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!
Dean Sunshine hits us once more with his Top 10 of the month, this time roaming around Melbourne to see what he thinks is best for February 2014.
We always love Deans Top 10s, their grand photos, they only just scracth the surface of what happens here in Melbourne every month, but their a great indicator of all the amazing shit that happens – check it out below!
1. Adnate – Hosier Lane
2. Shida – Brunswick
3. Lucy Lucy – Collingwood
4. SHEM – Prahran
5. Conrad Bizjak – Windsor
6. Unwell Bunny, Steve Cross, Senekt, Jack Rapmund, Pierre – Windsor
There have been some great Seasons Of Change exhibitions over the past few years, and the next installment of SOC Autumn 2014 is no exception. This time, the regular quarterly show held at Revolver Upstairs will be displaying the works of none other than Putos and Kid Silk.
“Brought to you by Revolver Upstairs in conjunction with GraffixCreative ‘Seasons of Change’ showcases local and international artists at Revolver internal and external art spaces.
Melbourne artists Putos and Silk have been catching walls together since 07′. With Putos’s signature character style and Silk’s devotion to letterform as well as characters, they work to create dynamic collaborations from small illustrated works to large scale murals, which exist across the city. Putos & Kid Silk will unveil a new graf wall at Revolver that will be viewable all through Autumn.
For one night only they will also be selling original works and have created a set of limited edition Seasons Of Change prints.
Music from DJ Who.”
Not a show to be missed, so head on down to Revolver this Friday night to check it all out!!
Who: Putos & Silk Roy What: Seasons of Change – Autumn 2014 Where: Revolver Upstairs, Chapel St, Prahran, Melbourne When: show is on for one night only on Friday 7th March, 2014 from 6pm til 9pm!
One of Brisbanes quirkiest, and coolest artists is having a show opening tonight, and if you’ve seen any of Bareks work around you know that it’ll be a fun night down at The Bearded Lady (A cool name for a venue if I ever heard one). You’ve probably seen Bareks work about, and this is your chance to get yourself some for your very own!
There will also be a limited edition zine available at the show, “The zine for the show will have drawings/paintings on book pages with stickers and hand drawn page there will be 30 copies + the original! Somebody will score a fully hand drawn zine!”
So head down there and check it all out, support the lad and enjoy!
Who: Barek What: Bearded Lady solo show Where: The Bearded Lady, 138 Boundary Rd, West End, Brisbane When: Show opens Thursday Febraury 27th 2014 from 6pm til 9pm
You would have seen Dave’s photos from this wall a few weeks back. Now here’s the video from Authority Clothing. Authority are doing great things at the moment, including getting Snoop to wear their T-shirt recently with some cheeky antics. Their latest project is called “From Walls to Tee’s” taking work from murals and featuring them on limited edition tshirts. Rad idea. The first being Steen and Alex. Check out the video below.
From Authority Clothing “From Wall’s to Tee’s
Authority Clothing is a Melbourne based label, working with street artists to create independent urban apparel. Authority Clothing commissions artists to create fresh murals around Melbourne before releasing limited edition t-shirts based around the artwork’s.
Authority’s journey began last year when working Steen Jones on his Sailor Jerry Tribute mural which can be found on Johnston Street in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Six months on and they decided to go bigger and badder.
Authority Clothing organised a collaboration between artist’s Alex Lehours and Steen Jones on Beith Street in Brunswick. Two amazing artists, videographers and photographers came together and worked for three days on this wall, named ‘The Beith Street Project.’
Steen’s precise control of the can married with the fine brush work of Alex brings this tattoo flash sheet inspired work together like a charm.
Look out, Authority Clothing will be releasing a limited edition t-shirt range based around this collaboration early February, available at www.authorityclothing.com.au. You can also head down to the Killer Merch head quarters at 7 Beith Street, Brunswick to check out this wall in the flesh.
Artists: Steen Jones, Alex Lehours Videographer: Cale Rodriguez Photography: Kate Davis Project Manager: Christopher Skyner Location: Killer Merch, 7 Beith Street, Brunswick. www.authorityclothing.com.au“
This great little event in celebration of the Puma Suede anniversary will kick off this Friday night down one of Melbournes iconic laneway – with a feast of beats, breaking and damn fine art from three of Melbournes best – Jorz, Paris and Drew Funk! Get your Nikes on, and head down to what promises to be a grand event .. more info below!
“FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY!
A night Featuring the Cream of Burn City’s Underground Hip Hop, Bboy/Bgirl, Graffiti/StreetArt, Selector/Collector’s(dj’s), Prod/Mc’s & Crew’s
Ft. The freshest Kids Battling it out for supremecy Cred & Puma Prize packs!
As well as the 45th anniversary of the Mighty Puma Suede/Clyde!
As we’ll as celebrating the influential classic Movie Beat Street.
With “LIVE” Graffiti by some of Melb’s finest & world renowned artists!
Along with crazy gift pack give away’s from Puma all night long!
Plus some of Melbs’s finest Funk & Hip Hop selector’s droppin those Block Rockin Beats keeping it on, till the break a dawn!
