‘Young and Free’ Interviews # 4: Reka

September 29th, 2011 | By | 1 Comment »

Reka (also an original member of the Everfresh crew) is another of Melbourne’s street art pioneers. Reka has been decorating the streets of Melbourne and surrounds since 2002 and is another of my favourite Melbourne artists.

Reka has traveled and painted across America, Asia and South East Asia, including San Francisco, New York, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

I’ve watched Reka’s style evolve dramatically over the years, and I love what I see. From the older days with black and white paste-ups and pieces featuring Reka’s infamous characters to his newer painting styles. His last show at Backwoods gallery, ‘Down Low Too Slow‘, was a smasher and featured pieces painted in 3D (glasses required to take in the full effect).

I caught up with Reka at Everfresh Studios. This is what we talked about…

LM: You must be excited about ‘Young and Free‘. What do you think about this amazing opportunity and the impact it will have on the awareness of Melbourne, and Australian, street art, graffiti and artists?

Reka: I’m privileged and honoured to be part of this amazing show. The line-up of artists is seriously the creme of the crop coming out of Australia right now: a nice balance of traditional graffiti writers, street artists and pop artists. I think Melbourne and Australia has a really healthy scene, but I don’t think it has enough international exposure. I think ‘Young and Free’ will put Australia on the map, if its not there already! I’m really not sure of the impact that this show will make but I know at the very least it is positive and it’s an important start.

LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into street art?

Reka: I actually came from a graffiti background. Mainly just doing stupid delinquent shit like tagging on pretty much anything I could find. I was ruthless and lacking style, but we all did when we started. Growing up next to a major train-line in Melbourne really opened my eyes to graffiti and different styles. In the early 2000′s I made the shift to street art. Though, at that time the name street art didn’t exist. I just liked doing characters and other abstract things. I just wanted to do my own thing and not follow what others were doing. The process was the same to graffiti – I was still getting up, but wanted to take my name and my work in a different direction. These days I explore graffiti and street art separately but I find both are a very important part of my creative journey.

LM: What does your name mean?

Reka: When I started graff in the late 90′s I came up with ‘REKA’ to match my enthusiasm of literally “wrecking” shit and destroying. I also wanted to find a combination of letters that I liked and that I was comfortable to write. I like how the ‘R’ and the ‘K’ compliment each other. The same goes with the ‘E’ and the ‘A’. Over the years the meaning of my name has dramatically changed, but my core ethics have stayed the same. In the end I always push style over anything else and rely on that that people can identify with rather than to have to put ‘Reka’ next to everything I do.

LM: What do you enjoy most about the whole street art process? The creation, the night missions, etc?

Reka: Street art has always been about the process: the exploration and the action. When I’m out bombing, whether it’s painting my characters, catching tags or sticking up posters, the end result is very secondary to me. What’s most important is the feeling I get. I do it for myself. It’s very selfish! Don’t get me wrong, I love people seeing my work and knowing that I did that illegally, but it’s a different felling I get from that. I also love painting legal walls and try to push my work on a large scale. Creating is very important to me too, but I still find it different to my illegal work. I get bored doing the same shit over and over again so that’s why I find it important to keep my work on the street illegally and also paint large scale commissioned walls. Using different mediums is a very important part of my practice. It keeps it fresh and exciting. I just like exploring in every sense of the word.

LM: Who or what inspires you?

Reka: I find and source inspiration from everything. Often it’s not from other artists but from nature and my surroundings, whether it’s patterns created from rusted metal, animals, rubbish etc. I keep my senses open and try to take it all in. I have to say that my studio, Everfresh, is a big inspiration and constant motivation for me. I find that it’s very important to surround yourself with creative people. Even if there is no actual dialogue or communication, just seeing them paint and create is very inspiring for me.

LM: Which artists are you into at the moment? Local and International?

Reka: I have to say that Roa and Blu are two artists that I have been looking at a bit recently. Not stylistically but my interest into their process and application of their art onto walls. My focus has shifted to painting large-scale murals and to see these two paint monster size works on the side of buildings is very inspiring. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to find walls like these in Australia. No one is really doing this compared to what I’ve seen in Europe and the USA. This is something that I want to fix.

LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like?

Reka: I mentioned I’m part of the Everfresh studio. We created this studio nearly eight years ago. Everfresh consists of mainly street artists that have come together with similar interests and their passion to paint but also to create artworks and push their work in the galleries and the fine-art world. The actual studio is a visual mess consisting of pretty much anything we have found and collected over the years. Although we all work separately on our own projects, whether it’s commercial work, walls, artwork etc., our essential core is that we all collaborate and work together too. I think that’s what separates us from other studios. My own studio is a blend of stuff I’ve collected including rusted spray cans, weird toys and of course my art and paints/materials etc.

LM: What is always in your “toolkit”?

Reka: Pens, markers, laptop, brushes, my black-book, NY fat-caps, spray paint, a lighter and acrylic paint.

LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?

Reka: Honestly this ‘Young and Free’ show is pretty much up there. Exhibiting my work and also painting walls with artists that I have admired and have looked up to is a great privilege and honour to have been involved in. I haven’t been involved in too many international exhibitions yet – it’s something that I am just starting to do now. The NGA (National Gallery of Australia) recently acquisitioned some pieces of mine and had a recent touring exhibition around Australia. It is a great honour to have work in your country’s national gallery collection. I was also involved in a month long residency at the NGV (National Gallery of  Victoria) in Melbourne. I really didn’t think my work would end up in galleries, let alone these kinds of institutions.

LM: Tell me about your last show, ‘Down Low Too Slow’, in March.

Reka: I always love staging exhibitions in my home city Melbourne. I guess that’s where I have generated most of my work both in galleries and on the street. ‘Down Low Too Slow’ was an exploration into the inner child in all of us. The theme was very playful and I had a lot of fun creating this body of work. I actually made some of my works to be viewed in 3d with those old-school blue and red glasses. It was fun to watch the straight-edge art collectors have a giggle viewing my work wearing the 3d glasses.

LM: I’m also interested in the way your style has evolved over the years. How has evolution this come about?

Reka: My style has definitely changed over the years. It has never been a conscious decision or has been intentionally pushed, it’s just something that has come very naturally. I guess I’m looking for something that I haven’t found yet. Actually… to be honest, I don’t want to find what I’m looking for. I think the worst thing to happen to a creative person is to get too comfortable. If you are not evolving then there’s a major problem. I find the journey of being an artist very important. I like looking back on earlier work and cringing, but also love seeing where I have come from and how I have evolved. Back in the day my style was very bold and cartoony. These days my style is a lot looser and dynamic. I am viewing textures and mediums in a new light. I actually want to start creating sculptures and 3D objects. I don’t want to limit myself to just painting pretty pictures.

All photos courtesy of Reka


Category: Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: , ,

Young & Free opening photos

September 17th, 2011 | By | 1 Comment »

Anthony Lister

Young & Free, the first major group show of Australian street artists in America, opened last week at 941 Geary in San Fransisco. The show looks amazing. I wish I could see in the flesh myself. If you’re in San Fransisco, get down there before the Young & Free closes on October 22nd. Graffuturism has a full set of photos that you should check out, but here’s a small sampling.

Reka

Rone

Photos courtesy of Graffuturism


Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: , , , ,

‘Young and Free’ Interviews # 3: Vexta

September 8th, 2011 | By | 3 Comments »

Vexta on the streets

Vexta, originally from Sydney, is another of Melbourne’s favourite street artists. Vexta’s neon drenched street paintings, paste ups and stencils can be seen in and around the suburbs of Melbourne. Her stencils are filled with carefully selected bright colours and are intricately cut, they lighten up any dark alleyway in Melbourne.

Vexta has traveled and painted around the world including Paris, Berlin, London, Sydney, Brisbane and Bogota. Her recent show “Across Neon Lights” at Goodtime Studios In Carlton (Melbourne) was beautiful, showing off her renowned neon colours and detailed mix of painting and stencil print skills.

I caught up with Vexta to talk about the upcoming show in SF, Young and Free, and her art in general.

