Wollongong based artist, Trait Cross is somewhat of an enigma. Type “Trait Cross Art” into Google and, besides his Tumblr page, you won’t find much, which in this day and age is quite refreshing. No bullshit, no hype, just his art and your opinion on it. It takes some guts to operate that way, whether it’s premeditated or not and it shows that in Traits mind, art is all that matters. It’s creativity in it’s purest form. Trait has something to say to the world and he is saying it without any bullshit and letting you take it in and decide what to think for yourself.
Trait is a founding member, along with good friend Luke Okay, of La’ Division. La’ Division is an ever growing crew of artists, photographers, film makers and other creatives and one that Velvet Sea is proud to be involved with. This may be the first you’ve heard of Trait but it won’t be the last.
Ironlak’s, Molotow marker paints, stencils, cutter, foam brushes, Canon Eos and my old shitty projector.
Who has been your main inspiration?
The biggest inspiration on my work has probably been Sage Francis. His album, ‘A Healthy Distrust’ was stuck in the studio CD player for about a year. I listened to it non stop. Since then I’ve been eating up everything he does, his music and lyrics inspire me to create the images I do. I love his slightly morbid perception of the world. He questions everything, including himself. I love artists that don’t remove themselves from their evaluations on society. We’re all a bit fucked up no matter who you are.
Has art always played a major role in your life?
Yeah, my mum is an amazing artist, she taught me to draw when I was young. Her artworks were all around the house growing up and they really inspired me to draw and create. My Sister and Dad are really creative too, so I was always encouraged to have constructive past times. Because of this up bringing, I’ve always had to find something constructive in everything I do, its made me very driven. Even on holidays, I need to take something out of it. Photos, a drawing, some ideas, I never stop thinking about it. Its always around me.
You’re also a photographer right? So, for you, is it more about “creating” rather sticking to a specific field? If that makes sense.
Yeah definitely. I get an idea first, then I use whatever medium is going to work best to create the image in my head. I do try and keep style and technique throughout my work, but its the idea and message that really drives the creativity.
And I guess photography for me really drives inspiration in itself. Some of my photos end up becoming paintings, stencils or prints.
Photography for me is also about documentation, especially with skateboarding and street art. Skate spots and walls don’t last forever, so its almost a pursuit trying to capture these fleeting moments in time.
Did you find it hard to get noticed living so far south of Sydney? I know, for me, growing up down that way for sure had it’s difficulties.
Yeah man, I think there is about five people in Sydney that know I exist. Haha.
It took a while just to get noticed in Wollongong but I think a lot of that is my fault. I’m not very good at networking. I find it hard selling myself or even introducing myself to strangers. Opening nights can be a bit daunting for me, I’d much rather go check out a show when no ones there and take my time. I was slow at getting around to the whole social media thing as well which doesn’t help.
But yeah, it is hard for artists to get noticed down here. There are some amazing creatives in the Gong and surrounds and I think the local scene is growing. There is a good community with heaps of great projects and stores repping local talents like OKYO, Viva la Gong, Music Farmers, Helter Smelter, Barcode, KnoHow Music, Quay Collective and Terrarium Design. And with Verb Syndicate doing events like Wonder Walls, getting amazing artists down to the Gong, its starting to get the region a bit more exposure I think. Well I hope.
What are your most memorable pieces or projects that you have worked on?
Probably my solo show, ‘Renegades’ at Gallery 5 in Wollongong last year. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped but I was proud of the works I had created. I’ve always wanted to put on a solo show and I was hyped by the response I got. Its just really given me a solid base of works to build on and opened a few doors for me.
I really enjoy painting live too, you never really know how its going to go and it really keeps you on your toes. They are always pretty memorable events, I’ve been doing a few lately. I did a couple at Barcode in Wollongong for some ‘Sounds Bangin‘ gigs, with Kut Bizy and the KnoHow guys. And I did an interesting one at a small festival out in the bush with Teem, Ape Seven and Citizen Sweet. That was an awesome day, we were painting on panels that were screwed into trees while there was chilled blues and roots jamming all day, it was such an awesome vibe.
Do you have anything running at the moment?
For the first time in about a year I don’t have any major projects in the works. Which is kinda nice to be able to just experiment in the studio. There is a La’ Division group show in the works so I’m playing around with some ideas for that.
I am working on an album cover for my man ‘Vult’ and fucking around with ‘5 Cent Grip’. And really trying to get my skate fitness up, I cant keep up with the young lads any more.
Something that instantly blew me away in your portfolio was the birds installation that you did for, was it Viva La Gong? Can you tell us some more about that?
Viva la Gong is an annual festival in Wollongong and the last few years they have run a panels project on the walls of the City Gallery. I was honored to be given so many panels on such a prominent spot. Last year Ears and Syke had panels there, so it was a bit daunting. I had ten weeks to paint ten panels while holding down a full time job. It was a great challenge though, a lot of problem solving.
I painted the birds with bandannas, as a symbol of political and environmental activism, especially in the Illawarra area. I know traditionally doves are meant to represent the peaceful and hawks represent the violent types. But I don’t like doves that much. I love birds of prey, they’re smart, resourceful and can see everything, just like a good activist.
I also liked the idea of having the birds of prey looking out over the road, just like they’re hunting. They’re all local birds that would have lived in and around the City of Wollongong in days gone by, so it fits.
Now LA Division is about to seriously blow up, can you let the readers in on anything? Is there a new range or anything in the pipeline that we should know about?
Well like I mentioned, there is a group show in the works which has a very interesting theme Luke Okay came up with but I think its meant to be a secret, so I cant really divulge much on that. As for clothing, there is going to be some small runs coming out, with a bit more of a garage feel, more designs but fewer prints. Keep an eye on our Big Cartel page.
With the new layout of La’ there is going to be lots of little collaborations and side projects coming out all the time. Its a community more than a brand. Members can use the La’ logo how they see fit. So for instance, if someone has a show on we can all promote it through our individual networks, or if someone has an idea they can float it by the group or if there is an event on its easy to find willing artists ready to throw down some paint.
Any last words?
Yeah I wanna thank my beautiful and ever so patient fiance, El. And my family for putting up with me.
Shout outs to Simon at Verb Syndicate, Mitchy and Mikey at KnoHow Music, Joey and the boys at Kingpin, Kate at OKYO, Nina Kourea and Sue Bessel, Terrarium Design and thanks Crockers for the paint but still treating me like a dirt bag after all these years.
A big shout out to all the La’ Division fiends especially Luke Okay for always having faith in me, sallud to you my amigo.
And a holla at all the skate lads for putting up with my stale wall rides and rusty five o’s.