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Peagn :: Interview [NZ]
Paegn in action
Paegn
Paegn
Paegn
What do you put up?

I write PAEGN.

Who do you run with?

ďAOD,Ē for me it means ďAngels Or Demons.Ē

Where do you come from? And where else have you lived?

I was born in Hamilton New Zealand. I have lived in Sydney and Brisbane Australia.

How old are you?

Old enough to have developed many styles in graffiti and visual arts do factory work 40 to 60hrs, six days a week. Make car repayments, pay bills, have an art account, a paint account, my own studio, organise a collective of artists, exhibit art, paint graffiti, network, keep up appearances with the family, buy my daughter presents and squeeze some hunting and fishing in now and then. Thatís about 26 years of age.

What was it that got you into graffiti and when do you think it was that you would have started drawing on paper, maybe keeping a pad?

My family moved to Sydney, Australia when I was four. I was consumed by the amount of advertising and mass media that permeated the Sydney streets. Sydney was heavily bombed and artists were depicting characters on the train lines from cartoons like Astro Boy, He Man, The Smurfs and images from Mark Bode. I started copying on paper at about age 7. I was influenced by society indicative of pop culture in the 1980ís. I was intrigued by the large lettering and the space that it encompassed.

What was it that got you onto the next level and actually throwing up on walls etc?

Street tags, bombing, throw ups, characters, full colour burners, Sydney had it all. Therefore my surroundings made me want to get up. I was influenced by society around me, everything was bombed. No where was safe from bombing. Everywhere you looked was damage. I wanted to damage. This older head gave me a piece of cloth with ďROCK ON,Ē painted on it and did me outlines, I was hooked. The first tag I did was ďI love Brooke,Ē with an artline 100 marker on a bus stop in Sydney inner west, Westmead. My first real tag was WIZARD. A character of a Wizard was shown on T.V about vandalism I called my self, WIZARD. I also put up SIRE and CZAR and have had about 1 million other tags.

When and where was your first piece? What was the feeling you got after putting it up? Was it what you expected?

My first piece was ďTPC,Ē Players crew. 1993 at Northgate train station on Brisbaneís inner north. It was chrome with a red outline and drop shadow. It was a trackside during the day in 30 degree heat. It came naturally and was everything I had expected from illegal art, adrenaline. Brizzy is so laxed out, dope.

So, by now you must have done a few pieces. Which one was your favourite piece? Where was it and when would it have been done?

Aucklandís Hip Hop Summit 2001. That was a real milestone for my graffiti career. As I learnt mostly in Sydney, having Sydney kings, Dmote SUK and Snarl BCF on my wall was awe inspiring. There were writers from all over the world and New Zealand. Everywhere you looked was an established writer; I owe Askew TMD so much for that.

What has been your worst writing experience?

Auckland Hip Hop Summit 2002 what a nightmare that was! Letís just say with guys from TATS crew there and BATES AIO, you want your work to be next level. It was a bad day, my work was bugged out, and it went from having the best wall at the summit in 2001 to having the worst wall in 2002. It was painful. Donít remind me duke.

What has been your craziest writing experience?

I was doing this suicide on the last southbound train on a foggy Brisbane night around 95, the air was cold and damp and the steel was wet with dew. It felt eerie as the train rocked side to side, almost romantic with the full moon bouncing off the fog under the bridge. I forced the doors open on an outbound moving train, closed them up again and hung on for dear life. I took a second to admire the city lights bounce off the six car as she rocked around a bend sailing under an over bridge. I started to paint the outsides, one hand hanging on, the other moving the can over the doors, over the windows and down the sides of the doors. I noticed the train was rocking mad crazy so the driver must have picked up speed. This caused me to pause and grab the handles on the door and catch my breath as I had a nose full of vapours and paint in my eyes. As I was getting ready to lay more damage, I could see something moving ahead. As it got closer I thought it could be a train, but thought to myself it canít be, the last city bound was long gone by now, so hopefully it was just the weed. I kept painting thinking it was sweet as a nut. Moments later, it must have seen me and turned its lights on and sounded the horn. If I didnít move fast it was RIP dedications all over the lines. I started banging on the doors for my crew to let me in, they was fooling around and laughing at me, telling me to fall and die. I screamed at them, ďThereís a train coming let me in!Ē They ran at the door and forced them open. I jumped inside as fast as I could move, before we could let the doors shut again, the train passed and almost sucked me out the doors. When it was safe again and after suffering an instant heart attack, I finished my tags to cop respect. At the train station I forced the doors open and ran up the steel and put rocks through the windows. I was mad vexed. That was the last suicide I ever done. You can see why they are called suicides. Crazy, but an early death is probable in this game.

