Monday, May 7, 2012
Interview: street artist Vexta
The work of Australian artist Vexta is known around the globe for its vibrant colour, intense geometric shapes and charmingly vulnerable subjects.
Aside from painting in Sydney for the Outpost Project and Project Five, Vexta is a prolific worker both indoors and out.
I caught up with her to find out the inspirations behind her work and what her next step will be.
When did you first begin stencil and street art? What influenced that beginning?
I first started painting on the streets in the mid 2000’s. I came back to Melbourne after spending most of a year traveling around Australia and South East Asia. I got back right at the time when stencils were booming in Melbourne and overnight many would appear. I loved the aesthetic and the opportunity for me to combine my love of print-making and photography making stencils so I started going out at night painting little pieces in laneways. From there I got involved in The emptyshows and met other street artists, starting doing shows and the rest is the rest.
What did it feel like working on your first few outdoor pieces, knowing there would be an almost instant audience for them?
When I first started making street art I didn’t really think about having an instant audience – I just hoped that a few people who wandered past might see them, I actually considered other street and graffiti artists as my audience at first. I always put my work in what I consider to be aesthetically pleasing locations they aren’t always super visual to everyday people.
You've lived and worked in Melbourne and Sydney. What do you think are some differences between them in the way street art is made and consumed?
Obviously Melbourne has a higher appreciation and tolerance for street art and has embraced it a lot more than Sydney. I think for that reason traditional graffiti is still really strong here in Sydney because the risks are higher. Sydney is catching up though.
You often base your works on photographs of friends. Why do you like to celebrate these friendships with the many strangers who see your art?
I’m always searching for the personal and the universal and the ways these two opposing dichotomies can coexist and feed back into each other all at once. So it makes sense to me to paint the people that I’m surrounded with and then let them evolve into these more general representations of emotions or ideas. It also adds another subtle layer of personal meaning to my work as it connects it to my relationship to the people I paint. Whether they are friends, lovers, family, peers or strangers.
Your works are known for their vibrant colours, visual energy and sombre emotion. What draws you to work with these elements?
In the same way I like to paint with intense clashing colours and construct form out of them I think that it's interesting to paint emotions or ways of being that might be inwards, still and dark in bright hyper-colours. I make work that speaks of the time we live in, everything looks bright and happy from the outside but there are certain chinks in the perfection we strive for that in this future world that shows the darkness and possibility for menace underneath.
Thousands of people saw your incredible mural for the Outpost Project. What did you think of that event and how it impacted on public opinion of graffiti and street art?
Its hard for me to say, I guess I’m in too deep to know what the public thinks. This is just what I do and basically what I live for, its more than a job or hobby for most of the artists who were involved in Outpost, it’s a way of life. Hopefully people got that.
What are some cities we can find your work in?
I recently painted in San Francisco. I still have pieces up in Melbourne and Sydney. I’m about to paint some new ones in both cities. I’ve also painted in Bogota in Colombia, in London, Paris and Berlin but given the ephemeral nature of street art I don’t know what still exists where.
What are you working on at the moment, or in the coming months?
I’ve just finished creating new paintings for a solo show in Brisbane called In-Between Worlds with Edwina Corlette Gallery, then I’m painting some walls in Sydney and Melbourne and possibly Newcastle, then I’m heading off to New York for a while to paint draw and plan more travel.
You might also like:
■ Beastman designs for Smirnoff
■ More from the Outpost Project
■ Darlinghurst street art