JULIA BOTH ON ‘StreetWORKS’

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Initiated in 2014, StreetWORKS creates innovative visual street art to enliven spaces and discourage graffiti and tagging. The program creates mutual respect in the community by engaging artists with property owners and businesses, in which street art projects can be appreciated by the wider community. The project provides opportunities for artists to develop new ways to express and enhance their artistic practice by activating sites in the Maribyrnong neighbourhood.

This includes visual artists, street artists, photographers, sculptors with experience in delivering large scale public art, photographic and street art projects. Brazillian-born artist Julia Both has been selected to work on the project, and The Westsider recently spoke to her about streetWORKS and more.

Where and how did you develop your artistic abilities?

I’ve been an artist since I can remember, I spent my childhood drawing and writing constantly. Both my parents have interesting professions that inspired my work. My father works with environmental activism, and my mother is an artist and a vet for wild animals, so I grew up with deep sense of admiration for the natural world and that’s what my earliest art was trying to express. I remember looking at scientific illustrations in my parent’s books and being in awe of how they expressed the beauty in nature. I taught myself to draw and paint and have been practicing it since I was a child, and I studied design later in life and incorporated that into my work. These days I take classes when I want to learn a new skills, learn from my artist friends or just play around with new materials and ideas.

How did you come to be in Australia and specifically Melbourne?

Since I was a child I wanted to travel and work with something creative, and I ended up moving to Brisbane when I was 17 to study Visual Communication Design. While I was at University, I met a graffiti artist called Chuck Mayfield and we started collaborating on our artwork, he taught me to paint art on walls and that art was a passion worth pursuing. I visited Melbourne a few times while I was studying and the culture here really seduced me, I wanted to be amongst it. We moved here after graduating and I have been working as an artist ever since. I love working here but I try to travel as much as possible so I can keep bringing new perspectives to my work.

Does your work take you back to Brazil?

I go back home once a year to visit my family and friends, and I often paint murals and do a few projects while I’m there. Now that I have more time in my hands I want to go back more often and collaborate with more people there. Brazil has a lot of social issues but we are really rich in terms of culture and very resourceful people, despite all the challenges we have some of the most incredible and original artists in the world.

City of Maribyrnong has commissioned you as part of StreetWORKS 2017, what works will you be completing?

For this year’s project, I’ve completed the mural at Bharat Traders in Barkly Street. I know that two other really talented artists (Mike Makatron and Bailer) are working on two more murals in the area, so I can’t wait to see what they make.

When you use a wall that belongs to a particular business or organisation, do you work with them to determine the kind of art they feel is going to work in that space? How does the process work?

I always listen to them, I want my work to be relevant to them and to the space instead of being just my own perspective and discussing ideas is really important to achieve that. At the same time, I know that the most valuable thing in my art isn’t my painting skills, it’s my ability to design the artwork, that I’ve developed through my studies and my experience. So I consult with people, and then design something that is both relevant to them and faithful to my integrity as an artist. In terms of process, I discuss what we want to achieve with the art (is it meant to brighten up an indoor area, call attention to a public space, or something else?) and I look at how people will interact with it (will they drive past it, or sit with it for a long time?) and who the audience for the art is, what is it trying to express? After I answer all those questions I’ll have a clear idea of the work I want to make, and it flows very easily into sketches.

Readers may not be aware you have a book too. Tell us how that came about?

Apart from my mural art, I work a lot in my studio making zines, illustrations and exhibitions of my own. In January I exhibited a series about sexuality at Off the Kerb Gallery, and it made me want to explore more of my relationship with my body. So I signed up to Naked State in July, an artist residency in Canada where we spent time in a Naturist colony creating art for the local community. I made a series of illustrations and writings about my experience there and I collected them in a book, “Bare”. I absolutely love books, and I hope I can make many, many more.

What kind or art or artists inspire you?

This is a hard questions because there is so much out there that inspires me, and I meet so many creative people every week, it’d be impossible to make a list. At the moment I’m in love with art that is really pleasing to the eye but is able to communicate a deeper message, and art that challenges our ideas of what beautiful is. I’ve also just recently moved into a studio at Blender Studios, so I’ve been very inspired by the artists that are around me every day. I get a lot of ideas from people in completely different fields as well. I have many friends that are dancers, scientists, activists, and I love learning from them.

If you could decide the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of your next project, what would it be?

As long as I’m making something artistic in a place where it can touch someone’s life, I’ll be happy.

What does the future hold for you?

I can’t tell you that, at the moment all I know for certain is that I want to keep creating and I want to learn a lot. I want to learn how to make art that can communicate important messages and improves our culture, and I want to learn how to collaborate with people in fields beyond art, and I want to learn how to do both those things in a way that can sustain me.

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