Interview With Akisiew

We caught up with muralist, illustrator, animator and narrator, Akisiew - AKA Kim Siew!

Firstly, please tell me a bit about yourself and how your art career began…
I've always been drawing or writing stories. I didn't really think about doing art as a career though, as I never really knew you could - I always thought you had to be a serious fine artist or nothing at all. So I finished university and travelled the world and worked in all kinds of jobs, mainly to fund more travel. I came back to art in a more public way about 6 years ago, which is when I decided to stay in one place. I drew characters on discarded pods, wrapped up little stories inside of them and hung them from trees around Newtown. Then I met my partner, Hazzy Bee, and started painting murals and making paste ups. The streets acted like a portfolio, and it helped get me work with schools around the Inner West. I also fell in love with creating zines, and discovered Sydney had pockets of art communities and spaces where you could express yourself and get stuck into things and this gave me the courage to keep creating.

You've worked in both the curatorial worlds and art making worlds - how do you balance these two aspects? Do they influence each other or do you consider them as entirely separate?
My curatorial work has always been driven by a love of bringing artists together. Art is all about sharing and about being generous and I feel that when I work on my own a lot of the time, I start to feel stuck. For me, curatorial work is a selfish way of allowing myself the opportunity to work with artists that I admire, and in doing so I learn a lot and that helps me to grow.

What process does your art practice follow?
Sketching, coffee, sketching, sketching. Sometimes I transfer my sketches to the computer to digitally colour them, or I'll cut up lots of coloured paper to collage the images. I'll also paint on wood when I want to use up my left over house paint from mural jobs. My studio will slowly turn to chaos throughout the process!

How does your process differ when working on murals compared to working more for prints / smaller artworks?
When I work on a mural I'm usually painting it for someone so the work is based on their ideas as well as my own. It's more collaborative and there's a bit more reworking of ideas rather than being work that's really spontaneous and in the moment.

What projects are you working on at the moment?
I have a few mural projects with schools lined up which I also really enjoy, I'm beginning illustrations for a children's book and I'm slowly forming ideas and work for a duo show to happen in the first half of next year.

How do you feel your style has changed over time?
My work started off really sad, I guess just because of the place I was in. But now it sits in this middle ground. It's still quite naive and childlike, I always want to make something that looks "cool", but it always ends up looking cute.

Your characters are very playful and have a strong sense of character - where do you get your inspiration for these from?
I read a lots of books and take a lot of walks. I like seeing people on the street and making up stories about them which I sometimes put into words, or just put into an image or illustrated moment.

Do you have a preferred art form that you like working in?
I really enjoy creating zines as they can be anything you want them to be.

What are your favourite materials to work with?
I usually like to work really simply, with just black pen and paper.

What artists are you inspired by?
So many. Sometimes it's really overwhelming! I get moved by the illustrated thoughts of Sydney based artist Antwerpen, I love the character work of Kyle Hughes-Odgers. LA artist Mel Kadel has always been one of my favourite artists and I get lost in the work of Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso...and, and, and... 

You've collaborated a lot before - who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
My dream is to create an epic illustrated tale with Entang Wiharso.

You can see all of Akisiew's works for sale here