Are there any other crews or artists in your area who you know or whose tags you see all over?

In my area AOD is up the most. The only place to see other writers work locally is in my yards. I have inspired a lot of young guys to get up. They look up to me so I feel it is important for me to help the next generation come through. They respect me and it feels good knowing that a hand full of guys will always remember PAEGN as their main influence for style and determination. There were writers getting up here before me like CHAOS, SMOKE, SEKS, EPICS and KRAZE.

So you have built up a bit of knowledge about graf in New Zealand and more specifically around your manor, Can you break down, for a bit of perspective, how graffiti filtered into NZ culture? I mean who would have been the first people to bring it over from the US,

Well to my knowledge no-one from NZ went to the States in the eighties to study the style and have it passed down like the Aussies did. So my best bet would be outlets such as Style Wars. The Smooth Crew were the innovators.

What about Maori Art were there and are any writers dropping native motifs in there works?

Yeah, here and in Australia. Crews like TPR, The Piece Revolution in Australia were depicting Maori motifs within there work. That was in the late eighties. Other Maori motifs in Sydney that were being dropped in the 90ís come from guys like PRINS SWB. Some of the dopest writers in Aussie are Maoriís. Writers in New Zealand that drop Maori styles are CENT, TANK, AGENT, DEWS, SLICK DLT, DAM NATIVE and DANIEL TIPPET. Maybe some others as well like PHAT, you canít step to AGENTS Maori 3Dís they own. DYLE TMD has a distinctive Tongan, Polynesian style.

Maybe much of the early roots had been laid by the time you came on the scene?

Yes, most definitely bro thatís for sure. New Zealand was heavily bombed by the time I cam back late 97. Letís just say TANK, TANK and TANK.

OK, for a while there, as the popularity of Hip Hop grew in the UK, so did graf. What happened in NZ?

I was in Australia at the time so I canít comment. What I do know is that Breaking was real strong in the eighties all over New Zealand. The music was heavily entranced with political motifs, and most areas had crews and sets representing Hip Hop. Graffiti art existed but it has been slept on in New Zealand until about the mid 1990ís. A lot of early writers got no love and Graffiti Artists were shunned. Out of all the elements writing was the least popular and it was affiliated with gang activity. Most up tags I can remember were HARAS, PICASO, KEN J, J ROCK, RATZ, ACIDS, WYZE K, COLT, TROJAN, AZIZ and CRITIC. That was mainly around Hamilton where I would visit at least once a year. The first piece in New Zealand I saw was by DOZER, I think, in Hamilton.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the big names who got over?

Crews like DAF and DAM NATIVE kept things alive; they dominated all realms and even mass media. The only crews in my opinion that had a distinctive New Zealand / Aotearoa flavour was DAM NATIVES. Notable crews were THC, DPM and WL they really upped the game and added fire to the scene. These heads were the power movers of New Zealand graffiti art.

Iím not really aware of any artists from your country can you name some that got over in the days?

Yup, TANK, ADDICT, SMACK, IKON, MERKS, PHAT, ASIA, OPTO, SLICK and RIOT. I prolly only name these guys as they are my favourite. IKON, TANK, ADDICT and SMACK were the only writers that were all over the north island. Especially TANK and IKON WL, BH. The style was fresh and different to the rest of all the other bombers. It would also depend on what city you were talking about like in Hamilton, ASIA FCS, ran the show and in Wellington you could say SCREAM. There were others but I am only telling you what I saw.

How would you describe your style, is there anyone you have based it on?

My tags are Sydney based lettering as thatís where I learnt to drop. I based my early blockies on GANE, DMOTE, TAVERN, THORN, PRIDE and later BOSIE, KOOLY, ROSKE and KASINO. For wild style I based my letters on UNIQUE, ATOME, MERDA, ZODIAC, JUMBLES, CARCUS, DRAWER, FRAER, NAPALM and TARNS. Then I based my funk from TIPER, FANTEM, PUZLE, PUBES, SLOP, DAMET, ITSKE and DEMS.

