On the exhibition front, it’s sure been a while between drinks for Dmote. The Australian-born graffiti artist, who these days calls New York home, talks to curator Matt Rabbidge about breaking the drought with his upcoming Australian exhibitions as well as about studio time, NYC graffiti culture and ties with the RVCA family.
Apart from the odd work in groups shows recently its been almost five years since you last showed a proper body of new work in Australia, are you looking forward to exhibiting?
Definitely, it’s great to be doing something again. I’ve enjoyed the break from exhibiting but the whole time I’ve stayed busy making work, travelling and painting graffiti.
Speaking of, you’ve continued to be quite prolific in the graffiti scene, particularly in the USA the last decade, but it seems like you have been relatively quiet with making your own art, do you like to keep the two separate?
Actually the two have become more of a unit, I had tried to keep them separate in the past and ended up jumping from one to the other. It feels like now I’ve embraced writing graff again and focussed on it more than ever and that influences my studio work hugely. I’m now trying to paint things from the studio outside and things from the streets in my studio work.
What materials are you working with at the moment?
Spray paint and acrylics mainly.
These works definitely involve more use of bright colour, is there a reason for this?
I just want to make things that are optimistic and fun at the moment, and I’m trying to take advantage of the colour that spray paint gives, there is nothing is really as punchy as that.
Compared to the detailed painting and illustrative works you’ve produced in the past, these new paintings you’re on relate more to your character based graffiti work. Is this something you want to explore?
I guess they are ultimately what I’ve always drawn, just now with less meticulous detail. The semi realistic paintings I was doing before I am really happy with, with but wasn’t particularly happy producing them. I didn’t enjoy the process, so now I’m just painting and drawing for my own benefit. I haven’t cared as much about who sees them or where they will end up, just going with it.
Do you think this work has matured with time or is it just a matter of trying something new?
To be honest, I think it’s just a matter of being happy in the studio, wanting to spend time there. Living in New York has a lot to do with it too.
The city sure has a strong arts community and rich graffiti history, do you feel like these are inspiring factors with the work you make?
Yeah for sure, I’ve learned more about my own graffiti of late and become more humbled by it living here. I have had a chance to start again and reinvent my style, while luckily having exposure to the stories, attitudes and experiences of some older graffiti writers who I’ve looked up to as a kid. Just being around this has put into perspective where my place in graffiti is.
So you’re feeling settled in New York?
Not really, it’s hard for anyone to be too settled here, I’m just making the most of it at the moment.
But now you’re back in the studio, do you think you’ll stay on a roll and exhibit your paintings more frequently?
Well that is the goal for the end of the year I’m hoping.
Shit, looking back it’s been almost ten years you’ve been associated with the art / skate / surf label RVCA, starting as a contributing artist, then moving up and working as the brands Art Director, I assume it gets to a point where you’re feeling like part of one big family?
I stepped back from the Art Director position 4 years ago and moved from LA to New York. Now I’m settled as a contributing ANP artist and advocate for the brand but that has definitely been long enough to see RVCA and its family grow strongly. I work with a truly genuine group of talents from all walks, carefully curated and nurtured by the companies founder Pat Tenore. Most people honestly believe in the brand and the family and that is pretty unique I think.
It’s great to see RVCA’s two new gallery projects in Sydney and Melbourne creating a platform for both contributing artists and a few of those on the ANP (Artist Network Program) to show new work, how important to you think it is to put a face to the brand like this?
I think it’s important to bring the art and family to Australia and show people what our brand is about, its exciting to have these new art spaces to do it.
Recently, you’ve had the opportunity to introduce some new contributors to like sign painters Will Lynes and Nathan Pickering (who you’re exhibiting alongside in your upcoming shows), tell me about their work.
The guys work is second to none in Australia, their skill level is so high, I’m constantly amazed at how well executed their work is. On top of that they are damn hard workers and truly believe in their craft.
I’m sure you see inspiration from artists like this just as much as you may inspire them right?
Right. Personally I’m more inspired by the work ethic from the boys than the artwork, not in a bad way, just what they produce is so tight and technical for me to understand properly. In that way I’m just like everyone else, an admirer on the sidelines. I sure would like to be as hard working as them though.
From your perspective, what other Australian artists / happenings should we keep an eye on?
I love what the Heavy Mental guys are doing plus all of their friends, the S.O.H label and Rat Brain t-shirts etc. Graffiti wise, the work of SAGE and DEATH is exciting to me at the moment. Rhys Lee is making a lot of cool drawings as well.
Photos by Keegan Gibs
DMOTE, Will Lynes and Nathan Pickering’s new exhibition ‘Full Serve’ opens at the RVCA Corner Gallery in Melbourne on Thursday March 6th. It’s up for a few weeks before moving to the RVCA Downstairs Gallery in Sydney on Thursday March 27th.