While some would still strongly mistake it to be in the same thread as petty vandalism, graffiti as an art form continues to (literally) make its mark on all the corners of the globe, touching on subjects such as political satire, outright anarchy, and calls to rights of the marginalised and defenseless in addition to being an art form that is continuously expressed differently by its many practitioners.
Many notable artists celebrated today have had their beginnings painting on the streets, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, whom Andy Warhol recognised great artistic potential and catapulted him to worldwide gallery fame; and current reigning graffitist Banksy, whose street art has been hailed as the voice of the new generation of political satire.
Andrew Yeoh, going under the pseudonym DrewFunk, follows these artistic greats in their boundless creativity unconfined to the indoors. As a ten year old child, his interest in art was piqued by his mother’s uncle, who gifted him a self-painted drawing of a dragon and a phoenix, two prominent symbols in Chinese myth and culture.
While he remained interested in creative processes throughout his youth, it wasn’t until Andrew travelled abroad to Melbourne for university that the desire to create really kicked off. Wanting to take a break from the slew of assignments, Andrew began painting graffiti with local Australian artists, triggering a lifelong call to creating art.
As a full-time graffitist, Andrew’s to-go medium is the number-one tool of any street artist: a can of spray paint. “There’s nothing like it,” he enthusiastically professes. But he does dabble in other mediums such as ink, acrylics, and oils too to maintain a good sense of the range of art-making.
By the time the world had hit the year 2008, Andrew Yeoh decided to say goodbye to his 9 to 5 job as a designer in Malaysia and return to his artistic space back in Australia. He has since created beloved pieces all over the streets of Melbourne, some of which still remain around the city and preserved in people’s establishments.
His most memorable work to date can be found in the Shakahari, a restaurant in South Melbourne, featuring Tibetan-inspired paintings of eight koi fish, another auspicious symbol in Eastern culture.
DrewFunk has since organised and done 10 solo exhibitions, two in Sydney and eight in Melbourne, and tries to make exhibitions a yearly deal. He still engages in freelance design, adding to his repertoire of mural paintings with artwork commissions in line with his dream to paint and exhibit all around the world.
While he keeps himself quite busy, Andrew admits that making a living through art is not the easiest. Most of his works are either project-based or commissioned. Even during a gallery exhibition his works are only sold on that night, or via websites after the opening night. “A lot of hard work is needed to be an artist,” he remarks, but emphasises that creating is not something he merely likes to do; it’s something he has to do as a person to be happy.
“Good moods generate good paintings,”DrewFunk
He explains, going in depth about how a piece is created. DrewFunk’s creative process starts with a ‘blackbook’, a sketchpad to visualise the piece in before transferring it to the wall with a light-coloured spray paint. As he goes along, more colours will be added in, and oftentimes the final product doesn’t match the initial sketch due to the blowup in size from paper to wall.
As a graffiti artist, DrewFunk bases most of his designs on nature and animals. He credits his background and heritage as a Malaysian to help him stand out among the other graffiti artists in Melbourne, as he brings a strong Oriental influence to his works.
When asked about his experience as a Malaysian artist, Andrew expressed being on the receiving end of the unfortunate viewpoint of art being the lazy escapist solution for individuals in the Malaysian work culture and ethics. Acceptance was instead found in Melbourne, where art is openly celebrated in many ways.
Andrew still tries his best to come back to Malaysia yearly however, to celebrate Chinese New Year or Christmas with family and friends, and catch up in painting sessions with artists based here.
Check out Andrew Yeoh’s DrewFunk art via his Instagram page @drewfunk.
This article was first published in The Expat (October 2019 edition). To get the latest and more content like this, subscribe here.
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