Phibs is a prolific and talented graffiti writer whose abstract characters, iconography and distinctive colour palette have made him one of Melbourne’s best known and most recognisable artists. His lettering suggests a ‘traditional’ graffiti background, which he has built on over many years. When I went to Melbourne I took more photos of Phibs’ work than any other artist (over 100 pieces), so regardless of how other people see him, he still ‘gets up’ plenty!
This interview was written by Global Street Art, who are crowd-funding a new 300-page coffee table book featuring amazing street art and graffiti from around the World here.
I was born and raised in NSW and I call Sydney home. It’s a beautiful city and I grew up kicking around the Harbour in the Lower North Shore around the Lavender Bay train line. I moved to Melbourne looking for new opportunities and inspiration in 2000, and ended up staying there for 10 years and having a child. I still have a soft spot for Melbourne. Its like a ‘home away from home’ and I still have an affiliation with an artist studio (Everfresh), which I frequent often.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been making art. From a young age I’ve been encouraged to pursue my creativity, with both parents being creative in their own way. As for walls, I started painting characters and bombing in the late 80’s and was more interested in ‘getting up’ rather than creating quality artwork.
A lot of my time was spent photographing and documenting graffiti around Sydney and it wasn’t until the 90’s that I started doing pieces and started to focus on improving my aerosol skills. So I guess I’ve been in the scene for around about 22 years.
My name wasn’t given to me and even though I’ve told the odd white lie I’m an honest person. It was more that I was searching for an original tag that wasn’t used in Australia or the rest of the World. I like it too because it’s a slang word.
I was an artist before delving into the graffiti world so I was painting characters confidently before developing piece styles. I’m 50/50 with indoor galleries and canvas, and work in public spaces. I enjoy both. Canvas work tends to be more experimental with mediums and techniques and having fun with brushes and canvas. I’ve also moving more into doing sculptures and 3D works again.
I did a Diploma of Fine Arts but I can’t say I use much of what I learnt today. I’ve paid my dues being a bomber and getting my work up on the street but want to evolve and change my directions, which I am constantly doing. I’m not fussed about stereotypes and how other people view me, and as much as the public try to stereotype, I consider it all one. I’m an artist that likes to do graffiti pieces; I’m diverse in my artistic endeavours and outlook.
My key influences stem from natural world (flora and fauna) mixed with my love of fantasy. Creating artwork is a form of escapism where I access realms of imagination. Symmetry and asymmetry are part of nature and organically come through my artworks.
Interpretation of symbols is never static. Symbols are infused with metonymy; meanings continue to unfold with time. I like other people’s interpretations of my abstract style, as they are just as relevant as my own. The hand and eye represent the main tools for my trade, art. Artwork is part of my daily ritual and a paramount aspect of who I am.
I really enjoyed the time I spent in Melbourne and found that it really changed and challenged my views on how I do what I do. The Sydney scene is very focused in keeping graffiti traditional, in regards to painting trains, bombing and letter styles. That’s what is valued and anything too different is not fully appreciated. Melbourne is almost the opposite.
Melbourne also embraces traditional views of graffiti but there is a lot more diversity in the types of work produced. It is not uncommon to see paste ups, stencils and other forms of street artists working together with traditional graffiti artists, and respected the same way. I also know Melbourne has so many more opportunities and walls to paint. So much so that it has become a tourist attraction.
I have painted with many different people and artists depending on where I’m situated at the time. At the present I am based in Sydney, where I’m originally from so I catch up with Everfresh when I’m down in Melbourne, which is quite frequently. I used to paint with Deb who is an ex-girlfriend. I don’t paint with her anymore. I’m currently in a studio space in Sydney, Higher Ground, so I paint with the guys there on occasion. I also paint with old time friends like Pudl, Puzle, Set, Amuse, Snarl and Pesm to name a few.
In the future, I’m planning to progress, evolve, travel more, have fun and start painting on a larger scale as well as meet interesting, like-minded people. I would love the opportunity to go to the UK, so if there’s anyone out there for graff-jams/festivals/exhibitions, feel free to get in touch.