Levi Hawken is an artist whose work is inextricably tied to the myriad influences that have shaped his life. From the urban subcultural worlds of skateboarding and graffiti, to working with concrete and nature, the frustrations, processes and potentials inherent in these activities have manifested their influence throughout his studio output.
Hawken began his artistic career painting graffiti in Auckland City during the mid-1990s. The surprisingly regimented expectations of graffiti culture proved frustrating, as did the fleeting lifespan of works, subjected to challenges from the internal dissensions of graffiti and the inevitable public vitriol. Hawken sought to reclaim his work by turning to the studio, where his paintings, drawings and eventually sculptural works retreated from the public forum, searching for the elusive longevity denied by the streets, and becoming, in the words of the artist, ‘keepsakes of the art that once was.”
As a skateboarder, Hawken understands the undeniable attraction of the urban concrete landscape, the minutiae of gritty textural imperfections contrasted with monolithic architectural monuments of Modernism and Brutalism, coloured through the recognition of the inherent functionality revealed by rolling wheels.
His recent concrete sculptural works revel in their three-dimensional form, exploring scale and the interplay of shadow and light created by their stratified construction. Importantly, these objects are adaptable, their physical realities allowing them to comfortably exist in disparate settings, from galleries to gardens, skate parks to shopping malls, and most recently, returning to the urban environment that ultimately fostered their creation.