You know, there are a lot of sayings that prove being a duo is a good things. Great minds think a like, 2 is greater then 1 and the old 2 heads are better then one come to mind. These two couldn’t prove that much more, even if they tried. Original from our fair city of Melbourne, graffiti couple Dabs and Myla left our shores for the sunny side of life in Los Angeles, carving themselves a pretty impressive portfolio of work, inside and out. Taking some time off to talk at this years edition of Carbon Festival, the husband and wide team haven’t slowed down by any means, painting some walls and sitting down for this interview with yours truly in the process. What you’ll find here is a dedicated couple [no pun intended] of artistic minds, who have lived and learned from each other since first getting together, with no sign of stopping yet.
Firstly, welcome back to Melbourne. You’ve both had a pretty busy schedule these last 3 months. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to for 2013?
D: Well, I guess the first thing we did was come back to Melbourne for the show at Metro Gallery. For that whole first part of January, we basically just locked ourselves inside preparing for the show at Metro, I guess, so that time was kind of a loss, we didn’t really even go outside.
M: We came out here at the end of January and set up the show, we worked on a big installation there and then once we had that, the show opened, we got some time in Melbourne, painted a few spots and just went straight over to Hawaii for Pow Wow.
D: Which was good, we spent some time over there for a couple of weeks, painted a big wall, then came back to Melbourne just to paint a few more spots and then we went back to LA, did a whole bunch of work as quickly as we could, to catch up on the stuff we’d been behind on because of the Metro show and now we’re over here again.
You both seem to get around the globe a fair bit, how important is travel for you both? Is there anywhere you’d like to go where you haven’t been yet?
D: There’s a lot of spots we’d like to go that we haven’t been yet. We love travelling and we’re lucky we have a lifestyle that accommodates us to go to a lot of places. It’s probably one of the best things about what we do, I guess, it also plays a pretty big part in the work that we make. We just always happen to be going places anyway, which is good, but if that wasn’t the case, we’d still make sure we set ourselves enough time in the year to go to places and gain inspiration, to keep the flow of what we do fresh. Which is why we still have a few places we’d like to go that we haven’t been yet because, majority of the time, we’ve already got some place to go, which is good. But one day where just hoping for… well Myla really wants to go to India, we’ve been meaning to go there for a long time, but there just hasn’t been anytime to go there yet. But we’ll go there soon… but cause we do live in LA, we travel around The States a fair bit, because a lot of things that we have to do are just within America, which takes up a lot of our time aswell.
You left Melbourne and your gallery per Square Metre behind a few years ago now, how does it feel to return and display at an upmarket space such as Metro Gallery?
M: It was great, we had so much fun setting up that exhibition, because it was such a big space and we had limited time so there was only so much time to produce the installation in the gallery. It was really cool because we had all of our good friends like Dvate and Askm [SDM] in Melbourne come down and help us, along with a couple of girls from the school we used to study at. It was really cool and fun, because it went from being something that was a ridiculous amount of work in a short time, into something that was a lot of fun.
D: We got to spend a lot of time, day and night, with our friends, basically catching up. But it was good to show there, because it’s a good space and we haven’t had a show in Melbourne for a long time, so it was cool to do it in a big nice space like that because they have a beautiful space, it was nice, it felt good.
I personally enjoyed your show, not just because of the art, but for the installation, finally seeing it in person instead of on a computer scene was a real treat. When did you start expanding the work outside of a tradition canvas space?
M: Thanks so much. The first show we ever had in Melbourne was when we started doing that.
D: Yeah, the first show that we had in Melbourne together was 5 years ago, which was the first show we decided to collaborate solely as Dabs & Myla and that show was also the last show we had in Melbourne and the second last one at Per Square Metre, all together. A lot of the ideas from the last four years that we’ve been working on, the installations especially, are not recycled, but ideas we had a long time ago, but maybe five years ago we weren’t ready to do it. We had the ideas but we just weren’t ready to do it…
M: We just didn’t know how to execute it properly…
D: Like our work rate now, we’re so streamline, we get a shit load of stuff done real quick, but back them it wasn’t the case, so time wise, we just couldn’t have gotten it done. So the first installation we did like that in Melbourne, I think there was a plan for it to be 3 dimensional and abstract like that, but we toned it down and painted the whole gallery instead… from top to bottom. But we didn’t add any other elements to it, just on the walls, cause that all we could really manage at the time and we were just stoked, even on that! When we moved to The States, the first show we had was with Thinkspace Gallery, who we deal through now, we had a pop up space which was a huge warehouse, it was massive and we spent 3 weeks, all day everyday, like from early in the morning to late at night just painting everything and there was no 3D elements at all. We just painted with a brush and hung our paintings on top of that, which went well. But felt it was kind of done, thinking we had to come up with something else and that’s when we started getting to the point at which we’re at now. And even what we did at Metro… that’s kind of done, so now we’re moving on…
M: Yeah, the next show that we have will be the next progression of what we wanna do…
D: But we’ve always enjoyed that… engulfing experience, you know when you walk into the space, its not just work on the walls, it kind of consumes you. Actually, the inspiration for that really came from Twist [Barry McGee], cause I never knew much about art, but I’ve been painting graffiti for 20 years and his installations were probably the first that I saw that really made me realize what an installation is. So, that’s always been at the back of our minds, I don’t wanna rip of Twist but, that’s kind of where I learned that that’s something I wanna do.
On that note, are there any plans to work with other formats? Such as: Sculpture? Animation?… a lot of people are getting into tattooing these days…
D: Yeah… we’ll never tattoo people [laughs]… I love tattooing and I really like tattoo’s too, but I feel that tattooing, is for tattooist.
