Interview with a Street Artist: Nico

The intricate style of Nico is instantly recognisable on the streets of the Inner West. Nico is an amazingly talented artist, always happy to have a chat with interested passers-by about his art. I’ve been lucky enough to watch Nico painting some of his creations, the most recent being the striking owl that stood watch over the iconic and constantly changing May Lane in St Peters. I find it really intriguing watching artists work, the process involved in creating some of the stunning art we see on the streets continually astounds me. The perfection Nico demands of himself  in his work is clearly evident to those lucky enough to see his work. Huge thanks to Nico for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to seeing more of his art on the streets of the Inner West soon.

How long have you been doing street art and how did you initially get started?
I guess it depends on what you would classify as street art. I have been creating art for as long as I can remember. I remember becoming aware of graffiti in the early 1990′s, when I was a young child. I was immediately fascinated by it. I mucked around with tagging a bit in my early teens, as did most of the boys I grew up with. It was more of a rite of passage at this stage rather than being associated with any form of artistic expression. My interest continued and I began pursuing graffiti as a serious art form around the time I finished school, about 10 years ago. I studied art and eventually graphic design after finishing school, and found the principals that I learned to be very beneficial to my painting, and vice versa.I began working full time as an designer/ illustrator and I focused a lot of my efforts on developing a new set of skills, however I continued to paint walls as often as possible. As I grew older I started to find traditional graffiti limiting. I was also aware that traditional graffiti is fairly esoteric in the fact that it can only be enjoyed by a select few. I began searching for a way of combining my illustrative style with my love of painting with aerosol in public spaces. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of street art over in Europe. There is a lot of amazing stuff happening over there, particularly in Berlin. After returning  to Australia I began to focus on creating the style of street art that I am currently doing. I have been doing this for 9 months now.

How would you describe your street art identity and style?
I’m not really sure. I try not to analyse my style or identity too much as I fear that by doing so I may destroy whatever it is. I know one thing, and that is that it is constantly changing, but so slowly that it is not immediately noticeable. If I look at what I am doing now, compared to what I was doing nine months ago it is different, but it is also still the same in many ways. I tend to think of what I’m doing on the street at the moment as being closer to design rather than art in the sense that my work references design principals in an attempt to make it pleasing on the eye, rather than being loose and gestural and riddled with meaning. Of course my work still has meanings attached to it, but the primary focus is on aesthetics. My work tends to feature flat shapes and have a heavy focus on texture and detail. I am interested in giving people’s eyes a unique viewing experience that somewhat mimics an altered mind state – creating a mild hallucinatory effect through detailed linework that forces the eye to react in a certain way – almost as if it is seeing the design melting or moving a little. Ultimately the main goal of my current work is for it to have some kind of effect on those that view it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am inspired by many things. I find living things are my main inspiration. Humans, plants and especially animals. All of my works to date display living creatures of some kind. I like the idea of people living in the city having forced encounters with representations of animals and animal-like creatures during their day-today lives. Living in the city, most of us miss out on the magic of unexpected meetings with strange animals and unusual creatures that occur in the natural world, so I like the thought of reminding people about how it may feel to come face to face with something unexpected, whether it be the likeness of an ominous ghost or a magic animal.

How do you pick a location for a Nico street art piece? Is it usually planned or spur of the moment?
Unfortunately these days it is very rarely spur of the moment. I have been painting walls for over ten years and as such have had my fair share of trouble as a result. These days I can no longer afford the drama. It becomes incredibly tiring, especially when all that you are trying to do is create art for people to enjoy. Unfortunately I am very limited in terms of where I can create my art, as the councils have been steadily removing the few legal sites that existed for artists such as myself to use, and I am tired of being harassed by police at the majority of the few legal sites that do still exist. This means that there aren’t many places left where I can make my art peacefully where they will ever be seen. I am always looking for new walls that an owner will allow me to paint. I enjoy painting the inner west because I feel that the works are embraced here more than in any other area in Sydney. Painting in the Inner West is always a pleasure, as there are so many people here that really appreciate the artform. In my opinion, the Inner West is far more progressive and culturally aware than the rest of the city. It is a lovely place with a strong sense of community and a place for the important things in life, spending time together outside and enjoying art, food and music.

If you could do a collaborative piece of street art with anyone of your choice … Who would it be?
That’s a tough one. Perhaps an influential politician so that they could perhaps begin to understand what really lies beneath street art and experience the joy that it can bring to the community. From where I sit I find it hard to understand why street art is still so vilified here. Most members of the public that I encounter whilst painting are usually stoked to see a piece of art being created where they live their day-to-day lives. Why should people have to go to an art gallery to experience that? The whole concept of art in galleries seems completely arachaic and idiotic to me. The art in galleries is locked away so that the enjoyment it can to people bring can be controlled. You can only view the art on the terms set out by the establishment. Standing quietly in a cold, sterile room during the specified time. Art should be free for anyone to enjoy at their leisure. it should be part of our lives and part of our cities. You should see art on the way to get milk. After all, your poor eyes deserve a treat after all of the ads that are forced upon them. I believe that it is time that Councils and governments began to understand street art and develop strategies that allow it to exist harmoniously with the urban environment. It’s not going anywhere I can promise you that. No amount of punishment will stop it. Currently all forms of street art are treated as malicious damage – thrown in the basket with tagging and other malicious acts of vandalism. It doesn’t belong there. Spending hundreds of my own dollars on paint and then spending countless hours of my personal time to create artworks that I tire over on the street in rain or sun every weekend for everyone to enjoy is hardly my idea of malicious damage.

Do you usually work by yourself on the street or with other street artists?
I enjoy both. It depends on how I am feeling. I often enjoy the solitude while painting alone, but also enjoy the opportunity to create with other artists.

Who is your favourite street artist (local or international)?
I could never choose just one.

What’s your favourite design that you’ve done on the street?
To be completely honest I am never completely satisfied with any of them. It takes months before I can look back at works and not be blinded by the imperfections.

Where can someone buy your work?  Do you do commission work? How can someone contact you if they want an original Nico design?
I do quite a bit of fine art that appears for sale at various shows and exhibitions as they pop up. I often do runs of t-shirts and prints, which can be found at a few stores around the country as well as online. I do some commission work every now and then. People can always follow me on facebook, instagram or through my website to see what is going on or get in touch.

Do you have creative outlets other that your street art work?
Yes. I am also a fine artist, graphic designer and an illustrator. I am never not creating.

What can we expect to see from Nico in the future?
If only I knew. Hopefully lots of new works in some new locations around the Inner West!

And finally…

Inner west questions
Best place for a caffeine hit in the Inner West?
Don Campos Specialty Brewing Bar – Alexandria.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in the Inner West?
An assortment of Pastizzis from the Pastizzi Cafe on King Street

What’s the Inner West’s best kept secret?
Adamo’s Pasta – Alexandria. That place is insane.



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4 Responses to " Interview with a Street Artist: Nico "

  1. jumpy says:

    cool unique style

  2. jumpy says:

    Nico has a cool unique style

  3. [...] come across a new offering. I’m not alone in my appreciation of the art form. I read a recent interview with local street artist Nico. “… I enjoy painting the inner west because I feel that the works are embraced here [...]

  4. [...] come across a new offering. I’m not alone in my appreciation of the art form. I read a recent interview with local street artist Nico. “… I enjoy painting the inner west because I feel that the works are embraced here [...]

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