August 2021

Outside In

Words: Joseph Allen Shea Images: Tim Roth & Kill Pixie

Mark Whalen is an artist and his world is a contradiction. An implosion if you like. As his audience gets bigger, his art just gets smaller. Beginning with large scale throw ups and pieces under the pseudonym Kill Pixie he earned his craft by working while you were awake and continued while you were asleep. With a relocation from Sydney to Los Angeles, his time is spent less on the sidewalks and tops of buildings as he envelopes himself in his narratives under his desk lamp. New themes of futuristic lost cultures and broken down societies, false gods,the illusion of money, terrorism and double-dealing Kill Pixie’s work has become more detailed as worlds open up inside worlds. The detailed ink work is so precise and intricate that it takes hours to even look at it.

Joseph Allen Shea: You recently moved to Los Angeles where a lot of the cultures you are interested in have grown. Surfing, skateboarding, certain styles of graffiti and art styles to name a few. Did these things inspire the relocation?

Mark Whalen: I think they inspired me to just live in a different place and see what’s going on over here. Of course it’s a much bigger country, so skateboarding, arts etc is going to be on a much bigger scale. It’s definitely great to be surrounded by a bigger art scene and witness it all first hand.

JAS: Can you tell us how your daily life differs from living in Sydney?

MW: It’s a transit city, so walking and skating everywhere does not exist, walking out the front door and going for a quick beer somewhere is out of the question. Apart from having to rely on a car it’s an amazing city to live in.

JAS: Has it changed the way you make art at all?

MW: It hasn’t changed the way I make art but living in different environments and situations definitely influence the narrative aspects in my work.

JAS: It seems you’ve been well received into the west coast scene with a sell-out show in June. Has it been as embracing as it appears?

MW: It’s been embracing for sure but its definitely not easy, I’m really appreciative and stoked to receive such a great response. Being around great people to work with has made it even better.

JAS: Your work has contained more narrative elements recently. How has the need for story telling developed?

MW: There’s always been a lot of things I’ve wanted to include in the narrative side of my work, especially with my last show. I basically just really made work that i wanted to make, and express what I wanted to say without holding back.

JAS: Working on back-to-back shows for galleries in Europe, America and Australia must mean there’s little time to work on the streets. Is this something you are still interested in or is moving into the studio just part of the progression?

MW: I’m still interested in graffiti and check it out everyday but I’m working so much in the studio that there’s not time [to paint on the streets]. I do a lot of hours every week [in the studio] and by the time I’m done there, I’m spent. Moving more into the studio is something I’ve always wanted to focus on, it’s where my main interests are.

JAS: Obviously the audiences are going to differ from working on the street to the gallery. Does it matter to you who is looking at your work and have your messages changed to engage whoever is looking?

MW: It doesn’t matter to me at all, I’m not going to adjust what i make to please a certain crowd. I make what I’m feeling in the moment and how I’m feeling in a period of time.

JAS: Your new paintings depict a broken down society that is clinging to false gods and the illusion of money in a state of terrorism and double-dealing. Is the world really that treacherous?

MW: Ha. It can be if you want it to. I wouldn’t say it’s really that treacherous, but I like to take these ideas and issues that cause controversy between people in society and make humor of it. While there are still messages, both conscious and unconscious, that I want to put across and include in my work, I like to have fun with it at the same time. There’s so much much postive and negative interaction between humans, it’s interesting to turn it into a life study.

JAS: What is it with your unfaltering preoccupation with footwear?

MW: The footwear is just an aesthetic thing. If I’m going to depict narratives of mind games, illusions and false hope, they’re [the characters] going to be naked and wearing dope slippers.

JAS: From large and fast works on the street and broad strokes on canvas, your work has been getting smaller and more detailed. The intensity just keeps amplifying as if the work is about to implode. Is that a result of art responding to high rents and smaller studios?

MW: I wouldn’t really say it’s a result of that. The one thing that got me into detailed work in the first place was making everything with big lines and strokes; I got quite bored with it. If I had the time I’d spend six months on one piece. Details are really fascinating to me, I’m so obsessed with making intricate work and what i can do with it. It probably will implode at some point.

JAS: And it’s a very Hollywood story but members from Led Zeppelin and also Tim Roth are now fans and come to your shows. Tim Roth has shot your portrait and studio, he’s big into art and photography, right? Does rubbing shoulders with celebrity just come with the territory?

MW: I’m not really sure to tell you the truth. I met Tim through a friend of mine and really loved all his photographs, I had no idea that he was so involved in photography and he has a massive archive of photos from his travels round the globe. He wanted to come around and shoot the studio; I was really psyched to have him shoot my spot. And yeah, he loves art.

JAS: You have a new print with Pictures on Walls about to be released and a new book coming out with ROJO that we are working on together, can you tell us about these projects and the need for multiples/accessible art products?

MW: Pictures on walls is a two print release that is happening soon and ROJO magazine invited me to make a pocket size 160 page book with them this year. The need for books? Books are fun. I think prints are great because it gives everyone a chance to enjoy art and collect something.

JAS: You have been using your real name attached to art shows recently rather than just your alias. Why the unveiling of your true identity?

MW: There’s no unveiling nor anything to hide. Since I’m not doing graffiti I don’t really feel the need to keep using the alias all the time. It makes more sense to use my name.

JAS: Any plans to return to old Sydney town?

MW: Whenever I get kicked out, I’ll be back.

Kill Pixie’s exhibition with Cleon Peterson The Mirror Stage opens at Monster Children Gallery in Sydney on August 20 from 6pm.

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