If you have ever wandered around the streets of Adelaide (or visited the Square Holes office), chances are you have come across the free-flowing expressionist style of Stiles Be. The Adelaide born and raised artist regularly uses the city as his canvas, with works that represent the technicolor outpouring of his mind.
In his latest venture he is teaming up with Adelaide-born, internationally renowned producer and DJ Inkswel in a hip-hop inspired fusion of beats, paint and improvised creativity. Astral Expressionism is a one night-only Adelaide Fringe live mix project, which sees Stiles Be hand paint 100 record covers, as Inkswel creates and records a live remix album.
It will be a wholly unique experience for those in attendance, with all ticket holders gifted a limited-edition vinyl release, with a 1/100 original portion of the artwork as the cover to relive the experience at their leisure.
Square Holes sat down with both creators recently to chat about everything from collaborating with friends, to spray painting with a prince…
SH: What does Astral Expressionism mean to you?
Stiles Be: I’ve been doing live art for decades now, I think one of the things that I really like when I’m doing the live art is sort of vibing off the energy of the room and especially the energy of the music that’s being played in there. I’ve had some really good experiences with that. And obviously it’s great for people to witness too…
Inkswel: Plus, you get to take something home as well, so it’s like a full circle sort of creative process…
Stiles Be: I think as artists you don’t always get to share the process of the making of something. To actually experience behind the scenes and see the way it gets made and the way that we interact with each other – it’s a little snapshot into the way that the creative mind works.
SH: There is an element of street art/graff that is a living breathing thing – kind of like this performance. What do you enjoy about the performative nature of this kind of creating?
Inkswel: I think for me personally, it goes back to the roots of what hip-hop is for me. It’s like an expressive unison between people, be that an artist or a writer or whatever. It’s all interconnected and just like Stiles was saying with the music, it gives him inspiration for what he’s doing.
Stiles Be: For me, when you are in that real crux of creating, I think people call it the flow state, you kind of forget that you’re living, inhabiting inside a body and your mind does feel like an entire universe within itself. So, I think to be able to bring that out and share that with people – the energy is very contagious. And I do know, when I have been doing live art or even back when I was doing street art, people would come and sit for hours and say that the experience was similar to feelings of meditation or drugs. So, by doing this in a live capacity, it’s just adding that feeling of the magic of being there too. Then every time you put that album on, you are going to be taken back to that flow state again.
SH: Why do you feel that your individual styles of creating work so well together? What is the conversation that is happening there?
Inkswel: It’s very natural. I think we’re just both still completely enamored by the art. So, you don’t have to really speak on it, you just feel it in each other’s presence. It just feels comfortable. I don’t really feel that often, like a lot of the time it becomes performative in a different way when you’re with other people. You have to put a mask on. But this is very natural…
Stiles: And I think a new way for us to have a conversation too. Because, you know, obviously we’re in different art fields, so this way of working together and vibing off each other, we kind of have a creative conversation using our art instead of words.
SH: From the description of the event – there seems to be a somewhat improvisational quality to the performance…
Stiles: Pretty much. And that’s the point too because I find that when you allow yourself to be doing this sort of performance, I’ll create something that, I can surprise myself as well. I mean, a lot of the times when I’m doing these live art events with music, I’m essentially dancing with the paintbrush in my hand. You know what I mean? Like I’m really trying to take the sounds and replicate those if I can in the artwork too.
Inkswel: Yeah. And it’s almost like a call response because what he’s doing, that’s going to affect my next decision also.
SH: How has Adelaide as a city informed your work? What makes this a great or challenging city to create in?
Stiles: I think if you do want to do things in Adelaide, it is possible, you know what I mean? Like nothing’s ever set up for you, but if you want to build it, the pieces that you need are there and a lot of the time they’re quite affordable and achievable. So, if you do want to create new things, Adelaide is a great place to do it. But then the flip side of that coin is that Adelaide isn’t a place that really promotes that kind of thing, or supports people doing things differently. And I think that small town mentality as well does come with a bit of a tall poppy syndrome.
Inkswel: I think there’s also a roof in Adelaide if that makes sense. And that’s not just necessarily vindictive of this place, like any small scene in the world, the same thing happens. People need to expand and think bigger. I think on the whole, there’s amazing creators in Adelaide and there’s amazing opportunities in little pockets, but I think it’s a thing for me personally, art and the expansion of art is not culturally ingrained in people.
Stiles: And there’s always that thing, you know, that Adelaide is the test market capital of the world. Right? So yeah, you think about all the test market research that gets done in Adelaide, and the thing that they say is if you can make it in Adelaide, you can make it anywhere in the world…
Inkswel: There’s amazing artists and art and creativity that exist here. I think we’re really good at making content, but maybe it’s more accepted elsewhere.
SH: How handy was Prince William with a spray can?
Stiles: He wasn’t too bad actually! That was a pretty funny little thing. He came past the thing that we were painting and the media was like, let’s do a photo of him holding the spray can, that’ll be funny, haha, whatever. So, he put on the mask and held the spray can and that’s all he was going to do. And I was like, ‘well you know mate, you can spray it, go on have a paint’. Then he gave it a little spray and then put it all down and then he was like, ‘Can I do some more?’ So, he grabbed the can again and he was getting into it and Kate was all, ‘Come on Will, you are going to ruin their piece, lets move on’. He was dead set, he said ‘I’ll give up the rest of the tour, let’s just hang out and paint.’ It was the first time ever that he had done it, but he actually really enjoyed it. It was a real moment, that’s for sure.
Astral Expressionism makes its world premiere on Friday 24 February from 7:00pm as a part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. You can purchase your tickets here. But get in quick because they are a limited release.