Known for his large graphic mural works on walls around various international cities, his unique style lends to to the use of black and white shapes with thick contour lines, often accompanied cartoon-like characters. Innocent and unfeigned, they sit before a brightly colored background that further manifests the narrative of each pieces story. While not limited to outdoor street art, he also creates canvas pieces that can be found at 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace in Australia and through the online portal GraffitiStreet. Check him out as he gives us some insight on his art and its collaborative history.
1.) How and where did you get your start in the industry? What turned you on to street art and why did you decide in 2010 to make painting on more traditional materials your main project?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always drawn and painted and had a passion for art. My first remembrance of graffiti dates back to the early 90s. I must have been about six or seven years old when I saw an old school graffiti piece on a wall in the city of Antwerp. I was immediately impressed! I thought, when I am bigger, I want to do that too! So when I was about 15 years old, I went to art school. I got to know people who had been busy with graffiti for years. They took me along and made me familiar with the scene … I actually made paintings before I started painting on walls. But in 2010, I rented my first studio. From then on, I began to produce paintings on a larger scale.
2.) Tell us about your creative process. Also, please tell us about your work with GraffitiStreet and some of your new pieces including “Dancing With A Dog,” “The Cyclist” and “Guitar Man.”
Telling something about my creative process is very difficult because I do not really want to think about it. If I think too much about it, I can no longer work. It must all happen spontaneously.
But I start with an empty canvas without knowing what the result will look like. I start painting. I stop painting. Even when I think my painting is finished, I continue the process. I know that sounds easy, but that’s not always the case. For me, knowing when to stop is at least as difficult as painting itself. In terms of my personal style, it has also evolved over the years without losing its typical character. It’s really a growth process! I also think that having a personal style is very important because the competition is sometimes murderous! if you have a recognizable style, then you jump out of the crowd and people recognize your work more easily … And as for giving a description of my pieces, I don’t like to tell about my work. I want all my work to be open to interpretation. But I will tell you something about “The Cyclist.” It’s based on a sketch that I made when I was in the hospital while I was having knee surgery. I was extremely afraid of the narcosis. I wanted to run away from it. I am the cyclist who tries to escape the anesthetic. In the original sketch, the cyclist had all the needles in his back. But I did not show them in the painting afterwards. I also added elements like the figure on the right. And as I said, when I start to paint, I just do it. I mean, I can have an idea, but the end result will always look different.
3.) You’ve collaborated with Italian fashion brand Master of Arts (MAO) on a pair of customized “Joachim” sneakers made available through their website at moaconcept.com. Tell us a bit about the project and how it came about.
MOA is an Italian shoe brand that occasionally collaborates with artists to design a sneaker collection. For me, they had already worked with Mister Thoms, an artist that I greatly appreciate. So I knew the MOA brand mainly through Mister Thoms. One day, I got a mail from MOA asking if I wanted to cooperate with them. Of course I did! Not doubt I said, yes. Because honestly, who doesn’t want to wear shoes with his own designs on them?! Before their release, they held an event in Zurich. So they let me fly over to Switzerland to attend it. And soon, I will be to Milan to make a mural in their new store. The rest is to be continued …
4.) Though many of your creative pieces are large outdoor murals, some are specialized works created on canvases built from materials you find on the streets. In fact, you have an ongoing collaboration with the art gallery 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace in Australia which showcases some of them to the public. Give us some insight on the exhibition and how you go about creating your pieces for the venue including “A Man and His Cat,” “The Wise Guys,” and “Adam & Eva.”
That is true. I used to make my own canvases with material that I found on the street. I just didn’t have the money to buy material from the store at the time. I really loved the process and looking for the material. But, it also took a lot of time! Time that I could invest better in the creative aspect. Now that I earn more with my art, I just buy canvases from an art shop.
The Australian 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace does indeed have a few of my works in their gallery. Since first collaborating with them, I have made several new works for the gallery. My work is my business card. 19 Karen is the first gallery that honors my work in Australia. So I wanted those works to contain everything I am known for. And by the way, they are one of the first works in which I have used oil paint, a technique that I never used before. I would say, they are among my best works. I really learned a lot from it.
