We recently caught up with illustrator and large-scale muralist Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens. He told us where he’s been traveling and working lately and what his plans are for the future.
What do you do?
I wear many hats, literally, there are not many days that don’t pass without some form of head attire, and also metaphorically.
I’m a painter, illustrator, large-scale muralist and event producer, as well as a father of two small human beings.
My gallery works these days are usually monochromatic or limited in color palette, consisting of some pretty intense fine line detail and intricacy juxtaposed with loose, gestural brush-marks and ink wash work, finished off with gold leaf detailing.
The walls I paint are usually as big as I can get my hands on, often focussing on themes based around folklore, mythology, the environment and lately have been drawing pretty heavily from New Zealand flora and fauna.
Another big part of my creative life is working with PangeaSeed Foundation, a not for profit ocean conservation organisation, producing the New Zealand leg of Sea Walls, a mural painting festival aimed at raising awareness around the different issues our oceans are currently facing.
What did you have for breakfast?
Scrambled eggs, from our chooks in the backyard, on some homemade sourdough. Pretty tasty.
What’s currently on your walls at home?
We’ve got a pretty eclectic mix hanging around our house, some goodies picked up over the years, doing art swaps with friends along the way, in my studio right now I have a Lauren YS original, a Telmo Miel screenprint, a Pat Perry original drawing, Ben Lopez, Ekundayo, Two One, Elliot Francis Stewart, an amazing drawing from one of my old work buddies Anton Petrov, a painting by my mother, a super weird yet amazing painting of two wrestling jaguars from a flea market in Mexico City, a couple of my pieces, some little scribbles from old friends and so on. Our lounge has a beautiful piece by Regan Tamanui (aka Haha), a stunning new piece by our mate Findac, one of Aaron Glasson’s prints, a Greg Creyola Simkins Print, one of Rakai Karaitiana’s screenprints…. i’ll stop there. We’ve got a bit of art. I may have a problem.
If you weren’t making art/doing what you do what would you be doing?
Don’t really think that’s an option… I’m never not making art. I guess facilitating more art-making rather than making it myself, coordinating more projects, festivals/ events or doing yoga teachers training, moving bush and turning into a weirdo.
Career highlight so far?
Probably painting in Estonia last year. I was invited out to Tallinn, Estonia to paint as part of Mextonia, a mural painting festival produced by Nueve Arte Urbano in partnership with Sea Walls. The festival was a really amazing event that utilised public art to reinvigorate the countries indigenous heritage. It was my first time in Europe, and to be able to travel to the far north to a pretty obscure Eastern European country on the Baltic Sea was an amazing introduction to Europe. I was blown away by the rich heritage and history of the place, the landscape, mythology, and the peoples incredibly strong connection to nature. Also painting in a country which has 20+ hours of daylight means you can be super productive!
Dream project or collab or both?
I’d love to tackle painting an apartment building, something within the 10 – 20 story range, in an exotic location, with good friends and family, and complete creative control.
Plans for the future?
This year there’s a little bit of travel on the cards, I’m planning on having my 4th solo exhibition, and working on expanding Sea Walls further up the East coast. Also, plenty more print releases soon to drop here!
Build your dream concert, 3 acts you wanna see live. Living or dead.
3 acts! So limiting! Skip James, Hiatus Kaiyote, Jimmy Hendrix.