined up for later this year in Melbourne and then again in Perth.
Just quietly, I possibly could be putting together a solo show for sometime next year to. Keep an ear out peeps.
Aaron Glasson is something of a wanderer, traversing the globe with a talent laden hand coupled with a message of awareness and hope for the plight of our oceans. His work often revolves around painting colourful extrapolations of surreal, psychedelia infused denizens replete with barnacled patterns, anthropodic hitchhikers and other encrusted, symbiotic bottom dwellers – denizens that speak of the oceanic bliss that encircles our globe.
Having spent time on the shores of Sri Lanka and Mexico, over the last five years Aaron has infused his energies into an artistic collective whose mission is to raise awareness of our oceans. As the Creative Director of PangeaSeed, Glasson uses his art, and the works of those with which he collaborates with, as a conduit for this message – creating visual behemoths of beauty that speak of the wonders of that vast realm that lay both above, and below the waves.
At a point in our history when our oceans are suffering massive depletion, pollution and generally being fucked up by an apathetic “she’ll be right” attitude from the “general public”, its artists like Aaron Glasson who are doing their utmost to shove fistfuls of art into peoples faces in an attempt to make them take notice.
We’re humbled by his efforts, and gratified by these glimpses we have had of his art (of course, we’d much prefer to see them in person, but photos and video are the next best thing!), which is why we wanted to have a chat to him, and share a little slice of this wonderful artists many works with you – so read on, and enjoy!
(With Spencer Keeton Cunningham)
How did you start out on the artistic path – what are some of your earliest creative memories and when did you realise that art was something that you wanted to pursue?
I’ve always been into art and making stuff, and I was lucky to have parents who encouraged that. I remember drawing a sweet crocodile when I was five or six and knowing it was good. Painting, photography, and tech drawing, were the only classes I liked in high school so then I thought I wanted to do something visually creative. I always loved art but didn’t realise it could be a career. I actually wanted to be an architect partly I thought I knew I could make a living as that though didn’t pass physics class which I needed to take architecture in University. I then did a half a year of Graphic design at Uni, I didn’t like how restrictive the course was.
I had friends in the fine art school having a lot of fun, so I left my graphic design course for fine art and realised that it was really tangible to live like that.
(With Celeste Byers)
Do you have any formal artistic background, and what kind of identities within art do you believe your work most identifies with? Has it been difficult at times to distinguish yourself and your work from all the many other artists out there? In what way do you try to hone your style and push it in new directions?
I did degree in fine art and design and majored in print making. I don’t know about identities within art that I fit in. I’d rather not think about it to much as it doesn’t really concern me. There are a lot of people out there making stuff so and I’m sure mine looks like theirs to some people, and theirs to mine, but I think that’s okay and unavoidable sometimes. I’m influenced by a lot of people, often subconsciously. Then sometimes I realise their influence long after I’ve made something but I think that’s okay too. I feel like my own style is unavoidable and distinguishes itself, it doesn’t matter how influenced or inspired I am by others. I guess I just keep trying new things which sends me in new directions and keeps things exciting. Being inspired is super important too.
I’ve stopped doubting I can do something and just attempt it with a positive attitude and gusto.
Your work has a pretty sublime, at times kaleidoscopic element to it, with shitloads of colour an organic elements – its pretty obvious that the natural world plays a big part in the work that you produce – what makes that so? What draws you to the elements of the natural world that and its various eccentricities and beauties of life and form?
Often, especially when I’m in outside I’m filled with this overwhelming feeling like, “this is so profoundly beautiful and real, why do I even make art when this exists.” It’s a funny feeling, and I know why I make stuff but that feeling is interesting. I just think the natural world is so full of wonder, depicting things I’m fascinated by feels like a way to get closer to it, and even understand more of it’s mystery. I also make a lot of work connected to environmentally conservation efforts so draw life to promote saving it.
You started out in New Zealand – how did the country itself influence the way you create art? How does the creative energy of the country you live in affect your work, and how does travel change this?
I haven’t lived in NZ for years, but when I did I loved it. New Zealand has a lot of trees so I used to paint a lot of trees. I guess I was influenced by aspects of Maori art living there also.
Every place I’m at affects my art so much! Culturally, environmentally, mystically, and historically.
What lead you to painting on walls and how is it an extension of your other artistic work? Does doing murals and works in the street feed back into your other creative practices, and if so, how?
I was into really into graffiti when I was a teenager, there wasn’t much in New Zealand at that time but my brother had this magazine from France with pictures of bombed trains. I just thought it was the coolest thing. I messed around with spray can, and painted the odd mural now and then but didn’t really get into painting walls in a big way until a few years ago. I really got into it more living in Sri Lanka. There are so many beautifully decaying walls there, people were a stoked to have them painted and paints cheap.
Painting murals is just a different experience than painting in the studio but they are all extensions of each other. I learn from and enjoy both so much, gotta mix it up.
(With Celeste Byers and Simon Blackfoot)
A bit about your residency and time spent in Mexico – can you fill us in on you residency over there, how it came about, and what you got up to, and who you painted with, whilst you were staying there?
It’s a long strange story, but basically I wanted to do an artist residency in Mexico. I asked a couple of friends who I thought might now (who didn’t know each other). They both independently told me they were going to Residencia Gorila so I was like “that’s the place.” It’s not like other residencies in that they get artists to focus on environmental and social issues. I worked on a bunch of things there and painted with Celeste Byers and Vexta, the two friends who independently told me about Gorila. I assisted Momo and made a film about him too, that was cool.
(With Celeste Byers)
You also recently went over to Hawaii for Pow! Wow! How was the entire experience, the event, the people and the art? Tell us a bit about your adventures over there, and why you’d recommend anyone reading this to go and check it all out?
Pow! Wow! was incredible. I painted a huge wall with Skinner and Spencer Keeton Cunningham. I’d painted with Spencer a lot before but never Skinner so that was awesome. I admire both those guys so much. The event was so so good and well organised. I met a lot of inspiring lovely people and had so many good times packed in one week.
Hawaii is just a magical group of islands, there is an active volcano spewing lava on one Island and world class art festival on another. I feel like Hawaii is just good for your soul, it’s easy to get wild there.
Speaking of Pow! Wow! You went over there representing PangeaSeed – can you tell us a bit more about the organisation, your involvement in it and what it represents?
I’ve been creative director for PangeaSeed since it was established in 2009. We are a collective of creative people working on ways to better our collective relationship with the ocean. A lot of what we do utilizes art and design to educate people and raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Over the years we have worked with literally hundreds of artist from around world who are concerned about the current health of the seas and it’s inhabitants. We are really trying to teach people that how they choose to live, what they consume and support does effect the greater environment.
We make films, curate art shows, festivals, eco-tours, and even have a sustainable apparel line. It’s all about making idea’s around sustainability, ecology, and conservation cool, appealing, and something people want to get active in.
This July we are collaborating with thirteen artist to paint an Island off the coast of Mexico. Whale sharks and manta ray converge there in huge numbers so all the murals are going to promote their conservation and protection.
Its a pretty crazy line up of artists, I’m very excited.
Accomplishment wise – what have been some of the other stand out projects you’ve been involved with? Exhibitions, shows, what else can you tell us about your work that we don’t know about?
I’m stoked with this triptych I just finished with Celeste Byers. It’s three paintings that are being used to promote World Oceans Day Hawaii. I did one, she did one, then we worked on the centre piece together.
(With Celeste Byers)
What do you have planned for the future? What projects have you thought of in your more whimsical moments, that if money and time were no limit, you’d love to do?
I’m painting another mural with Celeste Byers in Honolulu next month, that will be enjoyable. Then there’s Mexico in July, then I don’t know, I have a bunch of stuff I want to do. With unlimited time and money I would probably buy a chunk of sweet land and build wacky lovely things and a place to live that reflects the land. Friends and animals could come and live there too, in tree houses, like a community.
We’d grow our own food and plants, play, and have fun constantly. You could come too.
It’s 2004, Melbourne, and things for the cities vibrant stencil art community are about to change. For many years the stencil was king – so much so that books were written, international websites spawned and a global movement eagerly watched the streets come alive in nooks and crannies with cut and sprayed works of art. from the political to the humourous, – in these days, freedom aerosol was still, for the most part, mostly practiced by graffiti artists and what we know as the “street art scene” was dominated by stencils and the artists who created them, plied a swaths across the city.
But 2004 was the year of a major international event in Melbourne, the Commonwealth games, and with it came a massive cleanup across the city – walls washed and sterilised in the name of “making shit look better”, and with the cleanup went many of the cities beloved stencil art. The City of Melbourne, as hard as it may be to believe these days, went to “war” on graffiti and street art, one which, in hindsight, it appears it was less a victor than at the time it had thought it had been.
It was the year that the first incarnation of the Blender studios was shut down, and the year that the Everfresh studios opened – it was a time of transition between the old, and the new. Artist such as Sync, Ha-Ha and, of course, Dlux, three artists who had been right in amongst the stencil art and street art movement, moved off into different directions – continuing to pursue their works and enlivening their, and consequently our, surroundings.
Dlux, or, as he is more commonly know these days, James Dodd, was there, amongst it all, a part of the beginnings of a movement that have continued to this day. Where once street art was truly underground, it is now, in many ways, a commercial, comodifiable product – and yet artists such as Dlux have retained their ability to “keep it real” whilst navigating the many opportunities and pitfalls associated with the rise of street art as a cultural phenomenon. Although his work has evolved in many differing directions in the decade since, it still retains an element of authenticity that was, in all probability, spawned within that period of time – the rebellion, the enthusiasm and gleefully poignant philosophical elements are all critical elements of his work, and it would be hard to discern if so many of these elements would be present, if he had not been there to see it all in its rambunctious glory.
In the intervening years, Dlux continued to progress his work and delve into multifaceted areas, taking it into entirely new directions and extending his personal philosophies to encompass other areas of the community, including projects in regional centres and working with indigenous communities. In 2010, he was aslo recognised contributions to the Australian street art scene, when he was invited to participate in the National Gallery of Australias Space Invaders exhibition – a well deserved accolade for one who has worked so tirelessly to promote both his own work, and that of the artistic community in general. His work has also, over these years, diversified into everything from gorgeously coloured landscapes to abstracted public installations, and his own personal artistic mythos has developed alongside it all into a multifaceted riot of colours and earthly glimpses of both our country, and identity.
In 2004, the City of Melbourne went to “war” with street artists such as Dlux, persecuting them and their work for detracting from their narrow definition of municiple beauty – and it is telling that today, in 2014, when Dlux is still pushing forward into new territory with his remarkable work, that the City of Melbourne has just signed off on a new Graffiti Management Act. A new set of guidelines that, although still not quite at a point where we can celebrate, does offer a measure of support to street artists, and goes some way towards giving them the ability to practice their creativity without as much fear of retribution as there was in the year 2004.
