HNRX the Austrian artist painting everyday objects on walls around the world
It’s a bad line and HNRX is trying to get a signal! He is sitting in his lodgings in Valencia where he’s just painted a towering mural. It’s taken him all of a day to do it, pretty gobsmacking when you actually see its size. But still he’s found the time to talk to me, first over skype, then facebook video and finally through messenger. To be honest I suspect that the connection problems are more likely down to the poor bandwidth in the East End of London but I don’t tell him that.
Last year HNRX, originally from Innsbruck in Austria, visited London and still his pieces can be seen all over the place. He was highly prolific during his two month visit painting on as many walls as he could. Often collaborating with others but also just by himself. His legacy is still here and many of the walls he painted are still very much intact.
His work is certainly unique. His paintings depict what he describes as objects. Everyday things that, he explains to me, we don’t care about too much yet which we need everyday to survive. “Why not give them the chance to get big and recognisable so people might think about them and be more thankful.”
Brushes, shrimp, sausages, teeth, paprika, chargers… there is seemingly no pattern to the objects that HNRX will choose to paint high up onto the walls of any given city. He paints them because they are interesting, nothing more. Often he will bring them together in what he describes as a surreal way creating patterns and playing around with the objects he has chosen to depict. As a result it’s very unlikely that you’ll see two pieces the same.
HNRX is also an artist who loves to travel having painted throughout most of Europe. Motivated by adventure, he talks about going outdoors, feeling alive and being able to create something in the urban environment. “I like it more to go out rather than paint at home on a canvas…it’s more real to me” he explains. For him part of the attraction of painting on the street is it’s immediacy. “If you start then you have to finish it now and not the week after…it’s all about the now.”
But it’s also the creativity which is important! For him the art of creation is more important than any kind of message. Those seeking explanations therefore to his work will be disappointed. Rather it’s about being individual with each piece creating it’s own story and existing within its own world. It’s about being independent!
Much of his work is also done freestyle. No black book sketches beforehand and sometimes only just the glimmer of an idea in the event that he should need to paint a particularly big wall. He tells me about being able to work spontaneously with the environment in front of him. Being able to deal with whatever challenges the wall or the weather might bring. “It’s all about improvement” he says and training yourself to get better.
He isn’t however fond of labels. It’s easy for example to see HNRX’s work and label him a street artist. But that’s not the way he sees himself. “I am a painter” he tells me, “and I use the urban environment a lot. I don’t like boxes like ‘street art’ what is street art exactly? Do I have to follow rules there?”
And it’s that sense of freedom in his work which is important to him. “I am free to do what I want” he tells me. Freed from the constraints of a label. After all he also works with galleries and produces prints. There are more sides to him than just the one, “no, I call myself an artist, that’s all, that’s it”.
Of course we are most interested in his street work and his two month residency in London last year certainly contributed a lot of that to the walls of our home city. Whilst here he chose to make the switch from spray to more traditional paint. Recognising that the spray probably wasn’t good for the environment or for himself, the waste was also excessive. “I painted so much in London” he told me, “every day, tons of spray cans… for what? So much waste! I felt sick a little bit and my body told me to stop.”
There are lot’s that we could talk about. He tells me about his appreciation for London and it’s accepting art scene. Shouting out our friends at London Calling and Global Street Art he also pays tribute to the many photographers and instagrammers who give the London scene it’s vibe and make it what it is “there’s no other city like it” he says.
So what does HNRX mean? The truth is he tells me, that is doesn’t actually mean anything. He just likes the sound of the way the letters fit together and how they work. I don’t suppose I should be surprised by that. Like much of his work it’s not about the meaning but the creation. Maybe that’s what, if anything, HNRX should really stand for.
HNRX was interviewed via facebook messenger on 15 January 2018 whilst in Valencia, Spain. Photos used in this feature are a mixture from the Inspiring City archives and from HNRX himself. You can follow HNRX’s instagram here.
HNRX piece in Star Yard off Brick Lane