Artist Inquisition: Makatron
Mike Makatron is a highly skilled visual and street artist currently based in Melbourne. His large scale murals can be seen across the world, from Brazil, to New York and Berlin, to name a few. Makatron is currently exhibiting in 'Outside The Box', presented by Just Another Agency at No Vacancy Gallery. As part of our ongoing Artist Inquisition series we caught up with him and had a chat... enjoy!
Snail, Brooklyn, New York. Image courtesy of artist
Hey Mike! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Hi - I grew up in Adelaide, lived in New York for 5 years and based in Melbourne about 10 years, but I've been lucky enough to have travelled a huge amount. Makatron is a name I first got in primary school, while playing kiss-chasy I could morph into a robot and in a mechanical voice repeat ‘Kiss-ing- ma-chine…. Kiss-ing ma-chine ...”
How did you first get involved in art - were you one of those little kids who always loved being creative, or is it something that came later?
I think all kids are creative, and my family especially, we drew all over the walls in the old part of the house, and being one of 6 kids we were the majority in the house. Most of my siblings are creative in their adulthood, music + art.
You have travelled, exhibited, and painted walls across the world. If you had to choose, what has been your favourite country, place, or experience, and why?
Brazil is a huge crazy country that I've been to 3 times, and can speak Portuguese at a good basic level, which combined with painting connections would lead to experiences that most Gringos won't have.
The people have a lust for life like I've never experienced before, it can be dangerous and crazy but people seem to live life to the fullest, and have a great appreciation for music, art and dance.
It was only a few years ago that social media wasn't at your fingertips, and I wouldn't always carry a camera, so painting in the favelas with a limited choice of colours and quality would push your boundaries, but was just for the moment, pure painting.
Your work can be seen across a variety of mediums, including murals, paintings, and illustration. Can you tell us more about your technique and the materials you use?
Most murals are majority acrylic water based paints, but usually use some aerosol for fades and shadows. I think a style can show through any medium you use. Both aerosol and acrylic paints can do things the other can't. I sketch up mostly in pencil, but use watercolours also, especially when travelling, and I mess around with some sculpture 3D stuff, but this is still new and formulating.
Do you plan your work ahead of time, or jump right in and go with the flow? Walk us through your process and how you begin an idea.
Most things start with pencil + paper. Every project I do, I try to do something different, maybe a different background wash, maybe content, maybe new people to collaborate with, or integrating a new style element or pattern. I sometimes use references, and sometimes computer, but I don't want to rely on found images, so usually have a sketch on hand and aim to have some part I can freestyle, so the end result will be different if it's a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
When possible I’ll try to start and finish a project all in one day, so the initial idea or emotion is expressed while still hot, but of course this is harder with really big scale pieces.
And it's hard to explain how anyone begins an idea, but it usually doesn't take long until I experience some spark of an idea, which leads to a tangent to follow. I’ve always been interested in the weird and surreal things in life, common recurring themes are animal characters, unreal landscapes, machine+ human integration, mechanics of reproduction in all forms, ( Nature + animals, especially human animals). I like to have a personal meaning or story, which is open to others to interpret. Lately I’ve been learning first hand about Aboriginal art from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, which has been interesting to learn how huge and complex their stories and histories are with a limit of 4 colours from naturally occurring ochres and clay.
Top Image: Chameleon, Brunswick, Melbourne, Photo by John Tsialos Photography Bottom Image: Pachamama, Brunswick St, Melbourne, Photo by John Tsialos Photography
What is your favourite artwork of yours, and why?
I don't like to say my ultimate favourite, but this snail (see image below) was a fun mural, in a great location in Brooklyn, with a lot of help from some good friends, and I love the scaley texture of the wall. Quite serendipitous in acquiring permission, I hope to repaint something new in 2017.
Snail, Brooklyn, New York. Image courtesy of artist
You’re currently living in Melbourne and work from Everfresh studios in Collingwood. What are some of your favourite things about Melbourne?
I find Melbourne provides a good balance in life, there is enough work for me to live, great diversity of food and people, and its a big city without the big city attitude. I would prefer Melbourne and Australia was more diverse in cultures and colours of people, which would slowly dampen the racism. I would also prefer a bit more sun and ocean life, but you can't have it all.
What is your favourite artwork of someone else’s, and why?
Tough question to pick a favourite, but this bus pops into my head, painted by a good friend Jaw (@jaw_dmv) from France, he did this over about 6 weeks in my old studio, and worked til 6am every night the last week. There is so much detail, and it's an example of connecting the obvious brief of a bus travelling around Australiana, but he always can twist an idea in an ingenious way. Amazing skill and dedication that goes far beyond making money for work.
Bus by Jaw (@jaw_dmv), Image courtesy of artist
Who are your current top 5 Instagram picks?
I follow a lot of people, so let me look through right this moment and pick a few favourites: @joshkeyes.art: love seeing his process + tutorials, interesting content and high level of skill @natgeo (National Geographic) constant source of amazement and wonder from nature photographers. @sainer_etam of Etam Cru (+ @bezt_etam). I believe some of the best executed murals. @juxtapozmag: Always a good eye for a wide range of art styles. @bethcavener: Don't know much about her but amazing sculptor.
What’s the worst advice you have ever received?
When i was riding my bicycle down the Baja coast of Mexico I narrowly escaped getting converted by some righteous Born Again Christian Bible Bashers from Arizona, and got told something like “Trust in Jesus, as he has a plan...”
Although I'm open to any possibilities I don't believe there is a master plan. I just don't believe in humans enough to believe in god, especially an interventionist vengeful god (who always needs you to donate 10% of your money). I don't believe god created humans in his own image, (more the opposite, humans create a god in their own image) but I try not to judge anyone’s beliefs, and I do believe all humans are spiritual, and can connect to other humans in special and illogical ways.
Kama Sutra Burger, Brunswick, Melbourne. Photo by John Tsialos Photography
Having grown to be such a respected street artist, do you have any words of wisdom for other artists?
I could offer lots of tips, but ‘Have fun’ would be my main piece of advice. Everyone has to find their own pathway, and if you copy someone else’s path then its the wrong way...
The more you can learn about yourself the more you can stay true to your own integrity….which will carry through to your style, and if that means being a weirdo then hopefully you will find people that appreciate these aspects.
And lastly, what are you working on next?
I just got offered a project in Miami, for Art Basel, so I'm going there and Mexico next month, and January I’ll be painting a collaborative large scale mural in Melbourne CBD with an Aboriginal elder from Arnhem Land. I don't know if this type of collaboration has happened much, a respected elder going big in a city, and mixing up with someone like myself telling of their stories. It will be a fun, interesting and educational experience that I'm looking forward to.
Outside The Box is an exhibition presented by Just Another Agency, featuring 100 Australian based artists. Each creative will have exactly 8 hours to create their work within the confinements of No Vacancy Gallery, with only the materials provided to them. Makatron will be working in the space on Friday 27 October. The exhibition runs 3-28 October, Opening night 28 October 6-9pm at No Vacancy Gallery. Facebook RSVP
--- Words: Lauren Guymer Images: Courtesy of the gallery/artists.