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Seeing Things Massive: Six Minutes with Itch from the AWOL Crew

May 2, 2013

P1000483

I stumbled across the AWOL Crew one afternoon in September 2011, when they were hard at work on a mural down the road from my house in Brunswick. I stopped to interview one of them – Itch – then went home, got sidetracked with other stuff and somehow never got around to publishing it. Anyway, here it is finally.  

If I could get your name?
Itch.

And the other guys?
The AWOL Crew: Deams, Adnate and Slicer.

So you just go by your pseudonyms?
Yeah, because our real names are fairly boring.

How long have you been working together?
I joined these guys about eighteen months ago, and they’ve been together as a crew for about four years.

So what’s involved in being a crew?
Just having a cohesive artistic direction together and shared influences, but I guess disparate influences help as well.

When you say ‘ influences’, is that other street artists?
No, I guess some members draw influences from street art but others like myself from more traditional art, like oil painters and surrealists and stuff. James Gleeson’s a big influence, more visionary artists like Alex Grey and Robert Venosa, and some of the other guys are a bit more design influenced.

P1000487

“[Street art]’s 

  becoming a

  microcosm of the fine

  art world and it can

  travel up its own

  arsehole as well.

  You’re always riding

  the fine line of

  becoming a whore.”


How’d you all meet?
Just from painting around, as individuals, being in the same spots all the time.

Have you had formal art training or are you all self-taught?
I think a couple of us have but I haven’t. I just wing it.

And which parts are yours in this [mural]?P1000484
The guy getting ripped apart [laughs]. He’s having a bit of a moment there, getting pulled apart by geometry. Adnate’s done the big face up the top. He’s just been in Berlin, exhibiting. Deam just had a show in Prahran, an artists’ gallery, and he’s doing more geometric-shapey stuff and Slice does all the crazy tagging, it’s really abstract.

Why street art in particular, how did you get into that?
Because it has less rules, it seems less formalised, whereas the art world just became a giant joke. It just became a giant marketing exercise and the artists aren’t that real. But there’s a few genres where artists are actually making stuff because they want to, whereas most of the art world’s just pumping out cheeseburgers and happy meals.

When you have an exhibition, is that on the walls of the gallery, or do you have individual pieces you bring in?
Yeah, I do canvases, like they have a bit of a street art feel, but this is more like what I put out in public. I like putting out strange ideas in public, but sugar-coating them a bit.

With a piece like this, are you commissioned or do you request to use the space? How do get access to the space?
We get a lot of commissions, but this one was more, we got given the space and we’re going crazy.

P1000485Is that part of the Morelands Art … [MoreArt public art show, which was running at the time]
No.

Who gave you the space?
Just the tenants. It’s pretty cool. So we’ll just use it for promotion I guess. It’s good to get jobs where you’re not commissioned because it tends to dilute your focus a bit.

Sure, because it’s almost as if street art is becoming such a huge business in its own right. Do you think –
It’s becoming a microcosm of the fine art world and it can travel up its own arsehole as well. You’re always riding the fine line of becoming a whore.

Do you think there’s something coming up behind street art that’ll take over that subversive thing?
No, I think it’ll keep growing and evolving. I’m into it just because of the anarchy side of it and I like making people’s lives exciting.

How did you get involved in it originally?
I used to be just like a traditional painter when I was a teenager, and then I had a bunch of friends that were doing it and I thought I could do it better. That’s pretty much it. From when I was a little kid onwards I always saw art books with murals in them and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do that’. It’s just a bigger canvas really. I don’t really care what society thinks about it, I’m just doing it for pretty selfish reasons, because I just like seeing things massive.

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