Creative, Sweet


Posted by Creative, Sweet

Our long time friend of the Fuel BERST has been dominating in the graffiti arena on an international level for well over a decade now to become one of the most influential graffiti artists of this era. We have been fortunate enough to steal some minutes from BERST to hear more about what he is upto now and how he has converted his passion into a passionate lifestyle.

HASER: Thanks for taking some time to join us. For those that are seeing your work for the first time, can you tell us who you are and where you’re from?

BERST: My graffiti name is Berst and I was born in Hong Kong but migrated to New Zealand when I was three years old. I live in Auckland and represent two graffiti crews called GBAK and TMD.  

Thank you, have you always been into art, or was there a particular moment that you realised you were good at it?

I studied art at secondary school but was not particularly good at it, however, after that I chose to study a diploma in graphic design. Following that I studied a degree in visual arts with a major in painting. Since completing that study I’ve always had an interest in graffiti and other forms of visual culture such as cartoons, tattooing, illustration, and graphics. 

Your work certainly has elements of cartoons and illustrative elements in it. A lot of people don’t realise how good they are at something until they give it an honest attempt.

You currently teach at Unitec, how did you get in to that, was this a long term plan or something that happened organically?

After completing my degree in visual arts, I extended my study into education. I’ve studied a Postgraduate Diploma, Masters, and currently in the process of finishing my PhD. I never completely planned this path or could have even envisioned it but encouragement from my family led me down this road. I acknowledge that being a full-time artist is a tough road financially so taking the education path has now provided me some stability with income. As each day passes, I am grateful to have gone down this path because there are connections between graffiti and education that not many people have established or built and it's something that I aim to do in the future.

Kudos on the dedication to your education. I know when I left school, the last thing I wanted to do was get back into education, but after completing my degree, it was totally worth it.

Working with the youth seems to be a heavy focus in your academic direction. What do you think the benefits of exposing the youth to visual and performing arts are and should we be investing more in to this?

My day job is teaching art and design. Outside of this, I’m often running graffiti art workshops, events, and battles. In my view, graffiti is perceived by the community as a negative subculture so a lot of what I do with the young people is to teach them the technical skills and knowledge to carry the culture into the future and challenge some of these stereotypes of how we are perceived. All the big murals that everybody likes don’t just magically appear. Artists have to start somewhere and a lot of young people are attracted to the art form of graffiti so for me, it’s about capitalising on that interest and turning it into something for them. 

It’s amazing to see those that are invested in their culture give back to ensure it continues. 

Now graffiti has taken you all over the world, but have you managed to do any travelling on the back of teaching and the work you do with the youth?

I haven’t been able to travel all that much due to my commitments to studying my PhD but I recently visited Shanghai for an art educators conference. The focus of this conference was to consider the future of teaching visual arts in China and all the guest speakers presented some of their approaches and curriculum from countries all around the world. I had the opportunity to present some of my PhD work. 

Wow, respect, that’s quite an achievement.

What’s your dream project in regards to teaching and mentoring. 

There are several projects that I would like to undertake in the future. The first project is to complete 100 episodes of the Real Time Web Series. I’ve currently completed 15 episodes and the focus of this is to capture NZ graffiti history in a nutshell. The second project would be curating a series of three exhibitions that really elevate graffiti in New Zealand. The third would be for my own practice and creating something that is going to be a landmark piece or set the bar so high that nobody could surpass it. 

Haha, that’s the best BERST comment I’ve ever heard. Is there anywhere you’re hoping to travel to in the near future, whether it’s for graffiti, mentoring or just general travel?

In the future I definitely intend to travel again. Asia is definitely on the cards.  

Asia is certainly a paradise for graffiti. What else do you do outside of graffiti and teaching, any extra curriculum activities or anything that helps fuel the creative juices or even get your mind off the hustle?

Outside of art and teaching I don’t really have much time to do anything else so I enjoy spending time with my partner the most. It’s important to be passionate about what you do but to also have a balance, and not let the rest of your life fall apart. 

Thanks for the life advice, I think I need to apply that to myself sometimes.

Who is on your inspiration feed and what artists have inspired you along the way?

There is a such a long list of influences that I simply couldn’t list them all. However, the people that I think are really producing some great work at the moment are: @riot1394, @lugosis, @p.butza and @debzawashere

Riot and Debza are certainly high on my list as well, they are def worth having on your feed. Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5 years? 

Married with children and trying to keep the graffiti dream alive. 

Admirable. In a non-social media influencer way, would you have any advice for anyone looking to use their crafts and skills to influence and encourage the youth?

Become the best at what you do and share it with others to inspire them. Just remember, whatever craft or skill you do, it has been passed down to you. It’s your duty to elevate the culture and preach it for future generations so they can build on it to make it even better.

You certainly speak the truth.

What music is banging on ya playlist at the moment?

Yelawolf, Joyner Lucas, Rage Against the Machine, and Drake.

Rage is a wild card in there but definitely worth having. 
And last but not least, your favourite burger from BurgerFuel?


Classic Kiwi option

Thanks a lot for your time BERST, if you would like to see more of BERST’s work you can follow him on the grams, purchase some of his work here or check out his Youtube channel for an extensive list of NZ graffiti documentation.