After this I moved to influences for abstraction in Europe with guys like NEMA, PUMA, HONET, OPAK, HOT, CHINTZ, VOLA, RENS, MIRO, RIO and FANCY.

What do you make of artists like Banksy who are tying to take it to the next level and can sell prints of their work for more than £1000? Iím sure you would like to command income like thatÖ

Well Iím an artist not an art critic. A lot of people in the graff scene need to make up their minds. Art critic or artist. In my opinion Banksy is dope. Making money off graffiti art, when coming from the streets, is pure genius, big up yourself BANKSY.

Banksy is keeping it real though, he makes sure that there is some serious message in all his work. I admire thatÖ

Same with big PAEGN; it is the direction I would like to take my career. My visual art style incorporates issues faced by youth in society like drug and substance abuse, violence and police corruption. BOSIE and KASINO were the first all city kings for me I know of that started exhibiting. Therefore, they opened my eyes to another medium of counter culture propaganda. It is valid. It is part of our evolution, so evolve or die, plain and simple.

What do you make of the whole stickering phenomenon? Do you think it is just another way of getting over, or do you think it is a bit of a cop out?

Nah, it isnít a cop out. Big PAEGN rocks the stickers now and then. You will always have purists that will criticise you. So you have to be able to stay strong and believe in your work or you will fail. I think Londonís Solo One is a perfect example of stickering success stories, big ups. I am also an advocate for the arts so I canít afford to criticise people for their choices of self representation. It is fine.

Why do you think that Graffiti artists are so demonised in the media?

The ruling majority is embodied through capitalistic ideologies. There fore, property value and real estate is more important than creative self expression. In saying this, the ruling majority uses the media to spread ideals that deconstruct the values of free expression, in this case graffiti art. The ruling party use the media as a discourse to reinforce the majorityís ideals and politics. It is called Hegemony.

OK, you have to admit what you are doing constitutes criminal damage.

True, yet it is only constituted as criminal damage if you are a capitalist supporting economic growth through real estate and property investment. Graffiti art is a counter culture reaction to the untruths that permeate our daily lives. We fight back with ideological force in an artistic manner. Conservatives are afraid of this and attempt to shut us down.

Similar to the stickering, what do you think of Etching? Is this connected to graffiti in your eyes, or does it give more conventional spray can artists a bad name?

Graffiti artists already have a bad name amongst the greater society and even in the general art scene. You donít do graffiti to win popularity contests. It is not about popularity, it is counter culture. There are three other elements for that kind of carry on. Yes, etching is apart of the graffiti culture.

 
Povo by Paegn
Povo by Paegn
Povo by Paegn
Povo by Paegn
Did you hear about Enzo having to go on the run after there was a major campaign about him in London?

Each and every graffiti artists should prepare for this kind of mass harassment. I did not here about Enzo, but I have seen images of his work. Props ENZO, respect to ALL WRITERS ON THE RUN.

What do you think of the zero tolerance policy many types of council are now having on graffiti, will this make your lives more difficult?

I think it will encourage more people to paint. It will also encourage other genres of graffiti to grow such as design, electronic page layout, print making and sticker works. Maybe even encourage a greater gallery scene. Each graffiti artist should have other means of penetrating society. You must be a hybrid in order to evolve in times of hardship.

I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too?

Open your eyes to youth suicide. I would like to see more money pooled into helping out young people with employment and education, arts and culture, law and order, health, well being and sport.

What are the main issues in NZ that you feel people in the UK need to hear about?

Youth suicide is high in our country and so is mental illness amongst young people. There are a lot of people screaming out for help, but no-one is listening. You need to know that a lot of kids are killing themselves. New Zealand society has a big thing about being tuff and staunch. That is what makes kids feel weak and inadequate. Suicide is real here. It is terrible and has affected me directly.

If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?

At the moment it would be family planning. There are a lot of broken homes in NZ and it is so sad. I want to stop domestic violence, I have been affected by this and so have many people I know. It is terrible and has traumatic effects on our growth mentally and psychologically. Alcohol ruins families.

Overall then, do you have an opinion on whether the graffiti scene is getting better or worse? And why?

The scene worldwide is stronger than ever. Modern technology, research and development as well as maturing artists, make graffiti more exciting now more than ever before. We are maturing as artists and break new grounds in art history all the time.

