From the local music scene to the urban art hub, Iain “Ewok” Robinson personifies Durban’s unique flavour through and through. Known for his contributions to hip-hop, graffiti and mural work, acting, spoken word and poetry, Ewok, as he is known, has recently taken on the roll of street art tour guide and is set to host several street art workshops at the KwaZulu Natal Society of Art (KZNSA) gallery in December. Tabloid Newspapers recently sat down with the artist to chat about art, inspiration and goals.
TN: Describe your childhood using only four words.
IR: Adventurous, inspired, musical, creative.
TN: When did your interest in art begin and what artists first inspired/ captivated you?
IR: My grandmother made a point of keeping my arts cupboard stocked with equipment and tools from around the age of five. I remember my Grade 1 art educator clearly.
My earliest memory of a school exhibition where all of the grades had their art displayed on the school walls. I saw my older sister’s artwork up and a bunch of senior students work on display and I was hooked.
TN: Was it always a goal to be an artist? What did you want to be when you grew up?
IR: My earliest ambition was to be a Disney animator. This was way before digital, when frames were still hand-drawn. I practiced copying all of the popular Disney characters.
TN: When did you career kick off? Describe your style of art and tell us a bit about how this developed?
IR: I’ve been writing graffiti since I was 15, so that’s about 20 years now. I started getting paid to paint murals just after high school in 2000. My style is graphic and illustrative with a hip-hop aesthetic.
TN: What has been your most memorable artistic achievement?
IR: Nah, there isn’t one. So many memories. I thought that my participation in the African Art Centre’s The Shift exhibition in 2017 was a chance to take my work to a different level. Also, painting with SA legends like Falko and Faith 47, painting in Paris, painting in small towns like Underberg and Grahamstown. So many walls, so many memories.
TN: If you could choose one venue (anywhere in the world) to exhibit your art where would it be and who would you most like to be in the audience?
IR: I would want to put up paint on a train in New York and I’d want my family to be in the audience.
TN: You are currently hosting a street art workshop at the KZNSA-can you define street art and it’s significance?
IR: Street art falls into the sphere
of public art that is immersive. The spectator or viewer is a participant in the space that has been painted or activated in other creative ways. Street art (obviously) belongs in
the street so there is no way to replicate it within a gallery. The messages/ themes/ideas in street art are often very explicit or overt. Graffiti is a type of street art that is all about style and attitude and identity politics. Other forms include stencilling, ‘stickering’ and handstyling (tagging). Street art is significant because it is in many ways a reaction against the elitism of most contemporary art that is found in traditional gallery spaces: it is publicly accessible and can be appreciated and also created by anyone, for everyone.
TN: Do you think art is a vehicle for social commentary and what social ills would you most like to address with your art?
IR: All art is a vehicle for social commentary. As Ernst Fischer said: “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And, unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And, help to change it.”
Complete the sentence…
When there is load shedding I…
light a candle and read a book.
My super power could be…
understanding all languages.
If I won the lotto I would…
donate and travel.
Camping or hotel?
Cats or dogs? Cats.
Mild or spicy?