ART: Tika Viker-Bloss.
Sitting in a gastro pub in Kensal Rise, proudly sporting a Team Robbo shirt, Tika Viker-Bloss is completely concerned that the bar staff are ok with Ventsmag conducting an interview and taking photographs in the pub. Of course they are, her being a local and the personable person she is. Tika is paradoxical in her ways, a girlish charm mounted on a tomboy. Sometimes harsh in gesture, but sincere and open in her manor, she shuns contemporary art in favour of Turner, but is a representative of the underground London graffiti scene. Considering her reputation as one of the foremost female London graffiti writers, she is completely welcoming, non judgemental and honestly interested, enthusiastic in life and others, often referencing close friends and her mum. You can see the homely soft girl under the heavy silver jewellery. Tika is now pursuing a career using her artistic talents, considering herself a better artist than graffer. She does commissions and exhibitions across London promoting her work. Humble in the fact that she’s not looking for worldwide fame, just craves stability in her income from art.
We start at her graffiti beginnings; how she fell, so to speak, into graffiti.
A friend’s brother was a graffiti writer, I knew all about it, I’d watch them do the outlines and I had read subway art, because I’ve always been really into art. I liked it, but I didn’t really think much of it. Then one day, I saw them get up and do a tag and I’d never actually seen anyone do a tag. Straight away I was like, ‘Wow!, I’ve got to do that, that looks wicked.’ I don’t know why, but it was like an epiphany, something changed. I went home and started doing a tag, I was 15.
My first tag was ‘Best’, which was really ironic because I was shit.
My name is Tika Viker Bloss so I used to call myself The Very Best. Not modest as you can tell, so that’s how it all started. Then I went to uni, fucked around at uni and got stoned everyday…. literally just passed, by the skin of my teeth and then did a degree when I was 29.
As a rare female writer, did you live up to a girly stereotype?
I did need help doing it, I wasn’t as boisterous as the others, I was quite a tomboy, but I wasn’t just flinging myself about. I remember always having to get leg ups on walls…I simply had no upper body strength!! I don’t care how girly I was about it, there were certain restrictions. I was quite brave, there’s things I did then that I’d never do now because you have that kind of brave thing when you’re a kid, you have to put your hand in the fire to know its going to get burned….scaling walls jumping across things. That was just a kind of natural young thing. Though there were times when I could be stereo-typically girly. I will hold my hands up and say that I didn’t want to get covered in dirt.
Were you ever victim to boisterous banter?
I think I got allowed. They used to terrorise each other, rip the shit out of each other, never fall asleep in a room with graffiti writers or they’ll have you. They’ll draw on your face and graff on your shoes. They always ripped each other really hard, but never me. It’s not like I couldn’t take it, I don’t think, I just never got anyone taking the piss, which I suppose was nice and probably because I was female.
I obviously got people thinking I was an easy lay and all I was out to do was get a shag, which wasn’t the case.
But in the same way, I practically could of had my pick of graffiti writers, all these young, fit men out in london who I had something in common with and then there was just me. The problem was when they presumed that’s what all I wanted.
You were put in the biggest graff crew in London DDS, how did that come about?
I was about 19 when I realised I was in DDS. I knew all of them from the age of 16-17…. I was good friends with Sub and Shu who were the originators of DDS and at one point Sub and I were talking about crews and
Sub said, “You’ve been in DDS for ages” and I said “Really?!…I wish you’d fuking told me”.
I remember the first time I put it up; we were bombing a wall and I did it in front of a load of writers. Akit DDS. There was an audible gasp! So that’s how it worked out.
Did you ever find yourself pigeonholed as a female trying to get up?
No. It’s understandable and there’s no getting away from it. People knew my tag….but you know that your tag is going to get scrutinised ten fold because they know that you are a girl. I don’t think people would have noticed me up much for any reason other than that I was female.
If you do a good tag, it automatically goes up in people’s expectations because they know that you are female,
so maybe it worked in my favour? And no one was ever rude my face, I heard bits and bobs, but nothing really. It was the boyfriends that weren’t writers that had problems..”what are you doing?…you’re a young attractive woman running around on train tracks?” The older writers were a lot more forgiving, it was the younger writers, they were teenage boys…..you know what 17 year old boys are like. But like any other writer I had to to earn my stripes.
Why did you stop?
