When I was running around doing graffiti in my teenage years my overall goal was to quit graffiti when I turned eighteen to avoid having a criminal record. I was caught quite a few times shoplifting and doing graffiti but I always got dealt a lenient hand. I was a very good talker and managed to convince the authorities I would mend my ways. Finally, when I was seventeen the police charged me with stealing spray cans and were astonished that I had three official cautions and hadn’t yet been charged. I was off to court and in a way, I was still going to quit graffiti at eighteen anyway so I got a good behaviour bond and the first thing I did was stop shoplifting. I found easier ways to get spray cans through a bit of ingenuity that was far less risky. I stopped painting trains around eighteen and generally retired to doing graffiti on the streets which were a lot more relaxing. I would paint abandoned warehouses and had started art school so I wanted to be experimental and artistic. Over the years I would paint the train lines which were an easy pastime. I went from various clubs dropping tags and wandering around fairly aimlessly.
I got a name for graffiti just at the beginning and end of my train painting career. It wasn’t because of my own efforts but other people sent photos of my work to Hype magazine. What I learnt was that my own success was due to other people. Sure I put some work in but without other people championing my work I would never have been known as well as I became. With trains, I was more focused on tagging and had a bunch of different tags that nobody even knew was me. Even today people don’t really know that I tagged trains back in the late eighties and early nineties. Not that I was that prevalent as other writers. My main issue was that I was a pretty average painter. I was lauded by Sie early on but really my throw-ups were my only saving grace. Then in the early nineties, I got a bit of style and then some confidence. Also, I was seventeen and was going to stop at eighteen so I only had a year to do some decent panels. There were very few and even fewer photos survived.
It was a short run to the finish line and thanks to other people I managed to get a name for myself in Sydney as a decent painter who had a bit of style. After that was a long run of confusion that still persists today. I personally feel that my creative work from the early nineties, not the stuff that got published, but the stuff in the refuse of post-industrial Sydney is what I am still on about now. There was one landlord that has helped for over a decade keep the work that I and my collaborator do on the streets and in peoples faces. Many people want you to aim higher and have bigger goals. To find a path to success that will be respected because they feel you should be beyond these small unknown walls. In all honesty, I should be making better work and have bigger aims than simply painting a rather raucous looking wall in an area dominated by raw graffiti.
Although I have a decent set of skills and can produce a variety of work I have chosen something that people want to avoid. If I think back to my art school days, I was attracted to the difficult art of the era of ‘happenings’ that was inspired by Dada. A whole lot of stuff that doesn’t fit the rather technical, special effect driven graffiti of the past decade or so especially. There is a Brut art style of graffiti that is probably more interesting than the juvenile scrawlings of ‘Anti-style’ but these approaches never took off in Sydney. Mainly because they were fashionable around a decade ago and Sydney is the unfortunate product of following a fashion after the fact and then having to wait until the next bunch of fashion victims give the appropriate cues that follow. The dominance of digital design and the ever-present iPad apps have also fashioned the current trends.
The dominance of social media also makes people more likely to push a style that is part of their social media worldview. For example, a die-hard old-schooler or style thief may get a name for themself being an ‘anachronism’ of grand proportions. There are original artists making headway in the Sydney scene but even then some won’t allow themselves to develop. That is probably my own problem in a lot of ways as well. Though I think I am forever aspirational in most cases. Yet not quite getting there. I do work hard though for my few visual successes. I might do up to twenty drawings just to get two decent ideas for a graffiti piece. Sometimes I find an approach in a working drawing that I can develop further. Lately, I have done nine large finished drawings with one more to go in that series. Then out of nowhere, I get inspired to write a poem or make a short video. Some stuff that is stored away for a few years (almost a decade at times) will find itself fitting perfectly in new work.
I have been reading Proust and in the second volume of in search of lost time, there is some gold in terms of the descriptions of peoples virtues and vices. Especially how our own criticisms of others are usually nothing more than a description of our own vices. That was what inspired this blog post. All of the invective I reserve for the people hobnobbing in the I am famous (at least in the last ten years) and I know about what real graffiti is only pointing the finger of blame at myself. My issue though is my time in the sun was before a lot of these current artists time. They don’t want to know me and even if they did hear of me would avoid my anachronistic work at all costs. A lot of what happens is due to other people and also the times at hand. In a lot of ways, I wonder why I even kept on doing aerosol art but the interests were there and haven’t left. If you do illegal work and are young and fit the risks and thrills are never-ending. If you are a style master you will have at least a decade of relevant work before you start asking who are the current innovators.
One thing that is for sure, I am not the current innovator, I do have a unique practice though that has been active since the early nineties. I can only hope that people will keep supporting my practice even though fashion is constantly wiping Sydneys slate clean. I really love the work of a lot of young women from Europe and Melbourne who are some of the most innovative. I do tire of current style masters kissing the same ripe backsides in the scene that looks like something from a CGI mash-up. At the same time, I do appreciate the digital approach and hope that the art keeps growing and I can keep playing a part. This of course relies on effort and also a little bit of good fortune.