“Inner Myths”, a collection of new paintings and sculptural works by Shida is a dynamic record of Shida’s development as an artist who envisions infinite worlds. Influenced by the work of Frank Frazetta, Paul Gauguin, Mikhail Vrubel and Nikolai Kalmakov, for “Inner Myths”, as Australia’s most prolific young street artist, Shida reinvokes two centuries of art history in his characteristic style. Shida is considered an asset to Australian contemporary art, who is constantly challenging himself against the sources of his inspiration.
Shida took some time out to talk about his upcoming show….
DW: Tell us a bit about your early years and how you got into art.
Shida: I have always drawn. Some of my oldest memories are of drawings that I did: maps and battlefields covered in hundreds of warriors; Ancient Greek triremes; and alien creatures, with their full inventory of armour and magic objects displayed (not so far from what I still do today). I continued this way until I discovered street art at age 14. I have always liked my own company, reveling in the fantasies I could enjoy through my mind’s eye, or give life to on paper, but with street art, this changed. What was once an insular world became a means of outward expression and social interaction. From there, my obsession grew, shifting fast from a hobby to an all-encompassing passion. In high school, I saved for a trip to Europe by selling my art, and by the time I returned, I was able to survive off it (in relative Mi Goreng noodle poverty).
DW: How would you describe your work?
Shida: I work with and across a large diversity of media, and my style changes depending on the means and context. What unifies my practice is a sense of physicality and expressive movement, in the methods that I use, and in the figures that I portray. It revolves around and stems from my imagination, with fantasy, sci-fi, darkness, lust and otherworldly, ethereal escapism being my main themes. Often my work is saturated with colour and quite psychedelic, whether it be video-based, sculptural, in paint, or otherwise.
DW: Tell us more about your upcoming show at Backwoods Gallery.
Shida: I approached my upcoming show “Inner Myths” by really grappling with and searching for sources of inspiration in art history, particularly in turn-of-the-century Post-Impressionism and Symbolist Art. Discovering the imagery of artists such as Nikolai Kalmakov was really exciting; we are seemingly so similar in our fantasies, though separated by more than one hundred years.
I was also struck by my affinity with Gauguin, a man in search of paradise and truly traditional roots. He was an artist who wholeheartedly believed in his genius, which is something that seems near impossible these days.
Perhaps the current state of contemporary art (especially in Melbourne) shaped the show. I see so much apathy and pop cultural satire in art. I’m put down and made to feel naïve, because I believe in myself, and the power of art. Maybe I’m a walking anachronism, but I can’t help feeling more inline with the past’s proud art mystics, and distanced from today’s post-ironic hipsters.
DW: How do you find the transition from street to gallery or vice versa?
Shida: For me it’s quite natural. Each has its own considerations, but they both show the same world. With studio work, you have to think about pieces being archival, and how they relate to each other as a body of work. You have all the time in the world, so you must struggle with not overworking pieces. It’s also difficult, because there are no excuses in the studio – you can’t blame the weather or the wall surface. There are no time constraints or community politics; if a work is subpar, it is solely your fault.
The street is a dialogue – you are competing to get your point across, and you must be clear and powerful in your delivery. You have to consider logistics and an entire list of factors, from legality, to how you are affecting the community. You can get rained out or beaten up, arrested or jeered at (“get a real job cunt!”). Nothing lasts on the street. You must come to terms with the fact that everything you have ever done will one day be buffed, capped, demolished or just fade away.
DW: Can you tell us what the scene is like in Melbourne? I know you had some issues earlier in the year, from memory people were capping your pieces – what was all that about?
Shida: It’s been a crazy two years. I’ve learnt so much about my art and myself, and I’ve been both humbled and emboldened – I’ve definitely grown wiser. Let me start by providing some wider context, and later I will focus on what actually went down.
The ‘popularity’ and acceptance of street art has exploded in the past years. This has resulted in many of us ‘street artists’ creating successful commercial careers for ourselves. Now, this is great, and I am staunch in my belief that many of my contemporaries are amazing artists, deserving of this success. They should be free to work on the street, in galleries, and even with private companies as they see fit. However, this rise in popularity has brought with it many negative things as well, the chief problem being its polarisation of traditional graffiti writers and the new (or not so new) wave of street artists.
Where once it was rebellious and anarchic, street art is now used to ‘stop’ graffiti. It’s used as an advertisement for, or a stepping-stone into galleries. Some street artists won’t even paint a wall unless they are getting paid. This goes against everything that traditional graffiti continues to stand for. Murals gentrify communities and effectively raise the property value. Street artists promote and collaborate with brands and companies, lending (or selling) their street credibility. Meanwhile, graffiti stands defiantly; there are no ‘rewards’ – only punishments – and the message is clear: “You think this wall belongs to you? Well I exist here as well.” “If I’m free to do this, then you are free as well.” “Fuck you”.
I believe my work was capped in a response to this. PAA “Pure Aussie Artists”, in a matter of a few days, destroyed nearly my entire body of work on the streets of Melbourne. I’m no stranger to graffiti, and I have always respected graffiti (more than most), so I think their “Pure Art Assault” was misaimed, if not misguided. The fact that they chose to target me demonstrates that there was more behind their actions than just a rational opposition to the commercialisation of street art.
These guys were straight bullies out for fame. They hid behind their graffiti identities, targeting me because I was alone and because there was no way for me to win. Having said that, PAA have gone on to pretty much king Melbourne with really good style. The whole experience was humbling, and once the fantasising about murder and crushed skulls on spikes faded, I emerged stronger, less egotistic, but with greater resolve and understanding.
DW: What words of wisdom do you have for someone who is trying to get into the scene?
Shida: Respect and history is the first step. Learn about graffiti, learn about street art and never go over anyone’s work that you can’t burn. If you want to start street art to pursue a career in art, it is too late, don’t even try. Creating your own distinctive style is the key, when you are starting, its okay to bite, but your end goal should be something that is entirely you, something that stands out.
DW: What else can we expect to see from Shida in 2014?
Shida: World tour number 2!!! I’m going to be traveling for nearly a year, so if you are reading this, anywhere you are in the world and have a project for me then please email me!
DW: Where else can people find you?
Shida: Tearing up the D floor.