Drahtfunk is a three time Stencil Art Prize finalist, having entered every year since 2012. Having spent a decade as an artist, Drahtfunk is an experienced artist and is known for his delicate detailing and his acute attention to the intricacies of his art. Over the decade, Drahtfunk’s hosted plenty of exhibitions but most notable of his exhibitions is the Muscle Memory exhibition.
How did you get into making stencil art?
I started stencil art as far back as 2005. After I graduated in 2003, art in high school made me hate the art world. School had made art lose all its poetry. I had ideas of creating stencil work in school, however never had the space to create. By 2005 I had moved into a new house taking advantage of the old workshop at the back of the new block. I had seen a massive exhibition presenting itself down in Melbourne, and the snap shots of what was being showcased created an entirely new scope of what I thought previous to stencil development. From that visual inception, I managed to take simple images straight out of the nearest encyclopaedias and producing very simple 2 layer, black and white images on whatever material I could find. I was infatuated and energised as to what I could do. It had given a re-birth to my love of art again. From there, in the years to come, through trial and error, came the assortment of different styled approaches to my new secret affair with stencil art.
How would you describe your style of art?
My art has changed significantly over the years regarding style and approach. Early on, I remember touching on very emotive based stencils, adding drips and massive amounts of over-spray and mixing various colours. I played with different styles and different genres, and really being excited that you could perform this art form. As the years rolled on, I wanted to keep challenging myself with application, and I started playing with a large number of different mediums, so it was almost inevitable that my energy would push to the streets.
As a skateboarder at heart, taking material to the streets was not a problem. All the good things in life are usually illegal. The street application creates pressure on your mechanics, making it adaptable to compete with graffiti styled measures and its authenticity. These mechanics bled over into stencil adaptation and eventually manifested some new creations. By 2014, the streets became a little quiet, and I really started to challenge myself within the contemporary world again. I gave myself new challenges in minimising my usage of certain material, almost giving myself restrictive parameters on how I could execute the work. As well as scale, content became more important than the stencil processes itself, and in this latest series of work Muscle Memory, slight changes in the approach can alter the final outcome of any work.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
My creative inspiration spurs from all areas. In the early years, majority of stencil works were political orientated under satire or parody. Most of my ideas come from the regular day-to-day shenanigans that entail just about everyone. It can come in the form of salvation from 9 to 5 or just general life experiences, to what you see on the news. It was the laborious tasks of regular life that can send someone insane and produce some amazing artwork visuals as well. You either channel the rage or you become it. I always feared becoming a product of my environment.
In the context of Queensland, some laws are statute for fairness and equity, however some are used as a form of control rather than justice. Queensland has never been shy of legal overkill. That’s a result of life experience, trying to understand why certain barriers are there on how you are going to overcome them. It’s that sort of hostility and conservative backwash that can anger an individual to the point of expressing his or her self on the street or canvas. Inspiration in Queensland isn’t hard to find, its how you channel it.
Another element that extends deep into my work and a major influence would be music. I’ve always tried to keep the art of stencil closely married to the world of Hip Hop. I wanted the flavour and DNA to stay with my work to help structure and contain its style and credibility no matter how much the substance of the work may change. A lot of artists and the general public will try and delineate between street art and graffiti, trying to help distinguish legal and illegal motives or to make the term more palatable to the audience. Both terms encompass the mechanics of graffiti, but each style will be different regardless of legal or illegal intentions. So I try to embrace the wild-style that hip hop portrayed in all of my other work.
Describe your stencil making process – how does an idea move from an idea to a finished artwork?
An idea can transform itself into something tangible through a number means for a number of reasons. Most of contemporary art counter parts would be yelling at this question, as they would have you believed the idea would be the artwork.(and in some way, yes, they are correct) I still like to transform the idea into something more tangible as I personally, even after years of contemporary study, still find the idea to0 fragile on its own unless it comes from somewhere. If art can be anything, than I chose to develop something more substantial.
I’ve learnt to be more critical of my work and question the process as to counter-act intellectual laziness. My recent ideas have consisted of philosophy and the metaphysical while integrating spirit and our evolution. The one element about stencils is the amount of control you have over the imagery. The power of stencils is a weird hybrid between the mechanics of screen-printing and graphic design. If those two had siblings, it would be stencil art. You can repeat an image over and over again as a process and the image is a template; a sort of stamp, so as long as you have paint, that stamp never runs out.
What sort of techniques do you use to create a stencil?
My techniques to create a stencil have been the same since I started. When the ideas start to come together and roughly begin to draw a mental picture as to what I want, the first stages come in the form of image manipulation. It may be an extraction of that image, some angle or element that needs to become the composition of the new work. Sort of like sampling in hip-hop; you take an extract of that image and re work it.
The next stage is usually trial and error. The mixture of experimenting with colour combinations, how many layers, general layout, fine-tuning and then a time of critical thinking. 98% of all ideas will not make the cut. To elaborate without giving too much away, I said before about encompassing graffiti mechanics to produce the work. The initial stages, on canvas or public, are to get a general outline as to how it will sit on a wall or material. Once that is established and colours are agreed upon, the second is to add the fill or base colour and the background. From there you work the image up to its highlights adding any needed polishing. Around this time you will add fill layers. (tones lost in adding layers). I’ll embed the technical parts and tighten up any possible over-spray or under-spray and go through stages of critical thought.
What are your goals and ambitions?
My goals in life have always been to evolve and keep going with what you love. Easier said than done, and I didn’t want to sound to close to a hallmark platitude, but it’s that value of developing what you love and being able to apply it professionally. One goal is to take my style worldwide and take it to that next level. Travel is essential to gaining more influence and applying the international perspective within my own work.
What is the hardest part and best part about being an artist?
The hardest part of any artist is to convince yourself that this is a long term investment and that not only can you live with yourself on that decision, but perhaps make a living from it while possibly supporting family in the future. It can be quite daunting, and if I persisted as hard as I have within the art world in other genres, I would have been regarded as successful years ago.
Instead, I chose to go with my instincts and eventually take things professionally. As an artist, I’ve noticed you don’t get treated with the same level of respect as many other professions. This could due to a number of factors, or a number of stereotypes. The perception of the creative industries seems sub level, almost marginalised due to these stereotypes and nature of the industry.
Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?
Things change so fast, I couldn’t imagine where I’ll be in one year. I hope to take my material worldwide and push my personal parameters as far as I can.
If you could impart some wisdom to young stencil artists what would you say?
Keep pushing your ideas further or into realms, which haven’t been touched. It’s not hard to cut a stencil or manipulate images in order to be cut; you have to think further than that. You have to think beyond the means. What am I trying to say? Do I want to make this photo-realistic or move away and embrace something more abstract?
Also, don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to your parents. Don’t listen to your teachers. Take note of them and what they say, but don’t try and fill their shoes. We all have agendas and moral compasses, and there is a number of ways to travel in order to get your goals. Trust your instincts.