Mook Lion’s distinct works around Durban’s inner city have begun to add stimulating perspective to the Durban landscape and creative sphere. Freshly inspired since producing new works for the recently completed UIA Otherwhere Conference, we caught up with Mook to learn more about his passion for blending street art and high art in the realm of public space.
Who is Mook Lion and what inspired you to become an artist?
I’m a Durban surf dog/mural/street/graffiti artist. I come from a family of artists so it’s in my blood. The large quantity of barren walls in Durban also encourages continuing being an artist.
What shapes your signature aesthetic?
It’s the use of fine art techniques in the public space. At the moment I am using the linocut mark in most of my work.
Have you developed a particular process to your work?
I always try to make sure my artwork in the public space is relevant. I research the site that I am working on to look for inspiration. Then I brainstorm and thought-thunder ideas. I start the technical process by creating my design using fine art techniques. Currently I am using the linocut technique as my prep work. I then attempt to use the linocut mark-making and textures in my mural painting or street art. Finally I interview members of the public and fine art experts as to their reactions to the work.
Would you say there is an element of storytelling in street art?
I think there is definitely the potential to tell a story through street art. I have had many big plans but have never really pursued that as a main focus. However there is always a long story behind every work but it may not be clear to the viewer.
You’ve got an extensive portfolio of work that can be found all around Durban. How do you select the projects you get involved in?
It’s mostly projects that I have initiated in some way. But in general if it’s happening in the public space I will be keen to get involved.
Who are your main influences as an artist?
Faith 47, Banksy, Blu, Jose Clemente Orozco, Jr, Thami Jali and most importantly the artists I work with in Durban who are all my friends!
What have been the highlights of your career?
Winning the Back to the City Graffiti Battle 2013 with my crew… Big-Up! Completing the latest mural with my team, it’s the biggest mural we have ever done and was a massive challenge! Seeing my work in the press feels like the work is doing what it is supposed to.
There is a school of thought that believes that street art loses its purpose once it is legalized. How does one maintain “edginess” and creativity whilst working within the parameters of the law?
In most cases the work ceases to be considered street art when it is sanctioned, according to my research. It then becomes mural art or public art. As long as you are working illegally there is bound to be some edge to your work. This is the kind of work where you have the most creative freedom. However legal work is also edgy… as long as it is in the public space I feel it has an importance or purpose… even if it is simply beautification/personal intervention.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently painting and coordinating three large scale murals just outside the Durban CBD. I am collaborating with 11 other Durban artists. The 1st two murals are complete. The murals are part of the UIA Architecture Otherwhere Conference in Durban and also form part of my Master’s.
Outside of painting murals, how else do you enjoy expressing yourself creatively?
Free styling, beat boxing and dancing!
Where can we find out more about you?