THROW BACK! Mr G featured in issue 1 of UNO Central back in winter 2008. Read our cover story in issue 40 to find out what he’s doing these days.
WORDS PENELOPE JACKSON COVER IMAGE MICHAEL POLE
IT IS A PLEASURE TO TALK TO GRAHAM HOETE – in his late twenties this guy has created a unique world of aerosol art, customised sneakers, stencil art and graphic design for himself and a far wider audience. He is proud and he deserves recognition not just for his art but for his sense of community. Hoete grew up in Kawerau. One of five children, he attended the local schools. At Kawerau College his art teacher was particularly supportive of his ability, encouraging him to pursue art. However Hoete’s passion and ability at volleyball won the day. In his sixth form year Hoete came to Tauranga, attending Tauranga Boys College. This was so he could play more serious volleyball. Hoete was awarded the ‘most valuable player’ and made the New Zealand men’s squad. In 1997 the team won the nationals but the following year saw Hoete injure his back. Sadly he had little choice but to withdraw from competitive volleyball.
The next decade saw Hoete foster and develop his artistic leanings. Many will know him as a graffiti artist but Hoete shies away from the title graffiti for it has bad connotations and as he suggests ‘there’s a whole lot of negative crap with the term graffiti artist’. Nevertheless it was his graffiti art which helped him to where he is today. He prefers the term ‘aerosol fine art’. Given he uses a can of spray paint this is very apt. Hoete is extremely proud of his Maori heritage. On his father’s side his iwi is Ngati Awa, his mother’s, Ngaiterangi. His lineage and roots are very significant to him and like his faith help drive him to achieve a high standard of work, whether it is commercially, artistically or community driven. Hoete’s marae is Tamatea Kitehuatahi located on Motiti Island, in the Bay of Plenty.
VIEWS ON TAGGING
Several recent bouts of tagging in Tauranga alone lead me to question Hoete about his views on tagging. I wanted to hear what the younger generation, and someone who wields a spray can, think of it. He explained, “the bottom line is that it’s about notoriety. Young people want to make their mark and this is one way of doing it.” In a sense, as Hoete so nicely put it, tagging is ‘brandalism’ – branding cum vandalism. Hoete doesn’t support tagging. In particular, the illegal nature of it doesn’t bode well with his moral stance. As a devout Christian he morally cannot approve of defacing private and public property through tagging. Any work that Hoete carries out with a can is legal. Hoete learnt his art by painting on blankets and sheets at home (yes, his Mum knew about this). It was just time and perseverance which got him where he is today. He tells me that he can paint anything with a can and certainly when you check out his busy website this appears to be the case. Not only are there contemporary street culture images but a portrait of the late Sir Edmund Hillary and an ANZAC mural painted for the Waihi RSA feature. Hoete’s plan the week after our interview is to paint a traditional landscape on a 2 x 2 metre custom made canvas for a feature wall in a client’s house. So Hoete can turn his can to a myriad of subjects. Another client has commissioned Hoete to paint three large pieces for his home theatre room; The Godfather, King Kong and Batman being the subjects.
POSITIVE AND COOL
Faced with a blank canvas or wall, Hoete begins with a light spray acting as guide lines for his image. He starts with light tones and increases the intensity as the image begins to take shape. Hoete uses Montana spray paint. As an artist he is no stranger to having an audience. Regularly he has painted entire walls or canvases in shop windows or in public spaces so people can watch on as the picture unfolds. In this sense graffiti art is performance art and for Hoete it’s a way of gathering youth interest in doing something positive, yet cool. Hoete and his wife of six years, Melissa, own and operate a street wear clothing company called REPZ. For two years the couple have designed images and clothing which include tee-shirts, singlet tops, sweatshirts and so on. Hoete not only sees REPZ as a money spinning venture but as a natural outlet for his creative juices. The couple carry out the design work and the printing is done offsite by a specialist printer. The business continues to grow and is well patronised not only by the regional market but by retailers throughout New Zealand. His continued work in graphic design and stencilling has enabled Hoete’s brand to develop and expand. It’s Hoete’s ambition to get their label known internationally. Hoete wears custom painted sneakers. Accordingly there’s a whole ‘sneaker culture’ out there and for the young, and the young at heart, wearing individually painted sneakers is an expression of personality. There’s a certain amount of exclusivity about one-off hand painted sneakers – they’re costly. A pair of canvas Chuck Taylors hand painted by Hoete will set you back somewhere in the range of $120-200 depending on the amount, size and intricacy of design. If it’s a pair of Nike’s leather Air Force 1 shoes you want decorating then don’t expect any change out of $500. For shoe painting Hoete uses a brush and/or fabric marker pens.
