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DVATE

INTERVIEW 011

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image DVATE ‘Koala Climart’ – St Kilda, Melbourne

DVATE is a graffiti writer, contemporary muralist, and graphic designer from Melbourne, Australia. A staple in the Melbourne graffiti art ecosystem, DVATE got his start in 97 and is known for his consistent letter styles, and large-scale nature-based murals – often combining the two.

His strict graffiti walls draw on traditional letter structures and are influenced aesthetically by his history as a graphic designer. As he has grown as an artist, so too has his interest and passion for the natural world – increasingly turning his attention to painting photo-realistic native animals and endangered species – all over the world.

I already used the word ‘consistent’, and it’s worth noting the ‘c’ word once more to describe DVATE’s relentless work ethic and constant output. I almost wanna call him a quiet achiever – either way, he’s quite the achiever! And a good human too. I hunted the man down on email and spat some letters at him, hoping for letters in return, pen-pal style. Here goes…

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us how, and when, you first got involved in graffiti. What attracted you to the movement?

Growing up our house was pretty much on the Frankston train line, so I grew up surrounded by quality graffiti and spending lots of time hanging out near the tracks. Catching the train to get around the city, graffiti was always a visual part of my life.

I was really into skateboarding in the mid-90s and this also led me to graff – as we often hung out in the same types of places and had that urban exploration mentality – looking at a city in a different way than most (spots to skate/spots to paint). At that time the lines were full of full-colour productions and pieces that had lasted years, so there was a lot to be inspired by.

I was doing a few tags here and there, but I didn’t do my first real piece ’til 1997. One of my mates had a copy of a Hype mag and we used to study it and try to copy the pieces on paper. One night we acquired some paint from the local supermarket and went out and painted a few trackside boxes. The results were horrible, but I was definitely hooked! The rest is history. Since then I’ve never really thought about stopping.

 

Where do you call home, and where in the world are you right now, specifically?

Melbourne, Australia. I’m at home in my office/lounge room.

What did you have for breakfast?

Granola with yogurt and blueberries. I eat like shit most other meals so try to get in some remotely healthy stuff first thing.

How do you describe your work?

Professional Artist/Commercial Artist/Sign Writer/Graffiti Writer/Account Manager/Graphic Designer/Consultant.

 

Let’s get situational. Describe your ideal graffiti scenario? What’s your favourite painting environment/surface?

Obviously a train, but that’s getting less frequent these days. After that, I would say a nice abando with a bunch of characters and different surfaces. Preferably not too much pigeon shit.

Tell us a killer colour combo.

Classic: Butter yellow fill, Wanology outline, Roarke background, Aspen overfill.

 

Where in the world have you visited that had some kind of impact on you?

I’ve been really lucky with the amount of travelling I have got to do. Every place has made an impact. Some definitely stand out.

Painting in Tahiti in 2014–2015 was really special. Not only a tropical paradise, also a graffiti paradise. It’s one of the few places I’ve been that had no real negative association to graff. It was so new, and cans so hard to get, that bombing was pretty minimal and most of the community loved it.

There is one main road around the island that is like a hall of fame of burners. The local writers don’t really bother painting down the side streets as more people see it from the main road. Painting a piece on someone’s front fence and them coming out and offering you food/money etc, instead of calling the cops, was so cool.

“Painting a piece on someone’s front fence and them coming out and offering you food/money etc, instead of calling the cops, was so cool.”

Show me the best piece you’ve ever painted:

This is the last piece I painted, and you’re only as good as your last piece. It’s one of my monochrome series I’ve been working on over the last few years. I always enjoy the freedom and being able to concentrate on style and texture without thinking too much about colour. A nice break from realism.

 

Now show me one of your favourite pieces of artwork that another human created:

Style Machine’ by Duel, Pest, and Mars. As a kid this wall blew my mind and I used to spend ages just staring at it. It really showed me what was possible and still holds its own to this day.

 

When you’re lurking around places you shouldn’t be, it’s inevitable to run into interesting characters or some kind of trouble. Tell me a story of something ridiculous that’s happened to you while painting, over the years.

Thankfully I’ve never really been in too many crazy chases – mostly just copped the yell from six cars down and we were off. Apart from when I got done two years ago – that’s not really a chase story – more just me running/falling down a hill handcuffed. When I was young, I had a few run-ins with late-night freight trains on the Frankston line. A few near misses and I lost a few bags of paint.

One tripped out story I can remember. We were painting the lines near the Jam Factory, South Yarra around 2001. It’s a canyon spot on a mad bend, so you can’t really see trains coming. We were buffing the spot and had our bags stashed in some bushes at the start of the wall. We were about halfway through when we felt the vibrations and suddenly track work trucks were speeding along the tracks towards us. They were still about a kilometre away to we quickly ran across and ducked in a small ditch.

“I had stashed my wallet in my bag! What a dumbfuck! We had not only lost all our paint – they also had my wallet and a few other herbal items in the front pocket.”

We watched as they slowed down and started shining torches around, pretty weird for track workers. We ducked and stayed flat for ages, just waiting for them to find us. We finally heard them leave and got up. The buff and roller were still where we had stashed them, but when we went to find our bags they were gone! We had caught the last train to the spot, and I had stashed my wallet in my bag! What a dumbfuck! We had not only lost all our paint – they also had my wallet and a few other herbal items in the front pocket. I was freaking out the whole two-hour walk home. I did the biggest house clean ever and waited for the knock.

After a few weeks of nothing, I was starting to relax, but I know how they work and if it went to transit, they would sit on it for a while. Then one afternoon I got a random phone call. A gardener had found my bag and wallet stashed deep in a bush in Toorak. What the fuck?! I ended up getting him to drop it at a mate’s shop and I picked it up. All the paint was gone but everything else was there. Even the cash! Fuckin’ weird.

 

Favourite letter?

‘D’

What do you get up to when you are not painting, any hobbies?

Between family, work, and the odd piece, I don’t have much time these days. When I can, I love to get out into nature and do some exploring. I’m a bit obsessed with bird photography at the moment.

Dead or alive, who is the historical figure that you most admire?

Dondi White – Style master general!

David Attenborough – I was obsessed as a kid. He changed the way I look at nature and the world.

 

What’s bumping in your headphones/studio speakers at the moment?

I’m still rocking my old iPod with the same albums since 2009 ;). Mostly 90s Hip Hop.

Moon landing. Fact or fiction? 

The truth is out there…

We’re at a bar and I’m buying. What you drinking?

After a long day painting, def an ice-cold beer. If we’re out on the town, a mid-shelf scotch whiskey. If I’m driving, a pint of fire engine.

 

What’s the last movie you watched, or book you read?

The new Puzle book – so dope. It’s a must-have for every collection.

Favourite quote?

Annoying people don’t pay rent for space in your head. I can’t remember where it’s from.

 

How do you want to be remembered (what’s written on your tombstone?)

Successful father, husband, and artist who made a comeback in his 70s and smashed whole cars.

What’s next?

Keep pushing my art and working on positive projects. Spending time with the family, a bit more travel, and trying to sneak in as many pieces as possible.

Thanks DVATE!

Catch DVATE on Instagram right here: @dvate

Interview and introduction by Luke Shirlaw

Published: 01 April 2020
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