Ahead of her new show in Brisbane, VNA caught up with straight-up from-the-streets artist, Vexta. One of the highest-profile artists in Australia, she has a unique, self-taught style and a DIY attitude. We like her lots.
Vexta, tell us about your new show, what’s it all about?
My next exhibition is called In-Between Worlds, it opens on Thursday April 19th up at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane, Australia. It’s a collection of new work examining our relationship to ourselves, ideas about evolution, the mysterious interconnectedness of all living things and the atomic particles that hold it all together. It originally spawned from thinking about the way everything, ourselves included, is constructed from tiny particles, the way those atomic particles are clustered and thinking what would happen if they shattered. It’s about what they would look like if we could see them and how if they did shatter, it would be a new world. So, this show is about that possibility. I’ve painted the particles as these geometric neon shards and in the show they are fusing and pulling things apart. The show itself includes paintings, installation, a light sculpture and a sound piece.
More jump off after the jump off
How do you feel as a high-profile female artist in Australia?
I work hard and I’m stoked that people are interested in what I make and do. When it comes down to it, you’re only as good as your last work. I always cringe slightly at being referred to as a ‘female’ artist rather than just an artist.
Ha ha, sorry… When and how did you first break into ‘street art’?
After a trip spent travelling up the Australian coast, outback and South East Asia, I arrived back in Melbourne right when street art was beginning to boom. I came back with the fresh eyes and perspective you get from travelling and immediately noticed all the stencils that were going up on the streets. I loved the aesthetics so I started creating my own pieces; wandering the back laneways of the city late at night painting. From there I met other street artists and we started doing shows together and going out painting together. In particular we started doing the empty shows – where a group of artists would take over an empty/disused building, install art and then hold an illegal exhibition. Those shows were really important in bringing us all together, from there I started doing other exhibitions and the rest is the rest.
Do you distinguish between your studio and street work? How does it differ?
Yes and No. I am a street artist, in that I learnt my craft on the streets, I’m self taught, so in that way my paint techniques will always be connected to that experience. Thematically the work is connected, but when I paint on the street, it’s more about having fun and experimenting, whereas when I’m in my studio its a lot more considered.
Is it easy to get recognised as an artist in Australia?
I don’t know. If you work hard, make something unique, stand your ground, stand for something and stay true to yourself and your creative path, then, hopefully, you will have something to say with your work. People will listen with their eyes if you’re a painter and I guess that’s recognition, right?
How do you find it globally getting recognition?
I’ve always been surprised when people know who I am or know my work. I’ve never done a lot of self-promotion. Its rad when artists you respect from other countries ask you to be in exhibitions, or to come to their country and paint their streets..
A lot of the same artists seem to keep getting shows in AUS, do you think it’s hard for new and emerging artists to get noticed?
I think if you’re good you will get noticed. When I first started out, we started by putting on our own shows in galleries that friends set up above bars and illegal shows in empty buildings. The power of street art is that it doesn’t need the galleries to survive.
What is the general attitude to street art from Councils and the authority?
In Aus, it’s mixed; some are supportive, some are zero-tolerance. Melbourne is very supportive, especially the Yarra council which covers Fitzroy & Brunswick. Melbourne city council is following their lead, a year or so ago they commissioned me to paint a 15m long wall, so that was cool. The cops will always hate on it so long as its illegal, that’s what they are trained to do, right?
With your work, a lot of it is quite trippy and psychedelic, what artists do you reference and where does your inspiration come from?
I don’t reference any artists. There are so many great artists out there today and so many great artists who have been, who laid the ground work for me today, My inspiration comes from the things around me – music, art, fashion, architecture, science, my dreams, my imagination and the things that interest me.
You’ve worked in both Sydney and Melbourne, which city is better for art and why? Do they represent different opportunities to you?
They are both very different. In Melbourne there are more opportunities for artists, whereas in Sydney you have to work harder to make them happen. That doesn’t make one better than the other though.
What has been the biggest leg-up for you as an artist? Who is most supportive, galleries, funded projects like Outpost, or the people around you?
I don’t think I can name one thing. The community of artists & friends I have around me are the ones who push me to work harder and be better. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them.
Is it important to build up your own networks and movements, or market yourself commercially and work within those parameters?
I think the community is what is important. I work with people I respect, I would never work with someone or some company just because it was commercially viable.
What will you do after your show in Brisbane?
After my show in Brisbane I’m planning on painting a few walls in Sydney & Melbourne – just having some fun with some friends. Then I’m heading over to New York to live in Brooklyn for a while; where I’m just going to paint and draw and plan more adventures.
Vexta’s show opens Thursday April 19th at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane, Australia. See www.vexta.com.au for more of her work, keep your eyes peeled for a print release later in the year on www.stupidkrap.com