LM: You must be excited about ‘Young and Free’. What do you think about this amazing opportunity and the impact it will have on the awareness of Melbourne, and Australian, street art and artists?

Vexta: I can’t wait to get over there, I really love San Francisco so its super exciting to be showing there. San Francisco has such a rich history of street art and murals and 941 Gallery is a massive warehouse space so it’s going to be lots of fun for all of us to hang out and make work there. It’s a total honour to be showing alongside so many fine Australian street artists as well. I think Young & Free will help to show that Australian street art is just like other street art from the southern hemisphere, in that its just as great as what happening in the north of the world.

LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into street art?

Vexta: Well, I was doing quite a lot of travel in the early 2000s. After an massive trip traveling across the Australian outback and SE Asia, I arrived back in Melbourne just when street art was beginning to boom. I guess from traveling I was really aware of landscapes and the interplay of elements in our physical environments so the art just jumped out at me. I loved the stencil aesthetic and so I started creating my own pieces, wandering the back laneways of the city late at night, painting. From there I met other street artists and we started doing shows together and going out painting together. Emptyshows were the best – where a group of us would take over an empty/disused building, install art and hold an illegal exhibition.

LM: What does your name mean?

Vexta: It’s just who I am, it’s a bunch of nicknames put together. A good friend use to call me “vex” when we were teenagers growing up together. Adding a “ta” or “ka” to the end of a name is a Czech tradition, My father came here from the Czech Republic so I’m use to my family doing that.

LM: What do you enjoy most about the whole street art process? The creation, the night missions etc?

Vexta: I just love making art in the street. The streets are the heart of any city… it’s the truly free space. It is the space of the people. It’s the place where ideas and interactions happen. I love making work that is free for the people of the city and to be found unexpectedly. Right now, I’m into making work that is more gentle and subtle than the advertising, signage and modern architecture that surround us in our modern cities. I also like leaving these small pieces of art that connect together into a larger story when put them together later in exhibitions. I also have a bit of a thing for underground spaces. I love all of it. Making work in the studio, painting on walls in the sunshine, drawing on walls in the dark of night, driving around wheat pasting, stickering…

LM: Who or what inspires you?

Vexta:  I’m inspired by a lot of things – art, music, science, nature. In particular I’m interested in winged creatures, dream states, hallucinations, the night, taking photos and pattern/repeated painting. My friends constantly inspire me with their support and the work they make, people like Kill Pixie, Tai Snaith, Al Stark, Miso not too mention all the Y&F artists

LM: Which artists are you into at the moment? Local and International.

Vexta: Ah there’s too many to list! Right now I’m hanging out to see Mike Mills’s new film, I love his work. Bjork’s Crystalline app is pretty exciting in the way it mixes art, music and science. Shida is making beautiful work on the local street art front.

LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like?

Vexta:  At the moment I’m making my work on the fly, travelling for a while. I have a small space in Melbourne and I’m in the process of fixing up a shack in a bit of remnant forest at my family’s house in North Sydney as a studio space and I’ll probably set one up for big work in the inner city for the summer too.

LM: What is always in your “toolkit”?

Vexta: Depends what I’m doing but I always seem to have stickers, markers & caps in my bag….other that – spray paint, acrylic paint, blades, brushes and a glove that I’ve been wearing for about 5 years to keep spray paint off my skin are fairly essential items… oh, and my ipod.

LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?

Vexta: Probably painting the Cans Festival in London, and painting in the streets & in the slums of Bogota, Colombia.

LM: Your recent show “Across Neon Lights” featured some of your best pieces yet, it was a great show. Tell me about the show and your recent work, I noticed your recent stuff features lots of feathers and butterflies/moths.

Vexta: Thanks, Across Neon Nights was pretty site-specific in some ways I really liked installing the works down in the basement of Goodtime Studios, it was great to use a different space that’s not a traditional gallery for a show. The paintings focused on an ongoing exploration of dreams, hallucinations, nights and the way we relate to the dark…our subconscious states, sex and night creatures like bats & moths. Making the light sculpture, bone installation and the sound loop was super fun. I want to do more of that.

