Interview with artist Codak

June 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm

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NH Love: Some years back I started to see your work and hear your name around, but tell us about your start in graffiti, and where it all began for you?

Codak: My story began my freshman year of high school in Portland, OR in1988. Actually even earlier on a family trip to NY when I was like 9 or 10 and I was struck by the graff on the trains. I remember just being young and entranced by the fast moving pictures. I feel like that stuck with me subconsciously until high school. I distinctly remember the first time I saw someone put a tag up. I was in school and a friend who would later write “Celic” whipped out this two-finger marker and tagged a window in our hallway…it was essentially on after that.

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We would go to the local library and jack all the copies of Subway Art and Spray Can Art we could find. Basically it was group of my skateboarding buddies and me wanting to keep taking it to the streets. I had been skateboarding for a couple years and it just seemed natural to add graff to the mix. Also my mother has been an artist and interior designer my whole life; also my step-father at the time worked as an Architect. So I already had creativity in me, it just manifested itself in this way.

Shortly after I got involved I met a group of writers from LA that had moved to Portland. They had a base with OFA. Nonetheless they introduced me to LA piecing/ throwies/ handstyles and the sense of crews. They began a crew called AF (Art Fiends). I am humble enough to admit that I was essentially the nerdy little skater kid that hung out and tried to be down, but I soaked it all in and just got my start.

Around 1999 my family moved to Kansas, a complete 180. When I graduated high school, I moved to Kansas City. I made friends with other writers there (Hek, East, Scribe, Gear, Gasp and others). This was right before the famous ATT Crew had been formed by East. I basically hung out and it was there that I started taking graff more serious. Seeing how ATT put it down and my roommate at the time Gasp (STH crew from SD) just inspired me to really start honing my skills, whereas before I was more interested in hand styles and straight vandalism. After a couple years soaking in the KC style and work ethics, I moved on for a short while to Oklahoma where my family is from. A year later, I moved to Memphis.

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It was in Memphis where the style I am most known for began to form. There was a void in Memphis, no real graff scene. This left me with a large space to experiment and play with the ideas that had been formulating in my mind over the years. I began going to school for Graphic Design and this opened me up to a whole new perspective on art and graff. I’ve always had issues with the divide between different creative platforms (fine art/ graff…what’s “Real” graff/ what’s not…etc.) and I just started combining my early family art influences. It was also during this time that I met the Thoughts Manifested Crew (Rex 2, Pako and Audroc) at Paint Louis. I was excited because they were from TN like me. I began going to Nashville where they lived all the time. I really vibed with their style and approach. It was really refreshing and I soon became a proud member. The crew name itself speaks volumes to an attitude of positivity and humble creativity. Around 2000, I was joined in Memphis by new TM members Task and Scar 1.0. At this point things exploded I had just gotten back from painting in England with renowned UK artist Shok 1 and the stage was set for another big progression. Task and Scar gave me the tools, their tenacity for quantity and technique forced me to keep up. Combine this with my use of mediums, spatial composition, line quality and color use and you have what became the style I am known for.

Around 2005 I moved out here to LA, originally being from Oregon I had always wanted to return to the west coast and it was time. I actually wasn’t planning on staying in LA but things just went so well when I got here that I decided it was a good place to be. Its rich graff history and being where a lot of my original influence came from, it felt right. It’s been almost 7yrs and it has been great for my progression as an artist. The diversity of cutting edge artists, regardless of mediums, is always inspiring and as usual I am just here soaking it all in.

I know that was long winded but I feel it is necessary to get a decent synopsis of the whole journey to get a sense of the artist…

NH Love: Where did your early influences come from, who were the writers or what were the styles that gave you your early inspiration?

Codak: As young child, I was really into the comic book style of John Byrne and John Romita Jr. Later on when I got into graff, I would say Mode 2 and Crayone were huge for me. From Portland Amazer, Coder, Miner, Merge and Ryval all had an early influence and set the tone for the hand style I have even today. It’s interesting to say that most of my early influences came from people I had direct contact with because we didn’t have the internet and magazines like Conart were hard to come by where I was from. However, I did see them from time to time and images of the famous Hex and Slick battle plus characters by Zodak will always stick with me. East, Scribe, Gear, Gasp, Aero, Dase, Hek and all the people I was around in KC had a definite impact on me. My all time biggest influence however will always be Joker, Transcend Crew. I was blown away the second I first saw one of his pieces because it was just so outside the norm of anything I had seen prior. He realized long ago that there are no boundaries or rules to creativity and we always need new perspectives to keep the movement fresh and progressive. I will always co-sign that mentality. From more of an “art” base my family had exposed me to art from early on. I have always enjoyed the work of master artists like Robert Rauschedberg, Mark Rothko and others. This can keep on going so I’ll just stop there…

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NH Love: These days, there are a lot of different styles of graffiti. I know for a while you have done a more non-traditional style. How would you describe it? When did you start branching out and coming up with your own look of graffiti?