5.) Briefly describe the “Joachim” style of graffiti and art.
My style is relatively easy and recognizable. Like I said, I think it’s important to have a style of your own. I’ve always been consciously looking for a style that I could call “mine.” But something simple is therefore not easy! It has to be right! A circle must be round and not “almost round,” if you know what I mean. My work on walls is also graphic and a bit cartoon-like. You know, black and white shapes with thick contour lines, often accompanied by a color in the background. In my work on canvas the same elements come back, but it’s rougher and less clean. I also tend to use a lot more color on my canvas pieces. It is a different way of working, really.
6.) One of your favorite collaborations of last year was with your man 2Dirty. Please explain the title of the piece and describe how the collaboration came about?
2DIRTY has been one of my best friends for years! He’s also a well-known street artist in Antwerp. His stickers and paste-ups can be found everywhere! When I got to know 2DIRTY, he only worked illegally. He was, and is, really, more specialized in typography and logos. So when we work together, we try to combine our styles in a fun way. As far as how the title came about, well, that’s actually pretty easy because the essence is the same — graphic, color surfaces and outlines!
For the collab we worked around the “buff theme.” I made the figure and 2Dirty did the background. The background is actually part of the concept! You see the figure removing the background (or the graffiti). That way you create interaction. It’s a nod to the illegal graffiti past of 2Dirty, really.
7.) Tell us about “LIER UP,” a project you organized and curated in your former home town of Lier, Belgium. How was it conceived? How did you choose the 10 artists you worked with? Are there any plans to do it again or perhaps create another project like it?
Lier is a small town where I lived for a long time. For so long I wanted something to happen in that city. In my opinion, it was a bit conservative and quite boring. Actually, I have quite a few connections with the city council and I proposed to organize a street art project. At first, they thought it was a bit daring and they doubted if something like a “street art-project” would fit in the city. But I seemed to have convinced them, that the idea works. We (me in collaboration with 10 artists) created a dozen permanent murals in and around the center. As for the artists I chose for this project, well, they were artists I had already worked with or with whom I wanted to work with. Artists whose work I knew and which I knew were capable of leaving behind quality work. It was a success and the project was well received! It even grew into one of the city’s sightseeing attractions. You can even hire a guide who takes you on a walk along all the walls … really funny!
Now that it’s all said and done, I live back in Antwerp (back to my roots) and for the last couple of months, I have been working on a similar project. I can’t tell you much about it yet, but I promise you it will be dope!
8.) Who are your idols and influences? Besides art-making, what are some of your hobbies?
Here I can answer very briefly. I don’t actually have any idols, really. But if I had to mention one artist that I really respect, I would say Keith Haring! He was a genius! Unfortunately, or not so unfortunately, I don’t have any other hobbies either. I mean, everything I do has something to do with art. Although, there is one thing that interests me very much, and that’s space. There used to be a period when I wanted to become an astronaut! The universe, the stars, comets, black holes, anti-matter, wormholes, exoplanets, astroids … the more you read about it, the more crazy it becomes and the more you realize that you do not know anything!
9.) In three (3) words, tell us what the social purpose of your street art illustrates (What are you trying to say with your work?)
With my work, I don’t generally have any thing too say. And if I do, I usually do not want to talk about it. I mean, people have the right to think what they want when they see it. I think an explanation about a piece can really destroy its image! I really hate that.
10.) What are your plans for the future? Who would you like to work with, What kind of work can we expect to see from you? Also, if you could, please tell us where people can not only buy, but also see your work?
I am, as just said, working on a new street art project in Antwerp. Soon I will create work for a big street art festival. But I can’t say anything about it until after the press release is circulated (that’s been explicitly requested) I am also working for a new solo show! More information will follow soon! As for staying current with my work, you can catch me via my Facebook page and my Instagram account (@joachimofficial). Through those two portals you can stay informed about work and all my upcoming projects. Otherwise, it will be too much to mention! Thank you!