Street art duo BMD: going larger-than-life

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Published:  September 25, 2015
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The streets of Wollongong in New South Wales will be transformed this October when the fourth annual street art festival, ‘Wonderwalls’, kicks off.

One of the largest street art festivals in Australia, ‘Wonderwalls’, runs from 2 to 4 October and will feature 15 large and small murals painted live across the Wollongong CBD, art exhibitions hosted by local galleries, Q&A discussions with artists and an opening night party at Wollongong’s new pop up contemporary art space, Moving Mountains Gallery.

The 2015 program includes an incredible calibre of both local and international artists, including street artists duo BMD from New Zealand.

Andrew and Damin may be tight-lipped about the story behind the name BMD (or about their surnames, for that matter) but their work is anything but a secret. From the streets of their home in Wellington, to the walls of Tijuana, Mexico, BMD has left its mark; a mark that is usually as large as the building its on.

While their work may seem light-hearted and funny at the first glance, it usually carries strong social messages. desktop checked in with Andrew to learn more about the pair, their work and the rising credibility of street artists.

Give us the backstory. Who is BMD and how did you two meet and become this pair of badass street artists?

Ideas attract. We first met in detention at intermediate school with a common lack of respect for authority and a shared love of mischief. We weren’t bad kids – like we didn’t sell drugs or bully – we just didn’t like listening. We skateboarded together for a few years and then it wasn’t until high school we picked up spray painting. Damin has always been a great artist and helped lead my creative horse to water so to speak. We painted together but as separate artists on and off the street for a few years in New Plymouth and were just having fun being vandals. It wasn’t until we moved to Wellington that we became more collaborative and created BMD on a bus trip between the cities. Everyone still asks what BMD stands for but it’s our best kept secret.

Luke shirlaw

Credits: Luke Shirlaw

Looking through the images on your website, we can only think that your mantra is go big or go home. What’s the biggest piece you’ve done and how long did it take? Any plans in the pipeline for an even bigger piece?

Scale has impact. Our ambition was to create the biggest artwork in New Zealand. I think we’ve achieved that, but never taken out the measuring tape to prove it. I think our largest wall is the shark wall in Wellington; self funded and self curated to ruffle some feathers around New Zealand’s absurd shark finning regulations. It was so big it couldn’t be ignored. There’s some crazy logistics and planning involved, both with how we operate within the collaborative and the materials and time needed, at the scale we work.

Your art is mostly quirky and light hearted. Where do you get inspiration for such pieces?

I use walls as a vehicle to push both fun and decorative work, as well as more meaningful and conceptual work, with the over arching goal of adding value to public space and providing social commentary. It can’t be all work and no play right?

Cartoons have a beautiful simplicity about them. They’re sort of relatable to everyone regardless of age, culture or anything else that makes people different. They’re universal and have an ability to communicate an idea or be purely decorative, depending how you use them. I’m an academic at heart and always loved how science illustrations in textbooks could tell stories better than the words alongside them; you can summarise an idea with an image. Plus, I’m probably the world’s biggest Simpsons fan.

Talk me thorough the process of doing a large scale project – how do you start, what equipment do you need and who does what here?

Everything starts with a conversation – the what, how, where and why. We then materialise this as a basic sketch. This is usually just the composition and is often tiny – sometimes on a napkin or something. Then we get some paint on the walls and grow the piece. Our toolbox consists mainly of ambition, the love of what we do, some paint and a ladder or scissor lift.

photo by bmd

Credits: BMD

Graffiti art has had a stigma for years. How and why do you think that perception of graffiti has changed these days?

The world’s always changing. The street and the gallery are two very different worlds, but they are slowly warming up to each other and people are treating street art as more of a contemporary art thing. I think that’s helped build credibility. It’s something we’ve never explored as BMD – we’ve never sold a piece of artwork not on a wall, unless for charity. The strength of public work is that is accessible and open to everyone. It gets exposure. The weakness is it’s hard to make a living from as no one really wants to pay for something everyone else can enjoy too. While gallery work has credibility, it gets much less exposure, and when it sells it can easily get lost in private collections, gathers dust and dies.

How do you feel about the nature impermanence of your work?

Everything is temporary. These words, this magazine, the Mona Lisa. We all turn to dust one day – it’s part of life. I think public art as it currently is, sort of sets a timestamp on a space and how it is, at that moment, and you can’t control it beyond that. That being said, I work really hard to maximize the life span of what I produce – through the quality of materials used and the scale of our work. It was a huge driving force for us to go from ground level to get bigger and go onto wall space that hadn’t been occupied before; we worked hard to reach areas that were difficult to paint out and would therefore last longer. You just can’t fall in love with something that’s outside of your control.

gekoYou guys have travelled all over and made your mark at many of your destinations. Which piece of yours do you like the most and where in the world is it located? What’s the story behind that piece?

Travelling and painting is a great way to see the world, engage with people and get into some crazy situations. My favorite place to create work is Asia because it’s so alive and has so much energy. I’ve had my best, and my worst, painting experiences there – sh*t is crazy. My personal favorite piece is one back home in New Zealand, a work we created in Christchurch around climate change issues. The piece was called ‘If the ice melts the penguins will too’, where the work was an ice shelf with a few hundred penguins gradually melting across it. It was a good mix of being aesthetically and conceptually strong.

Give us a peek into your work playlists. What songs get you into the zone?

I listen to all sorts. Lately its been a mix of Dr Dre, all the guys under Young Gifted and Broke, Tom Scott and I’m not afraid to say I rock a bit of Lorde. Big fan. I’m a huge Podcast listener, my favourite shows are the Tim Ferriss show and Bulletproof Radio.

Charlotte Curd 1

Credits: Charlotte Curd

What can we expect from you guys at Wonderwalls?

I’m psyched to be part of Wonderwalls – every artist wants to be involved. I’m excited to see the area as I’ve never visited and have heard amazing things. Also we’re going through an evolution in BMD and have some new work and aesthetics to create so will be awesome platform to show this.

Best way to get over a creative block?

You got to try different things. Break your cycle, do something new, take a risk, consume different experiences and foods. Go to the Opera, eat some strange-ass fruits, read a kids book. At risk of sounding like a jock (I’m not, believe that), a bit of exercise goes a long way. So many creatives don’t look after their health but it’s super important if you want to maintain good energy and productivity.

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@bmdisyourfriend
bmdisyourfriend.com 

To find out more about the happenings at this year’s ‘Wonderwalls’, click here.

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