Without the efforts, talents and contributions of artists such as Dlux (not to mention Ha-Ha, Sync, and all the other artists who practiced in those times) the foundations of what we call the Melbourne street art community would be vastly different to what it is now – and may, truly, not be as vibrant and beautiful a beast as it now is.
On the eve of his celebration of these past ten years, the group exhibition “Now & Then” with both Ha-Ha and Sync, we had a chance to catch up with Dlux (aka James Dodd), to discuss his art, why 2004 was such a pivotal moment, and what he still hopes to achieve with his work in the future …
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?
Ha, yes, a wonderfully cliché question that invokes wonderfully cliché answers! Both of my grandmothers were painters so I was always around drawing and painting. We always had paper to draw on in our house. I’m lucky that my family always encouraged me to pursue my passions so it was kind of always quite clear that I’d become some kind of arty person.
Mark making, painting and stencils – your mediums cross a lot of boundaries, what do all of these methods of expression have in common, beyond the mediums and techniques? Which of these hold particular interest to you, and why?
I get bored easily so I need lots of things going on to keep me interested. They are all interesting to me and they each can be used to tell different stories. Mostly, the common thing for me comes down to thinking about how people are creative in public space. Sometimes scratched marks in public furniture form nice conversations, sometimes you want to contemplate softly nuanced textures, sometimes you need to draw a dick on someone’s fence … Painting is just one of those things that can keep you excited for ever – there is no end point.
Tell us a bit about the whole scene in Melbourne back in 2004 – what was the most exciting aspect of being an artist in the city a decade ago?
I had come to Melbourne from Adelaide around 2002, I knew a few art heads but not many. I was at one of those points where I was hungry for everything and Melbourne dished it out in fistfuls. I was meeting stacks of similarly curious and passionate people and we were all excited to be finding all of these things together. The alleyways and lanes were already littered with tags and scrawl and were a natural place to start fooling around with stencils. It seemed at times that artworks were multiplying overnight by magic – I guess they kind of were. Everyone was pumped by what was going on.
How did you first meet Sync and Ha-Ha? How did the friendship between you guys begin, and how has it evolved over the years?
Ben Frost – is definitely the wizard on the mountain top – I’d known Frosty for a couple of years through other art adventures and he’d been in Melbourne for a little while when I moved there. He was living with this guy called Reagan who was into stuckism, conspiracy theories and stencils and our relationship grew quickly.
I’d known Sync’s work on the streets of Adelaide, in fact seeing his stickers gave me my first inspiration to start making stencils and stickers, but I’d never met him. I think I met him once at a Melbourne alleycat race or something, I can’t recall exactly, but he showed up one day to take a studio at the Blender. Suffice to say we were all in to the same things and spent a lot of time painting and adventuring together.
We were all close through the Empty Show phase and through Early Space. Rick was always a lot more gangster and into rap painting and stuff so he fit in well with the Everfresh Crew. Reagan and I stayed dorks and hung out with other social miscreants and artfags. Now Rick lives around from the corner from me in Adelaide. He steals lemons from my tree that hangs over the fence.
How about your own artwork? The work you do these days has a huge progression and difference in style to what you did back then – what are some of the pivotal changing points in your work, and what common elements have carried through from then to now?
Yeah, for sure … I was initially excited by making things on the street because of the things that kind of creativity could do better than in a gallery. For a long time I was somewhat dissatisfied with gallery outcomes and invested my energy thinking about street stuff. After investing a lot of time and energy in street outcomes I started to see some gallery things that I was keen to try out. Now I find myself interested in things that might be able to cross between both contexts.
I’ve always been turned on by artists who work comfortably across a range of different approaches and mediums. People like Mike Kelley are a good example. You either have to be outrageously talented to do this or you have to work hard at building your understanding of different things. It’s a bit like speaking different languages.
There’s always a somewhat, in my mind, philosophical element to your work – it often has hidden nuances that narrate a thoughtful tale – is this a conscious approach? Do you often have a defined idea or philosophical, explorative urge when putting together a show?
I like art that has a reason, or quest, or concept. It’s not enough for me to make things that simply decorative. So that means I’m always looking for those things when I am making.
It’s corny, but I like to give people opportunities to reflect and to think.
You’ve actually done a hell of a lot of work out of the cities and in regional areas, and a bit of work in the past with indigenous communities – can you tell us a bit about some of these projects, and how this kind of work has both rewarded you and contributed to your own creativity?
I grew up regionally and have distinct memories of the small bits of contact that I had with practicing artists so it’s always been easy for me to relate. Travelling and turning around murals in a small amount of time is really exciting for me. Working really remotely and with indigenous communities has presented me with some of the most confronting experiences of my life. In the end, using aerosol with kids generally makes it easy to get their attention and it’s great when they have a really positive experience.
A big part of my process is basic encouragement of creativity – just seeing kids draw is huge for me. Mostly I work together with communities to facilitate their ideas so that they end up with an outcome that they have a genuine connection with.
If you could contrast things between “then and now”, how have things changed for the better “now”? How were things better back ‘then”? Is it a case of apples and oranges – too difficult to compare, or are there marked differences?
Yeah, things are different – that’s a good thing – it means we’ve actually progressed culturally. The big walls that people are smashing out now are amazing. That wasn’t happening when I was coming up. The great work of many artists over the years has meant that the support base for this kind of artwork is bigger than it has ever been.
As with any progression, young artists see what people do before them and want to take things beyond that. That’s what we did. People saw that and then did the next things.
It might be hard to believe, but it did seem impossible to make a living making the kind of art we wanted to make. And, hey, if we’re gonna be all dreamy eyed it was never about the money! I think that young artists now see that they can make a living doing these things. They chase that. That’s a fortunate situation.
What are all three of you hoping to illustrate with this somewhat retrospective-come-new exhibition?
I think it’s a bit of an adventure really. We’re not entirely sure. My personal curiosity comes from having not been living in Melbourne for a while, and missing the community there. Whilst I stay in touch as much as I can, I am interested to see what sort of conversations can be had about the shift in Melbourne street culture generally.
I’m also itching to share things that I’ve made with people who may only have known part of what I’ve done.
How about the whole “making a living as an artist” thing – is it as challenging ad it used to be? There seem to be more opportunities for artists to do so these days, bit for yourself, what is the day to day toil of making your way in the world as an artist actually like?
It’s exciting, but you’ve got to keep at it and there’s no one else to whip you into shape if you’re not pulling your weight. You need to be self-motivated – there’s no other way. Certainly I’m fortunate to have some momentum but that doesn’t mean I can sit back and enjoy the ride. I still work long hours and weekends on all parts of my practice. Art audiences (good ones) expect you to keep pushing and growing.
As a full time artist there’s a lot of time put in behind a desk as well, doing admin, communicating, responding to interview questions!
You’ve had a hell of a lot of shows and produced a fairly large body of work over the years – what have been some of your favourite shows and projects, and why?
Highlights have been celebrating the Space Invaders exhibition with a huge bunch of talented peers.
Most of my artworks are experiments – that means most of them ‘don’t work’ – so when I do manage to pump out a batch that are still satisfying to look at years later that makes me very happy. Spending time in Australia’s Top End, looking at unique graffiti has been a favourite. Invitations to travel to different parts of the world and do what I love to do rates pretty high.
Adventures, road trips, being naughty, all nighters – choosing the art life has given me so many fantastic experiences and friendships.
If you could give some words of advice to people out there doing their thing, that you didn’t know back in the day, what would they be?
Just the classics – I have a couple of favourites. Don’t become complacent. If you’re comfortable, you’re not excited. As an artist you have to make everyday – it’s both a guide and a declaration.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year, and, indeed, the future?
I’m working towards a solo show at the Contemporary Art Centre of S.A., in Adelaide in the middle of the year. I’m always playing, always wondering. I’m quite curious to try and make work that can be more poetic – things that aren’t as in your face but can still tell a story, offer insight into the human condition or offer an experience of beauty – not much! They’re ongoing goals and things that can be built upon forever.
What projects lay unrealised, and what would you like to investigate with your work in your next project?
That’s a big question. I keep journals of ideas and most of them begin with their fantasy version and then slowly get resolved according the reality of time and money. It’s just one step at a time mostly, trying not to trip over. One of the things I’ve been fooling around with lately is my passion for bicycles, adventures and art and wondering whether there are things there that might also be interesting for other people to consider art. It’s ongoing…
I’ve been meaning to write this about street artists, and graffiti artists, Copyright and Moral Rights in Australia for a long time now, because, lets face it, the problem has just been getting worse and worse. Almost every week, someone tells me of an incident, and it goes something like this …
There are websites, there are ebay sellers, there are people at markets, and all of them are selling cards and other reproductions of peoples artworks. when confronted, they always have several excuses that they always have on hand:
“It was done illegally, therefore I’m allowed to reproduce it!”
“Its street art, its allowed and its free for all – its not copyright, if it was then why would they be painting it on the street!”
“Its artistic licence and my own photographic art, therefore I can sell it if I want to.”
All of these statements are grossly incorrect.
Before I go on with this article, I am going to state that I am not a legal representative, or lawyer, and have no qualifications in such matters. Although I have sought advice from several legal sources as to the following, and researched the matter, this is a matter of my interpretation and it is to be taken in no way as official legal advice on the information presented here on copyright and moral rights in Australia for street art and graffiti – it’s up to you to take this knowledge, and arm yourselves with as much information as possible to actively pursue your concerns.
Now all that disclaimer aside, I will give you the information that I have both gathered, and consulted with legal sources, and I’m going to tell you artists what you already know is quite obvious – all of these excuses, under Australian law, are, for the most part, complete bullshit.
There are several reasons for this, and two very important rights that artists have that invalidate anyone who attempts to reproduce an artists work without their permission – Copyright and moral Rights – and I’ll address these separately.
This is a hefty article and I’ve been working on it for a while to make it as comprehensive as possible, so bear with it.
Image by Deb – Artwork illegally reproduced on eBay
Australian Copyright Law and the Protection of Street Art & Graffiti
“Sculptures, monuments and artwork may be protected by copyright. Unless an exception applies, you need permission from the copyright owner of the work. Exceptions to this general rule are found in the Copyright Act. For example, photographing and publishing a photograph of a sculpture or work of artistic craftsmanship that is permanently situated in a public place, or in premises open to the public, does not infringe copyright (s.65). This does not apply to other public art, such as murals. - 
Murals, which by definition include street art, are not included in this exemption, and are most definitely protected under the Australian Copyright Law – they are not exempted like other public artworks.
When talking about infringements, the existence of such infringements occur when a substantial part of the artwork is reproduced without the consent of permission of the copyright owner.
