New Zealand’s Askew Returns With Yolanda
1xRun: Was this piece part of a recent theme, series or show that you had? Is the original available?
Askew: Since the ‘Thunderclap Headache’ piece from 2011 I’ve been consistently painting portrait works, either the left profile or straight on. The majority of these works are images of people from the Pacific region, mostly women who exude a strong sense of personal style and character. The main exception is when I travel I tend to try and paint someone from each place I go. Yolanda is Detroit local – we spotted her at a Red Bull House Of Art opening and fortunately Jesse knew her and her husband Rick and was able to approach them for us. Yes, the original is still available and also the alternate portrait from the same pair. Both are available here on 1xRUN.
1xRUN: When was this piece created and with what materials?
Askew: This piece was created last year in 2013 while I was in Detroit during the 2 weeks leading up to my show at Inner State gallery, Entropy. This painting is on plexiglass, painted in sign painters enamel, acrylic and spray paint.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Askew: Essentially through about 2 years of trial and error. I have two approaches to art making, one is very loose and expressive and the other is very pedantic and intense. I always wanted to find a way to marry these two ways of working in a way where the presentation brought a strong sense of cohesion.
1xRun: How long did the piece take?
Askew: I was working on both paintings at once and I think they were completed over a weekend. I was painting in 2 hour bursts, taking 20 minute naps and then getting back into it. The soundtrack to the Saturday night session was a bunch of people waiting for a bus that never came directly outside the window – it was awesome, some of the things that they said were gold!
1xRun: What is unique about these pieces compared to your other work?
Askew: Only really that Yolanda is not a person from the Pacific – other than that the painting itself fits very much stylistically alongside the bulk of my work from that time. The original paintings are the biggest of the heads of plexiglass I’ve done so far.
1xRun: Why should people buy one of these prints?
Askew: I saw the proofs the other day and was super stoked with how well it’s translated into print.
1xRun: Describe this piece in one gut reaction word.
Askew: Powerful. Not purely because of the painting, but mostly because of Yolanda herself. I just got a sense that she’s a person with a story to tell and a very strong character.
1xRun: This piece was part of a constantly evolving portrait that you’ve been doing, trace the beginnings of this project to how it has changed into the most recent portraits done for your recent solo show in Australia.
Askew: They have actually changed again recently for the last show and also the series of large wall paintings I’ve done between November and now. Whereas before I was trying to elude to some idea of creation on a more sub-atomic level and a idea of fragility and combustibility of life and ego, now I’ve brought it back into more anthropological territory. The recent paintings are more tribal but not in any traditional sense and not linked to any specific ethnicity or history. It’s more a discussion of self determination and the evolving nature of our own tribal associations.
1xRun: Tell us a bit about your subjects that you’ve highlighted with these pieces, who have they been and are there any cohesive reasons why they were chosen for this project?
Askew: A lot of the subjects have been people that live within the Pacific region – which is a fairly broad region really so it’s not as specific or limited as it sounds. Beyond that I enjoy painting women more than male subjects but in general I like choosing people with an interesting and distinct sense of personal style and being.
1xRun: You’ve been staying extremely busy lately and just participated in a very interesting project in Christchurch, tell us a bit about that project and the effect it’s had on you recently.
Askew: Christchurch is New Zealand’s largest South Island city. In September 2010 they got hit with the first of 2 major earthquakes, the second was in February 2011 where 185 people were killed and around 6800 people were treated for minor injuries. Subsequently they have also had almost 14,000 aftershocks since the 2010 quake. The total damages and cost of the rebuild there is about 40 Billion NZD and predictions are that it will take the New Zealand economy around 50 – 60 years to recover. The people of Christchurch have been through a hell of a lot to say the least. The loss of life, loss of business – in some cases people set up in new premises after the first quake, only to lose the second in the 2011 quake. Many people are still without basic services to this day and a lot of people lost their homes and buildings after they were deemed ‘not up to code’. The Government have knocked over a good percentage of the CBD and there are still Red Zoned areas too dangerous to go. The flip side of it all is the resilience of the people there. So many positive things have happened post-quakes, a boom in street food as restaurants set up in caravans and shipping containers, heaps of urban gardening and over all an incredible sense of perspective and community. It also became a perfect environment for large scale public art work as so many of the remaining buildings are exposed from others being bowled. Art is becoming a vital ingredient in the rebuild because of it’s transformative powers, it’s vibrancy and positivity and the people of Christchurch are really embracing it. We just attended two back to back events, From The Ground Up and the Rise Festival over December. Incredible. I also had a lot of moments where I felt like I was in Detroit again.
1xRun: You’re kicking off 2014 with a 3 month long excursion, give us a little info on what you’re setting out to do this January.
Askew: My good friend Brendan Kitto, who has been documenting our scene for a long time, and I are doing a lot of road trips around New Zealand right now working on a special book project which we are going to release with 1xRun. We are really trying to contextualise what the graffiti experience is for us out here and put that into a really nice package to show the world.
1xRun: Along with that what else do you have on the docket for 2014?
Askew: I did 3 solo shows in 3 cities last year. My goal for 2014 is 6 solo shows in 6 cities. Aside from that, just more big walls.
1xRun: You mentioned to us a goal for you for 2014 was to support yourself solely on your artwork, what are some of the shit jobs that you’re hoping you won’t have to do again?
Askew: I’ve done so many you wouldn’t believe. My main goal is to be controller of my own creative output. I don’t ever want to work to satisfy anyone else’s expectations, I just want to work to explore my own and then I know I will be happy.
1xRun: Where else can people find you?
Askew: Website – Facebook – Instagram – Twitter @askewone