« I also think that we should get merite for our artistic expression and craft and not only because we are women, but because we are great artists ! ».
Who are you ? And where are you from ?
I am known artistically as « Shalak » or « Shalak Attack ». I am Canadian Born with Chilean roots, I am a little bit from all over, but would definitly say : « I am from the Americas » (as in the continents)…
Canadian-Chilean artist, lots of differents cultures ?
The word « Attack » has a huge « impact », how would you describe that ?
I would describe that in the way I approach my work, its about going foward and to combat and confront the negative with the creative… I use my art as a sort of weapon for mass creation.
Your creations : close-up (on the face), lots of colours and huge animals, why ?
Its what comes most natural to me, I started with a lot of large human faces and a while ago I got tired of just representing humans. I have a lot of respect for all living creatures and they have always been a big inspiration in my life… In my portraits, I try to imagine them more as spirit animals rather then litteral animals. Their fierce gaze or angry roars is what I imagine them to feel towards us humans, like a wake up call for us to see all the damage we are causing on mother earth as a whole. I guess in its essence its my own anger and helplessness I feel with our current world values and situations, our ego, our destructive nature and historical amnesia we suffer from. This is my way to deal with it all, and I feel the need to paint them as large as possible.
When I paint human portraits, i also try to portray us as spiritual animals, not as superior to other living creators but as part of the whole. The third eye energy is something I usually add to my portraits, like the third eye of consciousness rising. Its something that even subliminaly I think we should be reminded of in our day to day hustle.
What colours mean for you ?
To me colour is spirit, it is math and science, it is instinct and it is life, she has no boundaries and is my strongest voice.
On these faces, we recognize only women, could you explain this choice ?
Ever since I was young I would always portray women or girls in my drawings or paintings, it is what comes most natural to me, probably because it is what I identify with. On a more rational level, it is important to me to paint strong and beautiful women as I see them and as I experience life, as a way to counter act the million images we are bombarded with daily that are degrading and objectifiying women as sex symbols.
I realize that there are a lot graffiti artists, men and women, that all to often echoe this message, that paint women as cute little things or as highly sexualized objects. In graffiti subculture, women are most often a curvy canvas for guys to tag and put their names on (ex. shriimp)… to me it demonstrates a culture of male domination and all to often women play a big role in propagating this message… For me it is a personal responsibility to refuse to be a part of that, and combat it with my most powerfull tools, paint and walls…
For me, spraypaint is my voice, and I choose to define my femininity as intelligence, as inner beauty and creativity, as powerful and stubborn strength that will not give up. This is why I have a lot of pride to define myself as a « Bruxa » (meaning « Witch » in portuguese and the name of our international female crew). You dont think delicate and pretty when you think witches, you think powerful, scary, outlaws, magical creators that are one with nature. This is the kind of femininity that I am about.
The Clandestinos : « Two worlds, two lives, to tell stories ». That’s an important message, can you tell me more about that ?
When me and my husband Smoky paint together, then we paint as the Clandestinos. It is the fusion between the two of us creating into one. We have a very intricate and powerful dynamic, I could say sometimes even explosive, it can cause outmost harmony or crazy battles…but we always manage to come out of it alive and wanting more. Usually we have to stop ourselves at some point because sometimes it feels we could spend forever adding more and more details and elements to make our murals. When we paint, we play together on a different realm, and it is one of our biggest addictions, telling stories on the street with spraypaint.
Essencia, Las Bruxas Crew, and The Clandestinos are international artistic collectives movement, you are so proud to be co-founder ?
Yes very proud, each one of these are extensions of my person, my experience and my values, they exist as integral and simbiotic connections to the other artists that are a part of them. I love what they mean, what they stand for and the dynamics each one holds. They are seperate collectives but they also overlap and inspire one another, To me, they are like families and a way to tunnel different expressions and messages…
One day with Shalak, it would be what ?
Coffee in the morning… painting in the afternoon.
What are your main influences – art and otherwise ?
What drives me are my values, this I got from my parents and my family who are my base and my grounding. Inspirations come from everywhere, but my two biggest influences are my husband and my sister. I feel that through all of them I can make sense of what I am doing alive.
There aren’t many women street artists, too much divided up ? too male ? What do you think about it ?
Women have to make their voices heard, but men are an integral part of making this happen, so its important that everyone be aware and an active part of inclusive decision making. There are very strong world wide female street artists and graffiti artist movements that are very inspiring, but we need more.
Yes we are the minority, but its not that there are too many males, its that we need more female voices heard… I also think that we should get merite for our artistic expression and craft and not only because we are women, but because we are great artists !!
Do you think you can achieve the same freedom and self-expression painting on canvas, murals, books or with illustrations ?
So far, nothing compares to painting a large mural, soaring on top of the world, and climbing high onto your scaffolds… Even if painting smaller scaled walls, it is about the dynamic of painting in public space that can not compare to other kinds of expressions, its not a controled environment, and i find a lot of inspiration from my surroundings… the street, the whole physical movement of painting big, the smell, for me all of that is the best. I also love painting canvases, tattooing or making jewelry, but the thrill and passion is won over by the walls !!
What’s in your toolbox ?
A lot of stuff, but i can never have enough tools ☺
You are a tattooist. You ink insects, animals, vegetables, your preferred ?
Tattooing for me is one of the more difficult art forms i have come across and have a huge respect for it. Like all artforms you are never going to stop learning, but I think this is 10 times more true for the art of tattooing. It is all about the technical approach and knowledge. My goals are to translate my style of painting murals and canvas art into tattooing, I definitly want to do more insects, animals, and colourful portraits !!! Right now I am an artist at the Naked World Tattoo Shop in Toronto, Canada, and am always looking for the opportunity to share my art on peoples bodies.
You have tattoos, how much ?
Only 7… but I have many in the plans, just need some more time !
What do you think the role of the artist in society ?
I wish there were more artists thinking and feeling rather then worried about their egos or following trends. In this new Street Art Craze where walls and paint have become highly accessible and an « in thing » to do, we are not standing up to the potential power of using public spaces to speak of truths and social messages. Lets not let street art create empty echoes of beautiful nothingness to our zombie consumerist eyes, and lets paint for something that means more then just our own egos.
Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with ?
So many !
What is the question I haven’t asked that you would like to answer ?
Thanks for the opportunity and for your challenging questions. Bless !