The Arts Law website clarifies this:
“Although murals and graffiti are generally situated in a public place, because they are two-dimensional artworks the section 65 exemption does not apply. As such, if you substantially reproduce a mural or graffiti work in a photograph you may be infringing the copyright in that mural or graffiti work. Substantial reproduction is not a question of how much has been reproduced like 10% of 70%, but rather a question of quality (i.e. what has been reproduced).” 
Usually, this “substantial part” of the work will be determined by a court, who look for significant, distinctive and fundamental parts of the work in question – these fundamental elements do not have to actually comprise a considerable amount of the image for them to actually be determined a substantial part of it. Which means that a photograph looking down a street that happens to have a mural wall running down one side adding perspective is less likely to infringe copyright than a photograph that focuses on a key part of the mural making it the main subject of the photograph, even though the first photograph shows more of the mural.
“Less likely” does not mean that it doesn’t, and as the ACC states above, if the entirety of the mural is reproduced, then it is almost certainly infringing on the artists copyright, regardless of “artistic expression” on behalf of the photographer.
This means that the reproducer cannot use this argument as a reason to be able to sell their reproductions of street art on cards/prints/other items, because there is an almost certain chance that their reproduction actually infringes on the artists copyright and can be dealt with by law – and in these situations, it is usual that the reproducer must cease and desist in selling the item until such time as the issue is resolved.
There are, however, some exceptions within the Australian copyright act in regards to “Fair Dealing” – but these are quite narrow definitions usually related to academic requirements, and are not usually applicable in this case.
Fair Dealings are exceptions to the general copyright laws, and are often quoted by these “re-sellers” as a way of justifying their reproduction of artists work. These do apply to many, however in the case of the market sellers, Fair Dealing just doesn’t apply.
The laws for “Fair Dealing” in Australia are not like the more robust Fair Use rights in the USA. This is much to the consternation of many proponents of an updated Australia Copyright law, who believe that our current Copyright system, and that especially of the Fair Dealing section, is out of step with the swift advances in technology that we find ourselves facing today.Fair Dealing in Australia comprises a multitude of various different exceptions, and Wikipedia has a good overview of the items in regards to them:
“In Australia the grounds for fair dealing are:
Research and study (section 40 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)
Review and criticism (s41)
Reporting the news” (s42)
Legal advice (although the federal Crown is deemed to own copyright in federal statutes, and the Crown in each State in state statutes). (s43)
Parody and Satire (with some exceptions) (s41A)” 
Regarding the re-use of copyrighted images or drawings, the Australian Copyright Act does not impose a 10%-limit under its fair dealing provisions for the purpose of research and study. Instead, each and every such use for research or study must be evaluated individually to determine whether it is fair, similar to the notion of fair use in U.S. copyright law. Among the criteria used to determine the fairness of a use are the purpose and character of the dealing, the nature of the work, the possibility of obtaining the work commercially within a reasonable time, the effect of the use on the potential market for the work or on its value, and how much of a work is copied.”
This is, all, actual, fairly good for artists, but its not so good for anyone else who may have a legitimate reason to re-publish the artists works. A review was recently conducted (February 2014) that proposed 30 changes to the Australian Copyright laws, under which Fair Dealing gets a good amount of consideration, however for the most part, it deals mainly with electronic reproduction of movies etc.
In this report, a number of issues were found in which the existing Fair Dealings laws were vastly problematic. 
In my opinion, Fair Dealing in Australia is currently in a state of flux – but this really has little bearing on the guys down at the market selling prints and such for their own personal gain. It’s pretty hard for them to claim that they are selling these items for academic purposes, or as satire, or that they are research or reviews. Thus, for those people, Fair Dealing is no excuse.In terms of people publishing books, those operating websites and blogs, and reproducing via other mediums is still really murky. Blogs are usually promotive, and are a mainstay of this new world of viral art .
The Copyright laws on Fair Dealing are very much out of touch with this new age. Books and zines are even more difficult,many could be seen as academic publications, or magazines for review. Personally, when it comes to books on street art and graffiti, I look at it in a way that reflects my own personal morality – I draw a distinction between “Major Publishers” and “Self publishers” – major publishers are publishing books of one main purpose, to make money. Self Publishers are publishing out of a love of the art, and usually only do so to promote the artists works – in most cases they will hardly ever make any money off of them, and indeed will usually not even make their money back from printing up their books. Usually, they do get the artists permission, where they can and genuinely do contribute back to the scene.
Whether this distinction in my mind is legally correct or not, well, I guess each one would have to be taken on a case by case basis and judged on the facts as to its own merit.
It Was Painted Illegally, Therefore The Artist Has No Copyright Or Moral Rights On The Art And I Can Do What I Want With It.
“People think that because our work is public and it is sometimes illegally painted, they could [sic] use it any way they want.” – Cantwo. 
Copyright of an image is not negated if it was produced illegally. Of course, if it was produced illegally, then the artist themselves may face other legal issues such as vandalism charges, trespass, etc, however the piece itself is still protected under copyright law as a mural and is still the property of the artist.
When people talk about a work of graffiti or street art being created “illegally”, they are usually referencing the act of creation, rather than any type of copyright issues. This means that the piece was created by means of trespassing or vandalism on someones private property, and not usually as a result of any kind of copyright violation. In this regards, the work of art is actually created by the artist, and isn’t just a replication of someone elses work. So when someone says “It was created illegally” is just doesn’t matter, and the work itself is still copyright by the artist (unless, that is, if the street artist was say pasting up images of mickey mouse everywhere – then its not the property of the actual artist, but Disney, who is the copyright holder).
Street Art and graffiti are, therefore, protected under the Copyright Act – the copyright act specifies that “a work must be an original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work” (Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) s 32.) as long as it is expressed in “Material Form” – meaning “The subject-matter must be expressed in a material form: Copyright does not protect information, ideas, concepts, styles and methods. 
Street art and graffiti, where they exist as Aerosol murals, stencils, pasteups, paintings, drawings – these are all “Material Form” items. That also means that ideas, concepts, styles and methods can not be copyright. For some graffiti artists, their tags are more than an extension of their art, they are the art – if it was a simple tag, something like “Jules” in plain lettering, this probably wouldn’t be copyright – but if it was say, a tag such as one of Slicers, or Mayo, or Chaz Bojorquez, then it is most definitely a material piece of art and is definitely protected by copyright.
The Copyright Act, as summarised by the Law Handbook website, defines the “First Owner” of a piece of artwork as the author or artist who first produced the material form of the art.  Therefore, graffiti and street art are the “First owners” of the artwork – they can indeed transfer this copyright, if they should wish, but as any items owned by the artist as copyrighted materials are considered by Australian law as personal property, then no one, even if it was produced as a result of vandalism, has the right to reproduce the work without an artists permission.
Naomi Messenger, a lawyer from KPMG Legal writes in her 2002 article “Can ‘Can Art” Navigate Legal Pitfalls 
“Spray-can artists usually come prepared. They have preliminary sketches of their proposed paintings. They will generally have copyright in both their sketches as original artistic works, and the graffiti art copyright gives them the exclusive right to reproduce their artworks and to adapt them from two-dimensional to three-dimensional artworks.”
She then goes on to say how a pseudonym would affect this:
“The term of copyright protection may differ if the artist is working under a pseudonym, that is their individual identification ‘tag’.
Anonymous and pseudonym works are only protected for 50 years from first publication; although if the identity of the author is known or can be ascertained, the duration will be the life of the artist plus 50 years.” – therefore the only thing that would affect the actual copyright of the artists work would be the 50 year limit, however the artist still retains copyright over it for that duration.
There is another part to this – in a large number of cases, where someone has taken a photo of a piece of graffiti or street art and used it for their own gain, the piece was actually a legally painted commissioned piece.
Sharon Givoni, a Melbourne based intellectual property law clarifies this further (in a great, must read article for all artists that was published in Illustrators Australia):
“It is important to note that if you paint on someone else’s wall you will not own the physical painting on that wall as this remains with the property owner.However, the owner of the building will not necessarily own the copyright of the painting on the wall as that often remains with the artist.” 
This means that the artist holds copyright over it – unless, of course, they were actually employed. If you are employed by a company and produce the work for them, then its implied that they own the copyright, unless you specifically signed an agreement otherwise. For artists, however, you are generally working as an independent contractor, in which case, even if you have been paid for producing the artwork, the person who bought the artwork does not own the copyright unless it was specifically stated that copyright would be handed over in the contract.
“The fact that a person has paid for the making of a work (other than a photograph, portrait or engraving) does not mean that they will own copyright in it, although they may be permitted to copy it, or exercise other rights of the owner. For example, if a community group commissions an artist to prepare some artwork for a pamphlet, the artist will own copyright in the artwork, although the community group will have an implied licence to reproduce it in the pamphlet (see “Licensing copyright”, below). This means the artist could allow someone else to use the artwork for another purpose.” 
The people reproducing this artwork have not been granted copyright, therefore they have no right to print or reproduce it for their own profit. Pieces also, painted in legally sanctioned areas, such as Hosier Lane in Melbourne etc, are also protected under copyright, which is retained by the artist.
Yet regardless of either of these variations, whether the artist produced the piece legally, or illegally, any mural created by an artist is protected by copyright – even if it was produced in an illegal manner on a wall that the artist did not have permission to paint upon.
Copyright law aside, this isn’t the only recourse that street and graffiti artists have in protecting their work. There is also the little thought abut “Moral Rights” that an artist retains on their artwork, which were introduced in 2000 as an amendment to the Copyright Act. This law is just as important as copyright law, because the people who actually sell these cards break pretty much all the time.
Moral rights over your artwork, as classified as a mural, means that no one can actually take your artwork and display it in any way, or reproduce it in any way, without actually attributing you as the artist.
Moral rights do apply in a separate way to copyright, as you can never actually sell your moral rights, they stay with the artist. Although moral rights can be waived, you as the artist and creator of the mural always retain the moral right to be named as the creator.
In terms of the law itself, breaching the artists moral rights is in this instance defined by the Copyright act, and your moral rights consist of the following:
“If an artistic work has been subjected to derogatory treatment of a kind mentioned in paragraph (a) of the definition of derogatory treatment in section 195AK that infringes the author’s right of integrity of authorship in respect of the work, a person infringes the author’s right of integrity of authorship in respect of the work if the person does any of the following in respect of the work as so derogatorily treated:
(a) reproduces it in a material form;
(b) publishes it;
(c) transmits it”
Furthermore, according to the Copyright Agency, moral rights consist of the following items:
“the right of attribution of authorship;
the right not to have authorship of their work falsely attributed; and
the right of integrity of authorship. This protects creators from their work being used in a derogatory way that may negatively impact on their character or reputation.
