Body of work

When I was around nineteen I was waiting for a bus at Circular Quay and an old man came up to me and basically said that people were essentially bad. He didn’t say it in exactly those words. He may have used a word like despicable and may be rotten. I didn’t feel he was mad, he just seemed determined to tell me how people really could be from his experience. I didn’t necessarily find him annoying or threatening. Who knows who he was. He may have been mad or a veteran of a conflict. My bus turned up after he had spoken and I simply nodded my head in recognition of his words and got on my bus. He was dressed in a style that was the early twentieth century. He had a smart hat and was well dressed. He was at least eighty years of age.

At that time I had started art school and had spent a number of years in my early teens involved with graffiti art in Sydney. When I was around nineteen I was rejected by my graffiti crew for my artistic ambitions. I would experiment and sometimes lecture my fellow crew members about staying motivated and keeping off drugs. They started to hate me. In a lot of ways, the rejection had started when I was turning eighteen. I found the whole situation depressing because I was very attached to the crew. It was like a dysfunctional family that replaced my real dysfunctional home life. Some of my mother’s friends also rejected me because I was seen as snobby because I had started university and was a little bit aspirational and had stopped spending as much time with them.

I had started to become known for graffiti when I was seventeen and I must admit it did go to my head. I was determined to try a bit of social climbing and meet motivated people. I got sick of alcohol and drugs. I would sometimes take recreational drugs rarely and I didn’t mind alcohol in moderation but I had seen the drunken antics of crew members and also a lot of my mother’s friends and I actually became afraid of those life paths. I had a lot of anxiety back then and it came and went in cycles. When the old man at the bus stop had spoken to me I had already experienced a few negative life experiences. At that particular time, some of the current ones were still fresh in my mind.

I don’t know if it was because of my underlying mental condition, or that I stood out from the crowd and was very motivated and put in a big effort with graffiti especially but I constantly had to withstand rejection. At the same time though I had admirers. All throughout the nineties, I was getting negative feedback but also admiration. The main criticism was that I had lost the plot. That was the constant feedback I got. Even in the next decade people would say things like I was finished and had lost my touch. I have to admit I did struggle with mental problems and still do. I found it enjoyable to break with popular graffiti conventions and produce work that was against the grain.

As I got older I simply shrugged off the criticism and I find keeping busy is a big motivator. When I was younger I found it hard but knew I had to blaze my own trail. These days graffiti is so eclectic that people don’t even register anything is actually different. Also, people find a group they find agreeable and might stick to that group. My own approach to graffiti is actually quite dated now and I only mention these early experiences because I am thinking about how people can in hard times wish the worst on people. Going against the tide is a lonely job. Over the years though I reconnected with old friends and did a variety of different work.

People are always competitive and want to assess the scene they are in. They will make connections and strengthen them with appraisals and encouragement from their peers. A lot of people outside of your circle may become unaware of others work especially your own. They have goals within their community of like-minded peers. Most of their criticism is simply self-serving and has no real connection to what you are doing. A lot of criticism is off the cuff, thoughtless and when the people who were judging you end up with bigger problems you know that it really had nothing to do with you or what you were doing. I can see in the long run that those early breaks from crews and a lot of the scene helped me develop.

I don’t take what I do for granted and try to push my work every time I get a chance to do it. I am actually looking forward to drawing on paper and painting on paper. Life is too short to worry about what other people think. Also, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to create a body of work that is has kept me motivated over a long period of time.

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