Across Neon Nights

Across Neon Nights

Across Neon Nights

Across Neon Nights - Close ups

Across Neon Nights - Close ups

Across Neon Nights - Close ups

Across Neon Nights - Close ups

Across neon Nights - Installation

Across neon Nights - Installation

Vexta on the streets (2008)

Vexta on the streets (2009) (Bogota Colombia)

Vexta on the streets (2010)

Vexta on the streets (2011)

Vexta on the streets (2011)

Vexta on the streets (2011)

Vexta on the streets (2011)

Vexta in the studio (2011)

Vexta in the studio (2011)

Vexta in the studio (2011)

 All photos courtesy of Vexta


Category: Interview | Tags: , ,

‘Young and Free’ Interviews # 2: Anthony Lister

September 1st, 2011 | By | No Comments »

Photo by Birdman Photos

For our second interview in the lead-up to Young & Free at 941 Geary (opening September 10th), I spoke with Anthony Lister. Outside of Australia, Lister is without a doubt the best-known Australian street artist, and he also helped curate Young & Free. On the surface, his work is pretty simple to describe (mostly loosely painted superheroes), but words can’t convey the energy and passion with which Lister makes art, and there’s a lot more to each image than what first meets the eye. He strikes a difficult balance between high and low brow. Speaking with him, it’s clear that Lister is an intelligent guy who knows his art, but his work is equally accessible to those in the know and teenagers who just want to see cool pictures of tits and superheroes. A few years ago, a friend explained Lister to me something like this, “Anthony can paint with the best of them. His hand is up there with Bacon and all the greats. He just happened to take to using spray cans more than paint brushes.” Lister has blazed a trail in the Australian street art community both with is work and his approach to spreading it. For many, he has been the ambassador of Australian street art. For Young and Free, he continues that role by opening up the floodgates and bringing his friends with him to America.

RJ: Where are you right now?

Lister: I’m in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m in a cab to the airport, to go to Sydney.

RJ: It seems like you’re always traveling. You’ve traveled all around the world and you even lived in New York at one point. What keeps you coming back to Australia?

Lister: Gosh, I don’t know. I go to places that I enjoy where I can be around people that I know, and I enjoy meeting new people, but I guess I just go where I’m invited.

Photo by Lord Jim

RJ: You’re an extremely energetic guy, and it seems like a lot of that energy goes going creating an immense amount of work. How do you stay so prolific and at that energy level?

Lister: I’m an adventure painter, so I’m trying to break through to the other side. I’m into experiment and development, and I wanna paint for me, so I just have that much inside and I constantly have to be making changes, editing. I feel like I’m only as smart as my last decision; I’m only as good as my last production, so I’m trying to make better paintings than I did yesterday, today.

Photo by Birdman Photos

RJ: What’s an adventure painter?

Lister: There’ve been a lot of adventure painters. Francis Bacon was an adventure painter. Robert Rauchenburg was an adventure painter. Australian adventure painters… Brett Whiley was an adventure painter. This is just a thing, it’s a term to describe the energy involved with the journey which is being a visual practitioner: Conceptually, objectually, subjectually.

Photo by brandon shigeta

RJ: How would you describe Australian street art and graffiti?

Lister: It’s out in the wild over here, okay? It’s the same story, different city. When you travel and you’re involved in say skateboarding or graffiti or fine dining for that matter, these restaurants are in every city. The flavors change because of the style beef that’s there and then it becomes an atmosphere thing. It’s just that: The product of one’s efforts over here has been developed over a different atmosphere, so I’m not sure there’s a definitive difference, but I’m sure there’s definitely talent going into it. It’s a really amazing and wonderful thing that’s going on.

RJ: As you say, there’s a lot of talent in Australia, but I don’t think any Australians were included in Art in the Streets at MOCA? Am I wrong about that?

Lister: Yeah. There were no Australian artists in it. Martha Cooper shot of a photo of me, and I think that was in there, but no artists, no artwork. I feel pretty lucky to be at the forefront of all that, and also that book Beyond The Street, to be the only Australian artist in that 100-artist lineup, so I feel really fortunate.