Would you consider doing legal pieces and getting paid for your work? Yes of course. Sometimes artists who do this are frowned upon by the underground artistsÖ

Yes that is true, yet as you develop a greater realisation of who you are and your role as an artist, it comes naturally. I donít know if you can call legal artists graffiti artists though. They are muralists, not artists. It is more of a design concept rather than expressionist, yet it has its place.

Are there more opportunities for legal work these days, or have those days gone and in fact the council provided walls are coming down?

Yes there is always opportunity. I have approached businesses before and they allow it. It depends on your portfolio your art biography and how professional you are in delivering your proposal to the potential client. Again this comes with age and maturity. Professionalism. Hamilton Cities largest legal wall was organised by PAEGN in 2001 and is still used and visited by artists from all over. Legal walls are about making contributions to the scene and the community. It is also a perfect opportunity for marketing your work. They are important.

How do you feel about the connection to Hip Hop and Graffiti?

I feel that with new technology and tools, Hip Hop seems to accept writers more and more. Hip Hop seems to want more graffiti motifs within album cover design, magazines, posters, promotional material, clothing the list goes on. Yet I also feel that Hip Hop will never fully understand the main components of Graffiti culture. Although this is true Hip Hop accepts us more than any other sub culture so through Hip Hop we can survive. The connection is there yet it would depend on your location. Graffiti also has ties with Punk, Ska, Drum and Bass and Techno.

Is Graffiti an element of Hip Hop, or like so many graf artists do you think that Hip Hop over the years has largely ignored graffiti and therefore disown the connection?

Hip Hop has ignored graffiti art for sure. Now graffiti artists are making money these days, there has been a huge shift in opinions and now 20 years on, they finally get the picture. It was an element that most thought you could never get rich on. Now artists all over the world make a living off their work. It is fashionable to have graffiti and Hip Hop now. Even other forms of pop art culture incorporate graffiti motifs within their work. It is funny is some ways as the hardcore know who has been down from the start, and who is along for the ride. Graffiti can be Hip Hop and it can be itself, it would depend on the writer, the writerís skill and intentions.

How do feel about the graffiti on the web? Do you have your own website?

Graffiti on the web serves its purpose and is a great research tool and provides a system of networking. You can network freely to places you never thought you could ever paint. I am planning a tour to Japan in July, thanks to the internet. Yes I have a website, it is dedicated to the arts and I keep that separate from my graffiti life for privacy reasons.

In General how do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a way for the small man to have a voice, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?

The internet is a tool to use in todayís society it depends on the user. A lot of toys make beef, but I ignore it. Most established artists donít care about internet beef. Once you have found your niche and market, you seldom use the net, only to mail and research. Internet beef kids havenít found there niche or market, that is why they have a lot of time to toy around.

What do you think about the graf in other countries? Sometimes it seems like it is a much bigger thing and is more accepted in foreign landsÖ

Tell me about it. New Zealand is a young country and people are just starting to accept art in general let alone graffiti art. Places overseas have had fine arts dominate society for hundreds of years such as Italy and France. Graffiti art to them is a variety of modern art from the impressionists to movements like fauvism, dada, surrealism, futurism, kitsch and pop art. These are all rebel art forms, so to them, it is no big deal to have another rebel art movement. They are lucky to be from nations that excel in the arts.

Where do you get your paint? Do you keep it real and rack that as well, or do you buy it?

Rack and buy, sometimes for commissioned and legal work I over quote materials so in a sense it is like racking. You can end up with boxes of paint. I organised a graffiti event here once and ordered $1.000 dollars worth of paint. We used about $400.00 worth and writers got to tax cartons of paint. That is the mark of a professional. I get my paints from hardware and paint stores sometimes the dump has bucket paint for sale, real cheap. When I was younger I would bag rack or just walk out with boxes full of paint. It is easy.

Do you have a favourite brand or colour? Belton seems to be popular, but then maybe there is a cheap Jazz Warehouse paint cans that do the same job?

I will use any paints I am not fussy. 85% of my work is illegal so I donít get much time to shine on the real. If I was to do a commissioned work or a live painting show then I will go for quality paints. Depends on the situation, generally for bombing I will go anything bucket paint, Jazz, Rustoleum, Dulux, Plastikote, Engine Enamel, VHT what ever. For live painting shows and murals of course more quality like Belton and that. My favourite paints to use are Rustoleum Painters Touch. I donít have a favourite colour I can use any.

