Earlier this year, INDIE 184 invited me to KWEENZ ARRIVE, a group show of female graff writers from around the globe showing at McCaig Welles. When I got there, the place was packed, so I found a lil spot in the back and chilled for a minute with Miss Indie herself, taking in the show for a story I was writing for Juztapoz.
Feeling very Medici, I decided my role for the night was patron of the arts, but there were so many hot options I didn’t know where to start, that is, until I overheard some girl say, “I am going to buy that one!” talking about a small painting done by Australian artist SPICE, which I had my eye on earlier. That settled the question of which. Now it was a question of how quickly I could snatch it. I hightailed it to INDIE without a second thought, ran up the sale, and floated out of the gallery. Who knew buying art was actually a sport?
Being a small world after all, I found SPICE on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and invited her to do an interview because I wanted to find out more about the woman behind the painting that now proudly adorns my wall.
How did you get involved in graff, and what were your early inspirations and influences as an artist ?
SPICE: I started out as a B-girl and was always the one in our crew who would draw so it was a natural progression for me to start representing that next element of Hip Hop.
I also have a brother who is 5 yrs older than me. We grew up as best friends and did everything together but me being only 11 yrs old at the time and under watch of a strict mum, I was not allowed out as much as he was—so he became a major influence. He would come home from late night battles and play me the tunes of the music they’d been breakin’ to. I was so in love with the music that I started to write the names of groups I liked. I think the first real sketch I did was a “Midnight Star” outline and still ‘til today I rate music as my biggest inspiration.
I love my brother so much for introducing me to that! He deserves a lot of props cos he was also a big influence on the early Sydney graff scene in general, as he was one of the 1st writers to discover a lot of the paints and yards. I also remember how inspired I was the day he and his friends brought home the 1st copy of Subway Art..courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW ;) That book was the inspiration to STYLE.
I love your paintings of women—the style and energy goes beyond graff and moves into a pop art style of painting. How do these portraits expand upon your work as a writer, and take your art to the next level ?
Its funny you say that, cos to me, the only real way I feel I’m takin’ what I do to the next level is by further progressing in my letter style. I love painting characters and especially love incorporating a theme into my piece, but that feeds another part of my soul—a part that’s far from the depth of the letter.
I’m more inclined to paint portraits when I have a canvas in front of me as I feel a little restricted painting within a square, so I tend to fill it with a character portrait instead. A face captures a section of what more would be in store (the body) and in a style that is usually simplistic and focusing on the hair and eyes. Most people tend to think the women I paint are animated versions of me and my daughter, maybe because the eyes are always green and hair an odd color (like my daughters) I feel painting characters can show a certain skill in can control and technique, but to master the manipulation of a letter is something else!
I love all forms of writing such as hieroglyphics, calligraphy, etc. and any type of art, and dabble in a few mediums but until recently, I used to get offended if someone referred to me as an artist because it’s not what I felt I was about. I wanted to be known as a writer. I was here for the love of Hip Hop and my love affair with the graffiti letter—the characters are just a bonus!
How did you connect with INDIE, and what has been the response to your inclusion in her global look at women in graff ?
A good friend of mine, ATOME, always had good things to say about her and felt that we would get along great if we connected. So when paths crossed via the world wide web, we made contact. Then whilst on a tour through Europe, CANTWO suggested I come along to Den Haag where they were all part of the Artdrenaline Presents exhibit. That’s where I met INDIE and COPE in person. To then later be included in her show was an honor and the feedback was all good :)
What’s the graff scene like in Australia, and does your being a woman come into play in this typically male-dominated scene ?
Australia has a very strong scene and I’m proud to say that a lot of my favorite writers represent here.
There has always been a varied amount of style coming from this country and style is what its all about! Given that we’ve had to be a lot more independent because we are so far from the rest of the world. I’m proud to know so many Australian writers who have gained world wide recognition.
Being female hasn’t really affected me as it would a new school female writer. I’ve been there from the start and have represented in many of the elements, so I paid my dues long ago. I’ve always held my own independently and have never felt uncomfortable amongst the boys, nor haveIi ever tried to play on the fact that I’m female. I grew up being a tomboy so I guess its when I’m amongst alot of girls when I feel out of whack (laughs). In reality though, I feel fitting into any scene, comes down to being with like minded people—regardless of gender.
The only downfall I face, in being a female writer, or maybe just a strong woman is that most dudes tend to be intimidated. I used to laugh at the thought of that until so many of my male friends assured me its true. I now notice how awkward some act when they try to approach me, and I’m sick of hearing that ones respect for me gets in the way of them ever asking me out on a date. You can only take that as a compliment for so long, then it just becomes a burden. Its really disappointing being amongst an army of cool men, who you share a common interest with, but no one is man enough to step to you.