Have you noticed the bright new murals of wild cats that have leapt into the Jozi skyline? These bold paintings are the work of British-born South Africa based street artist, Sonny. A relative newcomer to the street art scene, Sonny is quickly gaining attention for his distinctive and imaginative style, and the commissions are rolling in. Look out for a new mural going up in Braamfontein soon!
When did you first start painting, and what made you want to take your art to the streets?
I started painting about 3 years ago. I used to only do the odd pencil drawing and then got an urge for colour so I just tried to figure it all out. Still learning…
Has your style changed over time? How have you honed and developed it?
Yes tremendously. I used to draw manga style characters in pencil and really loved Japanese work. When I started learning colour I then started adding some sort of fantasy elements into my work with influence from the amazing work of Boris Vallejo. From there I guess I must of got a bit side tracked by realism and colour. Never really liking too much of what I did I started playing around with my style, mixing the fantasy and realism elements into my more modern style with some geometric patterns and line work. I’ve kind of settled on a style for now…but it’ll always evolve.
With a passion for street art and big painting I’ve just pushed my mural sizes and will probably continue to do so…it’s pretty fun.
Are there recurring themes and motifs in your work? What are they and how have they developed?
Not in the past really, mostly each commissioned piece I’ve done has had its own individual theme. I really haven’t been established long enough to have had recurring themes in my own artwork, it’s been evolving too much while establishing a style I’m happy with. My next project, a solo exhibit, has a recurring theme around animal conservation but I’ll talk about that closer to the time.
Can you take us through your creative process…
Well it all starts with an idea inspired by some event or thought, I let this develop in my head for a while until I get a concept and I know what to paint. I then get to a computer where I sketch and colour the idea…from there on the wall it goes.
What’s the inspiration behind the series of works you’re busy with in Jozi?
The city looks a bit rough around the edges; I feel a bit of paint in the right places may spruce things up a bit, what ye think?
In what ways does the city inspire and influence your work?
Joburg city has a crazy vibe; it’s really raw and diverse, particularly where I did these last murals. The Maboneng precinct is a hub of creative, of arts, fashion, film and the like with upmarket bars and restaurants, but just down the road you see a poor man dragging his world through the streets. It’s mad and contradictory. The city is a crazy place to watch from 15m up…a lot goes on. It showed me the city in a sort of live stop motion film. So I guess this all influences the work in some way. The happiness in the people’s faces in the streets during the process left an imprint on my mind and has motivated me to do more.
My leopard mural ‘the leap’ was inspired by the craziness and chaos of the city, where this godly animal jumps out of the wall, breaking free to roam in a land where it once did before it was taken over by bricks and concrete.
In what ways does the subject matter of your art respond and interplay with the urban setting it is located in?
Well, the two murals “the leap” and “the break” are both forming/morphing in some way and are breaking free into the city. The tiger is morphing in the clouds then takes shape and form as it breaches into the air of the city. You can see it from the highway as it comes over the yard into the street.
Then the leopard was inspired by the city and its space, as it’s breaking free from the chaotic patterns that represent the city. Also an unintentional interaction between murals happened, seen by photographer Peter Primich who caught a shot of the leopard seemingly leaping into the impala drinking water in Freddy Sam’s mural across the way.
Are there trends in street art? If so, what are some of the current things you’re noticing locally and internationally?
Trends? I don’t think so, art is all about the individual and everybody seems to do their own thing from what I see. The local scene is small yet growing, where as the international scene is vast…there are lots of cool artists out there all doing their own thing.
Is the Jozi street art scene distinct in any way?
JHB city is pretty notorious…so there’s an edge to it I guess and street artists that get a chance at it take full advantage. It’s growing though.
Which artists’ work do you admire and why?
Locally I admire street artist Faith47 and Dal East, they’re both locally based and their individual styles are so unique; they’re doing awesome stuff internationally for the love of art!
Internationally, lately I dig Case’s work from the Maclaim Crew, his photorealism with a spray can is next level. Otherwise people like el mac, Aryz, INTI, Hopare, Sainer, Fintan Magee and others all give me inspiration with their awesome, unique style.
What’s next for you?
Next, I’m doing a few other street murals but I’m mainly working on my first solo exhibition “To The Bone”, a mixture of murals, canvass work and real animal skulls. I will hopefully complete it early next year…
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