19 Nov Raak Wys! Boeta Phyf’s Graffiti Inspired Woodcuts
Neil Phyfer, otherwise known as Boeta Phyf, is not your conventional artist. His career began on the streets of Cape Town, where he wrote graffiti for a number of years before moving to graphic design and illustration. Nowadays he brings it all together to create what some call ‘3D graffiti’ – layered woodcuts with detailed etchings brought to vibrant, colourful life with a spraycan.
Each piece is drawn from his surroundings and the various characters throughout his life—friends, ex-girlfriends, childhood cartoons, and all the strange mense he’s met along the way.
With a few pieces in the making for art10K, Boeta took the time to chat to us about his work, family, and klomp other kak.
Before we get into it, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
They call me Boeta Phyf. Brother Phyfer. Tollie Gangsta. Talented. Vol Kak. The Confused Whitey. That’s not my name. I make wooden art, but I didn’t even study art. I have two laaities and one amazing Boeta Wife. My rap career has just begun.
When did you first get into graffiti and how? Do you remember putting up your first tag?
I started to make wall chaapies in 1996, back when Kris Kross was making us all wear our Pepe Jeans backwards! My first rap art sprays was a Luniz piece (I got 5bop on it) in a park in Lansdowne.
And when did you first discover you had a talent for woodwork?
I knew I had many a talent in everything, before wood, I would make cakes. The main reason I don’t dalla SA has got talent, is because it is impossible for people to play catch up to my talents. I will win sonner lus.
Your work has been described as 3D graffiti. How do you go about bringing your ideas to tangible, three dimensional life and how long does it take you to produce a piece?
Each piece takes a month and half to complete. I usually do a doodle a night whilst drinking rooibos tea in bed with my goose. Lots of mense describe it as 3D graffiti, yet it is not showing at IMAX and you don’t need glasses to experience it. Maybe once a man is famous.
Wood and spray paint don’t traditionally go together. What do you enjoy about the medium of spray paint?
Wood and spray paint go to together like Drink O’ Pop and water. Like putting all food on bread. I enjoy spraypaint on wood as it reminds me of cheap wooden signs outside of the spaza shops, that is the only reason for using that medium.
Your pieces are multi textured. Where do you draw your inspiration for the various elements in your work?
My texture is the best fur. Inspiration comes from model C schools. Skitting with all races. I can blend in with all my kapplinks. Also nostalgia and lots of really fugged up childhood memories. South Africa is filled with stand-up comedy sets in every culture, that’s all the inspiration we need.
How do you go about naming and conceptually creating the ‘mask’ pieces in particular?
Any particular mask piece is named according to old friends, gam talk, ex-kinnes, gat maak. I hear a voice in my head which gives me the names and concepts in Xhosa. I have to get that translated to gam.
Can you tell us a bit about the pieces you’ve produced for art10k?
In all seriousness art10k is really an amazing idea and run by great people. The piece I worked on for them is called Twee Gevriet (Two Faced). Everyone has experienced at least one human who acts this way. The other two pieces are catching a lift from my Fighting Words show to art10k.
Considering your woodwork pieces are inspired by graffiti and street art, have you ever considered doing a few pieces for public installation?
I do have some poppentjies that will venture into nature and the public eye soon. This will be a way for my broosa that can’t afford gallery prices to ses some artworks.
Your pieces for the Fighting Words exhibition looked like a lot of fun. Can you tell us about the idea behind the series?
The main gedagte was to create work based on words people use locally, when they argue, gossip girl (skinner) or they in the midst of a barney or domestic problem.
You also do a lot of illustration. Is this where your ideas for your woodwork pieces come together? How has your background in graffiti influenced your design and illustration?
Everything I make has a similar vein of siffness. Graffiti, illustration, wood, and clay are just different mediums to allow caricatures and stand-up comedy characters to be seen.
What else are you up to at the moment?
After art10k the next 3 gallery shows are all in Cape Town. I am also working on some brands on kak exciting gooters for next year. Maybe a show in Durban and PE next year! I am always amazed at how many people turn out to a show. It truly is a humbling experience for me every time I am at an opening. Special shout out and dedication for everyone who continues to support and follow Boeta Phyf. (I did refer to myself in the third person. All interviews need that, brudda).