Moral rights last for the same time as copyright in a work, the term of which is usually the creator’s life plus 70 year.s” – [ 13]
Furthermore, the Copyright Agency then breaks this down into the application of Moral Rights as well as possible ways in which to infringe upon an artists moral rights:
“Moral rights apply to a wide range of works including:
artistic works – including drawings, paintings, sculptures, graphs;
dramatic works – including plays, film scripts;
written material – including novels, textbooks, poems, songs, journal articles;
computer programs; and
Artistic works in this context also incorporate both street art and graffiti murals. These morals rights of authorship, attribution, integrity are defined in full in this information sheet provided by the Australian Copyright Council, where they also point out on Page 6 of their information sheet , that there are some exceptions to this rule in way of “reasonableness”, these are as follows:
“A failure to attribute the creator, or a derogatory treatment of copyright work, does not infringe the creator’s rights if the action was “reasonable” in the circumstances. The Act sets out a number of factors to be taken into account in working out whether the action was reasonable.
the nature of the work;
the purpose, manner and context for which it is used;
relevant industry practice;
whether the work was created in the course of employment or under a contract of service; and
if there are two or more authors, their views about the failure to attribute or derogatory treatment.”
There are some issues here – for example, many graffiti artists undertake their work anonymously, it may be reasonable not to attribute them. However even if their real name is not known, they should always be attributed by their pseudonym. Graffiti and Street Art are, these days, turning into real commercial products in many ways, and it is common industry practice for artists pseudonyms to be attributed alongside their work. So, really, there are no excuse to not do s, as pseudonymns for artists are quite easy to discover, due to the often unique nature of their work.
Yet how are your Morals Rights infringed upon? Again, the Copyright Agency breaks this down:
“There are numerous ways in which morals rights can be infringed upon, they include
not attributing a work to its rightful creator or falsely attributing the work to someone else;
reproducing a falsely attributed work;
treating a work in a derogatory fashion. This can include distorting, mutilating or materially altering the work; and
dealing commercially with or importing a work that had been treated in a derogatory fashion.”
Morals Rights means that your artwork must always be attributed – someone must name you as the artists on the work, they cannot attribute it to someone else, or themselves and they are also not allowed to be derogatory towards it.
If use of your artwork this inflicts on your moral rights, say an artwork is done and put in an exhibition then the public might take it incorrectly. Also, if an artwork is reproduced for someone elses gain, morally you have the right to deny its use if you do not agree with said use – this means that if someone is reproducing your work, even if in part on a card or somewhat, even if its “not even in context” you retain the moral right to refuse its use! This is a powerful right, if your work is on one of these cards, and you morally object to its use, it is not allowed to be used!
Not only are these people infringing copyright, but they are reproducing it, and not attributing the artists. This infringes upon the moral rights, not only that, but to me, if someone is reproducing my work for personal gain, then that to be is treating my work in a derogatory manner – ie “I don’t want to support the mass production of street art for someones personal gain, and I am offended by it and find the use of my work in this contest derogatory.”
So in this case, I believe that even if the photo of your work is taken, and it is “incidental” to the actual photograph or image itself, Moral Rights still apply. The artwork has been reproduced, and therefore the artist has to be named, and has to be informed as to its use. If the artists is not named in the reproduction, even if the piece of artwork is very small and incidental to the overall composition of the piece, the artists moral Rights have been breached if the person responsible for the image has not named the artist or obtained a waiver from the artist to utilise it in a public display. A public display could also mean, displaying it at a market, for sale.
Someone selling your work can also be met with objection by way of misleading or deceptive conduct. If you as an artist are well known enough, then it may be misleading as he people selling your work may be seen by others to be “representing” you, when in fact no such relationship actually exists between yourself and the seller.
Moral Rights are just as important as Copyright, and you should be aware of this when you see someone reproducing your work, and take steps to ensure that the reproducer has knowledge of this infringement alongside their copyright infringement.
Copyright, Moral Rights and Your Right To Consent And Notification At Having Your Work Destroyed, Mutilated Or Altered
Oh, just as a little bonus, and I’m just going to throw something in here that the artists don’t actually realise that also applies with moral rights – you ready for this?. If you produce a mural, and the work is slated to be destroyed or changed of buffed over, did you know that this also violates your moral rights? Did you know that the artist must be informed that the artwork is going to be destroyed, mutilated or altered, or if it is going to be used for any reason that may be and prejudicial and reputation. If the artwork cant be moved, then the person doing the renovation or changes of building must seek out the artist and inform them, and consult with them, before doing anything to the artwork.
“Under Australian law it is not an infringement of moral rights to change, relocate or demolish a building of which an artistic work forms part, provided that the property owner:
gives the artist notice; and
allows the artist to access the building to make a record of the work and consult with the owner about the change, relocation or destruction.” 
Interesting huh? This is also actually the law that 5pointz was actually trying to utilise, and which is why there are now legal queries as to whether the building owner was able to legally buff his property.
But, anyways, I digress from the main point of this article, and that is the protection of your work from the people who seem to think that it is legal to reproduce them.
Lastly, I’m going to state, once again, that I am not a lawyer and I am not qualified to offer legal advice. This article is for the purposes of steering you in the right direction, and to also point out to people who are illegally selling reproductions of artists work that they are indeed, more than certainly, breaking the law by selling their cards/prints whatever.
The end result of this – you cannot (and really should not) reproduce an artists work from the streets, without their consent. You cannot take a photo of their work, and sell it for your own profit. If you have an image that contains an artists work, you more than likely will be infringing on an artists copyright and moral rights, and you cannot sell it until you have ascertained that the image in the photo you are reproducing is not actually breaking the artists rights.
All artists retain complete copyright control over any work they produce on the streets, legally, OR illegally and no one has any right to reproduce it any any way for their own profit – end of story.
To get real advice, there are many resource that you can use – the best is the Australian Copyright Council, and, to a lesser extend, ArtsLaw Australia (who I did receive a limited amount of advice from before they wanted me to subscribe to their service).
They do have a good website and they do have several templates for sending to people who are breaching your rights, Copy or Moral – they are:
If you come across one of these people who are reproducing your artwork, send them a cease and desist notice for Copyright, and one for Morals Rights if they have not attributed you. Send them here, to this article, and get them to read it to understand exactly how they are breaking the law. Sometimes, they genuinely don’t realise that they are breaking the law by doing so – because they do seem to think hat taking photos of street art and selling their own photos of it is actually legally.
Contact the Copyright Council, ArtsLaw or someone else suitably qualified, but you don’t have to do that in order to send them a letter asking them to stop – it is legal and within your rights to do so, and you probably have a great legal case against them. Oh, and send them to this page – people really need to be educated about these matters, and these myths need to be dispelled.
At the end of the day, if they keep selling your work – take them to court, the chances of you winning the case are very high. Don’t think to yourself “I can’t afford to take them to court” – there are plenty of lawyers out there that will help you out, and as your chances of winning are high, well, then you probably wont pay any fees at all in the end.
If you are one of those people who reproduce other peoples street reading this now. If someone has pointed you here to read this article and you are one of the people selling these cards or prints or whatever at markets, or on eBay – what you are doing is NOT legal.
You are almost certainly breaking copyright laws, murals are assuredly protected, but, most importantly, you are also breaching the artists moral rights and it is quite likely that you are breaking the law.
This article is an interpretation of research on Australian Copyright and Moral Rights issues. carried out in April 2014. As this article is intended as a informative article only, and is only an interpretation of the laws governing street art and copyright/morals rights, Invurt cannot be held liable for any errors , inaccuracies or omissions to the article above. If you do notice any inaccuracies or errors, and are a legal professional and have issue with any information in this article, please contact us.
I’ve known RSUME for a couple of years now, and his work has always been something I’ve loved seeing around our city whenever I’ve spotted it. A dedicated and prolific artist with a fresh, clean style that constantly changes up, his work speaks volumes to the passions for graffiti that subsume this city – his pieces are stories told in the dead of night, of letters and colour splayed across concrete rail embankments and listless freight cars.
Paying homage to the writers who made the city a bastion of graffiti, and forging ahead with his own work as statement, RSUME is the embodiment of everything that is fucking great about Melbourne graffiti – drive, gumption and pure, from the heart talent. As the man himself says, its not just about getting up in quantity – its about quality, and like so many other Melbourne writers, he has that in spades.
It’s not often that we repost articles from elsewhere, but every once in a while we see something just deserves the special treatment, and this is one of those times – thanks to MTN Australia and RSUME for letting us share it with our readers, read on for all the down low on one of our favourites of Melbourne graffiti …
RSUME (Resume) Melbourne, Australia
What crew/s do you represent?
DB. Darling Boys, Dropping Bombs, 42.
When did you start writing?
I’d been mucking around with sketching and tags since I was quite young, however I didn’t really have any understanding of the culture or a wider scene than the basketball court at the end of my street until much later. I started actively painting pieces from 2006
When was your first piece completed?
2006… I did three that night, each one got progressively worse.
What or who were your early influences?
Style Wars, RDC, CI, SDM, AFP, TSF and DTS
Which writers did you look up to back then?
The first writer I ever saw painting was ‘MESK’ CI in 2000, which initially sparked the interested. It was guys like MESS, OZONE and DAZR who showed me what people my own age were doing, that actually got me out there.
What about today?
My mates and crew. It’s always more impressive if it’s someone you know personally doing something that blows you away. Whether its the spot, style or size
Who is the writer you have enjoyed or had the most pleasure or honour painting with?
I met SHEM RDC early on and we became good friends, he mentored me a lot in terms of letter structure and flow. The guy has been painting for over 25 years and still impresses me with his style and commitment.
What do you think about the state of graffiti today as opposed to when you started?
I’m inspired by the people I paint with, I try not to bother myself with the politics of the scene.
That being said, in the last two years there’s been a resurgence locally; lots of writers popping up and moving here. Heaps of bombing, diverse styles and panels are running more again. A lot of people are crushing it.
What paint did you use back then?
Anything I could get my hands on. Got to love free buff paint on the side of the road
Which is your paint of choice today?
I like mixing scrap tins, making the most with what I’ve got.
What inspires you to keep painting?
That I get to live a pretty crazy lifestyle and the drive to out do myself, always developing and experimenting with style(s)
Have you travelled to paint? If so, where?
I travel up the east coast of Australia a bit, regularly visiting Sydney and Byron Bay. I’ve also travelled and painted throughout Europe
Where was the craziest place you’ve painted? Tell us about it.
Painting solo in Europe when not speaking any of the local languages. Weird scenes played out around train-yards.
