Sometimes known as the Westside Puzzler, MiKoniK’s street art life began as a graffer.
This was around 1989 and it led to an early morning visit from the law and him being unceremoniously cuffed and taken away to be interviewed. It was not long after this incident that he legalised his writing skills by taking up a sign writing apprenticeship.
Always interested in making things, he become inspired to have another crack at street art.
”There was the bareness on the streets and dearth of street art in the western suburbs,” he said. “The walls were just begging for enrichment with some decent art.”
Suddenly paste-ups by Baby Guerrilla, an early influence and inspiration, began to appear.
“I thought they were pretty cool. So I made up some stencils and went out pasting. It was like revisiting my youth-secretively going out at night!”
The Bunbury St Bridge in Footscray quickly became a favourite spot. “It was somewhere to showcase my stencils.”
Unsure as to why he took up stenciling, MiKoniK went on to say that a lot of people didn’t think he was artistic! “However,I don’t agree with this,” he said. “I think everyone has an artistic side to them. They just have to find it and access and develop it”.
“Stencils seem to be a good entry point for people who think they aren’t artistic but want to have a crack at street art. To take an image that’s not your own, to reimagine and recreate it as yours.”
“The need to reproduce an image several times was the initial focus. To get it up and out there, the stencil is the perfect vehicle for this. No piece is the same – just the base image. It enables an artist to be prolific e.g.HA HA (see CBD News June 2015).”
MiKoniK sees the use of a computer as just another tool but I think it’s over-used and that the images generated have a sameness and a lack of individualism. It can be difficult to differentiate artists.
MiKoniK works from his own photos and has developed his own style. Although he has come in for criticism in the past, he doesn’t let this worry him anymore.
“I’ve had a lot of detractors. People have their own motives and agendas. Just be confident in yourself, what you’re doing and the artistic reason for it. I’d be suspicious of anyone who didn’t have an opinion about my work!”
In recent times Presgrave Place, “a sweet little space”, has become the repository for many of MiKoniK’s pieces. For it is here, along with fellow artists who have been driven out of higher profile lanes such as Hosier and AC/DC (because of persistent and willful damage to their work) have chosen to take up residency.
He went on to say, however, the destruction that’s going in these lanes is something you just have to wear.
“If it goes and you get upset about it, you have to rethink the placement of your art,” he said. “Once you put it out in the public arena, it’s out there and you give up your right to it. Ownership is universal!”
“My work keeps me focused and in a place in my life where I want to be. It gives me a sense of satisfaction. Having an idea and following it through – completing something.”
His street art has given him a sense of direction through times of rehabilitation and unemployment.
In recent months, the jigsaw has become his canvas. In what can only be described as a “light bulb moment”, it’s become MiKoniK’s signature and style.
“I wanted something that was mine, that no-one else was doing,” he said.
Placing his work in Presgrave Place has also introduced him to fellow street artists. Prior to this, it was a solo experience as he’d never met another street artist.
“Artists should collaborate as there’s value in it. Being around other creative people can have a positive impact on your work,” he said.
Connecting with Kranky (CBD News, November 2015) has changed him and brought a 3D element to his work, with the cube being an obvious choice. In April, these two artists participated in a pop-up exhibition at Section 8.
In recent days a quirky collaboration with fledgling installation artist Tinky has appeared in Presgrave Place.
MiKoniK’s contribution to this artwork, Ladder to the Moon, must have presented quite a challenge as he’s constructed a sphere out of jigsaw pieces!
MiKoniK feels very positive about the Melbourne street art scene. “It’s the people that I have contact with that make it so,” he said. “They’re a really cool bunch, with Akemi Ito (CBD News October 2014) enthusiastically devoted to bringing artists together for ‘paint-up’ days.”
“These events are great for emerging artists, enabling them to get their work up, albeit for a short period of time. As for Hosier Lane, it is what it is. It’s a good place to start!”