Askew One, West Auckland, 2010

Askew One is New Zealand’s best-known graffiti writer. Over the past several years, he has been attracting international attention for his murals and paintings. This year alone, he had his first solo exhibition at The Australis Room in his native Auckland and was included in the show “Hear It, See It” at the Patakas Museum of Arts and Culture in Wellington, New Zealand. He has painted for the Detroit Beautification Project, and his work was featured in the exhibition "LA Freewalls: Inside." He’s currently designing a skateboard for Arcade and installing a public art project on Auckland’s waterfront.

How does the landscape of Auckland, New Zealand shape your artistic sensibility?

The Auckland I grew up in was covered in graffiti and it seemed like everyone did it; everyone had a tag name. Today it's pretty different. A lot of resources have been channeled into painting the city gray.

It's inspiring on a different level because it seems like a fight to make anything stay longer than 24 hours and perhaps there's a certain mood brewing right now. It's quiet, it seems like there's not many people really doing anything, but I sense things are about to change. Times are tough economically and under the current government there's a similar vibe in New Zealand to 1989 and the early '90s.

I'm curious to see where things go. What makes Auckland inspiring is the people, the unique mix of cultures you find here and that we are only 45 minutes from the best beaches in the world.

What is your process like for making new work?

My process six months ago differed greatly from what I'm doing at present time. Right now I draw everyday. I've gone back to basics and I'm just creating a surplus of ideas and images worked through to a good enough state I can apply them to the appropriate projects as they arise.

How do social and cultural issues play into the content of your work?

It seems to inform my work more than ever these days, especially once I started saying things that I thought were deeply personal then realized they were sentiments shared by a lot of people all over. I speak a lot about isolation, mainly in a geographical sense but that extends to this kind of cynical patriotism that translates beyond New Zealand and even to people in big U.S. cities. It's all about subtle contextual shifts, but some of the slogans I've painted can make as much sense in downtown L.A. as they can in Auckland.

What kinds of materials are you working with now?

I work across a lot of mediums and I'm exploring new ones all the time. Spray paint has always been a staple, but I'm painting a lot with acrylic and vinyl paints at the moment. I do my rough drawings with a brush nowadays too. I also work a lot with digital media and video. Everything I do feeds into everything else. Art is very perpetual in that sense, it has to keep moving and evolving.

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