KAB101 is an iconic South Australian painter who mainly works in acrylic, aerosol spray paints and inks. He has been painting, or writing for 30 years. His works have been shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout the country.
Honeysuckle Lane in Prospect, South Australia was a well-known location for KAB’s early developmental and collaborative work since the mid 90’s. As a space that showcased much of his early developmental and collaborative work, it was recently re-named KAB101 lane.
His style is very distinctive and involves fluid calligraphic techniques. His lettering design contains popular symbolic elements along with encryptions and subtexts that relate to deeper stories and meanings. I was lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions.
Where did your name come from?
My name was based on a nickname I used in my earlier stages of writing. It is also an acronym that is only known to my peers. The letter A being the middle letter, was sometimes substituted as a pyramid- the name was like a code for writing.
How long have you been doing street art? Why do you do it?
After the nineties I no longer used the term street art for my work, as there was an element of individuality that didn’t fit that title. As for the term graffiti – they are media based terms – I don’t really classify myself with those labels, as my work is based on writing predominantly. I do understand the use of the word for explaining certain public art though.
Have you always loved art? What inspired you to do graffiti?
I have always drawn since I was a child, writing graffiti was inspired by seeing the trains painted in NYC through movies and media articles. I also loved the designs on punk and rock albums, certain cartoons etc.
What was street art like when you first started painting? How does it compare to today?
It had a style that was individual to the artist – today I’m not the best person to comment on it as a lot is fad based which doesn’t sit well with me. With the writing side of things; I’m liking styles that are progressing. Usually they are the artists that are not flooding the internet with every move they make. It’s hard to explain to the general public as they are not invited to the party but of course we have people who market themselves as public artists and utilise marketing skills to promote their “Art” which sometimes causes rivalry for the person who works solidly for their passion. I do believe in giving credit to where credit is due.
How did you find out about street artists without the internet?
Writers would swap photos and correspond by mail – meet up etc, there was hardly any reference except through minimal publications.
Where has your art taken you in the world?
I have not traveled so much to do with art. I have never been interested in the large global artist gatherings. If I was to travel for art I would like to consider things on my own terms.
How did you improve your skills? What have been your mistakes?
I have been writing for 30 years so all of it had to do with hard work, mistakes are a part of development- there have been a lot but nothing too much to dwell on. If anything I wish I had more documentation of pieces that I have never had a photo of or seen in daylight.
How does a street artist make money? Did you/do you have any other jobs on the side?
Commissions, Design work and sometimes teaching. I can’t really speak for others – my style is not so “publicly acceptable” for a lot of commercial situations- I usually work with people who have a deeper understanding of what the artwork is totally about.
You have a calligraphic style in the way you apply paint to walls. What does it represent, where did it come from?
It came from the basis of writing names, symbolism a way to express an image in the written form.
What is more important for a budding street artist to develop your own style or get better at techniques?
Style first – Originality – techniques are second without a distinctive style.
What do you think of today’s street artists?
I consider the artists as not following trends as the stronger artists when it comes to writing or public arts. A lot is terrible, but to balance it out there is some awesome things as well that I admire.
Where do you see aerosol art going in the future?
It is becoming a more respected medium – It’s developing beyond its initial conception. The gallery side of things may develop or maybe it will be thrown back towards the streets as it was in the 1980’s in NYC when all the major galleries went to the next thing.
Could you list some street artists that you admire who work around Adelaide now?
No – everyone has their own perspective. I respect people for different things they achieve so it’s a long list of pros and cons. Also dropping names sometimes neglects people for instance, particular artists who don’t get noticed as much or keep to themselves.
What is your dream project?
I would imagine it to be something where I can work beyond my normal means – in different mediums – with minimal stress and time to develop. Also having some support with development once a concept is conceived.
It could be showing work in Japan or another country; where people’s eyes are more open or even doing collaborations with my peers. Sometimes it’s the idea of making something that is out of reach and where the dreams become a reality due to circumstance.
What makes you angry? What do you love?
Corruption, bullying and the abuse of power – within the arts it’s more certain people who control media and push ideals who have no real idea, for instance if another person tells me wheat pasting or stickers etc., is a new art form I almost feel a little sad for them. It’s a process or technique; that sorry my friend is old – just like graffiti. I sometimes have to hold my tongue because it’s not my business to have to educate people. I had to educate myself, since I left school when I was 15 [pre-internet in my world ]
But each to their own – I love my family, friends and my dogs .
Thanks so much to “Its a jungle out there” for Photos- A brilliant source for Adelaide street art