Melbourne’s Everfresh crew has been producing street art since their inception in 2004. Meggs is one of their founding members. He has recently come back from his first solo show in London, “Inner Demons,” and his work can be seen on walls and in private homes in cities like Paris, Tokyo and LA. Meggs is now in San Francisco setting up for Young & Free (previewed here), the largest ever Aussie street art show outside Australia. We had a chat about art down-under and Batman just before he jetted off. View more preview images and the full interview below.
What kind of things would you put in a Meggs still life?
Skulls! It would be a bowl of skulls instead of a bowl of apples. I kind of did one for the UK show, Inner Demons, where I had two hands holding a skull, and then I had another one holding a demon mask. I think a bit of that has come from tattoo art. It’s very similar in a way. I get people asking for me to design tats for them, but I don’t think that my work would translate into a tattoo. I don’t like graf tattoos: I like tattoo art.
Where did the concept for Inner Demons come from?
Originally it stemmed from the idea of masking, which kind of stems from the idea of the superhero. Pushing into that I got into the ‘inner demons’ stuff. Superheroes are the tortured souls. It’s always about them hiding their identity from the public, but it’s also about them becoming a completely different role… Like Batman! He’s got all of these issues haunting him but when he becomes Batman he becomes a different version of himself. A mask is like that transformation to another identity. I have two faces: the ‘Dave’ face and the ‘Meggs’ face. My close friends know me as Dave, but the public identity that is Meggs is me, but it’s a masked version of me.
You’ve had two consecutive shows that run with this idea – one in London and one in Melbourne. Why did you make that choice?
When a band makes an album they tour it for two years, but when an artist makes a certain body of work they normally don’t do that. Everyone wants to see your new work. Now, I wouldn’t want to do it for two years, but it’s the same idea that rolls through! So I guess I was tying together this stuff that started in Melbourne that was then produced for the UK show, then coming back and picking up on a few bits and hanging a new set of artworks. It was informed by the stuff I did in London.
What differences are there between the two bodies of work?
The London stuff was darker initially because it was more literal: the inner demons. I then started moving into stuff that was a little more lateral. That was the Melbourne show. The work that I’m doing for San Francisco for the Young & Free exhibition is similar, but again it’s another step on from the Melbourne show. It’s not as ‘literal’, as in demonic or demon-esque, but I’m still using that idea of masks and warrior/samurai style.
Are there specific inner demons that you feel like you need to quell?
I’m trying to fulfill my life’s journey as a good person. But even then, there’s the question: ‘But what does that mean?’ I’m definitely an actions speak louder than words kind of person in a lot of ways. You’ll do some things that are good, but then you’ll make mistakes. There are some people out there who will think you’re an arsehole and then you’ll have your friends who think you’re not. There are no absolutes in any of it.
You’ve blown up pretty big in the past year or so. How’s life feeling at the moment?
I get pressure from this certain expectation that I place on myself pretty heavily, so it’s always about living up to that. But then there’s a funny expectation when you’re considered a ‘street artist’ that there are certain things that people will think. They scrutinize that you’re working in a kind of commercial world or when you haven’t painted anything outside in a while that’s considered ‘street art’.
Well, what do you consider yourself now?
If I stopped doing stuff completely on the streets then I would consider myself as an artist that was a street artist. To me, the term ‘street art’ is getting a bit tiring. You can be an artist and work on the streets or work off the streets. I do less stuff illegally now that I’ve got more on the line, but I still love doing murals outside and doing little bits of street art, but I hope that I’m maturing as a fine artist in my canvas work now as well. A lot of us are just artists that do stuff on the street.
Are you driven by internal or external motivators?
I reckon I’m internally motivated in living up to my potential. I’ve got a lot of ambition and I just want to keep on improving on that. I want to look back on my life and feel like I didn’t waste time. I want to live and embrace all of my opportunities, and I reckon that there are parts of that journey that might be ‘higher calling’ stuff. Hopefully I see myself in the position where I will be able to help others.
Really? In what kind of ways do you want to help others?
I want to donate time. I want to donate a certain amount of my year, like a month, to a certain charity and just help people in the same way that anyone else would do it, but at the same time the advantage that I have is my art. I want to go and volunteer in Southeast Asian or whatnot. For an example I’d help build a school or something and then help the kids produce a mural on the side of the wall. It’s always in the back of my mind, but I haven’t acted on anything yet. For me it makes sense to help people in lesser-privileged countries. They’re not artists or designers – they’re busy thinking how to gather water and plant their crops.
That’s not exactly a stereotypical graf style of thinking!
Yeah! But I think that’s where street art comes in – you want to make art for people. You bring that awareness and make people think outside the square. It makes people think about a culture they haven’t considered. Maybe they’ll realize it’s not so much a bad thing.
What do you think that the Young & Free show in San Francisco this weekend will do for Australian street art?
I think it’ll really help getting that recognition. The States especially are aware that there is lots of cool stuff happening over in Australia or that has come from Australia, like your Listers and your Kid Zooms. But they’ll all talk about Zoom’s New York show and not even mention this awesome show that he had in Perth (Western Australia). So it’s almost like picking up an Australian show here and planting it in America will make them go, ‘Oh shit!’ I believe that the quality of all of the artists we have is as good, if not better, than a lot of the other artists out there, so hopefully when they see that they’ll be like, ‘Fuck. These guys couldn’t have got this good overnight. That doesn’t happen.’ Obviously it’s going to benefit the artists involved, but I think it’s also good for the scene, because people will start paying attention to the other things that are coming from here.
Young & Free opens this Saturday at 941 Geary in San Francisco, featuring new work from Anthony Lister, Kid Zoom, Dabs Myla, Dmote, New2, Ben Frost, Meggs, Ha-Ha, Reka, Rone, Sofles and Vexta.