It was a mid-summer night and I was desperate to grab a slice of pizza. My stomach growled, twisted and churned for food after a long day. Before I could get my pizza, a mural of Muhammad Ali caught me at the corner of my eye. As I saw the mural, my hunger finally stopped. Bright hues of yellow, pastel pink, blue, red and purple brought the grayscale portrait of the late champion come to life.

While Ali and I were miles apart between heaven and earth, the artwork was the closest thing to meeting the boxer. Before I could get inside the pizza joint, I didn't want to forget the artist's name. At the edge of the wall, I learned that his name was Brolga.

Born in Darwin and educated near Brisbane, Australia, Brolga is born to travel the world. As a graphic designer, illustrator and street artist, he is renown for depicting people whether it be iconic celebrities or sunbathers. While he creates art in a similar vein to Banksy, Brolga is ready to carve his own path.

You are known for your murals (e.g. Muhammad Ali at Joe's Pizza in Williamsburg) and cartoon-esque street art (e.g. Pizza Elvis). How did you become interested in graphic arts?

It's actually a bit of a funny story. I was travelling the world working as a freelance graphic designer and found myself in Nicaragua. I'd met another Aussie while surfing and he wanted me to join him in driving up through Mexico. I told my family about the plan and they freaked out; they had only been getting Mexican drug cartel horror stories on the news in Australia at that stage. They convinced me to head to New York instead to try a short course in illustration, so I did that and ended up loving it! I've always enjoyed drawing kooky characters and doodling, so being able to inject them into the New York landscape has been a dream come true.

That's so cool! While many artists mainly focus on using one medium, you experiment with so many forms like collaging, painting and drawing (i.e. in the form of doodling). Why do you choose to expand into different mediums as opposed to focusing on one type of art?

To be honest, I'm just really excited about making work, and I like to hop from one medium to another. The opportunity for spontaneity is the beauty of the thing and the reason why I'm not an accountant!

You once said in an interview that there are no artistic rules or boundaries on large-scale spaces. Although you mainly said this to specify the advantages of large-scale spaces, why do you believe that art has neither rules nor boundaries?

I like the fact that creative ideas have no boundaries and that you're really only limited by what you think you can achieve and your imagination. Style is another thing that I'm apprehensive of getting locked into, purely because it can hamper the potential of an idea. These thoughts aren't unique to art either; they apply when trying to make anything new, in any field.

Working with large-scale street walls and urban landscapes opened my eyes to how far I could push the work. Designing for a mural on the street, the space is often multi-dimensional, with maybe a door and some ill-fitting windows. This challenge of designing artwork to fit the space has been really fun.

Speaking of your art, I've noticed that you are drawn to pop culture figures like Lou Reed, Grace Jones and Ernest Hemingway, whom you've featured in your Hero Series. You've also featured Elvis, who is immortalized in the form of a pizza. What significance do they have in your life and why are they heroes?

I'm a huge music fan. I love Grace Jones, Lou Reed, and Nina Simone. Music plays a big part in my life and if you listen to musicians over a long period, they kind of become like old friends. So, just from that, it felt natural to incorporate them into what I was doing. It's fun to get this iconic imagery and play around with it; I didn't take it too seriously. Another one that I had in that series was Muhammad Ali.

I didn't know that Muhammad Ali was part of your Hero Series. It's interesting how you look up to all these figures regardless of any industry that they're in. Asides from pop culture figures, you've also been influenced by Australian painter Reg Mombassa (who, like yourself, also goes by a pseudonym), Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann and Andy Warhol, who are all iconic American pop artists. Where do you relate yourself to these legends and how do some aspects of their artistry influence you?

I think those '60s pop artists have left such a large impression. I definitely see myself in their shadow. I admire Reg Mombassa, who is still alive and working today, for his imagination. He often takes overlooked, everyday parts of the Australian culture and comments on it, whether it's with humor or something else.

In relation to the '60s pop artists, they created this beautiful concept in pop art and we're lucky enough to be able to still use it and make art from it. The world is no less consumerist than in the '60s; the pop art movement is just as relevant today as it was then.



You grew up in Australia and as an adult, you moved to Japan, Ireland, Canada and now, New York since 2013. From what I can sense, you are someone who likes to travel and is inspired by traveling! As an artist, how has traveling shaped your view on art?

It’s just the fact that once you're out of your own neighborhood, you start noticing things that your senses haven’t dulled to. When travelling, I visit a lot of galleries and museums and that constantly open my eyes to new things. I was recently in Seoul and discovered the work of the '60s Korean video pop-artist, Nam June Paik. A 7-story high stack of old TVs, that’s something that you can’t see from your own couch.

Lastly, more and more artists are relying less on academies to develop/hone their craft. Since you've taught yourself how to do graphic design, what have you learned from being a self-taught artist?

If you're self-taught, you can walk away with a unique way of doing that one thing. You're forced to problem solve original ways to make it work. Developing skills like that, where someone isn't always thinking for you, is so handy I think, because who is going to think for you when you're creating something completely new in art, or whatever field you may be in?


You can view more of Brolga's work below, and on his website.