When you grow up doing something similar to your parents, there will likely come a time when you will want to be as far removed from them as you can. You will copy them, rebel, sometimes find yourself running home, and then fly away to spread your own rugged wings with your own rhythm. For best friends and partners in creative crime, Sydney artists Texas and P1x1e are all too familiar with this. Growing up watching artistic parents creating and making mistakes, these two are finding their own steady feet in the streets of Sydney. Living in a warehouse turned artists’ commune in Sydney’s inner west, they have found the space and time to create their own collective chaos amongst other inspired individuals making moves in the city’s artistic arena. Yet, however far they creep outside of their comfort zones, their art seems to keep bringing them back home.
Entering through a heavy metal door from the street, the bright room appears, large, yet cluttered with an awkward array of objects. Handmade bunting and balloons hang low from the exposed beams, a makeshift stage stands beside a giant Buddha statue and an optical illusion is spread across the large wall above the corner-come-kitchen. There are canvases and clay creations, a wall of pornographic pictures and pretty floral paintings. Sinking into the couch in the corner, Texas and P1x1e are battling with toy guns, momentarily unaware of our presence – a standard afternoon at home.
P1x1e is a pretty nineteen year old who is both sickly sweet and heartily honest. She grew up unreligious in a converted church, with a bad-ass Mexican mother and a father who collects shovels. “My mum is super influenced by her heritage, so she always used to draw this really vivid folk art. And my dad is a minimalist artist, he has a shovel collection and he does these striking artworks. And I think the one thing I really didn’t want to do was be anything like my parents.”
Texas, who was born in the UK, came to Australia when he was four and has been drawing ever since he could hold a pen.
“My dad was a tattoo artist in the UK”, he says. “When we came here I was always over at his house watching him draw. He had this shitty little apartment in North Ryde and people would come over and I’d just be watching TV and he’d be in the kitchen drawing on someone. My dad did a full back piece on some guy over a few weeks and so he just kept on coming back. It was good to see, but in my head I was like ‘what’s going on?’; like this guy’s yelling and getting scratched you know.”
Texas then started scratching his own marks: on public transport, in train tunnels and on the sides of buildings around Sydney.
“Before school I’d get three trains to Bradfield, and they were all ridgies back then, so we’d just bomb them end-to-end. I’d have a three/four hour break during the day, with my timetable. So I had a group of maybe four or five mates at school who would all write, so we’d go do the city circle, do a loop and just bomb, hop off, go down into the tunnels, explore everywhere for 3 hours then go back to north Sydney and start working again. We used to do probably 25-30 trains in that 3-hour break.”
In an art world that is so transient, where works exist for such short amounts of time, Texas talks about always trying to make your mark.
“We had markers that we’d fill up with wood stain, and that’s what would stain into the train and into the walls. They’d try to wipe it off; so we’d have a competition to see who could make the darkest ink, we’d be mixing break fluid into it and all sorts of shit. I still hop on a train and I see a tag from 2011 that I’d done that’s still there. It’s really faded but yeah it’s funny.”
P1x1e, who met Texas three years ago, also found her form in graffiti; painting pretty nudes over endless tags.
“I would find a wall that was covered in tags and then spend enough time doing an intricate illustration of a woman just to have that bizarre contrast. But I’d run with all these scummy graff boys and doing these beautiful forms. I thought it was really funny. Then when I started doing the p1x1e faces I realised I could do them really quickly and run away so I think that’s how I got into it. Originally it was just the one little face, then I learned it was easier.”
Growing up with these influences has certainly left a mark on Texas and P1x1e, and curbed their own art making. Now almost inseparable, rather than inspire, the pair push one another to create.
Texas looks at P1x1e, “She pushes me a lot. I get pretty stagnant at times and there would be a few weeks where I used to just not make much art, just doodle and not produce stuff. And it’s been good because I usually wouldn’t want to touch this thing [the canvas he is working on as we chat] and I’ve had it rolled up under my bed for a few years and now going back with a CD marker on oils, you’re not really meant to do that, you’re just meant to stick with oils on oils you know. And I’ve let it sit for a few years, and its nice to have someone else that will push me to like go back to it.”
Don’t confuse this with an artist-muse relationship though. P1x1e is quick to call that with less regard than the bond between her and Texas.
“The artist-muse relationship is sort of overrated I think. I used to be really good friends with a street artist and it ended up being the demise of our friendship because we had this connection and obviously wanted to be together or date or whatever, but he was so obsessed with having the muse and the artist, who can never be together. So I think the pushiness [between Texas and P1x1e] is like inspiration, it’s like we make each other get the fuck up and paint.”
Not just about being pushy, the pair seem to help each other in exploring those little bits of personality that are slightly off centre, slightly un-wielding.
“The thing that Texas and I have in common”, P1x1e begins, “is that we both do a lot of alter-ego based stuff. I’m perceived as grossly, sickly sweet as a person, and then I draw these really grubby, little devil boys and p1x1es. It’s the same with Texas; he’s one of the sweetest people I know but he does these really deformed, gross-looking guys and they’re really beautiful. It’s strange that you can create something that’s not close at all to what you’re like, and be appreciated for it.”
For two young artists who are so close, and whose art obviously influences one another, they have ideas that are eons apart. P1x1e is set on making images for people to have, treasure and treat well; while Texas wants to make marks on the city as a statement. “Graffiti is what I mainly do, it’s what I was brought into, it’s a part of me,” he says. “I got into that head set of a graffa: stealing my paint, stealing my food. When my mum would go away I’d walk out of Woollies with a full trolley, walk straight home with the trolley and fill my fridge up.”
P1x1e laughs and says she doesn’t do that anymore, but that it’s always been about exploring, even at school. “My major work at school I had 82 pieces. I used to do this program called Anxiety Art, teaching kids to express themselves positively. Everyone talks about the black dog but no one talks about the invisible dog that is anxiety. So I called my major piece the invisible dog and did 83 pictures and used every medium that you could use.”
Sat on her bed below an arrangement of cards that spell ‘FUCK’ plastered across the wall, P1x1e pulls out a lighter as Texas pops a cigarette into his mouth. Conversation runs between Texas’ mum calling P1x1e to pay for her son’s rent, and P1x1e bringing her pet rabbit around from her parents’ house. “I need to call my own mum”, she says. Whoever’s mum they’re talking to, or whoever’s house they’re at, there is clearly an unwritten understanding between the two, a connection that keeps them creating.
P1x1e puts her finger on it, “My biggest fear is not doing anything and I think that’s why Texas and I work so well together is because both of us are so scared of not going anywhere that we just make stuff all the time.”