We caught up with Jacob yikes to find out what makes him tick and also to get some insight into his new body of work for his forthcoming show Even In Darkness, opening April 1st at 5pm.
Jacob Yikes, born Jacob Ryan, is a multi-disciplined artist based in Christchurch, New Zealand. His extensive background in graffiti and street based, work often very large scale, has earned him the position of one of the country’s most sought after and active artists. Having headlined many festivals including Rise, Spectrum and Paradox. While Jacob’s presence is heavy on the streets, his series of surreal fine artwork is coming into a life of its own. Still influenced by the exterior work, his large-scale illustrations and paintings on paper show a more in-depth side to artist and how his mind works. With the use of bizarre characters and surrealistic scenery, Yikes’ work can be viewed as a look into the artist himself more often than not. He is somewhat redefining the idea of a self-portrait as he often refers to his paintings as an extension of himself, using symbolic ideas and imagery referring to his past, present and future painted in portrait format.
Why have you decided to become an artist? Was there a defining moment in your life when you knew you were an artist?
I think it was just something I was born to do; from a young age I have always been interested in art and being creative. It's a bit of an obsession as well, I can't go for long without drawing or painting otherwise I go a bit crazy.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I had a few jobs when I was younger, I worked as a kitchen hand at a couple of restaurants and a pizza chef for a few years, then right after the 2011 earthquakes I painted and repaired houses for three years before becoming a full-time artist.
What are your ideal working conditions?
I guess that depends on what I'm painting. If I'm in my studio I like to be alone with my thoughts or if I'm on a large wall then sometimes working alone is good too, but I also feed off the energy from my crew so find that really important as well, I learn a lot from the people I work with and surround myself with.
What’s your background? Do you have a formal art education or are you self-taught?
I have an advanced diploma in fine arts but I also consider myself to be a self-taught artist to some degree, painting graffiti taught me so much about can control and there's no course that you can go on to learn how to paint large scale walls with spray paint etc and I found studying art helped me with the history of art rather than how to paint, I will always be learning new things through experimenting in the studio. Experience is the best teacher.
How has your work changed over time? Has your skill or ideology changed?
I feel that while I have a somewhat distinct style, it's always evolving. I think as I have grown up my work has matured a bit. My ideology behind the works is somewhat similar as I'm still working from my subconscious majority of the time but as of late my works have become slightly more abstract as opposed to the super fine line work some might know me for.
I am also able to work on other people's ideas for commission work which helps to survive as a living artist.
Where do you find inspiration?
Life I guess, I use the good and the bad experiences I go through and try to make sense of them through my paintings and drawings, I also have a weird imagination that goes into overload sometimes, so I draw from that too. Music and certain spiritual experiences I've thrown myself into have given me inspiration too.
What do you think are your strongest abilities contributing to the success of your work?
I think just producing what I feel, being true to myself and not painting what other people want or painting stuff that is popular all the time, I see a lot of painting trends on social media and I really cringe at that stuff, I mean it's cool but why do it if everyone else is, I feel it's a bit of a cop out to be honest.
But yeah, I don’t know really, I do feel im lucky to be able to do what I do for a living and be somewhat successful with it.
Do you do a lot of research or dive straight into a new painting?
I don't exactly research anything for my work, I'm inspired by other works of art but when I paint something I usually create the background and then just sit with it for a while and meditate on it and literally stare at it for hours sometimes, It sounds kind of nuts but that's how I work.
What artists do you admire?
I admire the artist i work with in my crew and artists I’ve met over the years, I love Bill Hammond's works, Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali, and a lot of old surrealism stuff but I keep to myself a lot and i don't find myself looking into too much of what others are doing until it’s shown to me , that’s not because I don't admire others work it's just because it’s really easy to copy someone's work without even knowing. Plus, there are so many amazing artists in the world that it can be hard to keep up. But it’s also a good way to keep leveling up so I do dive into what others are doing now and then so I can step my game up.
Tell us about an exciting project you have recently completed?
Painting the Ernest Rutherford portrait in a realistic way was something new for me and I am pretty happy with how it came out. I had only ever attempted to paint something like that on that scale once before so it was cool to pull it off and I would like to get into some more realism stuff in the future as I'm not necessarily known for working like that so I think a lot of people were surprised I could.
Tell us about your forthcoming exhibition - ‘Even In Darkness’?
Even in darkness is a body of work I've been working on for roughly two years, I think it's my best body of work to date and I'm really happy with the direction the works have taken. I've taken a step away from my usual medium of paper and fine line work and have begun to work with a different approach and medium, the idea behind the works is based on a somewhat mystical experience I had two years ago as well as a deep look into my mind state at the time.
4 years ago, we hosted your show, Bad Company, how has your work developed and what have you learned since then?
I think my work has developed a lot since “bad company”. I was in a pretty dark place back then and I found the works from that show were quite manic and depressing. While my new works may seem still dark to some degree, they are far more refined, and I have slowed down my process of painting a lot and have learned to focus on a smaller number of works and really work on them properly as opposed to producing 30 something paintings like I did for bad company.
How long have you been working on the new body of work?
Roughly two years, I have had a large number of mural jobs in that time as well as a couple of group shows but on and off for two years on this new body of work.
Now that you have finished the work for the show, what other projects do you have on the horizon?
I have a lot of mural and commission work to catch up on so I will be focusing on that for a while as well as another group show later in the year and some NFT projects as well which is a new format I'm pretty interested in.
Tea / Coffee
Spray can / paint brush -Thats a hard one - Brush for studio - Cans for mural work
Out for dinner / out for brunch
A movie at the cinema / a movie on the couch - Couch for sure
Night on the town / a BBQ with mates
Fish n chips / Pizza
Jeans / Tracksuit
Abstract / realism-I really like both but maybe abstract at the moment.
Minimalist / Maximalist
Day at the Museum / Day at the Mall
Online / Instore