Posted on 18 Apr, 2013

with Patrick Thompson and Jonathon Cruz in Iqaluit, Nunavut, 2010

Alexa Hatanaka, also known as Lexr, is a world-travelling street artist from Toronto, Canada. She’s a graduate from the printmaking program at OCAD University, and we really love her big, bold, & expressive murals. Here’s what Alexa had to say to us about her work in Toronto, in Canada’s arctic & around the globe.

This interview was written by GSA contributor and Toronto native Jackie Levitt. For info on the forthcoming GSA book check this link.

Igloolik, Nunavut, Kingulliit Productions office, w. Patrick Thompson

Just Call me Alexa

Lexr is a name that my family and close friends call me, I never intended to use it, but people assumed that was my “graffiti” name and so it kind of stuck. I prefer to create work under my real name, Alexa Hatanaka.

The inspiration for my work comes from people and travelling. I’m also really excited by traditions and craft. I like things that are done by hand, that require a certain amount of ritual to create.

with Patrick Thompson in Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik (N. Quebec), Organized by NUschool, 2011

Lately I’ve been making paintings on wood that are also carved into with woodcut tools. I think it was a natural progression to combine my painting and printmaking and I like that the pieces have a tactile quality.

I rarely work outside illegally. I think the work I do paint in public is easy to understand, serving as a brighter alternative, something exciting to break up one’s usual environment, but not particularly challenging. Simply the act of making art outdoors is the gesture I’m concerned with and I feel it is important to contribute art to the public realm.

Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), Organized by NUschool

I don’t have specific artists that I observe more than others. Recently I went to the Joan Miro Foundation (link: http://www.fundaciomiro-bcn.org/?idioma=2) in Barcelona which was really inspiring. It was amazing to see an artist that could jump between so many mediums and seem to have an endless curiosity.

I just met Gola (http://www.golanimal.com/) in Barcelona and besides painting giant amazing walls he makes incredible sculptures that are often activated with performance or live plants—really a burst of energy.

with Patrick Thompson (Evoke) and Peru in Toronto, 2012

In Toronto, Jeff Garcia a.k.a. the Mangopeeler (http://mangopeeler.ca/) is always pushing hard and making magic happen. It’s always exciting to see what Adrian Forrow (http://adrianforrow.com/)  is up to, also Jim Mezei (http://jimmezei.com/), and my friend Li Hill (http://li-hill.carbonmade.com/ ) who also paints in the streets. My brother Kellen Hatanaka (http://cargocollective.com/thirdandten)  is a multitalented artist/ designer/ maker of fine things and my cousin is a prominent street artist in Vancouver who goes by the name Weakhand (http://www.flickr.com/groups/vancouvergraffiti/pool/tags/weakhand/).  

But the biggest influence on my work is Patrick Thompson ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickevoke), a prolific artist and my boyfriend. We work together a lot and the process of collaborating has had great influence on me.

Lisbon 2010, w.Kellen Hatanaka

We’ve painted a lot of places around the world. In 2010, Patrick and I lived in Egypt for 2 months and we painted on a semi-demolished cluster of old homes in Luxor that the residents were kicked out of by the government in order to excavate the tombs beneath for tourism.

Patrick and I painted a wall in Barcelona at La Escoseca studios for the Festival Muralismo.

I’ve also done several projects in Canada’s Arctic. The projects have served for a very amazing cultural exchange, and the communities have been very appreciative of the colour we add to the daily landscape. It’s a great responsibility to enter a small community and add something that people will have to live with everyday. It’s crucial to find a balance to make the murals relevant to the residents but also bringing something new and true to our own experience and artistic point of view.

KangikHouse06: Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik (N.Quebec), organized by NUSchool

Also, there’s a concentration of social problems in the North, alcoholism, dietary strain, all due to a recent history of governmental injustice. It’s something all Canadians should know about, but don’t. It’s rewarding work to do something that’s inspiring especially for the youth. Some kids would come by everyday while we painted and they’re the most incredible kids on earth.

We’re currently in Nanjing, China, I’m going to do some work using the traditional Chinese woodcut process that I was taught during my last stay. While we’re here, Patrick and I want to continue painting in the streets with black ink using a garden sprayer.

Next, Patrick and I have a residency in Shenzen at the Guanlan Printmaking Base for 2 months and then a month long residency in Bali at Desa Seni. These are good opportunities to hunker down and work a lot.

with Patrick Thompson in Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik (N.Quebec), Organized by NUschool, 2011

As a whole, I think Toronto has always been conservative, and it needs more public art because it’s a young city. In Barcelona it feels like there’s a greater intensity and urgency for painting in the street, illegally and for murals. Toronto is pretty barebones in comparison and therefore needs more artistic transformations to make it visually reflective of the awesomely eclectic mix of its inhabitants.

What’s next? I want to just keep doing and see what happens. I hope to go bigger with murals and to abandon all doubts, that’s what will allow for discovery and that’s how great work will manifest.

Barcelona 2010, w. Kellen Hatanaka

References

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