RJ: You can look at Very Nearly Almost, and those guys are looking at Australian street art, but otherwise it seems to be something that a lot of bloggers, including myself, don’t follow closely enough, and it’s a bit of a shame. There’s a lot of talent out there.

Lister: And as an artist, you have to make an effort too. I’ve been traveling the world for nearly 10 years, and going back to places. It’s not like you just go to Rome once. I go to places and develop relationships. Everyone’s into what everyone else is doing.

Lister and Haculla. Photo by RJ Rushmore

RJ: How would you describe the importance, for you, of Young and Free?

Lister: It’s a nice thing to be able to put a package together. This is the Australia package, and I had some involvement in the choice of artists who are going, and I’m really happy to be involved in it. It’s not like anyone’s gone and done it. It’s not like this show would be easy just for a group of artists to put on. It’s a tricky thing, even for a gallery. You’ve got to focus all your energy. It’s reaching a new level. It kinda feels like the way that Futura described to me one day how Jeffrey Deitch flying him and a bunch of dudes over to Japan in the 80’s and doing art and shit and it just being crazy. It’s awesome.

RJ: What’s your relationship with the other artists in Young and Free?

Lister: Yeah, I do know all of them except for maybe one guy, although I don’t know how or why. Ben Frost, Kid Zoom, Sofles, Dabs and Myla, Rone… It’s these guys I’ve been developing relationships with. It’s not like I’ve even just met them once. These are people I’ve been hanging out with for the seven years. Some not so much; some are younger or came from different areas and they’ve just gotten up by the quality of their work. This is a really great, rounded, quality group of artists who are from graffiti, you know, trainpainters to fine artists like myself, and everything in between.

RJ: Definitely. When I first saw the lineup, I was excited because it was pretty much everybody I would have included, plus some guys that I didn’t know, which was great to see. But are their any Australian artists in particular that Vandalog readers should check out who aren’t in the show?

Lister: Oh yeah. There’s a lot of people who aren’t in the show. Real, quality artists. But it’s just one of those things. And what I’m interested in isn’t necessarily what is gonna be better for a particular audience. You know, as a curator you have to consider your audience, an American audience. There’s not a lot of things out there that really turn me on. I see things I like, but when I’m making work, I’m trying to make work that really turns me on. An artist who does that, to drop a name, would be Magnus McTavish. He’s an abstract fellow adventure painter, and there’s so many names here, there’s so many great artists over here. It’s really fun. It’s exciting and fun.

Photo by brandon shigeta

RJ: What have you made for this show?

Lister: I made a painting, and I plan on making a few more paintings and some mask pieces.

RJ: Great. I love the mask pieces. Are there going to be any walls or murals painted for the show?

Lister: Yeah, I believe there are. There’s definitely gonna be installation and site-specific, in-situ pieces being made. It’s getting pretty exciting getting all these people together.  A lot of people made work for the show, but a lot of people haven’t, so that’s a part of this whole traveling, in-situ art game right now. It’s a beautiful thing because you really get work that vibrates strongest when you’re making work in-situ. Artists support each other, it’s great. Everyone’s been training for so long. This is really the product of what is great and going on over here right now, and everywhere in the world for that matter. I just came through Berlin. I just came through LA. I just came through London. It’s all really great. Everyone’s really positive and making quality work.

Photo by unusualimage

RJ: Speaking of London, you just had a print a Pictures on Walls. Can you describe what the process was like, making work for that show?

Lister: Well for that one, I worked pretty closely with the print team, and I wanted to make sure they were unique. The boss over there was into me taking my time, and we made something beautiful. And the show itself was an extension and a growth of what I’ve been working on. I was really excited. It was really great.

RJ: Thanks Anthony.

