Phibs is a prolific and talented graffiti writer whose abstract characters, iconography and distinctive colour palette have made him one of Melbourne’s best known and most recognizable artists. His lettering suggests a ‘traditional’ graffiti background, which he has built on over many years. When I went to Melbourne I took more photos of Phibs’ work than any other artist (over 100 pieces), so regardless of how other people see him, he still ‘gets up’ plenty!
The Truth behind Phibs
I was born & raised in NSW and I call Sydney home. It’s a beautiful city & I grew up kicking around the Harbour in the Lower North Shore around the Lavender Bay train line. I moved to Melbourne looking for new opportunities & inspiration in 2000 and ending up staying there for 10 years and having a child. I still have a soft spot for Melbourne. Its like a ‘home away from home’ and I still have an affiliation with an artist studio (Everfresh) which I frequent often.
As long as I can remember I’ve been making art. From a young age I’ve been encouraged to pursue my creativity, both parents being creative in their own way. As for walls - I started painting characters & bombing in the late 80’s and was more interested in ‘getting up’ rather than creating quality artwork.
A lot of my time was spent photographing & documenting graff around Sydney and it wasn’t until the 90’s that I starting doing pieces and started to focus on improving my aerosol skills. So I guess I’ve been in the scene for around about 22 years.
My name wasn’t given to me and even though I’ve told the odd white lie I’m an honest person. It was more that I was searching for an original tag that wasn’t used in Australia or the rest of the World. I like it too because it’s a slang word.
I was an artist before delving into the graffiti world hence I was painting characters confidently before developing piece styles. I’m 50/50 with indoor gallery/canvas & work in public space. I enjoy both. Canvas work tends to be more experimental with mediums & techniques and having fun with brushes and canvas. I’ve also moving more into doing sculptures & 3D works again.
I did a Diploma of Fine Arts but I can’t say I use much of what I learnt today. I’ve payed my dues being a bomber and getting my work up on the street but want to evolve and change my directions which I am constantly doing. I’m not fussed about stereotypes & how other people view me – as much as the public tries to stereotype – I consider it all one. I’m an artist that likes to do graffiti pieces – diverse in my artistic endeavours & outlook.
My key influences stem from natural world (flora & fauna) mixed up with my love of fantasy. Creating artwork is a form of escapism where I access realms of imagination. Symmetry and asymmetry are part of nature and hence come through my artworks.
Interpretation of symbols is never static. Symbols are infused with metonymy – meanings continue to unfold with time. I like other people’s interpretations of my abstract style, they are just as relevant as my own. The hand and eye represent the main tools for my trade (ART). Artwork is part of my daily ritual and a paramount aspect of who I am.
I really enjoyed the time I spent in Melbourne and found it really changed and challenged my views on how I do what I do. The Sydney scene is very focused in keeping graff traditional, meaning painting trains, bombing and letter styles. That’s what is valued and anything too different is not fully appreciated. Melbourne is almost the opposite.
Melbourne also embraces traditional views of graffiti but there is a lot more diversity in the types of work produced. It is not uncommon to see paste ups, stencils and other forms of street artists working together with traditional graff artists and respected the same way. I also know Melbourne has so many more opportunities and walls to paint. So much so that it has become a tourist attraction!
I have painted with many different people and artists depending on where I’m situated at the time. At the present I am based in Sydney, where I’m originally from so I catch up with Everfresh when I’m down in Melbourne – which is quite frequently. I used to paint with Deb who is an ex-girlfriend - I don’t paint with her anymore. I’m currently in a studio space in Sydney – Higher Ground - so I paint with the guys there on occasion. I also paint with old time friends – Pudl, Puzle, Set, Amuse, Snarl & Pesm to name a few.
In future, I’m planning to progress, evolve, travel more, have fun and start painting on a larger scale as well as meet interesting like minded people. I’ve love an opportunity to go to the UK so if there’s anyone out there for graff-jams/festivals/exhibitions – feel free to get in touch.