An Interview with KZAM

Following the success of his recent solo exhibition ‘Self Taught, Never Caught’ at Little Wing Corner Gallery, local artist KZAM sat down with Wordplay to chat about how it feels to exhibit in Perth, the venture with the ‘Keep Up’ collective and how he got in to the world of spray paint and the beast that is an empty wall…

– Interview by Tom Bolton

Tom: How did you get into painting?

KZAM: I first noticed graffiti in my mate’s high school book, so back in year 11… which is going back, shit, what’s that now six or seven years. I basically wanted to copy it and couldn’t copy it, it just looked shit – so I had to go out there myself and study it. From there, I went down to the local train tracks almost every weekend, the local PCYC in Claremont, which was legal at the time fortunately. I just started painting every single weekend until I got good enough to break into somewhat of a scene.

Who was big in the scene at the time?

Back in the day it was probably just the older kids from high school and different schools you know. If I were dropping names, it would be like SKON, DABUE, DASH, etc… there’s millions but a lot of them have dropped off the planet unfortunately.

So how long have you been painting for?

On and off for probably about five or six years in total, in a professional sense probably closer to two or three years.

Which form of painting do you prefer? Painting train tracks, the old powerhouse or blank canvases?

To be honest I prefer abandoned old buildings like the powerhouse you know… that’s where I learnt how to paint. That’s where I prefer to paint and where I sort of get in my zone. A canvas is great, but its restricted and you can only find yourself doing so much when you’re focussed on a small point. I like to spread out on a massive wall and just go wild, like I’m fighting it.

So what’s next after your solo art exhibition? What do you plan on doing?

I’ve got a website which is going to be live next week for Keep Up; that’s the street art collective that I run. That’s got 12 of us local artists on board now with group exhibitions coming up and all the apparel and shirts and bits of pieces. So when the website’s up we’ve got a platform to sell our stuff and not have to go through a gallery and have commission taken off.

Are finding commissions for this kind of art difficult?

Yeah, unfortunately. I’d like to say it’s easy. I’ve had a few friends that have done Kickstarter projects instead for funding exhibitions like this. For this one it was all self funded; I tried to sell off a few smaller bits and get a few commission jobs for night clubs painting in there to get enough money to start. As the old saying goes you need money to make money.

Tell me more about Keep Up. How was it started?

I sort of came up with the idea way back in high school but it was just a pipe dream back then. I wanted to legitimise us running around to the train tracks and somehow get paid for it. At that point it was like yeah, you’ve got no chance but the more I sort of kept at it and kept painting I realised there were some opportunities that popped up that could make it possible. So then I went to a mate who I started painting with; we were on the same wavelength, same skill level, same age and I pitched him the idea of Keep Up. Basically running a brand where we put out graffiti like products and try to run some shows. He was all for it and from there we tried to somewhat establish a ‘brand name’ for ourselves. We don’t have to go under our tag names, we can approach someone with hey we go under this. There’s a bit more legitimacy. 

There’s a bit of WuTang influence in some of your art. Do you listen to hip hop when you paint?  

Way too much hip hop, yeah. I actually listen to almost everything but my roots are hip hop and rap. WuTang, Underachievers, MF Doom, Fly-Lo as Captain Murphy – really been digging his stuff lately… Big L, FU-Schnickens – really like the old school style stuff, a little bit of the new school stuff… Underachievers Pro Era. 

What’s your favourite piece in this exhibition?

My favourite is probably unlocking the third eye or the dripping… but my most time consuming/ proudest of is ‘the Robot’. That was three to four months on and off, a couple of hours every here and there.

Photo Credit: Nick Cooper – taken at Little Wing Corner Gallery.

To view the rest of the photos taken at the Self Taught, Never Caught exhibiton, click here.


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