Askew One TMD MSK (NZ) is one of the world’s most recognised graffiti artists, and we are excited to have him here in Sydney this month. We caught up with him last week in New Zealand at his Auckland studio and again on his arrival in Sydney to talk to him about his involvement in our Wonderwalls Festival and to get more of an insight into his latest body of work created for his first ever Sydney solo show ‘The Evolving Face’ which opens at The Tate next week.
“The Evolving Face” by Askew One
Opening: Wednesday 13th November
The Tate Sydney
The Opening Hours: How have you enjoyed being back in Sydney so far? When was the last time you were here?
Askew: I’ve actually come over to Sydney a bit over the past few years – strangely, never for painting but more so for work. For a few years I was making music videos for a living and I ended up working on a few videos for Sky’high who’s based here. Usually it was a 48 hour stay and would spend most of the time hanging with Sky and her gang of mates who are all real characters. I always like coming to Sydney though, it’s probably my favourite Australian city because it has that tough city vibe.
TOH: This time round you have come here for a few different projects, Wonderwalls Festival this weekend in Wollongong being the first stop. What do you think about the line up? Some new and old faces for you?
A: Great line up! – Heaps of friends I haven’t seen in ages and a few artists I’ve been following but never met. Stoked to be taking part.
TOH: You have a 2 storey high wall to paint at Wonderwalls, any ideas as to what you are going to paint?
A: At this stage I think it’s going to be something in line with the portraits I’ve done for the show in Sydney, that’s where my head is at right now but I will assess when I get there and see what feels right.
TOH: Following the Festival, we are hosting your first ever solo show in Sydney at The Tate in Glebe. Can you tell us about the portrait works you have created for the exhibition, and about the subjects in your paintings and how you select them?
A: My gallery work is where I really get to explore a lot of the concepts I can’t easily communicate through graffiti. I love bridging the gaps between the science and anthropology topics I enjoy reading about in my spare time. I love learning about physics, the origins of life and lately I’ve been fixated with the history of the Pacific region, particularly the migration of people down through the region over the past 4000 years and all the fascinating links in language and art they share. I’m a total student on these topics, not an expert but I process and attempt to understand things more clearly through my art making process. I shoot portraits of people I meet or know well and use the form of their head as a container for the concept I’m thinking about at that time. Right now I’m thinking a lot about the transition of tribal culture from something that is pre-determined to something that is increasingly more self-determined. As the people of the world become more widely distributed across the planet and aren’t necessarily based in their ancestral home, the idea of how you identify yourself is more of a fluid and personal thing.
TOH: The technique you use to make these works is quite unique, can you explain how you technically approach each piece? What materials are you using?
A: Well the obvious thing is all of this work is painted on plexiglass. That has it’s own set of challenges I spent a lot of time perfecting to this point. I work in reverse on the back of the surface and use mostly graffiti mediums and tools with the exception of the white layer which is painted with a very fine brush.
TOH: Being so well known for your graffiti history, is your gallery work a separate outlet for you? Do you feel that your fine art belongs in the gallery and your graffiti work should remain outside?
A: I’m still working that out, but my gut feeling is as far as I try to divide the aesthetic choices of both they tend to come closer together and influence each other. The difference is graffiti at it’s core is still an expressive and impulsive outlet for me, whereas my art is done quite slowly in my studio away from all the excitement of the outside world.
TOH: TMD is New Zealand’s most famous graffiti crew, and MSK is perhaps the worlds most famous crew – Whats your relationships like with both these families?
A: TMD is the group of rag tag teenagers I grew up with and now we are all adults and linked together forever through a really long shared history. I started off like most people as a total fan of so many artists in MSK and eventually became friends with a great number of them. I never thought I’d ever be put down, it actually never crossed my mind. When I was asked it just made total sense though and it felt right.
TOH: What is the current state of the Auckland graffiti climate? And what’s your opinion on Sydney’s current state?
A: Auckland died a little death for a couple of years but it’s starting to creep back. There’s finally a generation emerging that I don’t really know at all which is interesting. Their influences are different too, there’s a real disconnect in aesthetic tradition that has occurred due to the buff being so heavy the past few years. Sydney has changed a lot too I reckon, it’s still a hectic scene but nowhere as violent as it was back in the day. A lot of influence trickled down from here to Auckland back in the 90’s care of writers like Metro, Mayhem, Meson, Tank, Roske and more.
TOH: What is something you enjoy doing when you are not painting or making artwork?
A: Eating and talking in depth with good people.
Askew will be painting and doing an artist talk at the Wonderwalls Festival in Wollongong this weekend. Check the festival website for all the program details and to download the map so you can find him down there – www.wonderwallsfestival.com
Also join us next Wednesday evening at The Tate, 345 Glebe Pt Rd, Glebe (Sydney) for the opening of Askew’s first ever Sydney solo exhibition ‘The Evolving Face’. The exhibition opens Wednesday 13th November 6-9pm and continues until Sunday 17th November, open daily from 12-5pm. To request an exhibition catalogue please email firstname.lastname@example.org