Veteran street artist Numskull has just painted his biggest wall to date. His mural Here, Now created as part of Art & About Sydney, reminds the hurried crowds of Pitt Street to appreciate the present moment. For now, the artwork is here to stay (intended), so next time you’re at the Town Hall end of Pitt Street (at 307), slow down and look up.
Numskull, whose citizen name is Elliot Routledge, tells us his story and what he thinks about street art in Sydney.
Tell us a little bit about how you started out
I was a creative kid growing up and very much encouraged by my mum and brothers. My mum was in the arts (dance, theatre etc), so she let us paint our walls, set up easels in the backyard and took us to workshops and things like that. This set me on the path from early on and I haven’t turned back since.
How did you develop your style?
I like to think my style is constantly developing and evolving. My influences range from the people I paint with in my studio, to my friends, to classic like Matisse. A lot of my reference also comes from real life photography, cartoons and the fashion world. Anywhere it grabs me, I’ll take it!
How has your style changed over the years?
I’ve experimented with a lot of different techniques and styles, but only now do I finally feel like I’ve found my style. It’s important for young artists to experiment. Don’t get bogged down in one direction for too long – the key to creating your best work is to change and evolve.
How did you transition from street art into gallery? What do you gain – and is there anything that you lose?
I’ve always wanted to show my work in galleries. Around 2002 I started creating work that was specifically for the street. At the same time, I was also organising DIY exhibitions and projects to get my art into local galleries. So it’s natural for me to transition into a gallery. I might miss some of the adrenalin that you get doing street art, but as long as I’m happy with my artwork, nothing is lost.
How has street art evolved in Sydney?
I have always loved Sydney’s street art scene. We’ve never had as big a community as Melbourne, but the people who were there in the start are still involved somehow. When I started there was only a handful of people, but it’s grown into quite a big group.
As the city changes, so does the street art world. These days, less people are doing small street level work – they’re focussing on getting their artwork as big as possible. It’s a size race, which is great, but I also do really love small, intimate work.
What are your thoughts or suggestions that the subversive nature of graffiti and street art may lose its potency in a gallery setting?
It’s all subjective. Sometimes street art and graffiti can really work in a gallery. Other times, they just shouldn’t. It depends on the artist and their work and mentality.
And finally, thanks to the City of Sydney
Thanks to the City for having me paint my largest wall to date! Hopefully we can start to invite more artists to decorate big blank walls around the city. I dream of a Sydney covered in artworks of all sizes. How amazing would that be? And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen.