Speaking with the Yok

July 3, 2012

"The Yok on the Lower East Side"

For the past two years the Yok’s wondrous characters have been gracing the walls of New York City. We recently posed a few questions to the Yok:

We are thrilled that you have been so active in NYC. What brought you here?

I had always wanted to see New York.  It’s where all this rap/spray business began, so I wanted to see it for myself.

How does the street art scene here in NYC compare to the one back home?

Australia has some super-talented artists doing amazing things.  There are some real pockets of brilliance; I encourage you to take a peek. Australia is doing its own thing which is great to see. Melbourne was the hub for street art in Oz, but the other cities are fast catching up.

"The Yok in Bushwick"

How long have you been getting up on the streets?

Too long.

What inspired you to do so?

Sitting in a studio and drawing is good, but walking around and drawing on walls is great! It exposes your art to such a wider audience and it’s lots of fun!

Have you any memories of your first graffiti/street art experience?

Mostly disasters — bad colour combinations and frustration that I couldn’t get the can to do what I wanted it to do.

"The Yok in Williamsburg"

We love your characters. Tell us something about them.

They are loosely based off gargoyles. They started out with wings, and I would do some foam sculptural pieces that I would install in spots around Melbourne and Perth. They have a evolved from there into goofy stone gargoyles with big moustaches. I like the idea that in medieval times people would attach gargoyles  to a building to ward off evil.

"Yok sculpture"

Have you any preferred surfaces or spots?

Preferred surfaces would be raw brick, abandoned buildings and old weathered doorways. Favourite spots would be in South East Asia as it’s usually pretty chill to paint around those parts.

Have you had any particular influences among artists? Any favorite artists?

Mad Magazine was a huge influence for me growing up. Don Martain, Basil Wolverton, NYC and San Francisco graffiti and Barcelona in the early 2000’s were particular influences.

"The Yok and Bishop203 in Bushwick"

You’ve been doing lots of great collabs here – most recently with Sheryo and Never.  Any other collabs we can look forward to?

Plenty more to come.

"Sheryo. Never and the Yok in Welling Court, Queens"

Your work has been exhibited in galleries across the globe? Any thoughts about the gallery scene?

The most fun I have had with gallery shows are the ones with installations. In Melbourne I built  — with some help — 2 x 4m inflatable Yok gargoyles to stand in front of the gallery doors at the opening.

Sounds great! Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide, as folks we speak to seem to continually try to distinguish between graffiti and “street art?”

There is a big gap in my opinion.  It’s a long discussion. Graffiti is a whole other game. Some artists are crossing over and blurring the divide which is great. Change is always good.

We recently heard about an upcoming exhibit at Klughaus Gallery featuring Australia’s Kingbrown Magazine and discovered that you were one of its founders. We are huge zine fans. Could you tell us something about Kingbrown?

Kingbrown has been a labour of love for about six years now. It’s a street art/illustration/skate/music mag that comes in a hand silk-screened brown bag with zines, stickers and posters inside. It’s an epic little package of art goodies. You can check it out at www.kingbrownmag.com

We’re looking forward to seeing more of your work around town here. ‘so lucky to have you here! What’s next?

More walls and prints and paintings!

Photos by Dani Mozeson, Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky 

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