Q&A with artist Owen Dippie

Q&A with artist Owen Dippie

31 October 2016

He’s known around the world for his large-scale realist portraiture and, more recently, for his exploration of well-known Renaissance pieces combined with contemporary pop art.

His name is Owen Dippie (Clark 1997-2001) and he is returning to St Paul’s in 2017 to produce a mural of Sir Edmund Hillary that will brighten a drab looking brick wall outside the sports’ centre.

Owen has been practising art for as long as he can remember and producing street art for more than a decade. He is up there with the best of them and is one of the only street artists in the world who can produce large-scale art by hand without a projector.

His paintings scale tall buildings and his art equipment is made up of the usual paint and the not so usual cranes, ladders and safety harnesses.

Last year, his career reached a high when he was recognised internationally for his work. He won the enviable Brooklyn Street Art Competition for his ‘Ninja Renaissance Maters’ piece (pictured) and the Huffington Post named his piece ‘The Radiant Madonna’ as best mural 2015 (pictured).

He has also been working on smaller scale works in recent times, launching an exhibition – Markings by Owen Dippie – in October at his Auckland gallery. The canvas acrylic works, like most of his murals, sees straight into the soul of his subject.

In anticipation for his mural of Sir Edmund Hillary at St Paul’s, we spoke with Owen about what inspires him, where he is going next and how his love for street art came about. Why street art?

I have been an artist for as long as I can remember, using every medium I could get my hands on. I got into street art around the early 2000’s but started to take it in a serious context around 2007. For me, spray paint is by far the most fun because it’s so immediate — it’s painting at the push of a button.

I have always been the type of person that applies myself to things that make me happy and from as far back as I could remember art was my favourite thing to do so it’s obvious that art was ‘it’ for me.

Mr Mike Linklater (art teacher 1994 – 2006) played a very important role in developing my direction. I specifically remember the moment he introduced me to the art of Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat and it was a life changing moment. [Owen made reference to Keith Haring in his award winning work ‘The Radiant Madonna’].

How did it feel winning the Brooklyn Street Art Competition and to have the Huffington Post name your artwork as best mural 2015?

I felt very honoured to be categorised among such great artists and a bit overwhelmed that my work took out the top spot. With the Brooklyn Street Art award, it felt very surprising because I did that mural with no help and on practically no budget. To take out the top spot was very inspiring; if that’s what I can do with no budget and no help, then what can I achieve with support?

A lot of your artwork, including your award winning pieces in New York, have a strong reference to the Renaissance period, why?

I have been a huge fan of Renaissance art since childhood and I guess I haven’t grown up too much! I also think the stereotype of spray paint being connected criminality is ridiculous so by taking something so classical and mixing it with something so contemporary it makes it harder for people to stand back and make that judgment.

What path did you take after school to put you on this journey?

After school I began a Fine Arts degree at Whitecliffe in Auckland but dropped out after the first year to work extensively on the streets. I had to make the choice – school or practising my art because there wasn’t time for both, the two clashed, so I chose my art.

Can you tell us about your recent exhibition Markings by Owen Dippie? What inspired this collection?

Markings is an exhibition that is very close to my heart, I have been working on those pieces for a while now and decided to show them as the time felt right. The energy in the space that night was indescribable, very moving, it’s hard to put into words.

Where can people find more of your work?

The easiest place to find my work in this day and age is the internet. Social media – Facebook, Instagram, etc – are great platforms for both sharing work and to get inspiration from. Also my website owendippie.com