Photos by RJ Rushmore, unusualimage, brandon shigeta, Lord Jim and Birdman Photos


Category: Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: , ,

‘Young and Free’ Interviews # 1: Rone

August 31st, 2011 | By | 4 Comments »

Rone (Melbourne 2010)

A note from the editor: This interview is the first in a series of interviews with some of the Australian artists in the Young & Free show opening next week at 941 Geary in San Fransisco. Over the next week or so, Luke McManus and I (well, almost entirely Luke) will be interviewing a number of artists involved in the show. Hopefully, this will take Vandalog a step in the right direction towards better recognition of the thriving Australian street art scene. I’m pleased that we can start this series off with Luke’s interview with Rone, a member of Melbourne’s much-respected Everfresh Crew. – RJ

Rone (Everfresh) is one of the most well known and recognised street artists in Melbourne. Rone’s iconic girl face paste ups have adorned many of Melbourne’s underpasses, intersections and unused billboards as well as numerous walls for as long as I have loved street art.  Rone has also hit walls in cities around the world including Los Angeles, New York, London, Toyko, Barcelona and Hong Kong. One of the girls was featured in Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Rone’s recent show ‘L’inconnue de la Rue’ (The unknown girl of the street) at Backwoods gallery in Collingwood (Melbourne) was a huge hit and possibly the show of the year so far. Every painting was sold before the exhibition opened.

I caught up with Rone recently to ask him a couple of questions. This is what he said.

LM: You must be excited about ‘Young and Free’. What do you think about this amazing opportunity and the impact it will have on the awareness of Melbourne, and Australian, street art and artists?

Rone: I’m stoked to be involved in this exhibition not just to get myself out there but to let people know about how strong the graffiti and street art community is in Melbourne and all over Australia. We have had so many internationals come here over the years and be amazed about how much we have going on but because we aren’t New York or London we unfortunately don’t get noticed as often.

LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into street art?

Rone: I moved to Melbourne around 2000 to study graphic design. I was fascinated by the stencil works by HA-HASync & Psalm that was around at the time. I started painting at skate spots with friends I skated with. Finding spots to skate soon turned into finding spots to paint.

LM: What does your name mean?

Rone: Nothing really, just a nick name that stuck.

LM: What do you enjoy most about the whole street art process? The creation, the night missions etc?

Rone: Hard to say one thing, I guess there is nothing better than seeing your work up a long way from home. I think that’s what a lot of graffiti is about- I was here, I did this.

LM: Who or what inspires you?

Rone: The noise on the walls is what I’ve been looking at lately. The way things decay on the street, rotting & ripped posters, buffed walls etc. The constant battle between artists, bill posters and the buff. I want my artwork to feel like that.

LM: Which artists are you into at the moment? Local and International.

Rone: Locally;  Many of the crew on the Y&F line are huge inspirations but i’m always in awe of the work of MerdaPhibsTwoone & Al stark. International; JR, Blu & ROA are all doing amazing things.

LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like?

Rone: I work from Everfresh Studio, the studio looks like a 15 year old vandals dream. I’ve set up a screen printing area to make posters and a bit of a space to paint from.

LM: What is always in your “toolkit”?

Rone: Stickers, posters, glue & a broom.

LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?

Rone: Being part of the National Gallery of Australia’s collection, Putting on a exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, which gave me a chance to build the Graff mobile.

LM: I’ve been loving your recent work a lot. Tell me about your evolved style and also your recent show “L’inconnue de la Rue”.

Rone:L’inconnue de la Rue” was my first solo exhibition so I wanted to bring the feel of my work on the street into the gallery. I screen printed a series of posters that became the background for the stenciled portraits. (Video). The idea was to create works the were quite rough and unrefined that contrast against the beauty of the girl. “L’inconnue de la Rue” was inspired by the story of L’Inconnue de la Seine, in which the body of an unknown girl was pulled out of the Seine River in Paris. Her peaceful expression added to the mystery surrounding her death. L’inconnue de la rue was my adaption of the story.

"L’inconnue de la Rue"

"L’inconnue de la Rue"

Work from "L’inconnue de la Rue" - N

Work from "L’inconnue de la Rue" - Pain & Guilt

Work from "L’inconnue de la Rue" - Colere

Close ups

Close ups

Close ups

Early Rone (Melbourne ~2004)

Rone (Melbourne ~2009)

Rone (Flinders Street station, Melbourne ~2007)

Rone (New York ~2011)

Photos courtesy of Rone


Category: Events, Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview | Tags: , , ,