Sean Duffell’s massively intricate, symmetrical, saturated-colour murals grace buildings and walls around New Zealand (and now the world) – a bit like giant mandala, radiating vibrancy and soul into grey urban streets. Sean answered a few questions for us from Bangkok, on his way to create his next city-scale artwork…
Did you always want to be an artist? How did you get to this point? What has been the career and life journey to this point?
I always drew as a kid and was obsessed with skateboarding in my teenage years. The visual culture around skateboarding became the catalyst for my artistic endeavors, and as I continued to get older the more art overshadowed skateboarding. Melbourne in 2002 was hugely inspiring – street art wise.
Is art a full-time job for you now?
Yeah, I have been a full-time artist now for almost two years.
Them streets is lucky.
What piece/project you working on right now?
I always have multiple projects are on the go at once and am constantly thinking about what the next one will be.
Right now I’m about to go paint a freestyle wall in Bangkok but have 3 hand painted original works up in various group exhibitions around New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington x2, Napier and Christchurch). I am currently curating a handpainted typography show for September in Wellington, have 3 Street Art Festivals in NZ lined up for Sept – December, have a series of prints to release in August, two more group shows and several commission murals also ready for when I return from South East Asia in late July.
Fave music to create by?
Music is always completely dependent on my mood therefore I listen to quite an eclectic and diverse range.
Anander Shankar, Blawann, Bonobo, Clap! Clap!, Eb and Sparrow, El P, Lemmy Killmiester, King Krule, Pickachunes, Run The Jewels, Syd Barrett, The Gaslamp Killer, William Onyeaboy and so many others!
Sean’s work in endemicworld’s OE14 exhibition; Sean’s other passion is skateboarding and he’s designed many decks
What has been your most exciting/inspiring project to date?
I’m continually working on different projects with different mediums which is always inspiring and challenging but nothing beats kicking back and painting a freestyle wall with friends. I’d have to say the Tuatara Wall was easily the most challenging project I’ve had to date and really pushed me physically and mentally. Painting voluntary walls is also the most rewarding and humbling when I get to meet people from all walks of life and give them a wall they can also take ownership of and enjoy. Public engagement is a huge part of what I do and why I continue to create works in public spaces.
Who are your personal favourite artists (and why)?
I stopped looking at other artists for inspiration and really just follow my friends, contacts and local NZ artists I admire. Living in a country thats so geographically isolated I used to find myself feeling insecure when following international artists so I stopped and looked at nature for my influence and inspiration. NZ is such a young country and as I personally don’t have a history or a culture I feel I’m directly connected to (being an adopted child who grew up in a single parent family in the far farming south island) my aim in my artwork is to create my own personal culture and show others that they can too. I feel saddened when I see so many NZ youth imitating america’s consumeristic, fake pop culture for influence when either they already have a wealth of culture in their family history or they’re too scared to venture forward and create their own. Be yourself not somebody else.
Sean’s work is in demand at music festivals – this piece was done for Splore 2015
If money, time and permission were no object, what wall/space or place would you love to paint and what would you paint there?
Ultimately I’d love to just travel to all the small towns across NZ that are totally off the beaten track, talk to the youth, paint a wall and connect with the communities there. Coming from small town NZ I know how hard it can be growing up in an insular environment. Also of course more international travel!
What words of advice would you give to someone wanting to make art their career?
Be prepared to work extremely hard for the first few years just to get your name and style out there. Theres a lot of groundwork to do to establish yourself and can be very off-putting and tiresome but if you are a true artist you will always create work no matter what and making money shouldn’t be the main aim of why you make art. For me it’s a sanity saver and an outlet of expression and I also don’t know what else to do with my life, haha. I never set out to make this my career it just out-grew my day job which I am truly thankful for, and humbled that so many people believe in me and appreciate my work.
Artworks on wood – painting hand so steady you’d swear these were stickers…
We love a good recommendation – tell us about a good movie to see, or a book to read, or a website to check out, or a place/spot to visit…Dunedin’s always my home so I’m biased… the untouched architecture is amazing. Miss you Duds. But travel is my drug of choice. I’m currently in Bangkok, on my way to Cambodia and just love the the culture and food here in South East Asia. A friend and I cycled from Bangkok to Phuket last year and was absolutely fantastic (and surprisingly easier than expected!) Always on the road, always meeting new people – and being positive and open to absolutely any opportunities that may arise is definitely a soul cleanser. Seeing beauty in everything and realising that there is no yin without yang, so never stress the bad stuff as it will always be there to balance out the good. Negative experiences make you stronger, so relish them and never fight them.
Oh yeah books and movies… Mad Max was brutal, Birdman, Melancholia… I tend to watch more docos and true accounts of history etc. Learning’s more my cup of tea – Adam Curtis is amazing as far as documentaries go. No TV or mainstream media for me… Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is the best journalism out there as well as Charlie Brooker. I read The Cosmos by Carl Sagan recently, Kurt Vonnegut’s books, Catcher in the Rye, some Phillip K Dick, Stephen Hawking and a bunch of others I can’t recall at this point.
Untitled Character art print – by Sean Duffell
Pirate art print by Sean Duffell
Deco Daphne art print (available framed or unframed)