For once Brick Lane and the Truman Brewery are quiet. There’s an otherworldly feel to the place on account of the snow and London has all but ground to a halt. It’s not that deep, more of a decent layering, but still the city has never quite mastered it’s response to this particular element.
I’m here to meet Joachim! Originally from Antwerp in Belgium, he is sitting with his arm hanging out of the passenger seat of a mini cooper. Painted pink and covered in skulls, it’s an installation which is to be the centrepiece of his new show, ‘Born to Paint’. It’s purely for display of course, the engine having been removed, but it’s a great standout piece that dominates as soon as you walk into the gallery.
The artist is exhibiting his first London show with the street art agency, Graffiti Street. It’s something that he describes as a milestone in his career and one that he has needed to build up to. “A couple of years ago what I’m doing now I could only dream about. Having a London solo show, no way, never! But this is what I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m sitting here in this pink car with my skull on it, in London.”
Around him, the work is being hung and of course there are many other skulls. It’s become a symbol of his work, a kind of tag that he will often incorporate into his pieces. “I just like skulls I don’t know why and one day I just started to draw skulls… then over the years the skull became my logo.” Later adding a little hat it… “just makes it more cool you know.”
He describes many influences and doesn’t settle on any particular one but does make reference to the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring as being artists to whom he might be subconsciously influenced by. In general though he paints on instinct, not knowing where it’s heading until the piece emerges on the canvas and not thinking too much about the direction he is going until he is on the way.
“As long as I live or can remember, I paint or I draw. It’s the only thing I like to do, I hate everything else” he tells me, saying that this is what he means by ‘born to paint’. Coming on the heels of a previous solo exhibition in Brussels called ‘Till Death Do Us Art‘, it would seem that the references to birth and death are symbolic of how he sees his own life intertwined with the art he creates.
Captivated at a young age by graffiti he saw his first piece at the age of six whilst on a tram with his grandmother, “suddenly we were passing by this old school graffiti piece on a wall and I immediately went woah!” His grandmother saw the spark in him and explained what it was. From that moment, despite it being frowned upon in the early nineties, he wanted to be a graffiti artist.
Going to art school at the age of 15 he met other graffiti writers whilst there and found himself becoming involved in the Antwerp graffiti scene. “A new world opened for me. They took me with them to paint trains and things like that. I got caught a few times and then after a while a figured that this wasn’t really my cup of tea.”
It was his desire to paint beautiful works of art though that was really the catalyst for leaving the illegal graffiti scene behind. Pieces on the street, hurriedly created in short bursts at the dead of night, didn’t allow him to spend the time needed to create the kind of art he would have been happy with.
Now known for both his street murals as well as his studio work, his work outside generally takes a bolder black and white form. Less complicated but big and with minimal use of colour, his work in the studio meanwhile is busy, colourful and with far more going on in the image, more instinctive it would seem.
“I wake up with art, I do art all day long, I dream about it at night” he tells me as he gives some further insight into the way he thinks. “Sometimes I think that I go crazy because that’s the only thing I do. But I think that’s the only way to do it. I think you have to be obsessed with something to go somewhere… and I’m obsessed with art”
‘Born to Paint‘ the solo exhibition from Joachim is supported by Graffiti Street and is showing at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane from 2-10 March 2018. Joachim was interviewed at the gallery on 28 February 2018 and the opening night of the show was 1 March 2018.