There was this one spot in southern Germany. I met up with my contact and he took me to where they were having a party in these decommissioned s-trains just outside the main yard. There was a blow-up pool in the aisle and people were sunbaking on the roofs of the trains while some guy had set up a platform out of the windows with decks mixing tunes. After a swim and a few beers I started painting one of the trains as the sun set. The workers were walking past leaving the main yard, waving and giving the thumbs up. Surreal.
Do you prefer quality or quantity?
Quality, style is king.
Having said that, personally I think the two go hand in hand. I generally paint three to five times a week, that way I can see improvement and feel I’m on point.
If I sit it out for a little bit, for whatever reason, I see my line-work and flow suffer for the break.
Can you tell us any interesting stories from a past mission?
There’s the funny stories and the not so funny, like being threatened with a gun while hiding in someone’s backyard. There was my mate driving down the train tracks in a car, a security guard who was practicing his Jedi training with his flashlight. Once I heard cops describe what I was wearing while copping a chase and re-dressed at someone’s washing line into a pair of chicks board shorts.
A few years back while painting a rooftop in the heart of the city we had only done our fills when I noticed a squad car parked below us with a cop pointing up. Before long there was another car parked in the rear alley. My mate decided to parkour his way down a few levels to suss out a possible exit, he was spotted, made a quick dart to an adjacent building when he fell through a skylight. Minutes later he’s being dragged out of the building by two cops yelling “where’s your mate?!” and not being able to figure out how we got up. I realised they had no idea how to reach me; a stand-off commenced. I spent the next hour trying to beat the high-score on Snake 2 on my phone while they scratched their heads. I heard a sound and peaked over the railing to the scene of this main street being blocked off with barriers, a third police car and the fire brigade, which were now ascending a cherry picker towards me with two cops inside. They were so focused on the front I just missioned down the back of the building.
A few blocks down I bumped into a friend, suggested getting a much deserved beer to which he laughed and said “you’re not getting in anywhere bleeding and covered in mud.”
If you could paint anywhere, where would it be?
The Renaissance era, those guys were boss.
Who would you most like to paint with?
Like minded, good people.
A lot of writers listen to tunes when they are painting legally, what would be on in your headphones?
WuTang again and again … Lately I’ve been digging Action Bronson and Oddisee.
Shout out to the DB boys, everyone else I paint with and my lady
This post appeared on Vandalog.com yesterday. Big thanks to Vandalog for allowing us to share this interview with you!
Junky Project. Photo by KayVee.INC.
Daniel Lynch aka Junky Projects is and has always been one of my favourite Melbourne street artists. The reason is simple, because he’s different. Junky’s creations are a breath of fresh air in Melbourne’s street art scene. With his red hair and awesome taste in fashion, Junky is also one of the most interesting characters in the scene.
Junky describes his work on his website: “Essentially I create sentinels from junk and install them in strategic positions around the place to help remind passers by that if they continue to create so much waste in their lives one day it may come back to haunt them.” I find this idea fascinating and I love finding new characters around the city staring down at me from lamp posts and walls. He also makes amazing sculptures much greater in size than his street work.
I recently caught up with Daniel and this is what we talked about…
LM: Where did your name come from?
JP: I had been toying around with the junk medium for a little while and using old tags that I had been using previously for straight up bombing, but it didn’t seem right. At the time there were a lot of artists popping up with really unusual names, and I dug that straight away. The old kinda more traditional tags were sorta flashy and 80’s sounding. When I heard tags like ‘RotGut’ Or ‘Snotrag’ I thought these were the kinda tags that stood out for me and sounded different. Because I was using recycled waste materials in my work I decided ‘Junky’ sounded like a nice brutal tag and straight away it stuck. But that was when it was all more anonymous. There is a certain luxury in the anonymity which means you can call yourself whatever you want. But then some dickhead Melbourne “Art Critic” took it upon himself to announce on the internet my real name and tag, so I had the problem of people coming up to me at shows calling me Junky, which can be awkward in certain situations. So I added the ‘projects’ part to kind of try and separate the person from the work a little, So that I am Daniel Lynch and these are my ‘Junkyprojects’.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: Where did the idea for your characters come from? How did you come up with the idea?
JP: Coming to Melbourne from a smaller town like Newcastle can be a pretty intimidating experience. I had been making art, working a bit of graphic design and getting really involved in the graff scene for some time and of course Melbourne is the place to be if your into that stuff, so down I came. But once your here there are so many big personalities and crazy painters doing their thing everywhere, and doing it well. I just felt like my old approach to getting up was pretty much just that, old. I had seen some work by some guys around the world installing plaque’s and mosaics, even ‘Fuckin Revs’ steel welded sculptures, and I decided to have a crack at something like that. The junk aspect came naturally. I’ve always collected weird crap that I find, this just gave me an outlet for it. Once I put a few up they were really well received so I kept at it. Now its just a snowball I can’t stop.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: How long have you been doing what you do? How did you start? Have you always been into art?
JP: I grew up loving art. Art galleries were always amazing beautiful special places for me as a young person. Somewhere to go think and reflect. Very early on I decided that I wanted to be an Artist, but as it goes everybody around me told me that it was a silly pursuit for Bleeding hearts and hopeless romantics, fraught with poverty and woe. Of course I paid no mind and went ahead with it anyway. I did a Visual Communications Degree at Newcastle uni and came out a qualified Graphic designer, but I hated the idea that it was now my job to help the advertisers of the world sell crap to the public that they shouldn’t buy and don’t need anyway. So I decided to use my powers for good instead of evil. I’ve been working as Junkyprojects now for about eight years.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: Are there certain materials you like to use the most?
JP: I love the look of old rusty steel. For my street work that’s the best. I also love using old timbers because they have such a rich history. A block of wood was once a tree, then maybe a carport, then maybe get thrown around for a dog to chase, then washed out to sea, makes its way back onto shore and into one of my sculptures, I like those possibilities. Theses days though im really enjoying building sculptures with polystyrene packaging. Its such a disgusting oil based waste product which is available in such abundance if you just look. But it’s also really light and quite strong, and I love the shapes that are inherent in the forms already when I find the materials.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: What do you always carry with you on the street?
JP: Hammer, Extra Nails, Stickers, Sunglasses.
LM: Tell us a little about the process. Do you make these characters at home or in the studio and then attach them to things? Or do you make them on the fly?
JP: Usually I make them at the studio, I’ll collect up all the crap I need and the assemble a heap all at once then go out and install them, easy. Sometimes if I’m out somewhere having fun installing work and I run out of pre made pieces, I might make some there on the spot with whatever I can get my hands on. That’s where the spare nails come in.
LM: Aside from your street work, tell us a little about your larger sculptures? Where can we see some of these?
JP: The larger sculptures are just a natural flow of the work I guess. The street pieces are just quick tags for me so I like to put some more time and effort into larger work sometimes. And sometimes I install the larger stuff out and about. There are still a few around Brunswick I think, but because of the ephemeral nature of art out in the streets and because I’m kinda making it all up as I go along, a lot of the bigger stuff has disappeared. But keep your eyes peeled for more to pop up soon. Also the best place to see my larger sculptural work is at my exhibition on Friday.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: Do you dabble in any other forms of art? Like aerosol for example?
JP: I’ve always painted aerosol. I love the freedom and the social aspect of painting with a group of mates. It’s good to keep those skills and stay up. And Graffiti will never die.
LM: Apart from your art work, how else do you contribute to Melbourne’s street art culture?
JP: Well I’m a tour guide for starters, so I take tourists and school students around to check out all the amazing art in our alleys and laneways, that keeps me busy. I also do a lot of workshops with young people and disadvantaged youth. Those are great. We really get to engage a wide cross section of kids who are all facing different issues. Art can be a great outlet for these kids and being able to do something creative often really makes a difference to their lives.
Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.
LM: Tell us about “Wasted” your latest exhibition at Dark Horse Experiment? What can we expect from the show?
JP: Wasted is a collection of sculptures, collage, assemblage and installation which for me are all to some extent about magic and myth. All these materials have a life force and a spirit and when we turn materials into waste that spirit is broken down . When I create artworks from these wasted materials it feels like I am creating a new life force and a new spirit for that object. The work I have created seeks to harness this mythology and manifest it into real objects.
LM: What else is coming up for Junky Projects in 2014 and beyond?
JP: Who knows. I’d really like to get out and do some serious traveling over the next few years, maybe some artist residencies here there and everywhere. I’m also really interested in going out into regional areas and partnering with some of these communities to create public artworks made from local waste products. Basically I just wanna get out there and make much more art in many wide and diverse places. Have hammer, Will travel.
The work of Silk Roy (aka Kid Silk) caught my eye a couple of years ago – and from that point onwards I was hooked on his work. As an artist whose first exposure to graffiti was, like many others, riding the train network of Melbourne back in the 90s, his passion ran a familiar course from bombing to piecing, and over the past decade or more he has consistently expanded his skills and outlook to further his craft.
There’s a lot of beautiful abstraction in the linework and colouring of Silks works – from his extruded lettering to some of his Miro-esque works on paper and canvas, he is an artist that doesn’t shy away from experimenting and pushing his style – which he acknowledges with his love for the Graffuturism movement. Vibrant colours interspersed with the familiar graffitied calligraphic signings, not only portrays his current skills as an artist, but also gives way-markers as to where his style may evolve to in the future. This is an aspect that isn’t always seen in an artist who already has a definable style. Often, these artists hone themselves further and become increasingly technical in their approach, whereas with Silk, you get the feeling that what he has already produced is just a brief stopover from where he is going – and that is a pretty fkn exciting element to see in an artists work.
This is one of the reasons why we love his work – and one of the reasons why we really wanted to interview him ahead of his duo show with Putos. Silk Roy is one of the definitive examples of a modern Melbourne artist – open to influence, mindful of the past, and always reaching towards the future.
Check out all the low down on him and his work below, and enjoy …
So where did you start creating artwork? Has it always been something that you’ve been interested in, or did it come to you at a definable moment in life?
Art became a driving force in my life after my introduction to Melbourne’s Graff scene. I moved here in 98′ and was instantly taken by the power and energy of it all.
It wasn’t too long before I was running around with a marker, but over the years that enthusiasm shifted to painting big walls, and now Graff really serves as my artistic foundation and influences everything else I do as an artist and person.
So, where did you get the moniker “Silk Roy from? Tell us a bit of the story behind the name :)
I used to write ‘Sure’, one day a friend was over and she asked if she could have a look at my book, she couldn’t read any of it so I asked her to look a little closer and try to decipher it, she was flicking through until she thought she had it and finally said … uhh Silky Fox?
After that, people started calling me Silk and later I added the ‘Roy’ which is part of my last name.
In terms of aerosol work and stuff you do out on the streets – what is it about painting walls that you love, and what parts of the graffiti and street art culture do you particularly identify with?
