T-Files 047: Adnate

I’m very happy to present this new interview with Adnate – one of the most interesting and talented artists coming out of Australia right now, in my opinion. The self-taught post-graffiti artist is possibly best-known for his giant, photo-realistic aerosol murals depicting members of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal community. As such, his work seems to be heavily inspired by Renaissance painters and equally informed by modern-day politics and social awareness. And furthermore, it all looks amazing. If you’re interested in seeing more of Adnate’s work, there’s a wealth of video footage for you to check out online. And you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more great work. So, without further ado, let’s find out more about this incredibly talented creative from Down Under.


Where are you today? I’m currently on a long flight home from India to Melbourne, Australia. This is the 3rd time I’ve been to india in the last year, but this time i had the incredible opportunity to meet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life.


What are you doing/working on? This week I’ve got a wall lined up with some awesome artists in Melbourne, Sirum, Dvate & Sofles. I seriously love working with artists like this… growing up as a graffiti writer i loved seeing all the graff productions: the way artists would incorporate ridiculously good lettering into murals filled with characters on a collaborative composition. So it’s rad jamming with these guys!

I am about to embark on my next body of work for my 6th solo exhibition, launching in about 6months time at Metro Gallery which will be on Indigenous Australian Culture. Last time i had a solo with these guys I produced 25 works, which made for a solid series and I’m planning to top that.


What was your introduction to art? Graffiti… When I was 6 my older brother was into graffiti and I would make mazes out of his Wildstyle sketches. But it wasn’t till I was a teenager and I started catching the trains around Melbourne that my eyes opened to what was capable as a graffiti writer. As I grew up I went through different stages, focusing on bombing, track sides, blockies, collaborative productions… Then about 5years ago I felt like I’d had enough with letters and begun painting portraits.


Are you self-taught or formally educated? I started an arts course at university but never finished it… I struggle with classroom teaching, it sends me to sleep. However I did, when i started painting portraits, do a solid 6months of life drawing which taught me a lot. All those quick drawing exercises trains your brain to truly observe and break down what your eye actually see’s, rather than what it thinks it sea’s.


When did you decide to make a career of it? Painting kinda just ‘became’ a career… My dream since I was a kid was to travel and paint full time and has since become a career, which is fucking awesome.


Rad! I’m really into your indigenous series, can you talk about the inspiration there, and/or the ideas you are working with? Thanks! We live in a society full of distractions in which we walk around like horses with visors to what’s really going on. Before I started painting Indigenous Australians I was oblivious to the true cultural genocide that they have suffered.

It’s a common story with many Indigenous populations of the world, Native Americans, Tibetans. They have violent stories of hardcore oppression and I feel that through my art, particularly when I get the chance to paint large scale portraits, it creates awareness for these issues. One thing I certainly learnt from painting graffiti, is the power you have to communicate with the public by painting on the street. For example, I feel when I paint a portrait of an Aboriginal on the streets of Melbourne, it creates a billboard of awareness and in a way, to reclaim the space that was taken from them.


Does living & working in Melbourne relate closely to your work at all? Melbourne is a city with a rich graffiti and street art history and it’s definitely had an effect on me. There has always been so many artists at home to inspire me and its an awesome city to paint in. We’ve got some seriously painted up areas, just as much as you would find in Berlin or other world graffiti hotspots.

In terms of my Aboriginal Cultural work, I made a strong purpose to connect with Melbourne communities as we have such amazing and beautiful clans. We also had one of the worst assimilation policies in Australia of integrating Aboriginals into “white” families and missions, so i feel its important they be represented and painted in the neighbourhoods.


Has your work taken you to (m)any interesting places or countries? Definitely!! 99% of what I paint is inspired and referenced from my own photos and experiences. For example, I’ve been to highly remote aboriginal communities in the deserts of Australia and the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in northern India’s Dharamsala. 

Last month, I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the City of Gold Festival. I’d never been anywhere in Africa before and I didn’t get to do much exploring, but it was an amazing place. I spent most days raised above the city on a lift watching from above and although we were painting in some dodgy areas (on two occasions I heard gunshots whilst painting) it was a beautiful and cheerful community. They really loved lots of the work that went up, I was even told that some were crying with happiness.


What’s next for Adnate – any future exhibitions or projects we can look forward to? I’m gonna keep rolling on, squeezing in as many projects as i can, big or small… Next week I’ll be sleeping in a swag for a week under the stars at a remote aboriginal community in some seriously HOT weather. I’ll be there to engage, document and culturally exchange through painting, which will be the major inspiration for my next solo show. 

I’m also looking forward to finding an opportunity to paint a portrait of the Dalai Lama as i believe his life’s work needs to be commemorated and reminded to the world. His core values of peace and compassion is a huge inspiration, in my eyes he’s a living Mahatma Ghandi. 


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