Interview: Fintan Magee

Born in Lismore NSW (Australia), Fintan Magee moved to Brisbane as a child and began drawing shortly after. In his early teens, he was exposed to Brisbane’s graffiti culture, and began to scrawl his name across the city with large vibrant letter forms.

Moving away from traditional graffiti in recent years, his guerilla murals often inhabit the isolated, abandoned and broken corners of the city. Mixing surreal and figurative imagery, his paintings are deeply integrated with the urban environment and explore themes of waste, consumption, loss and transition and contain a sentimentality and softness influenced by children’s books.

He has exhibited throughout Australia and has been selected as a finalist for the Prometheus, Churchie and Lethbridge art prizes and received the people’s choice at the Cliftons art prize, Brisbane.

In 2012 after a 4-week residency at ISAD studios in Jakarta he was invited to collaborate on a large-scale installation with Indonesian collective Ruangrupa. The piece was included in the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary art at Jakarta.

His diligence, technical skill and progressive approach to street art make him one of Australia’s must watch emerging artists.

Street Art United States caught up with the artist for a brief Q&A.

Home Ownership, Cronulla, SydneyCould you Tell Us a Little about yourself?
Australian muralist, painter, vandal, etc…

Do you have a formal arts education?
I studied for three years at a place called the Queensland College of Arts, its one of the main art schools in my hometown, Brisbane.

Have you always been an artist? If not, then what where you before you became an artist?
I have never really had any normal job, I was sucked into some of the more criminal elements surrounding the Australian graffiti culture when I dropped out of high school. I worked part time in a call center and washed dishes when I was at art school but have never worked full time on anything but my art. I think a lack of options has helped motivate me in my art career, especially during harder times.
The Artifact, Bogota, Colombia
Are there any artists who particularly inspire you?
I am a big fan of the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Also love Magritte and a few other surrealists. I draw influence from a lot of different places though.

Do you have any favorite surfaces?
I love any wall that is large and nicely aged.

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The Displaced, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaWhat was your most memorable “street art” experience?
I think the best adventures came when I was younger and still involved in street bombing. I remember getting jumped by a group of your writers when I was painting in Southern Portugal, They all had weapons and I was with my girl so I had to face them so that she had time to get away. They beat me up pretty good but I manage to get the better of them and get away, it was a long story and a really crazy night. I have had so much crazy stuff happen to me when painting illegally at night when the freaks are out. That’s definitely one of the things that I really miss about some of the more hardcore elements of graffiti writing, the crazy and stupid situations you find yourself in.  

Do you have a message in your art?
I guess the message varies on the painting and a lot of different themes are explored in my work. The environment is a common one though.

In your opinion, the street art that takes longer to paint and with more intricate detail has more of an effect than the spontaneous stencil street art?
I was never really had much interest in painting stencils, the medium just never appealed to me. I like a lot of artists doing stencil work though.
Build And Destroy, London, UK
How do you feel about the role of the Internet and social media in making your works more accessible to the public?
For me its crucial because I am not represented by a gallery, I think it’s important because both the street and the internet can be used as a platform for artists to promote themselves outside of the traditional channels in the arts industry. It has definitely made artists a lot more independent which is a good thing.

High Tide, Brisbane, AustraliaStreet art is still considered vandalism, how is it for you to go out and paint in the street? Did you ever have any problems with the law?
I don’t think street art is vandalism. After being involved in graffiti for so many years murals don’t seem like much and I am not going to pretend that street art is somehow fighting the power. Even when I paint without permission I am rarely hassled.

What is the best advice you have ever had about how to be creative?
I don’t know if I have ever been given advice on this.

What is your favorite piece of art you created and why?
My work is constantly evolving so if I ever make a favorite work it is usually only takes a few months before it’s not my favorite any more.
Baton Rouge with Seth Globepainter
What do you do when you are not creating art?
Art consumes most of my time so my downtime is usually spent relaxing, partying, fitness etc. I am living in Sydney right now so I am trying to find more time for the beach and enjoying the natural environment but it’s hard. It’s funny in Sydney because there is so much to be enjoyed here, the problem is everyone gets caught up in the pace of life and work and sometimes we forget to enjoy what the city and its surrounds have to offer.

Vienna Riote2013 was a pretty busy year for you, you did the Europe tour, the US, and also South America among others. Could you tell us how was it for you and what is in store for 2014?
2013 was a really good year for me, I had heaps of fun and met many amazing people. I love to travel but I am feeling pretty drained right now. I have a bunch of other projects lined up so hopefully it’s a busy year. 

Some street artists find it hard to paint in the USA (restrictions…) than in other country. My question is, do you share the same sentiment, and why?
I think it’s a pretty similar situation in Australia, My hometown of Brisbane is one of the most sterile places in the world and it’s incredibly difficult to find walls. The artists there had to adapt and in ways a lack of acceptance makes us stronger and motivates us to travel. I have always had fun painting in the US.
Jakarta Ant
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Work hard and good things will come.

SAUS would like to thank Fintan for taking the time and answer our questions, and to keep us posted on future works.

Fintan Magee

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