I can honestly say I love all of it. I love the entire process, starting from scratch and building yourself up, learning new techniques, constantly pushing your style, catching walls with other artists, being constantly inspired, it’s nice to have something you wake up thinking about!
How about style? What got you inspired at first, and what continues to inspire you, in terms of other artists, today?
At first just seeing graffiti from the train on the way to school inspired me, but now I draw inspiration from all over the place, my surroundings, people, travel, music, the list goes on.
I’m constantly inspired by anyone who pushes their style in their chosen art form, I know that’s a really boring answer, but guys like Barry McGee and Smash137 really do it for me at the moment.
You do a bit of graphic design work, how does the commercial side of design intersect with your artistic creativity?
Graphic design was the logical step as a career choice, of course its a bit different when your dealing with clients with particular requirements, but the way I design is heavily influenced by my artistic background. I’m also getting into digital illustration which is a particularly enjoyable avenue of design.
Melbourne is one of those cities that just oozes creativity and inspiration – in what ways does it influence you? What other locations have had an impact on your work?
Simply put, I wouldn’t be where I am or doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t moved to Melbourne.
There is a definite creative vibe here, obviously the graff scene here is a constant inspiration, there’s talent and competition everywhere which definitely keeps me working hard. I’ve also been lucky enough to paint in places like NYC and LA which were incredibly powerful experiences.
You’ve had a couple of group shows in the past, but how about solo endeavours? You have a show coming up with Putos, how does the work for this relate to the shows you’ve been a part of before? Tell us a bit more about it all.
As far as a solo show goes, that’s something I’ll be keen to do, but I’m not in a rush. Ill be taking my time on that front. Group shows with Studio 615 are a lot of fun, everyone in the group is accomplished in different media so coming together and being exposed to different thought processes are really beneficial to all of us. I use my involvement in the studio setting to develop work with a more experimental, abstracted vibe, more inline with Graff Futurism.
My Seasons Of Change show with Putos coming up lets me indulge in the graffiti side of things, and its a real honour to be involved with a series of shows that has showcased work by Melbournes best.
Tell us a bit about both the negative experiences you’ve had, as well as the positive experiences in pursuing your creative passion? what drives you every day to continue doing what you love – it isn’t easy out there these days to push yourself forward, in what ways do strive to better, and hone, your skills?
It can be frustrating, there’s definitely days where I question myself and my style, but its necessary if you want to move forward. Passion is what keeps me moving, especially after those bad days its what gets me to pick myself up and go hard. As long as it feels right, Ill continue to do it, theres nothing like producing work that your happy with.
Tell us a bit about your work with the 615 crew? where is everything with that at the moment, are you guys still doing collab work together?
615 is myself, Sam Octigan, Michael Danischewski, Marcus Dixon and Doug Aldridge, we are a collective of creatives involved in different areas of art and I think that’s what gives us our edge, we can come together and really create something different, something I think our Time Flies show last September really reflected. At this point we focus on collaborative projects, we are in the beginning stages of putting together another group show set for the latter part of this year.
So, after this next show, what do you have planned for the rest of the year? What other projects are you aspiring to get done during 2014?
After this show, as always I’ll remain open to anything really – if its a creative outlet inline with what I want to do, I’m in!
Shout outs to everyone who continues to support and follow their passions!
Everywhere, thats where you’ll see his work. Phoenix, the street artist, is one of Melbournes most recognisable fixtures – no matter what laneway you have walked down, no matter what corner you peer into, there you’ll see one of his instantly recognisable works – cutouts and paste, collage and glue, entities hidden in the corners and staring out at you with text and schematical leanings.
I’ve known Phoenix for many years. He is at all the shows. He comes along and checks out all the paintups. He’s a fan, and in turn his work has also garnered him fans – in cyclic nature, akin to some of the various philosophies of his work, Phoenix embraces the diversity of the streets, cadging statements and espousing his creativity with abandon (though, thoughtful abandon).
When you look at one of his works, you see the surface – you see an image that catches your eye. It might be witty. It might be playful. Hell, it might not even make any sense to you whatsoever – but herein lies the beauty of these pieces, the more you look at them, the more you ponder, the more the layers unravel in your mind and its themes work their way into your subconscious.
This isn’t limited to singular pieces, either. The more you see, the more the puzzle begins to lay itself out before you – there are themes. There are repetitive motifs – what the hell does the earth mean in that context? Whats with the Dali images? What the hell is the spiral? It’s like a labyrinth of words and images, some of it decipherable, some of it seemingly an inner joke that perhaps only Phoenix really knows.
I admit. Sometimes I get his work – and sometimes, I just don’t. Sometimes I feel like his statements are obvious, at others, I feel like I need a decoder ring – but this is why, unfalteringly, I enjoy his work. It’s not always simple. Its not always just pretty. It isn’t always within my own ability to always “get”.
This interview has been a long time coming – I’ve been meaning to dig into the mind of Phoenix for quite some time – but for some reason, it seemed, not a daunting prospect, but something that I had to actually think about, the timing had to be right to do it. I wanted to know all these things – I wanted to get handed at least, if not some of the answers, the fkn decoder ring – so I could keep trying to work it out for myself!
Well, I can say, he happily obliged, and provided us with a really great, highly comprehensive response that I absolutely loved. But, you know what they say, be careful what you wish for, because, I have to say, I probably now have even more questions than when I started …
1. The Fire That Made Phoenix.
The “Phoenix” name was in response to the March 2004 fire which destroyed my home studio, most of my collected works from the previous 20 years, and a large part of my collage library and processing system.I had been making my collage and copy art since the middle 80s – although most of the works I made were ones made for special occasions for family and friends – and it was only during the early 2000s that I began to gather art for a future exhibition.
The fire started in a power board right at the back of my home studio – in front of the red-brick wall. The intensity of the fire caused the roof to collapse. After the structure was rebuilt at the end of 2004, I named it Phoenix RisingStudio – a name that in 2009 inspired my street art name.
The loss of these works in the fire, an inferno sparked by a faulty power board which took four fire engines almost an hour to put out, was significant to me because of the works lost – but even more so because of the destruction of my collage system. My collage system was, and is, designed to facilitate multiple and radical juxtapositions – mining the coincidence of combination along the lines of the traditional Dadaists’ cut-up collages or Bowie song lyrics. William S. Burroughs, an avid practitioner of such methods of making art, suggested: “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”
My now restored (and far more evolved) collage system allows things to fall together and create visual, textual and visual/textual poetry.
On that hot March morning in 2004, as a result of the five metre high flames and the water from four fire engines, a significant part of the past drained away – but in the alchemic turnaround so aptly represented by the metaphor of the Phoenix, a whole new future eventually leaked out – in my case, literally rising from the ashes.
In subsequent days, I combed these ashes and other debris in my devastated studio, salvaging what I could and laying it out to dry in the sun.
This piece is a charred transparency copy of what was both a collage element storage sheet and collage work: Cloudy Beginnings (1997). Stored in plastic pocket folders, many of these sequential and indexed A4 card-mounted element sheets (of which about 100 went through the fire) burned and melted largely around the edges – fusing to the plastic and paper layers incorporated in them as can be seen here.
The Momentum of Circumstance (1992). This piece – a collage of a junk-mail envelope, a diagram from a children’s science book, and card-mounted versions of the original Column (copies of which inhabit many of my subsequent works), and a hard book cover. It sought to depict the wave of circumstance rippling out from its source – with its inevitable reverberations.
I created some folders and boxes to store these salvaged items (wrapped in plastic to lessen the retraumatising fire stink) in my rebuilt and rechristened Phoenix Rising studio – but apart from continuing to collect found collage materials and to create physical storage spaces within the space, for the next 5 years I directed my creative urges into writing, storytelling, music, and dialectical philosophy.
In March 2009, the collage urge resurfaced and I began to make new works. In the November of that year, I went on a street art tour through Fitzroy by Melbourne Street Art Tours – on which the possibility of being able to collage onto public walls first dawned. When I shared this with Doyle, one of the leaders of the tour, suggested: “Why don’t you give it a go?”
And the name Phoenix seemed the perfect choice for such adventures.
My first ever street art piece: Her Godot Was Worth Waiting For - in Hosier Lane, December 2009. Ironically, this is one of the few pieces of the several thousand I have installed in various places around Australia and Spain that I have some regret about. It was a plastic tray of collage elements melted into position by the fire; the only addition was the photocopied face of Samuel Beckett. It was prised off the piece of wood across the bars of a window and souvenir’ed; it would have been much better archived as a piece in my Fire Salvage collection.
With my first installations, it was like an enormous door had been unlocked and a whole new world of creative practice suddenly opened up to me. I have pursued lots of different creative practices in my life – but I know that door will never again close while I remain capable and breathing.
Inevitably the new demands of making and installing street art then began to shape my practices of making and thinking about art. Traditional collage is quite constrained by the availability of the found source materials used to make it: if originals are used, they cannot be reused. In the street art context, if a piece is given to the street, and subsequently capped or taken, it and the originals used to make it are gone forever.
My losses in the fire heightened the significance of this – driving me to find ways to create reproducible art which could be put out on the street while the masters used to make it were kept safe back in the studio.
A sort of breakthrough in this came in mid 2010 while playing with multiple transparencies – and the beginning of my DalíesqueSeries. The Dalíesque Series contains works generated out of possible permutations and combinations of a transparency images of a single Tshirt-framed photo of Salvador Dalí.
This began with the overlapping of multiple copies of the Tshirt framed face – creating images like the one seen below – but also led to the pivotal breakthrough of using the photocopier to colourise my works. I began to create monochrome masters which could be photocopied onto different colours of paper; by cutting out and pasting different elements in the various colours, making highly coloured objects in many different forms.
Double Dalí Tees (Centre Place) July 2010. Solid plywood plaque with PVA-coated coloured paper and fluttering transparency acetate moustaches. The yellow edge of the Tee follows the ripped outline of a Ghostpatrol pasteup.
With the initial work in this series, The Elephants of Dalí (Rutledge Lane, June, 2010), two further very important things crystallised for me.
Firstly was the idea of layer collage – a way of making art by layering coloured papers photocopied from monochrome masters as described above. I continue to explore this method of making art to this day.
Secondly, and more importantly, with this came the idea of structuring my overall body of work into Series, defined by specific rules. The Dalíesque Series has since been joined by The Voice of the Blue Earth, Silent♥ , Tools of Phoenix,TEXTing, NeoSoviet, In the Land of the Blind, EPHEMERAL, MonoChromatic, not aNOTher street art CliChé, YGen, The Resurfacing Project, Iconoclasm and COPYing Series.
Following through on and learning to bending these rules brings to life an endless creative playground. I have made many works which are simultaneously part of several Series – in fulfilling two or more sets of rules.
