Everyone’s favorite “vandal” is back in NYC making trouble again. The infamous Nick Walker not only has several gigantic murals all over New York City, but recently opened a month long solo show at The Quin Hotel. The new exhibition curated by DK Johnston includes not only classic Nick Walker imagery, but also featured some new pieces which tease the viewer with some strong new work. So I figured if I was going to travel all the way to midtown I might as well sit down with Nick and chat for a bit about his roots, art, NYC, and our mutual love of Massive Attack.
For people that don’t know you or your work give them a little bit of background.
Well I’m Nick walker, I’m originally from Bristol. I got into graffiti art in the early 80’s and I have been painting and progressing ever since.
So who were some of your early influences? Any influences… art, music, movies, whatever?
The one thing that I remember really drew me into art was movie posters and the art work on the front of video covers because at the time it was a lot of drawn art work and not so much photographs.
Any cover in particular stand out from that period? Jaws maybe?
Well yeah, Jaws was amazing. But, I think of the Bruce Lee covers like Enter The Dragon or Game Of Death you know that kind of crazy stuff. And you know I used to just sit and copy them. I would do my best to get them exactly right. I was even influenced by stuff like the cartoons on the front of cereal packets. I was a mad little sponge back in those days just absorbing as much as possible. I think in terms of influence Frank Frazetta, Moebius, Gean Gerard for sure. All those types of comic strip artists who used to work for1984 magazine and Heavy Metal Magazine and all the other kinds of underground comics.
So it’s a funny coincidence that one of my other favorite artist’s from Bristol Massive Attack just announced they are releasing a new phone App with new music today. Did you know those guys? Where they an influence on you?
Yes of course, Robert for sure. We used to paint together in the 80’s. There was only a hand full of us in Bristol painting at that time. We all used to go to the same cafe on the bottom of St. Micheal’s Hill called Special K’s, and we were all one big family, it was a crazy little melting pot.. We were good mates and like I said there was maybe eight writers max. 3D was a really big influence for me because he would be using stencils and everyone including me at the time were like “What is he doing??. That’s cheating! That’s not right… you can’t do that!“ He was doing stuff like mixing up images of Robert De Niro you know because one of his favorite films was The Dear Hunter, and I remember this one time he got me involved in this project inside The Montpelier Pub in Montpelier just near St. Paul’s, and he asked me to just come and add some of my work on the walls – it was the first time I saw him do a whole body of work in one place, and the one thing that always stuck in my head was a multiple of Marilyn Monroe turning into Margaret Thatcher (If anyone out there has an image of this I would be very grateful if you could send me one to see) it was absolutely brilliant, and ahead of its time. I mean to say that there was no influence on my work there obviously would be very wrong. I have said on many occasions that I probably got into stencil work because of him.
That’s crazy. So you grew up in Bristol and started to paint there. You have done a load of traveling since then. Where to next?
Bristol is my base. I have a flat there and I go back often. My kids are there so it’s home. They are actually coming over here in early February for a bit.
Great timing. Just in time for the coldest part of New York Winter.
Yeah right… the last time my daughter came to visit it was just about the same time – mad cold.
It was like tomorrow with the impending blizzard?
It really was brutally cold. But yeah, I travel a lot. I’m actually off to the Far East soon, and then another project in LA late February. I’m doing a release with Prints on Wood. Do you know those guys?
Actually I just grabbed one of the Buff Monster pieces they released and wanted to get the Ron English/Chuck D one as well.
I like those guys a lot. I’ve actually done one release with them already. We are going to get this one out just in time for Valentine’s Day as well. I’m also going to do a mural in LA while I’m there. You know two birds with one stone kinda thing. I know I’m also going back to Japan in early May to do collaboration with Dj Muro. He is one of my favorite Dj’s so I’m excited.
So how did this whole show with DK and The Quinn come about?
Well DK has been talking to me about doing something for a really long time, and actually they had me come in as there first artist in residence about two years ago. I stayed here for about a month. I was fuckin’ like a modern day Howard Hughes painting in this place. Since then me and Darren had been talking about us doing a couple of projects together. You know I’m cagey as fuck. I don’t work with people that quickly but Darren is great – he pulls his weight. He keeps you informed and he’s very professional. You know, the way it should be.
Is there any theme to this show? Maybe NY in general?
No, it’s not really NY. It’s a bunch of stuff really. Like the piece with the plane over there is a piece I have been wanting to do about Air Force One for a while. I think Air Force One has been needing a little treatment. I did that piece on an actual sheet of metal. There is also a piece over there which I hired an old school NY cab for. I rented in for the morning to shoot the piece for the Quin. It was actually great fun. I think those are my favorite pieces. But I also wanted to make the main amount of pieces on paper so they could be reasonably prices. I think there is like 22 pieces in total but Darren has already managed to sell almost all of them.
So what am I doing here then?
I don’t know really why are you here? But seriously, I think there may be only seven pieces left and hopefully they will all sell tonight.
How long is the show running?
The show will be up for a month.
So are you trying to spend more time in NYC now? Asides for the hopping around we already talked about? I mean you have always incorporated a large amount of NY imagery in your work. Is NY just one of your favorite places to be?
Since I was a kid I always wanted to live here. And you know there are certain times in my life when I almost bit the bullet and moved here. The first time I came to visit was the early 90’s I think 1992, and then I came back again, and again, going back and forth.
It’s addictive right?
Yeah, totally so much. It’s also insane how much it’s changed over the years. It’s ridiculous. I just wish I had enough money back in ’92 to buy a loft space.
Don’t we all! Grab a building in Bushwick for a couple hundred K.
Yeah Yeah! If I could go back in time, and know what I know now, and buy something like that.
Not just go back in time… but to have the money as well.
Absolutely, But it’s amazing how much it’s changed, but New York still has that weird raw kinetic serendipitous energy, and I think that’s what has always drawn me to this city.
Any NY artists your have worked with or working with?
Yes, I work with crash and Bio quite a lot from Tats Cru. We have a show coming up later in the year in Switzerland where all three of us are collaborating on a bunch of canvases. We maybe 10/12 canvases still to paint and then all the work will be ready but to ship.
Any chance of seeing one of your pieces or a collaborations at The Bushwick Collective? Tats Cru paints there a lot.
Yeah, I know Joe, we are in contact quiet a lot.
Joe’s the man! It would be great to see one of your Vandal’s over there.
He has been inviting me for quite some time, but truthfully every time the timing is just not right because it’s just been to cold when I have been available. I pussy out because I don’t want to paint in sub zero temperatures.
Are there any artists lately who you are inspired by, or collecting?
Yeah, I like the work of a new artist from Spain Deih. I just commissioned a canvas from him, I really like his work, he’s defiantly up and coming.
So anything else we should know about coming up in the future?
Yeah, like I mentioned a show in Switzerland, and one later in the year at Wallworks in The Bronx, more murals around New York and Los Angeles, and hopefully buying a house at the end of the year. I try to get out to Japan at least once a year, so I’ll be there in May this year. Oh yeah! The print release of the Brooklyn TMA!
Why should people check out the show?
Because if they like or follow what I do it has a flow of signature imagery and it’s in an interesting part of town and the Quin is a cool hotel. There is affordable works on paper and a few on canvas and metal. It’s always fun to check out shows in hotels like this. The staff here are cool too and it’s just a pleasure to be here. It’s definitely worth a stay.
All Text & Photo’s Copyright 2016 Matthew A. Eller.