Hello Wesley, first of all, what are you working on these days?
For the past couple of years I divided my time between murals, exhibitions, commissioned private and public works and commercial illustrations. I enjoy mixing things up and enjoy each practice as they all influence each other. I am also planning a street art festival next year in my home town as there is not much happening for local artists. Next year will be the test run and if we successfully manage to get the right kind of funding then we can make it bigger in 2018. I also have some international murals being planned in the next year.
Tell us some about the “Love Imvelo” mural we featured 2wks ago. How did you prepare for such a work?
Street art is very much in its infancy in South Africa in terms of bigger commissioned projects and as I have a desire to create bigger works I approached several companies to see if they were willing to support the project. The city council is quite corrupt much like the current government and originally I wanted this wall on a municipal wall. However even though I had full funds at this stage they did not even bother to answer my calls or emails. There is a small creative precinct known as Station drive and this was an obvious second choice to create the mural in this area.
After watching this video I checked your portfolio and been impressed by your illustrative style. It gives me the idea that you stretched on wide outer walls, small drawings sketched in a playroom. A transposition into big of your childish visions. And of course this is rad. Were you able to keep an innocent look about what surrounds you, or do you believe that your style is now the result of a research developed over the years?
I think only recently I found a style that I am happy with which is a more simple style that is easily recognizable and hopefully a little more unique. Over the past 10 years I have experimented with many different styles but yes after researching and developing an artistic voice for myself I really wanted to look at how I could create work that has an almost child like quality to the work. This is mainly because I feel childhood is a special time for all humans, there is an innocence and it has the curiosity that is often destroyed as we become adults. So the idea is create work that hopefully brings adults into a simple viewpoint when looking at my work as well as engaging with younger kids who see my work.
Your murals have always had a strong concept, I think the evidence is clear since they work both on a small and on a large scale. It’s not so obvious nowadays, since we see a lot of huge walls that would not be so impressive painted on a regular canvas. What’s your point of view about scales?
I like challenges and painting bigger is always a challenge for me. However for me painting for me outside for me is not about the scale but the area where the painting sits. I enjoy the interaction with the public during the process of the mural and I like how the space evolves from a blank space to an artwork. Often I paint in areas that are dull and its amazing to see once the artwork is created how it helps lift the space!
Would you care to talk about your beginnings as muralist? How did you start and what do you think was the initial urgency?
I have always said to other people that the difference between a practicing artist and a person who does not pursue art and music seriously or as often could be the fact that the desire to create work is much stronger in those people who focus on their art. I think everyone is creative in many capacities but it is this desire that makes all the difference. If I don’t create work or express myself life becomes a bit boring or dull. I certainly feel a need to create work and create work that has some kind of positive message. I don’t see a difference in art and music and the early beginnings was when I was in a band, making flyers, posters and writing music. However as time went on it became easier to create artwork as you not relying on other band mates or sound equipment. Its quite a liberating practice knowing you can express yourself free from other factors such as music venues or proper instruments. I think as I started painting more seriously in about 2005 I pursued exhibitions and it was a natural progression to take the work further and bigger. I like the idea of painting bigger as it has its own set of challenges and rewards!
And what about now, what pushes you through your art, what’s the engine power of your motivation?
I think limitation is one factor of my motivation to continue. I live off the work I create and get commissioned to do so it can be seen as a job but on the other hand I see so much negativity in the world that I have to speak out and create work to fight this darkness. I think its entrenched in all of us that inherently want this world to become a better place. Creating work is hugely fulfilling as an artist and I feel its something that is apart of me and an extension of my humanity.
Could you locate a turning point in your production? I mean an artwork that you feel has been an important turning point between the simple need to express yourself and the current state of your art?
For a long time I have been experimenting with finding a style. When I started out I was influenced heavily by Barry McGee doing heavy characters, then I evolved into more realistic type paintings and when I did a local mural for a bistro I decided to simplify my style due to budget constraints. This mural came out really nice and even though it was quite simple I loved the aesthetic quality about it. Since then I have pursued a simpler more thought out composition with my work. I like the idea of using restrictions and limited colour schemes to see where I can push the work. Sometimes when you got too much to choose from you end up doing too much with the work!
In recent years I have heard a lot of opinions about street art. Some people think it’s the greatest artistic revolution of the last 50 years, others consider it a bubble ready to deflate What do you think?
It’s hard for me to give an accurate opinion as I have mentioned street art is quite organic and grass roots in my country. So the idea of it being an artistic revolution is a foreign concept to me when the majority of the country is fighting for basic living conditions… However I am very much aware of how street art has exploded internationally and I do think that it will come to a stage where it will start to evolve. I think artists will continue to push and play with technology. Can we imagine hacker artists changing digital adverts as more and more billboards become digital? I think things like this will push “street art” into different directions but I don’t think it will deflate – it will just change and evolve into different perspectives.
Speaking of South Africa, I think the last 10 years have been a real explosion of talents. Artists able to compete on an international scale in a scene became more and more specialized and technically sophisticated. Who do you follow or who do you think is doing remarkable well in recent years?
You’re right, and there is an incredible amount of amazing artists art out there and its pretty overwhelming but inspiring at the same time. I think with the internet it really helps the other artists in South Africa to get their name out there and I also think people from other countries have become more receptive to outsider artists. There is so many artists that inspire me and the ones that truly inspire me are the ones that I have had a real life interaction with. I was lucky enough to meet Kofie a couple years ago in Cape Town – I really like his abstract works and its really unique. I also discovered Rubin’s work on the streets when I was in New York last year, his abstract shapes are also really cool. I am also digging Agostino Iacurci’s stylized characters. Those three artists have really showed me that simplicity and restrictions can help create unique work!
Do you believe that today’s attention devoted to street art can be an ideal springboard for even “classic” illustrators? I mean something like “Paint outdoor what you’re used to do in your room and someone will notice you..”?
Yeah, I definitely think so! However painting big is not as easy as painting on a smaller surface so its quite a challenge for me. However if an artist can create a conceptual image, executed brilliantly it is indeed a great platform to get your work noticed!
Something you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to.
Besides traveling to different parts of the world to paint murals I have always wanted to develop a mural festival in my home town but with a community focus that helps support the local people. I’d like to use art to help inspire people and be part of a positive movement. I am hoping that this will all come together next year and the idea is to paint murals based on conversations with people in the area as well as doing work shops with kids from poorer communities so that they can see what is possible with art.
Something you would like to see in this world before dying.
I’d love to ride a bicycle around Iceland in the summer! I’d love to do it with just a backpack and just ride and camp as I go along.
One overrated and one underrated thing in our daily life.
Working for money is overrated, working to help others is underrated. We should have community entrepreneur lessons at school. I think you get a huge sense of fulfillment when you help others yet we spend the vast majority of lives trying to buy the next car or iphone.
Thank you Wesley for our chat, I would like to receive from you a final response to a game that ultimately we do in the office .. Tell me what you’ll do or would like to do within 5 days, within 5 months, and within 5 years.
Well, in 5 days I’d like to complete a new artwork that I need to send to a gallery in Cape Town, in 5 months I hope to have our new house restored as there is so much I need to do on it, and in 5 years I’d like to have at least one solo exhibition in Europe and/or one in America in a nice gallery and doing at least a couple more murals somewhere on the planet!
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