Art and urban lifestyle often intersect with edgy, colorful and memorable results. So it is with the work of urban artists like Nuke, AKA Kyle Nelson of South Africa. His public and commissioned pieces encourage discussion, beautify public spaces and create a community focal point worth buzzing about. We checked in with Nuke to learn a little more about his early beginnings, portfolio and upcoming works.
What’s your backstory? Born in, live now, family lineage, wife/kids/brothers/sisters/pets–anyone you’d like to identify?
My journey as an artist started in the South African suburb, Boksburg, affectionately known as “The East.” It was different to the other suburbs on the compass and everybody living there knew it and was proud of it.
It would only be natural that my style would be against the grain too. Whenever working with other artists around Johannesburg my pieces tended to stick out like a sore thumb, which didn’t always work but nonetheless, I was content in my authenticity.
What mediums do you use most often and what about these draw you in?
The first time I picked up a spraycan I got such a sense of purpose that I knew I would be painting for the rest of my life.
One day I was scouring the underbelly of the “writers bench” ( a bridges wall foundation) where I came across “WELK” as he was doing the finishing touches on one of his pieces.
In that area he had if not the best than certainly the most works throughout the walls and was definitely King. Little did I know that this writer in the hierarchy of one of the best crews in South Africa KMS (Kill Mode Squad)
would not only be mentor but a brother to show me the way. I then became his tattoo apprentice, which was so lucky for me. Every day I was able to soak up all the knowledge I could. Darren Gregan was definitely a huge part of my foundations alongside artists Turf, Pork, and Afro.
If you go through my school books majority of the work in there is sketches of all the ideas I would be painting that weekend. Something both me and my mother laugh at considering I would make a career out of art, but at the time She didn’t find it funny.
Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I was very lucky growing up, although I drove my mom absolutely crazy considering my siblings are the best the human race has to offer, I still got a lot of support from both my parents as an artist, which I am eternally grateful. To be honest they didn’t have a choice…
I received my matric certificate somehow and never went further with any schooling. My studies would be in my style and art. I was a black sheep, proudly.
I had this constant need and drive to push boundaries, the one thing that resonated with me from school was being introduced to the Renaissance era. I was fascinated by how these individuals could be masters of so many mediums! I realised that I had that same potential when I branched out to painting with oil. I fell in love. Suddenly my pieces had more volume, texture and life and I soon found myself immersed in the fine arts. Painting everything from landscapes to portraits to animals and flowers, to my surprise, helped me improve as a graffiti artist as well.
What is your personal philosophy, and how–if at all–is it reflected in your artwork?
I am most influenced by the great Da Vinci and it’s not necessarily his style that comes through in my work; its the hidden messages and codes that he applied to his frescoes. The feedback from viewers of my work is that they get the impression of something else going on. If I can create mystery in my pieces I hope to inspire the viewer into a deeper way of thinking about what they see.
A philosophy of intriguing the mind into conscious present thought.
Each medium has its own intrinsic pull and my goal is to create a synergy of that pull between these mediums and portray the inspiration it gives me.
What do you do now, and what projects are you working on putting together in the future?
In my current projects I am combining the elements of sculpture, oil paints.
Peruse more of Nuke’s work online via Facebook or Instagram to learn more about his recent works and where to find his artwork.