Codak: Well I got into this thing as a youth because it was free, rules didn’t apply. It could run free and become what it was going to become and I have ALWAYS held on to that mentality. I never really looked at peoples styles as traditional or not. Yes, I did recognize similarities and saw how certain things worked and others didn’t. But at a certain point, things just start to become redundant and we as artists are just going through the motions for the sake of keeping it “real”. That doesn’t vibe with me and the idea of “Style” applies to how automatically recognizable a certain artists work is; not whether it is adhering to a certain “code” of art or not. With that being said I would say that I can’t quite pin what exactly my style is because I feel it is a hybrid of many different approaches, gelling in this nice little ball of energy, and painting for me is a very transient meditative experience. I am very accurately exercising my demons on a wall; it’s where I find my peace from a very obviously overactive mind.

NH Love: You now do a good amount of canvas and commission work. Do you approach that work differently than your graffiti work?

Codak: I approach all work from the same mental vantage point. I see no distinction between how I should approach a 6″ x 6″ canvas, a pen & ink illustration or a 50′ wall. The only distinction comes from the materials and how reasonable they are to the situation.

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NH Love: I see your work as almost shape driven, or geometry driven. Where do you come up with your style of art, and where do you see it going in the future?

Codak: I feel like I was subconsciously influenced by my parents growing up, always seeing building plans, drafting tables and tools around. Counterbalanced by a love of most things organic in shape (Insects, plants, etc…) and you begin to have an idea of where my style comes from. Obviously not excluding other artists I have been inspired by Joker, Shok1, Kofie, Task. As for the future, I am pretty open, it’s the artistic journey I am interested in, not a set destination.

NH Love: I know it’s different for different people, but do you think about your “next step” in your career, and if so where do you want to take it? What are some of the things on your wish list that you want to do as an artist?

Codak:  I am not too sure as to the next step, I feel like I just have to keep doing what I am doing. Putting out the best work I can and to continually be trying to better my skills. I would like to experiment with more sculptural work and maybe even furniture. Also right now I am apprenticing to tattoo which is something I have wanted to do for many years. I feel like my lifework can translate into an interesting organic tattoo style. Just like many artists of older days, apply my vision to as many mediums as possible and show that the work is dynamic and can hold its weight regardless of media.

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NH Love: Who do you think is doing original, good, different work these days that you feel may be being slept on, or just out there doing it period?

Codak: Wow, so many, I mean graffiti is at an interesting turning point because of the influx and combining of multiple styles and mediums. In my personal opinion, Shok1 is still relatively unknown and has been continually killing it for years. Kofie is always pushing it, the Ghetto Farceur guys out of France are monsters. Remi, Rough, Joker…and Task is in my opinion one of the all-time most slept on writers….just nasty! Honestly, I am not playing favorites seeing that I know most of these people. I just have been immensely blessed to have built friendships with most of the people who inspire me the most.

NH Love: The struggles and the come ups, let’s talk about them. What are some of the lean years for you, and what are some of the experiences you have had that were successes?

Codak:  Struggle….well; it’s a part of the human condition. In all honesty, I am still struggling everyday creatively, emotionally, financially and all the rest. However you come to “Trust your Struggle!” (Thanks Scott LaRockwell) and realize that you just gotta trust in yourself and your ability to follow through. To take the good with the bad and to understand that for every 10 things you’re struggling with, that one success holds more weight in gold than all the negative stuff we live with everyday.

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NH Love: What are some of your recent or upcoming projects?

Codak:  Well I just completed a big wall with artist Erin Yoshi of the Estria Foundation for the Urban Legends Show on view at the LA ArtMart in Downtown. I painted live on the Do Lab Stage at this year’s Coachella a while back and painted at their event “Lightning in a Bottle” in May as well. Besides that, just trying to get together a couple shows for this year and keep my nose to the grindstone!