KEEP ME IN YOUR ♥ (A4 Sticker, Granada, Spain, September 2012). This piece fulfils the rules of both my Silent ♥ and Voice of the Blue Earth Series. The Silent ♥ series consists of text-based works presenting messages about the Heart in which it, and/or other significant iconic elements and parts of the message, are only represented in image form; in the Voice of the Blue Earth (La Tierra Azul Dice) Series the Earth takes various metaphoric forms in order to deliver a message to Humankind – here, with Spanish subtitles.
2. Most Ambitious Works.
You have asked what are my most ambitious works – of which two come to mind (apart from those still fermenting away in my imagination and or Works In Progress Box):
Firstly, my HARD NUT TO CRACK - a solid 3D relief plaque board piece for the refurbishment of Union Lane in July 2010.
HARD NUT TO CRACK – Solid 3D plaque relief on board; 1.4 x 1.4 m, Union Lane, July 2010. This featured a cracking and Bandaided solid Stars and Stripes Nutcracker trying once more to crack the Afghanistan nut. In the bin are broken Soviet and British Nutcrackers.
I really enjoyed the technical challenges of making this piece and installing it securely in its alcove.
Secondly, and in a decidedly double-sided way, my The Little Diver Resurfaced in Cocker Alley in April 2010 was a distinctly ambitious work. I would see it as conceptually and technically ambitious – a restoration of and commentary on a controversial street art piece; I know others have seen it as ambitious in another way: as a form of ‘biting’ -seeking to ride the coat-tails of Banksy’s almost singular and clichéd popular appeal and bankability.
I’ll have to leave that to the reader – and to the punters and artists of the community – to judge.
I personally found the story and visage of the Little Diver a moving and fascinating one. Stencilled opposite one of Melbourne’s main police stations by the elusive artist in 2003, it was beloved by tourists and city burghers; given a price, a Perspex shield and an official street art status plaque by the buildings owners and city council in 2008; and capped soon after with a slow curtain of silver paint by cappers (or artists) unknown.
Noticing that between the long silver strands significant parts of the Little Diver girl were still visible, I came up with the idea of using my camera, photocopier and light-table to create two life-size images of the Diver: one the original stencil, the other the capped one. By tracing and cutting out the outline of the capping, I was able to create a pasteup which almost perfectly matched the parts of the Little Diver girl submerged beneath the silver paint.
And, one morning in early 2010 in one quiet solitary unforgettable moment, I pasted this in place on the wall in Cocker Alley – and a vision of the Little Diver returned to the surface.
The Little Diver Resurfaced – Phoenix (after Banksy), Cocker Alley, April, 2010. Immediately after pasteing.
Of course, not everybody was pleased about her return to the surface in this form – and she soon began to be again vandalised in various ways. For a while, I continued to repair her – and, once, after a particularly enthusiastic ripping and black capping, even repasted another whole pasteup using the master I have kept in my studio – before deciding to let her sink beneath the surface of subsequent rips, tags, caps – and the inevitable graffiti cleaners’ steam.
3. The Tools of Phoenix
XactoMundo (Art Lane off Leicester St, Fitzroy, December 2012) Part of my I ♥ COLLAGE and Tools of Phoenix Series – and incorporating a reproduced collage element sheet salvaged from my fire and bonded with my Xacto Hand drawing via my layer collage technique. Pink, white and silver papers.
Although I spent a lot of my childhood drawing, the collage bug bit me in my mid twenties (aka the mid 80s) – and has not yet let me go.
From the get go, I have always tended towards very immediate ways of attaching things together: blutack, gluestick, staples and tape. Issues of longevity on the street have led me to using rollered PVA as a resilient adhesive and plasticising coating for my works (in combination with ricepaste I cook up myself) and translucent silicone to attach solid plaques to the wall. In more recent years, with my use of the photocopier, reversibility and repositionability are often important to me – so repositionable gluesticks and removable tape are invaluable aides.
In terms of cutting implements, I have several sizes of scissors, a range of sizes of box-cutters, and a ready supply of Xacto knives and blades for fine cutting – aided by my 4X magnifying glasses lenses. I also use a scroll-saw to cut out heavier cardboard or plywood plaque pieces.
I have come full circle in terms of drawing. In my first twenty-five years of proper art practice (ages 25-50) I did little drawing for art purposes. My collage works through this time were based on found materials, photographs and illustrations; however the need for specific images in my Voice of the Blue Earth series and in graphically expressing my affection for my art tools in myTools of Phoenix Series have rekindled my love of drawing – and, although there are some illustrations by others which have become an essential part of my iconic lexicon, I intend to use my own drawings as much as possible from now on.
I am currently reorganising my studio to streamline my various key areas:
storage areas: a vast collection of fileboxes and files, pocket folders, queueing boxes, pigeonhole trays, collections of paused works, colour and monochrome works masters;
collating areas: surfaces on which things can be combined together in all sorts of ways;
cutting areas: a light-table cutting mat as well as various sizes of opaque cutting mats;
my copying area: surrounding Roxie, (aka Xeroanne), my FujiXerox colour and monochrome copier printer;
and my pasteing areas: where it all comes together.
I am proudly non-digital apart from those functions available through my photocopier or digital camera; there is only one small element on a Phoenix piece made in early 2010 using Photoshop (lets not mention this again). I believe my adherence to this principle is at the heart of how my work looks.
I am always experimenting with different tools and processes in the studio – with a general aim to distill the best possible (easiest, simplest, most effective, and most elegant) way(s) of doing something. Some of my favourite things which have been distilled out of the years in this way are things like:
photocopy transparencies: wonderful things that allow complex layering and bonding together of images ; • removable tape tabs: these reusable attachers, which I make up from a combination of removable and permanent tapes, are invaluable in positioning things for photocopying – and can be left in situ, repeatedly readjusted or easily decommissioned;
• PVA: King of Adhesives – and like a shrink-wrap coating; and
• silicone: so strong, so easy (on a flat, clean surface);
• trolleys: you GOTTA love ‘em.
My beloved removable tape tabs reliably hold things in place – yet are instantly repositionable and reusable. They are made by folding over a small permanent tape ‘handle’ at the end of a piece of removable tape.. Developing a master for my XactoHand Spiral, October 2013.
I am an unashamed equipment fetishist and love making up a mobile studio for taking with me wherever I go, on a trolley with a fold up table or milk crate equivalent for setting up on site, on the back of my bike, or for taking on the road. When I travelled to Spain in September 2012, I could take my mobile-studio-in-a-bag and works/materials storage folder to the dining table of my accommodation, to a café, down into a hotel lobby, or to a stationery/digital printing outlet; or onto a train. I LOVE art on the move.
Mobile Studio: Lobby of Hotel Granvia, Barcelona. The contents of my works/materials have partly spilled out – revealing works and pasteups already prepared at home, files of works to be constructed, various types of paper and card, transparency masters taken along for making new works, and new works themselves.
Hand of the Café Studio. Working on my Gluestick Hand fuelled by a Café Solo (aka Expresso) – making art opposite the Puerte Mayor (main gate) of Sevilla Cathedral, Seville, Spain.
One of the things I have been working towards in terms of my other mobile setup – the generally trolley-based kit of pasteups and street art installation tools I wheel around the streets with either specific sites or general areas in mind – is to have a very flexible set of items with which I can make improvised collage on walls.
All the different ways one can approach street art installation are potentially satisfying: a specific work made in the studio for a specific site; a folder of pasteups and/or stickers and plaques in various sizes with which to wander the streets looking for good spots to place them; or a collection of seemingly random bits and pieces which in the right space and moment of inspiration can be combined on site.
I am constantly thinking about easy ways of getting high – i.e. getting things into the High Zone. Up there it’s blissfully too high to even bother .. tagging .. capping .. stealing .. steaming .. or buffing.
4. The Double Spiral (aka The Double Whirlpool)
You have noticed my obsession with spirals in both my works and notebooks. Much of my art, personal philosophy and professional work in health practice – and even one of my signatures, is based around the Double Spiral symbol whose formal philosophical name is the Double Whirlpool.
The Double Whirlpool is a dialectical device I have developed to help understand processes of change and interrelationship. It represents a comparison of two Whirlpools – here a Positive versus Negative one.
Double Spiral motifs are timeless: seen in either readily identifiable forms (in Polynesian, Druidic and Celtic cultures) or in other less identifiable but equivalent ones (single Whirlpool = pre-Nazi swastika; Yin/Yang; Star of David/Alchemical Star (As Above, So Below); the Cadaceus of Hermetic traditions which persists as a medical symbol (two snakes winding around a staff). The concepts of the Virtuous vs Vicious Cycle; the J-curve, and concepts like a Catch 22 or tipping point also embody the same type of thinking.
Essentially the Double Whirlpool is about the tendency of things to turn in cycles and thus to either remain in stasis or to spiral towards a new state. Our bodies are maintained within a central balance or homoeostasis - in which changes and challenges to our state are counterbalanced and brought back to a natural centre.
Blood pressure, for example, is kept within a fairly narrow range despite changes in our posture like when we rise from bed to a standing position. This is achieved by a complex interrelated series of mechanisms in the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and coordinating nervous and hormonal systems – all of which act in concert to maintain blood pressure and therefore blood and oxygen flow. These would be represented in the diagram below by the various Events around the edge of the Positive Whirlpool on the left side of the diagram below – each of which relates to each other in a positive cycle like that shown between Events A and B.
Small to medium losses of blood can be compensated for by blood vessel constriction, changes in fluid balance and excretion by the kidneys. As losses of blood become greater, blood pressure will at first be maintained but signs of strain will appear (increased pulse rate, cooler and paler extremities); with further losses blood pressure on rapid standing will begin to show a drop and the person likely to feel lightheaded or to even faint on doing so.
If blood loss continues, the person moves towards a significant tipping point, where the system flips into a state of hypovolaemic (low blood volume) shock. In this state, systems that ordinarily support each other will begin to increasingly disrupt and counter each other. The heart, for instance, will. because of the lowered blood pressure, have reduced blood and oxygen flow which will decrease its capacity to pump – and to maintain blood pressure. The person in this situation is in the increasingly slippery slope of the Negative Whirlpool on the right-hand side.
The Double Whirlpool: a model of balance, imbalance … and change.
Unless this person rapidly gets a fluid and blood transfusion, he or she will soon go down the proverbial ‘gurgler’.
I have found such a model widely applicable in working in health practice: in helping people to reverse and decrease negative patterns and to reestablish and promote positive ones. There are typically key negative patterns, behaviours and dynamics – as opposed to key positive ones. The journey towards healing and the restoration of health can be mapped out and guided using my Double Whirlpool and other dialectical tools.
