I recently got the chance to have a chat with Nardstar*, a street artist whose distinct work graces walls in galleries to walls in communities from Cape Town and Johannesburg to New York and Connecticut in the United States.
Nard’s work is, however, not restricted to murals as it easily finds a home on other mediums from skateboards and painting canvases to t-shirts, helmets and sneakers.
Here is how the chat went.
To those that might not be aware of who you are, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I always find it difficult to answer this question. So I think the best way to describe myself is probably as a graffiti artist/street artist/mural artist who also does customising, gallery art and vector art. I don’t religiously stick to one form of street painting or art. I like to change it up and do what I want!
What is one of the earliest or most memorable murals that inspired you to get into street art?
When I was a teenager I used to go to a skateboarding, BMX and graffiti event called the Alex Groll Cup which was held at the Boogaloos skatepark that used to be at Canal Walk. I went every year to see graf and I think the graffiti I saw there left a big impression on me.
Your style is quite distinct, which other artist/s, graffiti or otherwise, could you say have inspired inspired your work?
I’m inspired by all sorts of art forms, even old school fine art from centuries ago. I can’t really pin point any specific artists but I really appreciate a unique style and art attitude. Graffiti artists spend a lot of time developing their own letter style and my painting style developed directly from the way I structured and coloured my letters.
How has your journey as a graf artist been so far?
It’s been fun and funny! I meet the coolest people, interact with the strangest people on the street, see the strangest things on the streets and painting gave me the opportunity to travel. It’s also very challenging from a personal point of view as an artist but I appreciate that.
What determines the way you choose the locations of your murals?
A whole lot of things can determine the location: The type of wall, the size of the wall, the colour of the wall, public exposure, hidden from public, the community’s attitude to graffiti or even just random selection.
This is a quote from your website ” As an artist who aims to be globally recognized, Nard’s work touches diverse surfaces. Nard custom designs graphics for skateboards, skimboards, t-shirts, sneakers and helmets, as well as painting canvases and designing prints.” What other mediums are you looking to explore with your art? Also, are you looking to work with different materials like you did for the COOL YOUR JETS commission?
Yes. I love experimenting with different materials. It’s amazing seeing my art translated onto different surfaces that I haven’t tried before. There are so many more materials I want to mess around with. I want to experiment with anything 3D and push the scale of the experiments.
Can you tell us a bit more about Concrete Flower, the short documentary Ry George made about you?
Ry is a friend of mine who was studying at AAA last year. He wanted to do a documentary on me for a project and I agreed asking that he make the doccie as true to me as possible because I’m not a big fan of cameras at all. I think he did a good job of highlighting my art and showing the attitude towards the city’s very weird graffiti bylaw.
Do you prefer to work by yourself or in collaboration with other artists?
I like both, but mostly by myself.
Tell us a bit more about the work you did in New York.
I went to New York because I got invited to the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival where photos of my artwork were being exhibited. The nicest guy ever called Joe Ficalora runs a project in Brooklyn called the Bushwick Collective. He has lived in Brooklyn all his life and decided to get street artists in to beautify the area that he grew up in. His project blossomed hectically and now artists from all over the world come to Joe for walls. He invited me to paint two walls as part of the project and so I did, of course. I was way too happy to paint in the city where graffiti art was started.
Can you say that your style has evolved over the years and if so, how?
When I started painting I just wanted to paint letters and nothing else. I was a heavy letter kop. I got convinced to try out painting animals and then I was on a mission to paint as many different animals as I could. I wanted to be able to paint anything without losing my style so I think my style has developed to allow me to do that.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that we wouldn’t easily find on the internet.
I love dinosaurs and Jurassic Park is probably my favourite movie besides Hook.
For more on Nardstar* you can check out her website here.