As well as BOOMBOX’S & GHETTOBLASTER on parade!
Don’t miss your opportunity to get a pic with yourself & a classic monster og Boombox! Looking forward to seeing everybody styling in their freshest wears!
NOTE: COME DRESSED IN YOUR PUMA SUEDE & FRESH WEARS FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN & PUMA PACK!
Rock your freshest pair of Puma Suedes on the night for your chance to take home an incredible Puma prize pack! Which include’s Limited edition Puma Suede Book! Puma Clyde’s & Clothing+ much much more!
Any event that celebrates Beat Street is worth going to by me. Though, being an Adidas boy, I don’t actually own a pair of Pumas (I know, I really probably should!) I’ll still be rocking down there for this – we will see you down there!!!
Who: Paris and Jorz and Drew Funk – painting to some mad beats and breakdancers – fuck yeah! What: Beatstreet Breakdown Block Party Where: Word Bar, 14 Goldie Place, Melbourne When: Event starts 7pm, Friday 28th February 201, and goes til late!
In 2012, local artist Wayne Tindall and Invurt began an epic multi-year project to transform a dilapidated laneway in the back streets of Windsor and Chapel St into a thriving mecca of street art on Melbournes south side.
After a period of time running the project, dubbed, unofficially, “Aerosol Alley”, the laneway gained the attention of Stonnington council, who offered to allocate the previously un-named laneway an official moniker – Artists Lane and threw their support behind the project. In time, local businesses and other members of the local community also began to offer their support, and this once disused lane now plays host to a growing number of visitors and artists, both domestically and international, and is a focal point for graffiti and street art in the City of Stonnington and the greater Melbourne area.
Having played host to over four large scale painting sessions to date, including the inaugural Aerosol Alley event last year, artists are set once again to begin yet another transformation of the laneway, with a celebration of the new work to be held this Sunday, March 2nd, with the official Aerosol Alley 2 event.
“Aerosol Alley 2″ will feature over twenty of Melbournes finest graffiti and street artists renewing the walls of the laneway over the weekend, with live painting, food, DJs, street poetry and a host of fun on offer on the Sunday afternoon.
During the event, several artists will also be painting in the laneway, and there will be a special live art display of a first time ever collaboration – CONRAD BIZJAK vs SHIDA !!
Some of the artists who will be contributing to the new makeover of the laneway prior to the event will include:
Drewfunk, Putos, Silk Roy, Loadz, Presto, Ero, Senekt, Bailer, Facter, Ohnoes, Amac, Jak Rapmund, Paners, Woke, joJo Spins, Jack Frost, Short, Choq, Jack Douglas, Makatron, Heesco, Ryan Boserio, Troll, Mysterious Al, Pierre Llloga, Unwell Bunny, Frosk, Jonathan Guthmann and Ashley Goudie, and theres already some new feature art on the walls by INK & CLOG (Singapore).
There will be a great DJ lineup on the day, with plenty of urban beats for you in the carpark, with tuneage from:
Mike Steva (Deeperoots)
Jimmy James (Strictly Vinyl)
Chris NG (Le Soul, Goodlife)
MzRizk (Rizky’s Block Party)
Nubody (Bounce Audio)
Come down and join us in Artists Lane (Between Union & Green st) in Windsor on Sunday, March 2nd from 2pm til 7pm for a unique event! We’d love to see you all down there!!
Who: Live art from SHIDA & Conrad Bizjak (and a few others) and the exhibition of new works on the walls by Drewfunk, Putos, Silk Roy, Loadz, Presto, Ero, Senekt, Bailer, Facter, Ohnoes, Amac, Jak Rapmund, Paners, Woke, Jack Frost, Short, Choq, Mishap, Jack Douglas, Makatron, Heesco, Ryan Boserio, Troll, Mysterious Al, Pierre Llloga, Unwell Bunny and Ashley Goudie, and featuring new art by INK & CLOG (Singapore) What: Aerosol Alley 2 Where: Artists Lane, (between Union and Green st), Windsor, VIC When: Event starts 2pm on Sunday 2nd March 2014 and runs til the evening!
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!
In the planning for several months, what started out as an ambitious exhibition of street art and graffiti stickers has now morphed into a large scale street art, graffiti and urban culture event in the form of Autograff!
Hosted by the team at Punk Milk, Autograff is set to rock St Kildas iconic Espy, complete with graff battles, hip hop djs and mcs, stickers (and trading!) and a bunch of featured artists painting a 30″ bus out the for of the gig!
Having seen the list of artists who have been sending stickers in from across the glove that in itself would be reason to check it all out!
Autograff is a perfect summer event, with a great line up and great tunes and great live art – we’ll be there, we hope you will be as well!!
Who: Too many artists to list, but between the bus being painted, the graff battles, djs, mcs and the stickers, you’ll be happy! What: Autograff Street Culture event Where: The Gershwin Room and Outside @ The Espy, St Kilda foreshore When: Event starts at 5pm Saturday 22nd February, 2014 and goes til late!
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