Nestled in between the Indian Ocean and the Darling Range, the city of Perth is a cultural enclave in western Australia. Located nearly 4,000 kilometers from the country’s east coast, the city is closer geographically to East Timor and Indonesia than Melbourne or Sydney. However, this isolated urban area serves as a nurturing environment for creative endeavors. Beginning with small personal pieces, Perth native Stormie’s notoriety spread from block to block. Today, his work on the streets and in galleries attracts fans worldwide.
Harsh criticism at a young age could’ve preemptively squashed Stormie’s career. “As a child, my mum sent one of my drawings to an aunt who taught art at a UK university,” he recalls. “Upon critiquing the drawing, she told my mum I was damaged.” Fortunately, Stormie was a resilient youngster who ignored his relative’s grim diagnosis. Painting on paper and canvas boards, he found his way to the streets in 1984 and fell in love with graffiti. When he started bombing, Stormie insists, “There was no real concept or understanding of what I was doing. I was that weird kid doing something nobody really understood! Fears only came later on: fear of what I did not being any good, of being judged according to other people’s criteria.” Using a childhood nickname alluding to his hot temper, Stormie channeled his passionate personality into art.
Out on the streets, writers were quick to judge this fresh-faced newcomer. After throwing up his first piece (drips and all), a fellow writer called him a toy, arguing that he’d read Subway Art and the piece “wasn’t how it was supposed to be done.” Though he didn’t let the comment discourage him, Stormie says, “I went through a huge learning curve to get a handle on spray paint and mixed media. I learned to paint graffiti and large scale stuff. Then, while filtering ideas through my adult eyes, I applied these techniques to my childhood style.” Driven by his desire to improve and communicate with others, Stormie constantly pushes his style in new directions.
Although many artists influence him, Stormie’s original inspiration stems from record covers. “One of my cousins was heavily into punk,” he explains, “and that ideology of self-made punk manufacturing prompted me to go out and reclaim spaces through painting. “Bombing connected him with other likeminded artists who invited him to join their crews. As a proud member of ADS and AWR, he believes “Collaborations expand people’s work by pushing them out of their comfort zones. Plus, it’s great to have people that are always up for painting.” While Stormie’s style has evolved since his early graff days, he insists that old-school techniques are still relevant. “Tags are extremely powerful statements that shouldn’t be underrated,” he insists. “A tag tells you a lot about people, how they manage their environment, and the stresses of bombing. You can’t fake getting up like that.”
Today, Stormie’s work explores what it means to be human. He says, “It’s about people being isolated and alone. It’s the dirt under the fingernails and the beauty within decay. I believe all of these things are paintings of true grit, of inner strengths that come from having to face adversity. I’m creating depictions of the superhero inside.”
Stormie’s pieces run the gamet in terms of subject matter and style. In one photo, Hokusai-inspired waves toss playful koi fish to and fro. In another, blood-red spray paint sketches a grimacing face labeled ‘Everyone’s screaming.” His current characters share many common traits: a sullen face, stooped shoulders, a general gloom about them. Whether they’re wearing fish jackets, boxing gloves, or nothing at all, these solitary figures express the isolation Stormie describes.