We caught up with our favourite female Aussie street artist, Vexta, at her secret studio in Brooklyn to talk about Whale Sharks, Mexico, bones and her latest group-show in New York: Push It.
More jump off after the jump off…
VNA: Do you feel that you’ve expanded as an artist since you came to New York?
Vexta: Yes, mostly in what I’m doing with my work and the techniques I use. I’ve definitely also had many more travel opportunities and living here has meant I could travel to Mexico which has been a dream of mine for a while.
VNA: How has your work changed and developed?
V: The same way that it always has; progression. I don’t know if being in New York specifically has had an impact on my work. I find when you take yourself out of your comfort zone and everything’s harder, you push yourself further. It’s like the act of moving away from your home distils your work, does that make sense? Moving away from the distractions distils the essence of what you’re doing and I feel like that happens to me when I travel. I feel like that’s happening to me here.
VNA: How do you keep pushing your own techniques? Do you research other artists and their techniques?
V: No, I don’t really look at other artists work to develop techniques. The other artist’s work I look at are mostly those who are in my scene, or I’m hanging out with. I didn’t study, I didn’t go to art school… That said of course if I see a painting and I like it, I’ll look at it and try and figure out how the artist did it. But I don’t go searching for new techniques I like to work it out on my own, I see it the completed piece inside my head and then I just try to make it happen in reality.
VNA: What’s the idea behind the upcoming group show?
V: Well, it’s my first large group show in New York, it’s all female artists, It a mix of street aritists and other low bro or alternative type of artists, which is cool, I feel like often street artists often end up in shows on our own which is fine but its interesting to mix it up. The show itself is about how the street impacts on studio work. It’s at Art Now NY in Chelsea.
VNA: How is your interpretation of that idea manifested in your work?
V: For me it was more about making the work for the gallery. I’ve had a painted human skeleton-hand in my studio for months. I guess it’s a logical progression from painting on bones, I’ve painted a lot of skulls, so for me it’s just an extension of that.
VNA: What is it that fascinates you about skeletons?
V: I’ve just been fascinated for a really long time about death and bones and the way we relate to them as objects, since when I was really young and went to the Czech Republic when I was about 10. I went to the ossuary in Kutná Hora, which is filled with thousands and thousands of skeletons all made into pyramids and chandeliers. I loved it, I stayed in there for ages, transfixed, wondering who were all these people. When you’re looking at the representation of somebody through a skeleton it kind of strips it down to a real essence of humanity. That interests me, I think it levels the playing field and can hold a powerful emotional reading.
VNA: How will your work develop from here:
V: I’m not really sure, I haven’t had a studio for 8 months, until now, and before that I was just painting in the street and on walls. These new pieces are really polished, they’re resin-coated and that’s quite different, I’ve never done that before. I’m just interested in trying out new things like that. Maybe not painting so much on canvas, more on found objects, bones, assemblages and looking more at ideas that involve those things.
VNA: You have some other projects later in the years, like the PangeaSeed project in Mexico, which is a special place for you. Why does Mexico hold such magic for you?
V: It’s something you have to experience just by going there. Culturally it’s so rich and has a long tradition of art, especially public art and murals. Particularly the way people respond to public art in the their day-to-day lives. It’s really pure in a sense. There’s also a certain psychedelic, surreal quality which permeates a lot of the work there, which is a big influence in my work.
VNA: I think that’s called Peyote…
V: I think down there it’s called a lot of different things.
VNA: So tell us more about the project with PangeaSeed.
V: For that there is 10 of us going to Cancun to go swimming with Whale Sharks. We’re going to paint some murals and make some other artworks about conservation. In particular about the Whale Sharks in Cancun and encouraging a better understanding about their natural environment and trying to make sure they’re protected in certain ways.
VNA: Is Mexico very much a place affected by tourist culture?
V: It has big pockets of tourism. I haven’t been to Cancun before, but from what I hear it’s like Miami, it has big resorts, it’s quite isolated and different from the rest of Mexico. Where it’s touristy there, it’s super touristy. I guess it’s a country of extremes, in every sense of the word. In Mexico city, you have the Favelas and then you have people who are ridiculously rich and have their own jets. It’s a really extreme place.
Its going to be interesting to see what kind of an effect our art will have locally and on the American tourists who go to Cancun to swim with the Whale Sharks and, of course, I am super looking forward to getting in the water with those beasts, it’s going to be crazy!
Curated by Melissa McCaig-Welles, featuring new work by: AIKO, Alice Mizrachi, Alison Mosshart, Amanda Reilly, Christina Neener, ELLE, GILF, INDIE 184, Katrina Del Mar, LADY PINK, Laura Mylott Manning, Maya Hayuk, Mia Tyler, Monique Mantell, QUEEN ANDREA, SHERYO, Sophie Alexia de Lobtienere, Sofia Bachvarova, SWOON, Tracy Piper, VEXTA
ArtNowNY presents: “PUSH IT” opening Thursday 3rd April.