Interview: Street Artist Birdhat

Everyone knows by now that I am a huge fan of street art. I love walking through the streets of the Inner West and stumbling across a new piece of art on the walls. Nothing beats turning my head to check if there is a new splash of colour in a laneway and spotting a new work. One street artist whose work never fails to bring a smile to my face and brighten my day is Birdhat. I was excited that I got the chance to meet him at the Higher Ground Studio open day in August and he very kindly agreed to be interviewed. So here’s the interview! Huge thanks to Birdhat for taking to the time to answer my many questions. I can’t wait to see more of Birdhat appearing around the Inner West and I hope I get a chance to interview each of the talented artists that make up Higher Ground Studio.

1. How long have you been doing street art and how did you initially get started?
I’ve been working on street based projects for about 10 years; it was the first type of art I really I’ve been working on street based projects for about 10 years; it was the first type of art I really associated with. But back then I was mainly doing political based stencil and not so much character work. I only started working with character based work in the past five years or so and large scale mural as well as collaborative live painting is all fairly recent developments.

2. Where did the name Birdhat come from?
Stream of conscious. I made it up on the spot and the idea formed its own imagery. I started of doing doodles of chaps with birds for hair, it was only later that the hat became common place, just turned out to be the most fitting name for my characters.

3. How would you describe your street art identity and style?

Loose and varied in scale.

4. Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of the imagery I use for birdhat is derived from the natural environment (obviously) with a specific connection to Australian wildlife and landscape however I also gather use symbol often working around old ideologies of human existence and a caveman mentality (rock carvings, animal forms as geometric and line expressing emotion). I would say on the street my main inspiration is the Situationalists. There’s a quote During the May Revolutions in France which was a massive turning point for my street work ‘Sous les pavés, la plage’ (Under the paving stones, the beach).

5. How do you pick a location for a Birdhat street art piece? Is it usually planned or spur of the moment?
It really depends, there are times its completely spontaneous but there are some spots I’ve seen that are so good I would rather scout then return and make something particularly special or specific to the location. Even when the location is chosen I would say that generally in my street work its unplanned in the actual creation of the work. When I do mural work this is generally sketched up and discussed with whoever else is involved.

6. If you could do a collaborative piece of street art with anyone of your choice, who would it be? Why?
Dead or alive? In current Sydney/ Melbourne Street circles I would say I would like to do some work with Hazzy Bee. I enjoy his mark and I think that we could potentially make some good work collaboratively. Other than that I really enjoy the new work that EELS is doing, I think he’s working under a different name now but it’s really tight and I enjoy the humour. However I’m lucky, I’ve had the ability to meet many street artists and work collaboratively on a regular basis.

7. Do you usually work by yourself on the street or with other street artists?
It really depends where I am and what I’m doing, it’s always better working with others and having an extra pair of eyes around but it’s not always necessary.

8. What is your favorite Birdhat design that you have done on the street?
I guess the ‘Project Ugly’ wall on Albion Street in Annandale would be my favorite design. The whole thing just came together in a really free and inspiring way. It was a big piece but really fun to create.

9. Who is your favourite street artist (local or international)?
Guy Ernest Debord.

10. Whenever I post a photo of a Birdhat piece on the “I love the Inner West” facebook page there are
always people commenting on how much they love your work. Where can someone buy your work? Do you do commission work? How can someone contact you if they want an original Birdhat design?

Really? I didn’t know there was much of a following actually. I guess through my fan page would be the easiest way to contact me. I have done commission work in the past and I plan on doing another line of t-shirts for the summer. They will be on sale at street markets around Newtown, Surry hills and Glebe pretty soon.

11. How did you become part of the Higher Ground Studio?
I got the position through a friend painting there ‘Ears’. It was his space for a long time before it became Higher Ground and I always enjoyed the atmosphere and location.

12. When I went to the Higher Ground Studio open day I saw some of your artwork which I thought was completely different to your street style. Are they two completely different things to you, or do the two styles overlap?
They are two very different art styles for me. They have a different aim, direction and rationality but are both my hand so they will of course have certain aesthetic similarities. However, I do keep them separate. This is due to the fact that they both follow separate groundings/ teachings. These styles are constructed in such a way as to not warrant the infusion of the other.

And finally…

Inner west questions

Best place for a caffeine hit in the Inner West?
The Little Marionette

What/where was the last great meal you ate in the Inner West?
Salad Roll at Marrickville Pork Roll Illawarra Road

What’s the Inner West’s best kept secret?
Wilson Lane thoroughfare and Barry’s Cycle path

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