Growing up in Melbourne in the mid-late 90’s and inspired by the tags gracing the surfaces of the southern suburbs, it wasn’t long before Ohnoes was out writing letters. Realising his crew need a character guy, his childhood experience drawing his favourite basketball players allowed him quickly transition and fill this void. Many ‘charros’ later and Ohnoes’ love of portraiture was prevalent.
Inspired by the likes of Rone, Mike Giant, Ken Taylor and Ben Brown, Ohnoes has developed a unique portraiture style, painting his detail to reflect a refined spray can feel. This style, inclusive of overspray, gives the work a reflection of his graffiti background.
In ‘The Games We Play’, Ohnoes presents 15 mixed media works (acrylic and aerosol), on canvas, paper and salvaged basketball court. Known for his obsession with basketball, Ohnoes has combined this with his love of beautiful women, having realised that his best art is created when the subject is one which he is passionate about and has meaning to him.
‘The Games We Play’ is an ‘open and honest story of Ohnoes and delves into what makes him tick; an opportunity to view his debut show and first complete body of work exploring themes of obsession, rejection, yearning, curiosity and desire.
“Beautiful women intrigue me. From an outside point of view it appears that they have everything easier, but I feel like that life would be harder; they have to judge people on how and what level they perceive them, not on just face value alone.”
In the lead up to the show, Damo went a visited Ohnoes at his beloved group studio – ‘The Arts Hole’ to find out a little more about the man of the moment.
Can you introduce yourself, and talk a little about how you got to where you are?
Ohnoes: When I was young, like most people, I was pretty into art. I always drew like my childhood favourite basketball players like Shaq and Charles Barkley. Through a variety of influences my focus was shifted towards graffiti. I became very active and consumed by my love for the art form.
I kind of got burnt when I was about 18 and I stopped for a while. Then Ironlak came out and then everyone kind of started painting; it was kind of getting embraced. Me and Chehehe just started playing around with this new paint and we were like, “Fuck, these colours are awesome!” We just kind of went in head first and next thing you know, we were starting up a studio and as the studio started flourishing, our art started to get more focused. Five years later, here we are, That’s the story!
Ohnoes: Obviously Ohnoes isn’t my original word. When ever I’d rock up to a mate’s house, everyone would be like, “Ohnoes, it’s Kevoes!” and stuff like that. I quite liked that so for a while I was going to go with ‘Kevoes’ as my artist name but I was also really clumsy and I was known for that. So ‘Ohnoes’ was a bit more fitting and it had a bit of cheekiness and a bit of a personalised backstory to it. So I kind of ran with it, it just caught on
Can you talk about your style and your current artistic practice?
Ohnoes: Growing up in the graff scene, it was very letter heavy and I used to write letters and everyone that I knew wrote letters. You weren’t really a writer unless you wrote letters. But every crew needed the charro guy and I had a bit of experience drawing other things that weren’t letters and kind of transitioned into that.
I kept painting characters and eventually found myself more interested in portraits as time went on and developed a style that reflects a bit of my graffiti background. I have a real point style to my art, the way that I paint my detail to reflect that spray can kind of feel and the overspray. It has a street feel to it. It’s a lot more refined obviously now but that accidently developed over time, just in the way that I spray painted my portraits.
This is your first solo show. Why did you decide to have your show now?
Ohnoes: For the last 3 years, I’ve been saying, “This is the year, this is the year,” and I’ve kind of like come to a point where I’ve been part of so many group shows, I felt like it’s my obligation, if I want to grow, to have a show. So I kind of made it like my New Year’s resolution.
What’s the makeup of the show as far as works are concerned? How many? What are they?
Ohnoes: I’m aiming for 15 pieces. There’ll be 6 pieces which are on basketball court. I bought a 3mx3m slab of basketball court and got it cut down into 6 pieces. There will also be 4 works on canvas that I cut to look like like flags, five paper works and a limited edition hand finished print.
What’s the story behind the title “The Games We Play”?
Ohnoes: The show is pretty much an introduction to who I am and it talks about my obsessions in a way. If anybody knows me, they know that I have a strong love for women and I have a strong love for basketball, hockey and stuff like that. For a long time, I tried to create real serious art but I felt like I was forcing it. Only recently, did I realise that this is me and I do my best work when I do stuff that I’m passionate about and has meaning to me. That’s how I kind of get to where I am.
Why should people come to the show?
Ohnoes: Why should people come? If they want like to see an open and honest story of who I am and what makes me tick, or if they have been interested in my work. They’ll have an opportunity to see a body of work rather than one piece here, one there sort of thing like they wuld in a group show. They will see a portion of my dedicated to the body of work. Sort of a little nugget of my life!
What do you want to be known for?
Ohnoes: It’s a hard question. Like a lot of people know me for my t-shirt stuff and there’s this whole other side, that people that know me from my portrait stuff. I think I would like to be known for just being an artist who’s honest. I’m not doing art for any other reason but purely the passion of painting what I do or what I love. That’s what I want to be known for. I don’t want to fall into any cliché category. There are people who paint, you know that Americana kind of stuff for the sake of painting. Americana and Instagram photos and stuff like that but I think the way I’ve always tried to do it is to incorporate everything that I love into one and it just has that feel to it.
What motivates you? This show you have been spending up to eighty hours on a piece. Where’s the motivation coming from?
Ohnoes: A lot of artists I’m friends with, compete amongst each other, but I always compete against myself. I always try and make this piece greater than the last and I think that’s my motivation, I just want to produce but my work process is very slow, so I’m always under pressure to pump stuff out, but I want to get better, so I think that’s like my motivation, it’s like an endless cycle.
You were self-taught, particularly with the current brush work, is that accurate?
Ohnoes: Yeah, totally, totally accurate. I haven’t ever really picked up a brush till like a year and a half ago. I started off with pencils when I was young, then graduated to spray cans, and then spray cans was pretty much my only medium for a long time. I kind of transitioned into paintbrush just out of the curiosity of colour and how endless the possibilities are of mixing your own colours and stuff like that.
Do you have a mentor or anyone you look up to?
Ohnoes: The list is endless, obviously the top of my list is Rone in regards to portraits but I’ve have had heaps, heaps of artists that inspire me. I would say Mike Giant was the person that got me really focused into the possibility of an art career, back then I was very predominantly black and white style and I drew girls and I drew graff and it made sense and I saw this guy who was a street artist create t-shirt graphics and create art and he was very well known for it and was making a living of it and that was a big inspiration to me. Then I reached out to people like Ken Taylor and Ben Brown and touched base with them and picked their brains a bit, they were very helpful and very transparent. They showed me the path and the rest is history. It’s a very diverse group, but predominantly those guys.
‘The Games We Play’ opening night is this Saturday (5 November) at The Stockroom, Shop 2, Civic Place, Ringwood from 6pm. All details can also be found here