Featured Artist Interview: Peap Tarr

The Patternbase has recently collaborated with Bucketfeet on a pair of shoes with Audrey's design, Rajas. Peap Tarr is the first of our Bucketfeet artists series! Peap Tarr is a graffiti artist, muralist, illustrator and artist from Cambodia and New Zealand.  Inspired by a variety of cultural influences, his work reflects his heritage and upbringing. Its illustrative and detail-oriented linework and color is versatile and can be expressed on a variety of mediums. The Patternbase asked him a few questions about his work and influences.

PB: Give us a brief background on your work. What are you inspired by?

PT: Like most kids, I started painting at a very young age. Thanks to my mum's encouragement I just never stopped. I guess it was just in me to draw all the time... when there was nothing to do, all I did was draw. We traveled around a lot so I had tons of time on my hands. Later on we moved to Sydney, Australia from Auckland, New Zealand and where we lived was surrounded by graffiti. This was in the very late 80’s-early 90’s and I was already into hip-hop. I listened to Run Dmc, Fat Boys, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, PE, Eric B and Rakim, so this was an extension into the direction I was heading with my art and what inspired me in the early beginnings. It was hip-hop culture, skating and being a youngster all in the whole mix of everything. I grew up in Glebe, Sydney, and it allowed me a creative outlet on the streets. I was tagging and skating with friends. There were abandoned buildings, train tunnels and underground drainage tunnels. Everything was like an adventure for me and this upbringing formed a certain attitude and way I carried myself, but also my outlook on everything in life.

As I entered my early adult years I soon became a dad and was raising a little girl, so my outlook on things changed again. I became more culturally aware of myself for the benefit of my daughter. Plus, I wanted to express my art that had cultural significance to me and not just your everyday graff or street art that people are used to seeing. That is when I started to combine visuals and symbols that represented both my Cambodian side and also my New Zealand side. It was a mash of my two cultures. This came from the heart and reflected who I am in a visual sense.

PB: What led you to start an art career?

PT:I guess a few things lead to my art career without even planning to be serious about it. I just did it because that’s what I love doing, but at the same time I was just doing odd jobs here and there. I also had freelance illustration and graphic design jobs. Then, in my free time, I was painting on the streets with my friends or just working on private paintings at home. Then, one day a friend of mine asked me to put my work in an art show that featured well known graff artists and artists from around Auckland, New Zealand. I sold my work and it was an entire week worth of pay and I thought, "that’s cool!" I got asked to do a mini show and I sold a few more paintings, but I still just treated as a side thing and kept on working with design jobs because I had my daughter to take care of. I kept painting more and more on the streets, which started to get noticed around town, and soon I got publicity for my work. I got contacted by magazines overseas. Most notably, Hi-Fructose magazine put me in one of their art shows over in LA at Gallery 1988. So I started to realize people must like my work and I was just doing what I wanted to do. In 2008, my good friend 2Toes (who was known as 2Tone at the time) and I worked on an art show together called Night Breed. It was inspired by the Clive Barker novel and movie of the same name. That show was well received, so things just moved and evolved and I was truly excited and inspired.

PB: What are some specific images and concepts that resonate in Cambodian and New Zealand cultural heritage that play into your work? How do these inspire you?

PT: The specific images and concepts for the Cambodian side would have to be many of the patterns and intricacy of the designs, which are inspired by the Hindu and Buddhist relief sand stone carvings that decorate the Ancient temples of Angkor Wat and surrounding areas in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Also, the many Khmer legends my mum would tell me in bedtime stories when I was kid. The New Zealand side of my work would have to be emphasized in the power of the work I want to translate into my own. This is very much inspired by Maori, Samoan and Tongan cultures. These are the cultures that surrounded me while growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, and had early impact on me in my childhood upbringing. All theses cultural influences that reflect not only me, but my cultural upbringing as well, are a very important aspect of my work. I think when people read this, they will start to understand and see the influences in my work even more. My designs are very important refection of who I am.  I’m not just painting pretty patterns. I am trying to visually translate what inspires me and also what I want the viewer to engage in.

In more recent times I have moved to Cambodia and now work a lot with my partner Lisa Mam. She is a female urban artist from Phnom Penh City and has taken my work in different directions. Now it’s a new journey on this creative journey of life.

PB: Your art works with many mediums (murals, illustration and apparel). Do you create your work with different mediums in mind?

PT: When I create large murals, I tend to make my work more simple and bold with much thicker lines, so that it has a lot of impact when seen from the distance. Working large is really my favorite and what excites me most.

When I create paintings or illustrations, I am very detailed in my work. I also add shading because I have more time and I'm not working with the outside elements such as hot weather, rain and cold weather. I will think of story lines when I create paintings and illustrations, whereas the outdoor may carry more symbolism in it and is not really a story of any kind.

When I design for apparel I like to keep it more funky and playful because it's more about the fashion side of things. With apparel I have a chance to explore another side of my creative process because I don’t want to just replicate my paintings and mural art onto the apparel.

PB: What's your favorite and most effective way to communicate with fans of your art through the different mediums?

PT: The most effective way to communicate my art is on the streets and painting large walls. Whenever I get a chance I am happy. It doesn’t always have to be on the street, but at least on a wall. The bigger the better. That is when I feel most comfortable and in my element. It's like having a fever to really create and never knowing the exact outcome, because painting on the street can be unpredictable. It adds to the excitement and tension when painting large scale.

PB: How has your collaboration with Bucketfeet benefited you as an artist?

PT: Bucketfeet has opened up my art to a whole new audience, which gives my art even more exposure and also gives something new to people who enjoy and have been following my art. Now they are able to wear my art on their feet. The coolest part is just having people wear my art on their shoes. I love shoes, so this was such a cool project. What’s even better is the fact that Aaron at Bucketfeet is such a cool dude to work and correspond with. So thank you Bucketfeet!

PB: Anything new and exciting you want our readers to know about?

PT: Well both Lisa Mam and I just completed a large paint job at a new hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, called Cacha. We painted the whole bottom lobby and 5 levels of staircases to another large wall on their sky lounge. I'm excited to see the whole place once it officially opens up.

Our friends from Thailand, Chip7, P7, Rukkit, Never, and Zids, contributed designs for the various hotel rooms, so it’s a very exciting project to be a part of. Both Lisa and I also have our new art show coming up in Bkk, Thailand this late November at Goja Gallery. We have just finished painting a Taco Truck in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which is the first of its kind in Cambodia. I'm really looking forward to seeing both Lisa and I having our artwork roll through the streets of Phnom Penh serving up hot tacos. It's something fun for the city.

For more of Peap Tarr's work check out his Tumblr at http://peaptarrone.tumblr.com and his shoes on Bucketfeet called Khmer Naga.

If you are interested in becoming a Bucketfeet artist, check out their Artist Submission page.