Vans The Omega has made his unique mark on the graffiti culture worldwide over the last decades. We have featured his work in the past here at ILG and it was only natural for us to check in on him to see whats up in his world in 2017. During the making of this interview he became the father to a beautiful a baby girl named Violet, and still managed to finish the interview, a testament to his positive mindset and dedication to our culture. Thank you Joel and all the best to you and your family from ILG!
ILG: Please introduce yourself
Vans: Hello my name is Joel. Some people call me Vans, Omega and various others acquired names over 40 years. Today more commonly known as Vans the Omega.
ILG: How did you start and where are you today?
Vans: Like most 70’s kids in the 80’s we were exposed to graffiti at an infant stage in Australia, which was pretty similar to most of the developed world apart from the US. By the age of 5 I was already obsessed with the colorful rasta looking fills and giant names and random words. Actually many years before I had even heard of the word graffiti I was doodling styles with pencil, crayons, water color brush and ink of my parents names, logos of skateboard companies and nick names that I started making up.
Today 35 years on I am still in love with letters and focused on pushing my art and letters till death do us part.
ILG: Whats the scene like in Adelaide in general and how is it for you to be painting there?
Vans: Adelaide is a smaller scene and very spread out. Incredible talent has come from my home city and many of the originators here are still active today. For many years I have kept more to myself and a small group of mates which are more like family really. Trust is a must👍🏻
ILG: You started out painting letters, and now you paint much more than, where do you come up with what to paint next?
Vans: I’ve always found it hard to keep repeating the same things and experimentation was a huge part of my growth as a kid. I didn’t care how a lot of my work looked when I was younger and tried everything and focused on doing backgrounds, characters and super tech neat shit. After concentrating on letters for 20 years I started pushing more on the abstract side mainly through a sense of boredom with continually doing the same letters and the need to push myself and learn new ways of communicating my inner drive and creativity. Everything around me in the natural and architectural world inspires what I paint and in the past 4 years I’ve focused on portraits of friends and taking all the knowledge of painting letters into figurative works.
ILG: Social media, how do you like them, and how do you use them?
Vans: I’m a little bit more old school in the way that it’s not particularly something I enjoy to push myself on others and you won’t find me posting selfies by any means, but I do understand it’s a tool and I approach it this way. Yes I want people to have access to my body of work and social media provides the quickest way to do this.
How did computers, smartphones and the internet change graffiti?
In some ways it was just a distraction and the way a lot of people sought cheap fame by taking other people’s innovation and pushing it as there own on a world stage. The other side of the coin is that it brought a lot of us closer together and opened up an amazing global community which has accelerated and lifted the art form as a whole.
ILG: You have travelled and painted in many places, why all the floating around? What did you learn, what was most memorable?
Vans: I think living so far away in Australia forced us all to look outside our little scene a lot and mags like Hype brought the world to us. We were seeing guys like Merda, Paris, Peril, Broke, Seiz, Atome and Kasino all exchanging work and traveling often overseas to paint in the early 90’s, so for me it seemed like a natural progression to travel and do graffiti. In late 1999 I was stabbed 5 times and was lucky to survive and I felt like a change of scenery and decided to visit my brother in London in Jan 2000. Like everyone says I got the travel bug and I’ve spent 17 years traveling the world painting in hundreds of cities.
I think Copenhagen in 2000 has a special place in my heart. It was so amazing as a writer and was full of funky burners, S-train panels rolling through main station all day long.
I’ve loved so many of my travel adventures but the truth is that the people you meet along the way always make it.
ILG: Inspiration, what makes you paint, who inspires you?
Vans: Painting is like eating after this many years. Still tasty and feels necessary to live haha. Creating art has become like a spiritual practice for me personally with a good twist of fun that keeps me energized constantly. I’m mainly inspired by seeing my friends improve and push boundaries all over the globe.
ILG: Health, food, mindset and so on are very important to you, let us in on some secrets…
Vans: I like to eat within my value and truth set. I couldn’t kill an animal so I don’t eat it. I’ve learnt a lot from ancient cultures and believe that the food we eat plays a direct roll in the way we act and feel so I eat a conscious vegetarian non dairy diet. Being aware of the roll our mind plays and it’s mechanism is really important to the way we live.
ILG: Exhibitions and prints, you are starting to move into this area, whats it like and what are you trying to accomplish here?
Vans: Working outside of walls has always been hard for me as I will take any excuse to paint outdoors if I can. Painting in a studio setting is a completely different feeling and falls more in line with my meditation practice than anything else. Hopefully when I am in the zone something spontaneous happens and creativity drives forward in a lasting sense with strength and conviction.
In the near future I plan to step into oil painting and find a new way of painting to combine styles and fresh ideas in my work. I’ll worry about the gallery game after the works are built and the work is done.
ILG: Do you have goals you have already accomplished, and what goals do you have for the future?
Vans: I’ve accomplished most goals I have set in my life. These days my goals lie more in being the best human I can be and giving back to this earth. I feel very rich for the life I have already lived so everything feels like a cherry on top.
ILG: Describe a regular good day for you?
Vans: Lets start with and amazing vegan breakfast, fresh ground coffee beans and a car where my wife and baby Violet are sitting and a boot full of paint. I don’t need much to be happy- fresh air will do.
ILG: Got any sayings or mottos or oneliners about graffiti?
Vans: There is no keeping it real. Real is an individuals truth not someone elses.
ILG: Any last words?
Vans: Get out of your own way and you will have the most incredible life you would have never dreamt of.
ILG: Do you love graffiti?
Vans: Graffiti has been dear to me for most of my life and it’s till death do us part
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