Getting To Know James Reka

James Reka, graffiti artist turned gallery artist, first visited Malta on holiday. Inspired by the baroque architecture prominent in Valletta and Birgu and the island’s ancient art, he decided to call Malta home for three months.

James Reka
James Reka

James Reka, graffiti artist turned gallery artist, first visited Malta on holiday. Inspired by the baroque architecture prominent in Valletta and Birgu and the island’s ancient art, he decided to call Malta home for three months.

James Reka
James Reka
James Reka
James Reka
James Reka
James Reka

Reka keeps his base in Berlin and travels for half the year; his travels being the most important part for his inspiration. He will be completing his work from Malta in Chicago where it will be exhibited.

James Reka
James Reka
James Reka
James Reka

How did the transition between graffiti artist to gallery artist happen? What has this changed for you as an artist?

I started off studying graphic design in Australia. Aware that it’s not easy to make a living in the art world, I wasn’t looking to become a full-time artist. It was a slow transition from doing illegal street art back in the day, but once that got going, the jump to gallery artist was quite smooth. Working in that setting gave me a better opportunity to explore different mediums and having a room and 3D space to work with, creating a world for paintings.

After seeing your graffiti on concrete mixers I was secretly hoping that you would brighten up all of the construction machines overcrowding our island. What brings you to our tiny island? Has it inspired any future works?

I was looking for a location for a 3-month residency that had a strong cultural presence. Malta offered just that with its contrasting cultures from around the world… and of course, it’s rich history. I am often inspired by ancient art and the portrayal of female figures, and Maltese history allowed me to explore these elements further.

Lots of locals assumed that I was here to paint some street art, but I didn’t feel like there was a strong appreciation for street art and did not see much graffiti on the island. I did notice quite a few abandoned buildings and hotels, which would definitely be an interesting project for me. I will definitely be back to exhibit in the future.

James Reka
James Reka

You are quite the globe trekker and produce work in many different cities. How do you stay focused whilst working in new surroundings?

I have learnt that you definitely need a base and home. Mine is Berlin. I travel for 6 months of the year, working on different commissions and exhibitions; it is what keeps me inspired and knowing that I have a base just keeps me in routine.

James Reka
James Reka

What’s your favourite surface to work on and medium?

Walls – because it’s a physically challenging surface to work on. The large space allows me to move and create that flow and movement within my work. Large surfaces are especially inspiring when I work with spray paint.

James Reka
James Reka

Do you create your murals to tell a story and how does the public fit into your stories?

My Murals are created for the public and I feel that it’s my responsibility for them to tell a story. My street art always touches on a subject or context related to the location, suburb or city. I’m often inspired by the nature surrounding the area, like animals from the area. My narratives are not political but rather they explore the beauty of local elements. I always keep in mind that each piece must connect with the locals as they will interact with it every day.

At the end of the day, you are putting your work out there for the public and not everyone will interact with it in a positive way. I have experienced both positive and negative reactions. Positive being passers-by that take photos with the murals and negatives being other artists that would spray over my work. It takes a while to get used to, but you just have to accept people’s reactions to something so public.

James Reka
James Reka

Has your career as a global graffiti artist always been a dream?

Being flown around the world to paint murals happened totally organically. Once it started picking up I set myself a few goals to turn this into a career.

James Reka
James Reka

Could you give us some inside info on your current travels and future projects?

I have just arrived in Chicago where I will be exhibiting my work that I created during my 3-month residency in Malta.

James Reka
James Reka

What is the proudest moment in your art career?

I painted a train in Kiev in 2016. It was always a dream to have such a huge surface to paint on and a surface that is seen and used every day. This was my biggest physical challenge and took 3 weeks, painting daily for 8 – 10 hours. It was the most satisfying job.

James Reka
James Reka

Quick facts about Reka:

Current playlist: JOHN COLTRANE OLE

Favourite city studio: BERLIN

Top travel destination 2018: MALTA

Favourite drink: NEGRONI

Magazines – print or online? PRINT – TOILET PAPER MAGAZINE

Favourite time to paint: 4PM – 2AM

instagram.com/rekaone

 

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