TAC is closed for the holidays from 17 December until 17 January ×
KIOSK, Woden Drains, 2002. Photo: KIOSK

“So I got into it before I actually painted, for quite a number of years, maybe like, three years? I was really into it. I was into photography. So, I guess walking around with a film camera and stumbling upon graff it was, you know, it was an exciting subject matter. Especially Woden drains.

So I think that’s probably how I got into it, just by walking around and noticing it and photographing it. I mean, there were a lot of other things that led me to that. I was into skateboarding as well. That was also, I guess, a subculture that was not completely aligned, but it was parallel to it, in that a lot of outliers are attracted to it. And music was, I guess, a big component as well, like hip hop. I was particularly into 80s hip hop. So I guess I was introduced to it in other ways, but seeing it in Canberra, and seeing that it was accessible. So I just started photographing it.

‘AUTO’ by KIOSK. Woden Drains, around 2000. Photo: KIOSK

(I was out photographing) during the day. I mean, I was a teenager. So going out at night was not really possible… even just seeing someone painting in the drains, I was a little bit shy…

Eventually I tried to paint at some point and have a crack at it.  I think at this time I’d probably been drawing, just like sketching words, sketching letters for a couple of years, and I finally got up the courage to have a go. I was super nervous and freaking out a bit…even then, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know what order to paint the lines in….and also, like, how do I work with the spray can? And also, I didn’t know what paint to buy either. So I think I probably had some crappy Big W paint.

I think (KIOSK) just had a different vibe to it and it felt like quite a random word, which was appealing. I guess it wasn’t even so much the painting as the sketching, like, just spending hours sketching different flows, like the way letters connect.

KIOSK, Woden Drains, 2003

It was probably later in the years that I decided I needed to really push with color. But probably until that point, it was just… we were using exports a lot of time because they were cheap. And exports had a very particular color range. You know, like the mission brown and the blue, the sky blue. Those two felt really 70s… I guess it was just the combination of colors you could get your hands on, but, I mean, when I started using Beltons, like I guess BYRD hooked up some commissions at one point, I remember using Beltons for the first time and and being like, shocked at how different they were to exports and Wattyl,  I think Wattyl was the other paint we’d buy from KMart.

So I guess when we were able to do commissions and we were able to keep some of that leftover paint, it was then probably working with what we had and complementing that with cheap paints. I mean, like, in a way that probably did dictate a lot of the colors that I used, because they were always quite simple, for that reason. Yep. And even just like doing chromies, silver and black.

When I think about graff, it provided me with a lot of amazing experiences. Which, as an adult that might be more risk adverse, I feel really fortunate that I had the opportunity to go a little bit wild and try new things….even now when I smell spray paint in the air, there is definitely a wave of nostalgia that comes over me

KIOSK, Civic Drains, 2003. Photo: KIOSK

I haven’t really encountered that many other female writers. It’s a pretty bizarre world. You can be very insular, if you decide to. I mean, although Canberra was a strange one, because everyone did know… pretty much everyone did know each other. I mean, I would go to gigs, and I think people knew who I was, but no one would talk to each other. It was a very strange place, sizing each other up from the corners of the room. Well, that was my impression anyway.

To be honest, I became quite jaded with the graff scene. There was just too much beef around. I think one of the reasons I stopped writing is because I would spend money on paint doing a piece, a legal wall. And then, at one point, it became known that I was female. Some kids had stopped past when we were painting. And then all my stuff started getting slashed with SLUT and BITCH. And I mean, not that it really matters because you do the piece, you take a photo, and you can be happy with that. But it was just, particularly around a certain time, a certain era. There were just a bunch of little shitheads that were in it for the wrong reason.

I think the style came from the years of drawing and playing around on paper first. Not to say that it didn’t evolve over time but it developed organically. There were definitely writer’s whose style I loved in Canberra but also mostly everyone was doing the same thing. It felt too much like cookie cutter style to try and mimic that NYC style. I’ve always been drawn to things that were slightly different and having a more loose and simple style felt natural to me. The other thing that I liked was playing around with style which not many people did – one piece like this and the other completely different. STOCK was also awesome at that and he was in it to constantly push and make things better. For me… maybe because I didn’t take it so seriously either.. I wasn’t in it for getting my name up. I was in it for playing and exploring…. seeing what happened when you painted an outline in furry lines or made a letter into a character. I tried characters too because I could pull them off on paper but painting felt a lot harder. I failed a fair few times through this style exploration process. There were times I was super frustrated that I couldn’t make it work but maybe in a way that’s what taught me how to experiment in a creative sense and not be afraid of making mistakes. We were also into watching art house movies, listening to Kool Keith (who is really quite weird – in a good way) so a lot of these things probably fed into it too.