It became very exhausting, I was sharing a house with another graffiti writer, our house became one of the graffiti hotspots and it all became a bit much really. There’s such a lifestyle that goes with it, you can’t have an every day life, not if you’re dedicated to graffiti. And it all becomes ‘ fuck the system, fuck the man’…..I just wanted to go to the country and escape. I wasn’t that worried about police, I wasn’t prolific enough for them to be interested I don’t think, but in some ways it was easier to get away with writing when being a girl. There were times when I literally had a dripping wet tag behind me and they never suspected me. A train driver pulled up once, I was in an alcove on the train tracks and I told him I was homeless… he took pity on me and offered me shelter…. I don’t know how he believed me, I was looking good; fully made up and smoking a fag. It didn’t even occur to him that I was a vandal.
From Graffiti to mainstream artist, has your graffiti name helped your profile in art?
I’ve tried not to exploit my name, my mum’s always saying I should be the female banksy, but I don’t want to to be doing graffiti for a living…it does help my art profile…but I don’t sell myself that way. I do art one day, graff the next. I think I’m a better artist than graffiti artist. Graff was about bombing and vandalism. That’s what I miss is sheer bombing….just putting tags up,
what I liked about it was that I wasn’t meant to be doing it…..
Were you part of the recent revival of old school writers such as Envy, Drax and other London originators?
I fell in love, Graff kind of stopped for me, I didn’t feel the urge to write as much. I decided at 25 I wanted to be an artist and then I decided to do a degree when I was 29. Then Banksy, as much as I hate to say it, he revived it. Then Chrome and Black came along as people stopped nicking paint so much. Then there was Robbo which spurned the movement. Before that I met Chock in 2007, another girl writer so I came out of retirement, so to say, as did a lot of people. It made me realise I can use graff to my favour.
Tell us about your current work, especially the Pet Portraits.
My mate’s mum has lots of rescue dogs and she asked me to paint one for her one day, and then another and another and another. I did a few. I thought maybe I should make something out of this…. so I got a few commissions. What I like is that it’s such a different style, my other work is urban and a bit sexy and cartoon-like, so
I’m literally turning into a jack of all trades; pastels one day, designing logos, customising clothes and decorating furniture the next. And painting pets.
How is it working out for you?
The economic downturn really screwed everything commission wise, but I never became an artist to be a millionaire. The thing is with graffiti is that you can’t do it forever, you can’t go and get a sit down job, so if you can incorporate it, for me incorporate art, then it’s great. I used to think it was selling-out, all that art-faggery business, but then I realised I’d rather make money out of doing art than sitting in some office, It’s not selling -out, its a good career. Like the boys at the paint shop, they used to be writers and have now turned their knowledge and love for graffiti into a lucrative business and it makes sense.
I work from home, so there’s always glitter around the house.
What is your ultimate career goal?
Someone described me as a successful artist the other day, which I thought was really interesting because I don’t feel like a successful artist, but if you look at it from the outside I suppose I am. At the moment it doesn’t solely pay the rent. My dream is to sit at home with a cat, a cup of tea and a spliff and just have people call me up and say can you draw this, can you draw that…….Nothing complicated, not travel around the world, just a realistic goal of simply making a living off being an artist. The art industry, there’s a lot of wank, so sometimes I find it difficult to deal with, but you have to talk the talk, walk the walk and shmooooze to be in the game. Still do the odd cheeky dub still though.
Who are your artistic icons?
Im not into contemporary art so much, I like Turner and Monet, Matisse, I’m quite old fashioned. My favourite thing to do is wander around the national gallery, or the British Museum,
street art is fine but nothing gets me like the pre-raphaelites, old pots and statues.
And what’s in the pipeline?
I’ve got bits and bobs in the pipeline. I’ve started drawing kids at parties, kind of accidentally but that’s been fun. I just painted an exact but bigger version of a dog painting that I did before (Benji from the Grufts show), strange commission as it’s not even their dog. I am available to paint pets and children! I’m going to New York, a pilgrimage to the home of hiphop and graff so hopefully I’ll get some inspiration there. …..With that Tika smiles and gives us her humongous grin that spreads into her infectious laugh, still a bit abashed in her humility as to why we were interviewing her in the first place, but nonetheless happy she came and so are we. To contact Tika for commissions and to view more of her eclectic work visit http://www.akit.co.uk.
Words by Sarah Jane Bacchus Photos by Yuki Dowding