Known and respected throughout the graffiti scene for his past and present creative conquests, Australian artist JOHN KAYE has no problems getting up and going all out. More recently recognized for his ink illustrations and large-scale mural work, his art has been appearing in multiple galleries and showcases around the world.
We catch up with John to chat about his ideas, artistic integrity and creative influence.
VNA: Talk us through some projects you’re working on at the moment.
JOHN KAYE: My main priority at the moment has just been to draw or paint something everyday. It’s been going well so far. Other than that I’ve been lucky enough to team up with a few different people to work on some collaboration stuff that has been really fun and a massive learning curve. I’ve also been working on developing some limited run clothing that hopefully I can show everyone soon and I’ve been trying to save some money for a few trips I want to go on this year.
VNA: A lot of your illustrations and print series work features poetic lines with underlining themes surrounding crime, punishment and rail transport.
‘All You See Is Crime In The City’, ‘Find The Right Ways To Do The Wrong Things’, ‘From The Cradle to the Grave’, ‘Graffiti Gets You Nowhere’, ‘Better Seen Than Heard’
Obviously these topics are a source of experience and inspiration to you, can you tell us a bit about why?
JOHN KAYE: Traveling and graffiti have both been huge parts of my life. When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the different graffiti everywhere I went. Generally everything I do is a form of personal expression. The work you are referring to all just relates to things that have happened around me at a certain point in time. As my experiences change, so do the things I create. If people relate to my work, or interpret it in a certain way, I think that’s a good thing. Although, it’s never really the initial intent.
VNA: Do you think your past experiences as an artist have affected your current style?
JOHN KAYE: Definitely. My experiences are the most valuable thing I have. It doesn’t matter if they are mistakes I have made, or things I have enjoyed. They will always affect what I do in some way.
VNA: Why do you think graffiti and street influenced artists are now becoming so prevalent in the mainstream art scene?
JOHN KAYE: The Internet has probably played a massive part in that happening. Everybody today has access to so much more information. Obviously people are constantly pushing boundaries and everything is always developing. So I guess as things evolve and change, people begin to pay more attention and the audience naturally grows.
VNA: It seems ironic that artists such as yourself who’ve come from such colourfully illicit artistic backgrounds are now being commissioned by the same individuals and associations who once strongly opposed the art form. What’s your opinion on this?
JOHN KAYE: Personally I’m very particular about who I choose to work with. I feel like the individuals and associations who once strongly opposed the art form haven’t really been converted into enthusiasts of any sort. All that’s happening is that they are becoming more aware of the possibility to use artwork to there own advantage.
In my experience when I’ve had offers to work with certain people, it’s easy to tell what their motivations are. Sometimes they are very genuine and other times it’s because they are looking to use controlled artwork as a solution to a problem, or something that they can benefit from. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that. I think it’s great that people are open minded enough to take these things into consideration. I just feel that it’s extremely important as an artist to understand why you are doing something in the first place, and then to continuously keep that in mind as you carry on with whatever you decide to do.
VNA: Tell us about home.
JOHN KAYE: Haha, okay. Home at the moment is a confusing subject. I feel like Melbourne is the closest thing to being home. When I was really young I moved around all the time between a bunch of different towns and cities. Nothing has really changed. I still have trouble spending very long in one place. Recently though, I’ve been spending the majority of my time on the Gold Coast. I have some very patient friends that have tolerated me leaving my belongings all over the place and have been kind enough to let me stay with them from time to time, which is lucky.
VNA: You’re heading to Melbourne next week, yeah? What’s on the cards?
JOHN KAYE: A friend of mine is opening a burrito bar with a skate bowl in Melbourne next month and I’ve been working on some illustrations for him, so it seemed like a good enough excuse. I try to spend as much of my spare time down there as I can. I really enjoy painting in Melbourne. The weather is nice and the days are long.
VNA: If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
JOH KAYE: If I can pick someone who’s deceased, I’d probably say Nicola Tesla. He had such crazy ideas and visions to create things that would have massive impacts and he continued to work towards them no matter how insane he appeared. If that’s not allowed, then I would probably have to go with Jay Z. Everything he does, he does well.
www.johnkayeart.com / @johnkayeart
Image Credit John Kaye Art and Tim Caraco