Christianity and God are big players in Hoete’s life. He does more than attend the New Nation Church weekly though. Two people who have been very supportive of him are church leaders, Howie and Christine Baker. Hoete actively puts back into the community often giving workshops at schools or youth groups. For years he and Melissa were youth pastors reaching out into the community running youth style church services at Welcome Bay. Hoete also worked for a few years as a programme co-ordinator for Te Aranui, a Police initiative which focussed on recidivist youth offenders. Another example of his youth work is the collaborative painting of a mural on the Merivale dairy wall. A group of 15 young people worked together under his guidance to produce an image the community would be proud of. Hoete’s philosophy is that everyone has a unique gift; it’s a matter of finding that gift, developing it and then running with it. This is Hoete’s secret to success. Hoete’s youth was a happy one and he wants to share and impart that among others. This is commendable given the amount of work and projects he constantly has on the go. The month of April saw Hoete actively raising funds to send at-risk youth to Tongariro’s Outdoor Pursuits Centre. His large canvas of Sir Edmund Hillary was posted on Trademe, surpassing its reserve and raising $4330. The painting took just over a week to complete and Hoete is prepared to give his time, and money, to significant worthy causes.
Hoete hasn’t forgotten his roots. Recently he went back to Kawerau and spent a day painting and interacting with youngsters. His KTOWN mural includes a self portrait and his motif, the Beaver. Indeed this Beaver character gets about – some readers may have seen the Beaver, often sporting beachwear, holding up a placard with the words ‘Vote Mr G’ on it. Of course Mr G isn’t actually standing for anything in the political sense of the term. The idea is to get people thinking about who Mr G is and many will probably zoom home and Google him. Hoete’s trade name is Mr G. Often called ‘G’, short for Graham, it seemed an appropriate extension of his name. It also sits well with street culture.
There’s not much time for leisure in Hoete’s busy lifestyle. When I ask him to tell me about his leisure activities he mentions without any hesitation, painting. Obviously he finds it difficult to differentiate between work and play. However he does admit to enjoying meals out with his wife, kickboxing and walking the dog. His parents live at Motiti Island so fishing and diving are activities enjoyed regularly. THE FUTURE Only in his late twenties, Hoete has a long future ahead of him. He would like to consolidate his place in the New Zealand art scene departing completely from graffiti art and working in more traditional ways. Hoete acknowledges that graffiti art has helped him and his brand but it’s time to take certain ingredients, such as his bold use and juxtaposition of colour and its edgy quality, from it and work in a different context.
He admires the work of artists such as New Zealanders Billy Apple and Dick Frizzell. The idea of branding and using well known icons is of interest to him. This includes appropriating pre-existing images such as his painting of Sir Edmund Hillary. Taken from the iconic 1953 photograph by Karsh of Ottawa, others too have replicated it in drawings and paintings, but not on the scale that Hoete has (1450 x 1140 mm).
Hoete’s various website activities are a big commitment for him but the feedback he gleans from them is satisfying and helps him pitch and gauge his line of REPZ clothing.
It’s also a good method of getting his imagery out there so it is accessible to more than those who live in the Bay of Plenty. He adds to his blog regularly. Some of the comments which come his way are written in a cross between txt language and street lingo, but nevertheless convey a keen sense of admiration for his work. Check them out: www.mrghoete.com, www.repz.co.nz, and speak to the
man through his blog www.mrghoete. blogspotcom. The artist behind the can gives graffiti art, or aerosol art, a new edge. It’s one of commitment and ambition. He enjoys the successes that come his way yet Hoete is quick to share them. There are many people out there who would Vote for Mr G.
Connect with Mr G at https://www.facebook.com/DOGATHON100/