INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES @motelseven40hk
Ahead of her solo show at WORLDART Gallery on the 5th of October 2023, we decided to catch up with Cape Town-based graffiti artist and painter motelseven to find out what it’s all about.
Give us some brief background about yourself.
I’m motelseven. I’m a female graffiti artist and painter. I had my first show in 2009. After a few shows in Europe, I decided to take a break and focus on being a chef for ten years. I started painting again after a few personal changes in my life in 2020.
Tell us about your upcoming show.
This show is about nostalgia, how our memories get warped with time. The paintings speak of mental health, trauma and anxiety and how it stems from childhood. It’s about growing up and expecting a drastic change, but we all carry that inner child inside of us. We can never really let go of that, and finding peace with it helps us to lay it to rest. There’s a poem by William Wordsworth – intimations of mortality from early recollections of childhood – and he speaks about this strange phenomenon like our innocence and magic get slowly saturated by time, but we still carry it with us.
How did you get to the name?
I can’t say what it’s called just yet, but it’s something that most children, even the ones that follow the rules, have felt in some way or other. Depression and anxiety is such a big problem in our society, and it all stems from one place. We don’t seem to connect the dots often. It makes sense that something has broken in our society when it comes to consumerism and technology. Millennials are a broken generation, but that’s not to say we are not just inherently broken as human beings. I just think we do a lot more self-reflection these days, it’s all got skewed by social media.
Your style has evolved quite a lot over the past few years. How has growing up changed the way you view and create art?
It’s a bit obvious, but with age comes experience and discipline. It was pretty wild that I had solo exhibitions so early on in my life. In a way, it’s an extension of what I’m saying in my upcoming show. We need years to truly understand the meaning of life. I know what I want to share with the world now, and I feel like it’s the right time to do it.
How would you describe your style of work?
My work is always evolving, but for the most part, it’s playful and pensive. I am completely obsessed with anything that isn’t current. I love old cartoons and vintage toys. My paintings aren’t for everyone, but I do hope I can bring across emotion and nostalgia.
Based on nostalgia, do you think people need to stop, pause and look back, in a world that is constantly evolving and future-focused?
I think a lot of us ARE looking back at the moment. Life has been so chaotic and uncertain, it’s comforting thinking back to a time of the Goonies and the Warriors. The only problem with that sort of yearning is that it’s warped by time. There were so many things in the 20th century that totally screwed the world, I don’t think looking back is helpful. We keep forgetting it hasn’t been very long at ALL that we have managed as a society to find a way to be liberal and kind.
Are there any other elements ton your show that go beyond paint on canvas?
There are two cool elements to this show that will definitely make it more interactive and playful. I am working with some incredibly talented and dedicated people who are with me on this journey.
What are your plans for 2024?
I really want to explore my paintings more, I also have a few very cool projects on the go. I always joke how my graffiti and fine art will never meet, but I think at some point they’ll have to. I don’t see myself in kitchens for the foreseeable future, so I’ll just be focusing on making cool things that will hopefully bring people joy.