Anwar Davids, illustrator, graphic designer and street artist, is an ‘imagineer’ – a word that stems from Walt Disney’s development team. When he was a child, he would trace images, draw characters and cartoons, and doodle on any surface he could find. Growing up on the Cape Flats, Anwar sought creative refuge in writing poetry, walking around Mitchells Plain jotting down rhymes and words whenever there was a moment to. His most recent work, a series of illustrations entitled ‘Concrete Passions’ are accompanied by his poetry, and were selected for the SASOL New Signatures exhibition and included in the Graflit 2014: Urban Interiors publication. He is motivated by “life and truth”, expressing himself so that others can relate and react. We asked him some questions to find out more.
Tell us a little about yourself, your past and your present?
I am Anwar Davids, a creative from Cape Town (South Africa) (born on the Cape Flats). Since an early age I always found art interesting and felt the need to express myself. My fascination with graffiti lead me to studying graphic design. It was at Cape College where I was influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Art. My style of work is merely experimental which allows me to challenge myself to be more creative. Past experiences and current affairs have a major influence in most of my current illustrations. Every day I am inspired to create artworks that express my passion.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
My inspiration was fueled from a childhood memory. I admired a graffiti artist by the name of Falko. I would watch him write his name on a wall with a spray can with such ease and I could see it made him happy. I never pursued graffiti but I knew I wanted to do something creative and something that would make me happy.
How do you explain your work and your style?
I have a very organic approach towards my work. When I get an idea I visualize the entire piece but when I put my pen to paper things change. However, the essence of what I initially thought will mirror within the current piece. I start feeling more in tune as the images generate a pattern towards the end. My style is experimental, under construction, in progress… What I am actually saying is that I really don’t know what my style is at this moment.
Your work is incredibly intricate and imaginative, where do you find your mind wandering to while you’re busy drawing or painting?
I usually get lost within my pieces and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The feeling is so liberating, free, open, soothing, calming but also daunting at times but it’s the satisfaction of completing something from nothing that brings a smile to my face.
Your ‘Concrete Passions’ series is accompanied by evocative poetry. Had you written poetry before this and what was it like tying this aspect to your visual art?
Poetry was my first passion. I am influenced by rhymes and stories which inspired me to become a rapper back in the day. I remember walking around in Mitchell’s Plain with a book and a pen, writing poetry about what I was feeling at any moment. I have written quite a few poems over the years. Poetry is an expression of words and art tells you a story, in other words, like poetry.
How and when did you become a street artist (in relation to your illustration and fine art work)? Which passion came first?
The street art influence came after the Core Exhibition in 2012. I was influenced by Leigh Cupido and Rayaan Casiem. We are the Core Collective with other members Ariel, Twothree and DJ Nigel Jaxx. In relation to my illustration and fine art work I would say my fine art passion came first.
Which other local street artists do you admire and how has their work influenced yours?
It’s not easy saying which street artist I admire most. There are so many amazingly talented street artists out there that have their own style, technique and skill. I have great respect for all of them
Your digital Photoshop art is very interesting and quite different to your illustration work and street art. Please explain your thoughts behind these surrealist and abstract images. How are they similar to the rest of your portfolio?
The digital pieces carry a strong and deep message for humanity. Each piece speaks to an audience unaware of their surroundings and blinded by propaganda and lies. The piece called “The hand that feeds” is about child abuse. The hand that gives guidance could be the same hand that commits the abuse. The digital works spawned the black and white illustrations.
What motivates your art? What would you like viewers to take from it?
Life and truth motivates my art. I want the viewer to tell their own story; express their own thoughts as if they drew it.
What do you predict or hope for your future?
I don’t know what the future holds, I live for the now.