M: Or more like if you wanna become a tattoo artist, become a tattoo artist. We never kind of started this to become tattooist… but we do have some plans for animation and our installations we will be doing a lot of 3 dimensional things, we’re going to keep pushing that.
D: We have some vinyl toys coming out too…
What brought you guys back to Carbon this year? And is there anyone on the line up you’re specifically looking forward to seeing?
M: Andrew, from Acclaim, invited us to come onto the line up, but because we were just here, we weren’t really too sure… just because we have so much going on in LA and we’d just done the flight twice, not to mention going to Hawaii and coming back. We were kinda like, gosh, are we really gonna do that flight again? [laughs] Then when we heard about the line up and saw that Henry Chalfont and Martha Cooper were gonna be here…
D: And Twist [Barry McGee], Shawn Stussy and Pat from RVCA [PM Tenore], who’s a friend of ours, and he’s like, “I’m going out there” and we were like, if Pat’s going, it’d be good to go.
M: Yeah, we also had to make the decision while we were in Hawaii and we were talking to Scien from 123Klan and they’ve done a lot of talks at events like Carbon and they said it’s a really good thing to do. After we spoke to him we were kinda like, we really respect Scien’s opinion, so we spoke to Andrew that day and we were like, we’re gonna do it!
From my understand, Dabs, you taught Myla how to paint with a can. Why do you [Myla] want to start working with the format specifically and was it always the plan to work together exclusively?
M: Well, when we first started painting together, we were still studying and he said to me, you should come and paint with me, just try it out. And you know, I’ve been painting and drawing forever, so I was like yeah.
D: She was also just interested, she just didn’t know anything about it. It’s wasn’t that long ago, only about 8 years now, but every year more people are getting to know about the lifestyle and just everything about it with the boom of street art. But even from 8 years ago, there was less to know outside of anyone who did it. But she was pretty keen to learn, at that time, but in terms of the culture, it just stencils and street art.
M: Yeah, he started teaching me and I started going out with him and his friends after dark, just watching them paint and I just started drawing letters and things. All those guys would help me and give me advice with drawing and it kind of just went from there, at first it was really hard and I thought about just not doing it.
D: It was frustrating because she was a really good painter and illustrator, like really really good at that medium. And then she made that switch, in her mid-20’s, to this medium, quite a difficult medium. And to be painting with someone who had been at it for nearly 12 years, along with Askm, Dvate and everyone else in our crew, who had been painting for a long time.
M: It would get really frustrating, I just didn’t have any skills with the medium and I didn’t know the history really, there was just so much I didn’t know. But I just kept going at it, learning what I could and asked questions when I needed to.
D: She’s a mad fast learner, the rate that she learned how a fully understand how a piece works, to style write, because I was just always in her ear, was amazing. She’s like a sponge, the rate that she learned about Melbourne graffiti, the history, how to paint a piece, use paint and style write was so fast and she picked it up quicker then anyone else I know. Like in 2 years she was painting a good piece, it usually takes someone like… it took me… 7 years to put together a piece that I thought was a good piece, you know?
M: When we were in the studio, everybody around us was a graffiti writer, so even when you’re not talking to them about it, you’re overhearing continuous conversations about graffiti, so I think that being in that environment really helped me with things. It was super hard and when I was thinking about stopping all together, because I was such a toy, someone would say, don’t stop and keep going. I’m so thankful, just to Dabs, but also Dvate and Askm, cause they’re the 3 people that when I’d get confused or frustrated about it, they’d keep pushing me.
While I’m sure working on a large space is ideal, but how do you collaborate on a sketch together with smaller working conditions?
M: We usually just pass it back and forth…
D: We talk about it first and try to decide on what we’ll do or one of us just starts it and the other will be like, what is that a worm or something? And say, I’ll grab it and draw something around it or even we’ll be standing over each other saying, yeah put a top hat on that, just stuff like that.
M: But with the Melbourne Central wall sketch it was funny, because it was such a long wall, we needed a big sheet of card that was too scale, so it was really long. On that one, I think I was on one end and he was on the other and we just kept moving across until we met in the middle.
It was great watching you both paint the wall at Melbourne Central the other night. What was it like working with Insa? Was it the first time you 3 had gotten together for a piece?
D: Yeah, we met Insa 6 years ago and we’ve been in contact with him for a long time about working together and painting. But it’s always been the case of, he’s been in LA and we’ve missed him or when we’ve been in London and he’s been away. So, there’s never been a right time to paint together and it was great finally getting to paint with him.
M: Yeah, he’s really cool and it was super easy to find a balance between our two styles to make a piece that is collaborative, which is something we do because we’ve been making work which really gels together. So working with someone else, we don’t like it to be, this is your section and this is out section, instead we get an integration of styles, but with him it was a piece of cake.
Photo by Ariana Leane
You seem to paint with your friend’s a lot, do you believe you learn more painting together or with outside influences?
D: I think both…
M: Yeah, I think I was saying a bit about this before, but me personally and I think for Dabs [aswell], we’ve learned so much from painting with people…
D: But, I think we learn just as much, painting with each other all the time too…
M: Yeah, because we have a particular style that’s still developing between us and the more we paint together, the more we learn about what boundaries we can break and what possibilities we can achieve through paint, so its both. We love working together when painting, even on a wall…
D: Yeah, you learn a lot from those around you too though, we’re just lucky in that we have some pretty talented friends, not just here, but in The States too. You know, guys like Rime and Craola who are just super talented dudes… there’s a lot to learn from guys like that too.
Are there any major plans you both have for the next year?
M: [laughs] We’ve basically got the next two years booked, shows, travel, it never ends.
A massive thanks goes out to Dabs and Myla for taking some time out for this interview on Saturday, good luck with your travels, come back soon ya hear. And last but not least, a special thanks goes out to the team at Diamond Dozen for hooking it all up!