VANS THE OMEGA
EE: First of all, Vans The Omega, where does the name come from?
VTO: This was an easy decision as my fathers name is Van as well as my middle name so I had written and signed this name since I could hold a pencil. I added the S because Van felt too short on it’s own and is also a killer letter. Omega is something I Used to doodle with when I was a kid, which I later found out almost 2 decades later when my Mother handed a bunch of my primary school books covered in the word. At the time I wanted a new word to bring my painting back to the funky basics and this just fit perfect until I merged the names as one.
EE: You are well known for your long time involvement and pioneering in the global graffiti scene, how and when did you first begin to paint graffiti? When was Vans The Omega first introduced to the world?
VTO: I was introduced to my parents before anyone else in a graff sense. They were the ones having to put up with my scribbling on everything I had after seeing the Tram and Train lines pieced in the early 80’s (83) specifically. In primary school it was crayons or shitty textas that I would tag with behind the back alleys of school or basketball stadiums I spent a lot of time at, but it wasn’t until 1990 that I was actively trying to get up and rolled with local kids in the neighbourhood doing graff. 1990 was the first time I did an illegal piece with spray paint.
EE: You are based in Adelaide, can you tell us about your life there?
VTO: I love having the room and the freedom it brings in Adelaide. So much talent has come out of this city but was quick to move away to more vibrant places. I wanted to base myself here for the long haul, but travelled to get my fix and growing inspiration. Right now is an amazing time to be in Adelaide with so many opportunities for artists and creative people prepared to liven this place up. A regular day is waking up and cooking a good hearty Vegan breakfast, then heading out to a wall or studio to paint, while in between is meetings, then dreaming big to keep the creativity flowing. With what’s left of my energy I spend time doing family stuff and dancing as much as I can.
EE: What keeps you inspired, positive and motivated?
VTO: Observing everything with as much attention and clarity as possible is all the inspiration I need most of the time! That and seeing Artists I admire do amazing things with their works on large scales. It always blow’s my mind when I see just how amazing humanity can be when our energy, focus and will combines. Nature, dancing and my wife to be always inspire me to be great. Regarding being positive I just find it’s too wasteful and energy draining to be anything but and a lot of motivation is gathered from having enough energy and clarity, which you aren’t going to find in dwelling on negative things.
EE: Your artwork spans across various mediums, genres, colour palettes and styles including portraiture, geometric patterns and of course graffiti lettering. Which of these do you enjoy working with and creating the most? Are you on some kind of personal journey to merge it all together?
VTO: The best way to put it, is that life is so many different things so why would I want to restrict myself in the way I create art knowing no one medium can satisfy every situation or one style would keep me energised and excited for the remainder of my life. All the Art I do is an extension of my life in every sense so these styles become my toolbox and a way to navigate through life itself. With each medium/Style I am confronted and forced to overcome limitations, which are the same as my relationships in effect. Yes in a way I am trying to find an illusion of perfection, which is my life’s work manifesting.
EE: How did you approach painting the coffee tables for East Editions? What kind of mediums and techniques did you apply?
VTO: I love natural substances and believe it’s an exceptional medium to work with as it comes with it’s own set of rules and feel. Most of the time I feel guided to lay lines down or find a natural rhythm that already exists in the wood, which I can play off. Leaving open spaces in my work is really important to me and when it reveals a cropped section of natural grain which you could never replicate it becomes even more special like looking through a window into something so I used acrylics, Stain, lacquer and spray paint along side a bunch of tool’s that help me to create texture.
EE: How long did it take you to paint the tables?
VTO: Around 12 hours each, with as much attention to details as possible.
EE: What makes these tables so unique and special? What was it like painting on pieces of furniture made from Blackbutt timber?
VTO: I think the Blackbutt timber is amazing as each piece of wood that went together to make the tables was so individual when it came down to painting them. I had to respond in a way that would complement and enhance the already beautiful pieces which was the biggest challenge and in the end became the unique call signs of the individual tables.
EE: You also didn’t varnish some areas of the tabletops, what is the reason for this?
VTO: I could never pretend that this living natural substance is less important that what I was communicating in the paintings and the reason I aim to rest your eye in those areas.
EE: These tables are going to live a life of their own inside spaces unknown to you, is there a message you would like to send to the future owners of your tables?
VTO: Enjoy what energy it brings to your environment and know it was made with love and attention.
EE: You are one of the most well travelled people we have met, how much influence have other cultures and places had on your art practices over the years?
VTO: I think travelling to me is so very important to keep a flow of fresh inspiration flowing and the different cultures, language and colours just add to that idea I said early attentive observation. I find myself more like a child in wonderment when faced with culture and environments that are totally foreign to me and within that clarity I can absorb and let go of the norms I face in daily life at home. Vibrancy, colour palette and patterns are some of the biggest influences when I travel, so I seem to get to a lot countries filled with ancient cultures who spent so much time creating with detail and passion.
EE: Of all the places around the world you have visited and painted, which location holds a special place in your heart and mind?
VTO: I can say without a doubt I have enjoyed too many places to narrow it down to one. Maybe it’s easier to break them down into the type of different art practices I do, for example when it comes to Graffiti its Copenhagen in 2000, or Egypt in 2006 regarding symbology to Peru for the woven patterns and vibrant colours. Every trip I try to hold something and bring it home with me.
EE: What does the future have in store for Vans The Omega?
VTO: I’m a dreamer so that could mean anything. May be a project to paint a mural in space or simply raise a child. Really my aim is to be the best I can be with what I have been given- nothing more, nothing less.