Back in the day there was all the talk of Ďfat capsí and trying to get hold of them. What was that all about, and is it still a problem today? Do writers have a collection of caps?

For sure bro, the only fat caps I heard of back in the day were NY fats, Rusto Fats and Pink dots. Now there are mad caps out there from super skinny to ultra fat. Caps are no problem to get.

Do you have any tips or techniques you want to pass on, like how to get even coverage, or avoid drips?

My techniques come from graff experimentation. I have some from fine arts. I use them on walls but donít want to share them just yet. Now I am into layering with mixed media and I am about to make a break through and achieve something SEEN UA said you could never do on Style Wars. I am into breaking new grounds and techniques. I believe you have to innovate not re-create and regurgitate someone elseís technical breakthroughs. That is very lazy and non creative. A lot of writers do the same outline over and over, boring.

How can people learn to do this? Are there any instructional books or websites?

Yes but thatís cheating. There are always workshops and painting events you can document with video and still life cameras. Youth groups host shows and events and so does the council, research and you will learn. 12ozprophet.com is useful.

What books would you recommend if any for people wanting to check out the art and the history. I used to have those books by Henry Chalfont Ė Spray can Art and Subway art, they were pretty important when they came out.

I recommend the Urban Discipline series. They will provide an insight into the future. For references of global graffiti, and a synopsis of local scenes refer to Sabotage, that provides a good insight into train scenes and provides comments by writers. Internet searching will allow you to ascertain any book you want to do with graffiti. This will also depend on the writerís preference and goals in the game. There is info on every genre in graffiti from street art, right through to installation sculpture and even architecture.

What other advice might you have for struggling graf artists in the UK? Perhaps you know how to avoid certain cameras, or know of areas where it is simply never safe to paint?

I canít say as I have never made anarchy in the U.K. I find train lines to be the best research places. Train station culture will teach you all you need to know.

What about networking with overseas artists? Are you up for that?

Yes of course, that is going to be the sole basis of my next 10 years as a graffiti artist. I am willing to co-operate and communicate with other writers from overseas. It is a very important component to gaining more recognition and skills. It is a chance to share ideas and create art that maybe you never thought you could do. It is for the serious writer.

Have you planned out your next piece, and if so what is it going to be?

Iím doing seven canvasses for an upcoming show. Design based graffiti pop art.

What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?

Apart from normal life like work and thatÖit would have to be working on exhibiting. My next show is in April, at Wellingtons Thistle Hall. I need to sell as much work as possible to be in Japan by July.

What are your longer-term plans and objectives for you as an artist?

My main objectives are to eventually generate my own business in the arts with my own gallery and art space. I would also like to contribute a distinctive self generated N.Z art style to the art world. That is my challenge and my formula is getting stronger. When overseas artists look at my work, I want them to say thatís a PAEGN without having to use text. It is called benchmark art.

Do you see your work in the future moving into other art forms, maybe films, animation, calligraphy, or cartoons etc?

Oh yes indeed. The terms I use are Pop Art, Expressionism, Neo Expressionism, Abstraction, Minimalism, Installation Sculpture, Print Making and Design. I have been experimenting with these ideas for about 5 years or so and have been exhibiting around New Zealand. I have enough blue prints and concepts to see me into the next decade.

Which writers and/or artists most inspire you?

I have many. I am inspired by SCREAM BML, UPC, TA, for his sheer dedication and will to survive. I am most inspired by EXIST, ASKEW, GASP, SENS, TASEK and MC HEGZ.

Outside graffiti what other art forms give you inspiration? Are there any more conventional artists you like?

New Zealand artists like Don Driver, Ralph Hotere, Tom Kriesler, Dale Copeland, Denise Kum, L Bud. Et. Al. as they are all politically motivated and use text within there works.

I get off on industrial installation art, political artists and billboard manipulation.

What do dislike about the graf scene?

Gossip.

What are the things that you like to do when you arenít doodling or tagging? Do you like sports or the Cinema for example?

Fishing and Hunting brother, I love the great outdoors and the thrill of the kill. I also like messing with cars and engines.

Any shout outs?

BANKSY, NEMA, SIEGE, PEDRO, PHUN, ARO and SENSA

Is there anything else you would like to add or mention?

Thanks for your support and I appreciate you supporting my cause. BIG UPS TASKFORCE AND MUD FAM!

Thank you very much for your time.

Kia Ora, brother.

Contact Paegn: [email protected]
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