The same logic and way of thinking about health is also very pertinent to our fragile and beautiful planet – one of the reasons the Double Whirlpool has found its way into a number of my Voice of the Blue Earth Series pieces.
(Significant) TIPPING POINT (ahead). Detail of pasteup, Enmore Rd, Enmore, Sydney, 2011. In this piece, the Blue Earth warns us of the increasingly perilous state we are more and more leaning towards. Voice of the Blue Earth Series. The Double Whirlpool is represented within the Globe.
A very good example of a significant negative tipping point like that of the heart losing pumping power as blood pressure drops can be seen in the melting of the polar icecaps – a process represented here as in many of my other VotBE pieces. Ice reflects about three-quarters of the heat that falls on it; when it is melted to sea water, however, it absorbs more than two-thirds of the heat. In other words, the more the ice melts, it more and more (and more) it melts. HELL-O!!!… PEOPLE!! – as the Blue Earth is wont to say.
One of the key learnings from the Double Whirlpool is the importance of synergy (aka win/win; you scratch my back/I’ll scratch yours) and positivism – and the Voice of the Blue Earth Series attempts to put this into action – alternating between a black humour to point out our Human failings and vulnerabilities and a sweet optimism and kindness of a planet that does love our Species.
At this level, this Series is a deliberate form of artistic activism: some sugar to help necessary medicine to get down. I know that politically-oriented art (and perhaps even more so street art) is not everyone’s cup of tea – but what’s the point if we’re all going to Hell in a hand basket? As you so eloquently put, Fletch: “Hey! Pay attention! This shit is happening!”
5. On Being Political
Last year I was sought out for a large wall commission by one of the owners of a business who is a bit of a fan of my work. He suggested using getting me to do the wall to the other owners; the feedback was that they thought I was “quite political” and maybe not the right fit for the wall.
The work I had imagined putting up would have certainly been distinctive and hopefully thought-provoking: a muralised and illustrated depiction of my poem ‘Born Free’ – which uses the metaphor of a chained elephant learning to free itself – suggested how we might liberate ourselves from the phenomenon of being the French philosopher Rousseau described by suggesting that “Man is born free – and everywhere is in chains.”
If I am perceived to be political in this sense, I am more than happy to be so – and to be known as someone willing to put meaningful ideas into the public space. I am interested in the politics of things like cooperation, respect, love, and spiritual emancipation.
Sometimes this is about using street art as a way of publicly promoting things that I think are important – like the attention to matters of the heart suggested by my Silent♥ Series.
LET YOUR ♥ BE FREE – Layer Collage, Silent ♥ Series.
At other times this politics is about holding a light up to the innate darkness and negativity of those seeking control to promote fear, hate and alienation – as in my Mathematics of FEAR shown below.
The Mathematics of FEAR – Pasteup, Hosier Lane, December 2013.
Of course, sometimes my work comments on specific and topical political issues like that of the deliberate exploitation of underlying xenophobic attitudes to asylum seekers by both sides of Australian politics.
WE SCARE BECAUSE WE CARE – Pasteup/plaque combination, Hosier Lane, 2011. WE SCARE BECAUSE WE CARESeries.
They say socially- and politically-interested artists have got more material to work with in leaner, harder and more right-wing times – and boy are we all heading that way Down Under. Perhaps it has always been thus, but it seems to me we live in increasingly selfish, superficial and deluded times. One of the key and enduring roles of art is to hold up a mirror to that which lies beyond the surface reflection that mesmerises and numbs the potential Narcissus within us all.
And, as I have suggested above, issues like climate change are too pressing to ignore.
6. What’s Next?
The dawning of 2014 (already a month in) is an exciting time for me with a new photocopier and structural organisation of my studio. It is also the year in which I want to begin to establish a proper income-stream from my art. Art is a great life-choice – but surely there are other accommodation options than the proverbial garret. I am fortunate to have an alternative livelihood – and I have no interest in becoming rich from art: but I would love for it to become a self-sustaining livelihood and something that supports me travelling the world on Phoenix wings in the next few decades I may get in this life.
I think Einstein had the ratio about right when he talked about science being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. There’s lots of joyful hard work for me – in my notebook, in my sketchbook, with my camera, on my laptop, in my studio, out on the streets, and in creating commercial opportunities in gallery, retail and virtual marketplace spaces.
And I’ve got plenty to work on: I am not exaggerating when I say there would be a thousand uncompleted works in my studio; summertime has been about organising a proper queueing system to move these through to finished gallery and street works and get them out onto walls – but I would be lying if I said that I won’t be more than occasionally distracted by the inevitable lure of the immediate new idea that appears on my workbench or in my diary notebook. I love working on ideas which are right at the leading edge of the wave of process.
In particular I am interested in going up in terms of scale. I very much like small intimate pieces that find small corners to adorn – but I also love the impact that larger pieces have – and would love to be able to do some really big pasteup and/or plaque installations on a similar scale to some of my bold, big-thinking colleagues and art mates.
But, more than anything: what’s next is .. whatever’s next!
I first came across Putos down in Richmond a couple of years back – it was one of those “Ha!” moments, walking along and seeing a nicely lined blocky, spouting the artists moniker, way up above me. Knowing a little fragmentary Spanish, I couldn’t help but chuckle, and filed the name away in in the “interesting, gotta see what else he’s done” pile in the back of my (admittedly often overcrowded) mind.
When I next saw his work, I almost didn’t put two and two together as to it being the same guy that I’d seen way back when, but there it was – a big beast of a creature with the same fine lines and shading I’d seen earlier on, yet this time the beast was exemplary in its rendition. I was pretty damn eye catching. From that point on I was hooked, no longer was Putos’s name lodged in the back of my mind – it was at the forefront, and he swiftly became, in my eyes, one of those Melbourne artists who was, definitively, on my “fucking rad” list.
Putos most certainly has a style all his own – a culmination of years of infusing graffiti styles with modern pop cultural icons such as cartoons and anime, with a heavy dose of his own fantastical beastiary. I unashamedly devour every new piece from Putos, his work is just in that vein of “shit that does it” for me. His imagination touches on my own personal love of the weird and wonderful, and his can skills are more than worthy of admiration.
Read on for a cool insight into the artist, and find out why it is we fucking love his work, in the interview below …
Anyways, tell us how you got your start with being creative – have you always been into doing art and creating stuff?
I’ve always had a love for drawing since an early age, inspired from cartoons and anime I would draw heaps of dinosaurs n monsters n stuff like that… I would be in the back of the class sketching and the teacher would be like “You’re in trouble young man!… but that’s a nice dinosaur …”
How about your earlier days doing graffiti – how did you first get involved, and how did you become involved in it all?
I was playing around with graf for a while tagging n stuff, but I gradually got more serious into it when I met Silk Roy at uni and we started painting together a lot. We pretty much taught ourselves how to do this and that through trial and error.
What are some of the earliest lessons you learnt when painting in walls, and do you still carry those lessons with you today? What did you once think was all-important, but no longer believe is relevant when getting your work up?
I think the main lesson for me was to always try new things. I was focused for the first few years of painting on getting my stuff clean and crisp, doing a lot of cut backs and minimizing over spray so my images would look like my ink drawings. But after a while I started to get a bit bored of that and started to change up one element of what I would be doing, whether it be variations in the subject matter, the shapes and lines, fill pattern etc., so I would still be in my comfort zone but I would be trying something new as well. Through this I’ve discovered many different effects and techniques that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
I also love to play the Mr. Squiggle game where you just draw some squiggles on a page and then try to turn it into an image… this helped change up my shapes and flow of the images, and so I could paint a dog ten times in a row and still have a different thing going in each one.
Gotta ask, where did you derive the tag Putos from? It has a whole swag of interesting slang behind it, if you google around … Haha
Yea, it’s a joke name that just kinda stuck. I wrote some other words before that and they all double up with other writers so I was like, ‘what’s a word that no one will be writing?’ and before I knew it I was writing this word all the time… I also liked the letters for my pieces back in the day, but now I dont really do pieces so yea, its just a funny name.. In Australia the word isn’t too common so it’s not a problem, but in LA there’s a huge Hispanic population and when I was living there the name caused quite a stir haha
Tell us a little about the evolution of your style, where have you derived fundamental inspiration from for your work, and where do you want to drive your style to in the future?
I try not to be one style and be flexible, but all my stuff ends up taking on this certain aesthetic somewhat. I’ve been focusing on my fading for the last year or two, and so now people associate that with my style, which is cool but I dont really want to be locked into and be known just for that.
Soon I plan to change my focus to something else and hopefully that will evolve my style even further, right now Im just searching for what that next focus will be.
What have been some of the more interesting and challenging spots, both environmental and architecturally, that you’ve painted?
Most large walls I do I find challenging in their own ways. The wall I did with Silk, Dvate, Bail Libre and Nektar along the tracks between Richmond n South Yarra was fun, there was a 3+ meter drop at the wall – so we had scaff, and 7 meter ladders, and still only could reach 3~4 meters on the wall. It got a bit hairy trying to get to the top of the wall …
The dragon I painted in Brunswick St backpackers was also fun, it took me half a day to do the head and took me over a week to do that body… I decided to do this triangle pattern on the belly side of the dragon and that took way longer than expected on a ladder.
Beyond that, you’ve painted in some interesting spots over time, I remember seeing your “Rampage” video you did with Dcypher some time back in LA – how did you find painting in the US, and what have been some if the most interesting places you’ve travelled to to paint?
I lived in LA for like just under a year, and that was awesome because I found myself chillin with CBS dudes and learned a lot painting with them and being around them. I owe a lot to those guys, they helped me with everything there from work, a place to stay, linking up with cats there etc. which made my stay there absolutely awesome.
Painting in France and at the Meeting of Styles 2010 in Perpignan was also great, I didn’t know any French and they had minimal English but we had a ball painting together.
There I was chillin with ODV crew, and they also took care of me when I was there and I am super grateful to those guys too. France has its own unique graf styles, and I love the aesthetic that they push there where it’s a nice fusion between illustration and graf, which is right up my alley.
Have you extended your work much into the gallery realm before? What kind of stuff do you enjoy doing away from the walls?
I haven’t done much in terms of exhibitions except for a few lil group shows here and there. But I will be doing the Seasons of Change exhibit in March, which will be my first semi solo thing (with Silk) which I’m looking forward to.
I sketch a lot in my spare time away from walls, so I’m doing a lot of that for the show at the moment.
What kind of painting projects do you have coming up in the future, and what kind of work do you dream of doing if there were absolutely no obstacles?
I would love to paint bigger and bigger walls. With no obstacles I would be painting the side of a skyscraper or something,
So what do you have planned for 2014? What can we see Putos doing this year?
More of everything. More walls and more exhibitions, more collaborations with other artists, I’m up for anything.
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.