Mike Makatron (another member of the Everfresh crew) is a master of mixed media. His recent show “Mother of Millions” was amazing and showed off his skills across a variety of media and styles. I also love stumbling upon his giant pieces around inner Melbourne like the giant fish on Smith st Collingwood and the Vet Clinic on Johnston st Fitzroy. Mike’s art, both street and studio, clearly shows his interest in flora and fauna.
As well as making the walls of Melbourne beautiful, Makatron has traveled and painted abroad in places including New York, Berlin, and India and Brazil.
I caught up with Mike and this is what we talked about… The interview has been in the vault for a while though, so a few of the references to dates are a bit, well, outdated.
LM: I’ve been loving all your massive pieces around town.. (Something I think Melbourne needs more of to be honest). From memory your pieces used to be smaller and more character based, what made you move into these giant animal pieces?
Maka: Yeah I have gradually moved away from character and cartoony stuff over the last few years, and trying to approach walls in a similar way to how I would a canvas or piece of paper, in both style, content and layout by using the whole wall. Animals have always been a major source of inspiration, so creating them on an epic scale is a natural progression. It’s also easier and less technical if you paint something large.
LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into street art?
Maka: Art has always been in my life in some way, since kindergarten, but as far as street art, I worked as a bike messenger from 18 for about 10 years, in 9 cities. This life style was generally intense with travel and partying and riding and partying, so the appeal of the extreme side of art is naturally towards street art + graffiti. I have always liked climbing things too.
LM: What does your name mean?
Maka: Well I have had this name since I was a teenager, most people in Australia know someone called Michael and someone called Macca, so its a derivative from that, and had something to do with being fast on a bike, or like a machine in sport, or piano maybe… But I used to use variations of it tagging around town. It grew to mean something personal to me about the balance between man and machine, or nature vs nurture, or animal vs man… or something, but the last 3 or 4 years it doesn’t mean that much really, as I don’t paint robots much or find much inspiration in that side of life… More from the natural world and trying to be more instinctual with art.
LM: What do you enjoy most about the whole street art process? The creation, the night missions etc?
Maka: Definitely the creation side of things, especially collaboration, last week I painted a pumpkin/fruit planet thing with a French artist Dem189 in the commission flats in Fitzroy, and it felt seamless, we both didn’t care about the result and were painting over each other and throwing ideas around. Myself + Dem + Itch are in the middle of painting a balcony wall this week, where we have a plan but are all jumping all over everywhere, it gets blurred where people have painted but the final outcome if the rewarding part. It has been interesting painting with people in Brazil who don’t speak English, (my Portuguese isn’t that good) but u can find a common ground in art. Late night missions are fun too though, especially roof tops… my favourite is in abandoned places where you can relax and take your time.
LM: Who or what inspires you?
Maka: Music is quite important to me, and essential for inspiration during the process… I have broad interests, and I have a wide range of plants, which the weird cactus or succulent types are interesting. I’ve always found inspiration in females too, not necessarily in a sexual way, but there is a different kind of beauty in female forms. I like to play with twists of attraction and intrigue juxtaposed against something slightly disturbing. I find a huge amount of inspiration in other artists, I don’t like naming those who inspire me except if they are dead.
LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like?
Maka: I’ve been part of Everfresh studio for about 6 years, which is in a large warehouse divided up into different rooms + work stations, but centrally a massive desk which is always full of shit. I have a big desk + a tool bench, and a lot of boxes and drawers. I try surround myself with a lot of tools and supplies, and it’s generally well ordered under the surface. The number of people using it fluctuates, but usually there is 1 or 2 other people around.
LM: What is always in your “toolkit”?
Maka: Tools 😛
LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?
Maka: Not sure what to say, maybe having 2 solo shows that went well, but I’m 32 and feel like things are just beginning. Its all encouraging. Maybe a notable time was when I realised I never have to get a proper job again, and if things gradually increase over time, which I’m confident of, I won’t ever be hungry. I am a bit of a hedonist, and try to get the most fun out of life as possible. I do work a lot of hours, and don’t really have holidays, but its all fun.
LM: Tell me about your last show ‘mother of millions’ in October last year? I really enjoyed it and loved the piece featured on the flyer.
Thanks, that name is a type of succulent from Africa, which is a toxic weed, illegal here, but rampant and has millions of offspring flowers. Also a metaphor for the earth we live on. I’d like to paint that piece about 10 meters diameter on a wall in Collingwood, which I have in mind, just trying to find the owner. I don’t like the attention of a show on the night, or the constant conversation. It’s stressful but worthwhile doing. The guys at No Vacancy Gallery were really cool with everything too.
LM: What’s next or coming up for Makatron? Street, studio etc..?
Maka: I’m getting a round the world ticket soon, probably tomorrow, I’m trying to knock off a few big jobs before I go, one is an entry into the Archibald prize. But I’ll be in Brazil mid-March for a graffiti event up north in a city Recife, and after 2 or 3 months I am planning a small art show in Paris, and am hoping to paint at a few music festivals in Europe. I may have an opportunity to paint a big wall in New York too, and I’ll be going through Africa on the way back. I’m applying for an art residency in Cape Town. So my plans are vague but at least its flexible and I’m open to anything. I feel ready to leave Australia for a while, at least for the Melbourne winter… 2012 will be a good year.
All photos courtesy of Makatron