85. Anthony Despotellis

2 May

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From the moment Anthony started his interview I could tell that this is a man who is passionate about what he does. He has come up the ranks in the community and acts as a mentor on local art projects, and recently supported the mural project at the community garden at Macleod College. He is passionate about socially aware hip hop culture and creating legal murals around Melbourne.

Currently, his life is divided into three parts- he has just completed his industrial design course at university, he is involved in spray painting, and is learning a new language. He tells me he has always been creative since he was a child, but it wasn’t until he was about 14 that he started learning how to break dance, which set in motion a big change in his life. Through this he found hip hop. The 4 components of this are graffiti, rapping, DJing and break dancing, all of which he is involved with in some way. He expresses concern that graffiti is not very widely accepted as an art form, yet you can learn a lot from it. He says that ‘art is a never ending journey’

Anthony loves to draw and paint people with a story behind them as it makes the art more personal and meaningful. This is part of what he will do when he travels to Brazil for three months, where he plans to paint walls and the people he meets. He says ‘you can look at someone and not know anything about them, but once you find out something about them it changes the way you look at them’ He wants people to look at his portraits and see what it is that makes that person unique.

In his opinion, artistic expression is important in today’s society because it has always been a part of the world, and reflects the world we live in. It is part of us. He tells me that a very important part of art is ‘the way you create it and who you create it with… art is everywhere and we like it whether we know it or not’.

One of the first projects Anthony was involved in was spray painting the wall of a local gym. He says that was a great experience because of the amount of work and effort he put into the job. One of his biggest projects so far was for Yarra Valley Water , painting a mural opposite Loyola College in Watsonia. It took 3 months to plan and only 1 week to paint, so the ratio isn’t quite equal, but he said it was a great opportunity that he enjoyed working on.

Being part of the hip-hop movement is very meaningful to him, as he feels like having strong goals and working hard, but still having fun is paramount to what he does. He says it has helped him realise what is important in life and he gets a lot out of it.

To someone who wants to get involved in this movement, he suggests that they try it out. It is continually developing and attracts a lot of different people from different backgrounds. ‘If you want to get into painting, grab some cans and paint a (legal) wall, and if you want to start dancing you can find tutorials online… find the right people, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and just enjoy it.’

Graffiti grew from the need for a voice and expression of feelings. Many people don’t have a very positive view of it. To these people Anthony says he would educate them on the history of the art form and tell them that it is a beautiful art that is not intended to be destructive.

When asked about who his influences are, he doesn’t give a list of names, he tells me he is influenced by everything, especially since social media is so popular with artists these days, its impossible not to be influenced by everyone. People often take what is important to them and reflect that in their art, which is what makes everyone’s work so different. To continue to improve on his work, he studies art, and sets goals for himself to achieve, so he is constantly practicing and improving his skills, and this is the method that he sticks to in order to get better.

He would like to thank Banyule Council for the opportunities he has been given because they have helped him progress from walking around asking to paint walls, to being paid for jobs. He says ‘there are a lot of people who just do things for the hell of doing it, and if you’re reading this then be that person who does things the best that they can.’

Update:

I had the opportunity to catch up Anthony after he returned from his trip and he filled me in on all of the things he experienced during his time in Brazil.

He stayed in Rio De Janeiro for 3 months in what is known as a Favela and spent a long time getting to know the area and the people that lived there. One thing that really stood out to him was how welcoming the people were. He says it was a bit of a reality shock because where he was staying, no one spoke English, people wouldn’t walk with their phones out or be outside after dark and the culture was very different. One of the things he liked about the trip was the cuisine. ‘The food was incredible’, he tells me, and he says that the neighbours would often bring him food, out of a kind and welcoming spirit.

He did a lot of exploring and adventuring during the trip, and as planned, lots of painting. He painted the side of a highway and says that while he was working, the police came and talked to him about his art and complimented his work. He did 3 paintings in the favelas and slept overnight in a school one night while working on one of them, and says that his painting took him to places he wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Anthony says he would definitely return to Brazil and says he now has an affinity with the country. When asked if he would like to travel to other places, he tells me ‘yes and no’, because he has such a strong connection to South America he would rather go there again before travelling anywhere else. However, although he loves the country, he wouldn’t move there because of how different the culture is.

Anthony recommends travelling while you’re young in order to experience different things and develop as an individual, and go to places you wouldn’t usually go so you can grow your cultural intelligence and be able to see different parts of the world.

You can follow Anthony’s work on Instagram

Words: Jennifer Walker

Photo: Sean Porter

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