Nish Cash is a graffiti artist based in Melbourne. She talks about how she got started writing graffiti and about the support offered by Ladie Killerz, (a national female graffiti event that happens annually with a wall jam, exhibitions, and performances).
I was a creative kid but having moved around a lot as a child I was displaced and trying to figure out who I was. I read my environment like a book, which included tags and scrawls, and took it upon myself to start marking my little neighborhood too. It was all very innocent but there was a little rebelliousness motivating me.
It wasn't until I reached high school that I really evolved and delved into a subculture in which I eventually became immersed. From photographing pieces, sketching, watching Style Wars, Sprayed Conflict, Wild Style and Beat Street and reading Full Effect, Hype, Vapours and anything I could get my hands on. I borrowed a copy of Subway Art from someone and accidentally never returned it. I wanted to study graffiti like it was my life's lesson.
When I had my daughter then I had to find a balance in life's different roles. Painting was and still is part of who I am, but having minimal time meant it was a matter of creating less but with more impact. I started doing canvases and sketching more around this time, working on my style and pushing it further.
I would say that my style is a hybrid of 3D and 2D. I try to keep a flow and create movement with both characters and letters. My style is based on a lot of feminine colours which I blend and fade. New York fat caps are vital to my technique. I gave up years ago trying to stick to the usual way of rocking a piece and decided to flip the script and do things my way. This is what helped me discover my own style which I still need to push further. My influences include (in no particular order) colour swatches, HKC/UGH/WOT, birds, Mode 2, bamboo earrings and fat gold chains, ghettoblasters, Futura 2000, music, Aboriginal desert art, kicks and Kangols, spray paint, Daim, Copic markers, women in hip hop, records, Alphonse Mucha, Audrey Kawasaki, Lady Pink and the list goes on. I draw inspiration from everywhere and from many inspirational people. Working in an Aboriginal Art Gallery, I feel blessed to be surrounded by my culture and so much art so every day I'm inspired just by going to work.
Meeting up and connecting with my crew HKC, a group of like-minded ladies who have all connected through the art of graffiti. We have evolved together despite being in different states and become a tight knit family. When I've felt like I'm going off track, they inspire me and keep me going through the toughest times. Inspiring young people to be creative and hearing their reactions and enthusiasm when I'm teaching them. Some of the feedback is what keeps me going back to teaching. Kids say the truth and it's beautiful!! I also appreciate the feedback I get from people when I put my work out there. Sometimes it surprises me as to what others see in my work. Having the feedback from others keeps me driven and wanting to push the work further.
It's almost a natural progression for many artists now to extend their work from the street to the gallery. Although the streets and gallery are two very different environments, I find doing both has furthered my creativity. What can be done on a wall may not necessarily work on canvas. The urban environment is one type of gallery and the walls are the canvases, whereas the space of galleries can be limiting compared to the freedom of painting a huge wall. By taking the work off the street and putting it into a gallery, graffiti does take on a new meaning.
I feel blessed in my career, which is a balance of fine art and my own art. From working in an Indigenous Art Gallery and being surrounded by incredible fine art and culture, stepping out to paint and teach kids in remote communities or working on my own projects, it has all given me satisfaction in which I’m more than happy to be immersed in art and culture from both sides of the fence.
I don’t think graffiti will ever lose its power or meaning. In fact I think it has taken on other meanings and used in ways that has given it new powers. There are writers who push the artistic aspect where style and productions break boundaries. Like hip hop music has many subgenres, graffiti can also be defined as having many layers and different types of art. The internet has totally changed the game and mainstream has caught on to graffiti as a cool means of marketing anything from clothing to stationery to video games.
Like many male dominated cultures and hip hop in particular, women are a minority. It is the furthest thing from glamorous, everything I own has paint on it and my nails are usually multicoloured. The ladies I know who paint are a different and rare breed from most.
With the event Ladie Killerz, (a national female graffiti event that happens annually with a wall jam, exhibitions, and performances) we have embraced and brought together many women who have the same passion for graffiti. This event now in its 7th year is attracting women from all over the world. From when I began writing there were only a handful of women but thanks to the internet, the world has gotten smaller and the number of women involved in graffiti has grown hugely.
I have faced many obstacles, tensions and heartbreak and have nearly walked away from the very thing that has saved me, taught me, blessed me but also tortured me. Throughout my life of learning and losing I have now realised that the one thing that can’t be taken away from me is my ability to paint and create. If I lost that it would be losing part of my soul.
I have worked in many remote and regional communities including Tennant Creek, Port Lincoln, Yalata and everywhere in between and have had the opportunity to travel and work with many young indigenous and non indigenous students. The greatest gift in teaching and facilitating workshops is the way the kids approach it with an untainted mind. Spray paint is relatively new but Aboriginal culture is over 40,000 years old and to translate ancient stories and images with the use of a new medium has been a focal point in my work out in communities. Writing and telling visual stories through one’s environment is nothing new, such as with cave painting. I draw parallels to this and with the use of spray paint it gives the younger generation a voice to express themselves and continue cultural practices. Younger kids can relate, and my goal through all of my workshops is to make sure young people have the ability to have a voice and express themselves even if no one is listening.
Painting has given me a voice which allows me to share and hope to inspire others to begin a path of social change in their communities.
Nish Cash is a graffiti artist based in Melbourne.