- Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Emanuel Wit, my art name 'Manu' comes from a surfing adventure I had and the name stuck. My father is European and my mother is Dutch/German. I was born in Brisbane and I'm the middle of three boys. My interest in art largely came from my Aunt, who was an artist, who learned to paint from her husband. He suffered from a lung condition and he didn't live very long, so I didn't really get to know him, but she did a lot of painting. As a child, when I visited with my parents, I would explore her house and she had collected all sorts of interesting things and I would enjoy losing myself in her backyard in my imagination. It was something about that experience of visiting her and getting to know her that I only later realised that’s why I was drawn to art.
- When did you start drawing?
I was very young when I first picked it up. My parents wanted me to concentrate on my homework and my education and they encouraged me as long as I was doing well. So the influence from my parents to focus on work probably steered me away from the creative subjects in school. I decided for myself that I was going to aim high and study architecture but that fell through.
I had a friend at school and we would encourage each other to draw and our English teacher would allow us to as long as we got the work done. My friend was very good at exploring the different mediums and bringing in different things to draw with but I always stuck to what I knew - I was much more minimalist. I wanted to get the most out of my tool and I think that's where I got my strength from, in sticking to one medium.
At high school, I would be happy with a pencil and Biro and using the things I already had. If I found some liquid paper I could use that as a whitening medium. When high school finished, I started painting and that's when I really explored acrylic on canvas. I did a little bit of oil because my Aunt was using oil but it didn't take very long for me to steer away from that because of how messy it was. I love the smell of it but oil takes a long time to dry and I didn't have the patience for it.
- How much would you spend?
I would maybe spend $200-300 in a year - it's nothing! I used to do lots of sketches but now I just take the confidence I've gained over the last four years straight to the board. My artwork, in the beginning, came from finding whatever I could around the house. My mum would say, 'Here's some old bed linen - you can use it if you like', and I would stretch it myself and make a frame for it with some old bits of wood my dad had sitting around and he would help me so that was pretty cool. I come from a long line of wood workers and furniture makers so it was easy for me to have access to that equipment and making things for myself.
- Where did you start doing chalk work in public?
The chalk started for me at The Burrow in West End. It wasn't long after it opened that I got involved with the people there through a friend. They had so many chalk boards everywhere and I drew a little rabbit and, after that, I was invited to come and have a go on the big board at table 13. So, from there, it took off and they were able to pay me and it just evolved so quickly. More and more I wanted to explore art works which made people question the things around them and empower them. If I was struggling with something, my art would be a description of what I was dealing with in my own life. I like to keep the metaphor pretty open and it ended up being very powerful for me to express myself and I got a lot of positive feedback.
The significance of not having that expression is huge for me. I want to make the most of what I already have and no other venue feels the same as The Burrow. I know the way I'm doing it is almost like graffiti - it's temporary, it's my own design, nobody has asked for it specifically and it's very free and it's celebrated. I feel that I've found a place where everyone is supportive and protective of what I'm doing. It's quite incredible.
- What do you like about chalk?
I explore the micro not the macro - so I become quickly disinterested in constantly changing things up to find new experiences in my expression. I like to simplify it. I am always asking myself 'how much simpler can I make this'. Chalk is efficient and I want to make it as easy for myself to express myself and that's where chalk has been amazing. It’s a never ending road of discovery – it’s about simplifying everything that doesn’t matter so much and then focusing on the detail.
- What do you want for the future of your work?
I'm very lucky to have a sort of ‘double life’. I've worked as a picture framer for the past 12 years and that has been a humble yet stable income which means I don't have the pressure to produce work and I want to keep that. I don't want to search for more and more and bigger projects that pay better. I'm looking for a magical connection with the community and I'm looking for a connection with people that don't feel they need to question whether they want to own the piece, they're simply there to observe the piece for what it is. I respect galleries for what they are but I think there should be a lot more art available to people within their lives and daily activities. I’d like to explore new narratives about how people evolve with their neighbours, the mistakes we make or get confused about the path they’re on – the bonding experiences that we all go through. I want to keep doing what I'm doing and keep it the same. It's not a popular idea but this isn't a business.