Peap Tarr is a self-proclaimed internationalist, and a cursory glance at his CV would confirm as much. Hailing from New Zealand but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Peap Tarr has made a name for himself all over Southeast Asia by painting large scale works with a host of diverse collaborators. As of late, he’s taken to frequently painting with Lisa Mam, a more than able partner in crime. Having painted in places like France, Thailand, and Hawaii, his style is emblematic of the region he is uniting; at once completely ethnographic and cultural, while also the hallmark of an art scene that is increasingly focused on looking outside itself for inspiration.
As Peap says in the following interview, he feels his mission is to serve as a “cultural bridge,” a link of commonality that unites inspired people everywhere. One look at his work, and you can see how he might have filled notebook after notebook as a kid, with uber-detailed illustrations that emphatically impress when created on such a large scale. This dude oozes positivity, and between his philosophy and the art itself, we couldn’t be happier to feature him. Take comfort in the fact that Cambodia’s Peap Tarr is making the world a more beautiful place. Ahead, he paints our collective mind.
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Evan: It’s such a pleasure to link up man… The second we saw your work, we were on board. Thanks for taking the time.
PEAP: Thank you for noticing my art, always happy when my art can travel and make new fans and new friends, it’s a wonderful thing!
Evan: You must have been quite the doodler as a kid. I can see your stuff filling notebook after notebook…
PEAP: I doodled and drew nonstop as a kid, and even till this day I do the same thing. I’ve even had people wanting to purchase my sketch books, but its to personal to sell. When I was a kid my Mum just provided me with stacks and stacks of paper that she would bring home from her job. She was teaching at university so she had access to all these office supplies and I guess that was her way of occupying me for hours. I would draw all these different worlds where people and creatures lived in incredible houses, we always lived in apartments and moving around non stop when I was a kid, so in some ways these places I created where like dream homes for me.
Evan: How would you describe your stuff? How do you see your work evolving?
PEAP: I would describe my art as a mixture of two cultures colliding then giving birth to a new hybrid human that takes all the best aspects of both cultures. My Mother is Cambodian and my Father is a New Zealander, and this has influenced my artwork a lot, and is my main inspiration. At the same time, I grew up watching allot of cartoons and reading comics, as well as getting involved with graffiti, skating culture, hip hop music, basically all the urban aspects of growing up in a city environment in the 90’s.
Now I’m living in Phnom Penh Cambodia and my art has taken another direction. I came back to Cambodia to help my Mum out since she is unable to work anymore, so it was a whole new thing to come here and almost start all over again. In Cambodia there’s no real urban art scene, no real street art except a few randoms here and there from the back packing tourists, but all that is starting to change.
So I guess this the new evolution in my work is about being able to get more in touch with my Cambodian/Asian side over the last few years, as well as balancing my art alongside Lisa’s.
Evan: How did you arrive at the style you currently inhabit? Was your work always reminiscent of the type of intricate and massive pieces you tend to create?
PEAP: Hours just doodling in sketch books and paper, then trying it out when I went painting with my friends on the street. Eventually I was able to really form my own identity by injecting a lot of my cultural perspective into it, basically just wanting to do something that came from the heart, something that was naturally a part of me and who I am.
Evan: What’s the biggest piece you ever did?
PEAP: I would have to say the two biggest pieces that have been done so far was first the wall I painted in Phnom Penh Cambodia with Lisa Mam and our friend THEY, a graffiti artist from Malaysia who also has a very unique style that relates to his Malaysian roots. The other large scale wall was painted while over in Hawaii for PowWow Hawaii where I painted with my good friend and crew member Angry Woebots aka Aaron Woes Martin. We were also joined by the incredible talents of Meggs from Melbourne Australia, Mr Jago and Will Barris from the UK as well as Mexican American artist Aaron De La Cruz.
Evan: You must need a crew to execute some of these, who do you normally work with? I know of Lisa Mam, how did you meet her?
PEAP: That is the great thing about Graff and Street art in general it is a very collaborative type of culture and it encourages like minded artists to work together. I love to work on my own works to but it’s great fun working with others. I met Lisa Mam when I moved back to Phnom Penh Cambodia and we just clicked. Our art just joined together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Evan: What is Army of Snipers?
PEAP: Army of Snipers was created by Angry Woebots aka Woes, Aaron ask me to join in 2009 when he came over to New Zealand. AOS is a international art collective of like minded artists who Aaron has put together, and I have helped introduce some members to the crew as well. These days I guess everybody is very busy with their art career and life, so the AOS activity as a collective has been very minimal but I do hope that things pick up again…
Evan: In your TED talk you mention the idea of acting as a cultural bridge. It’s cool that by learning about your own cultural heritage you now serve as a conduit between various people and places. How does living in Cambodia further that?
PEAP: Yea, TED talks in Phnom Penh was just the tip of the iceberg. I just really feel that there needs to be a cultural bridge between all people because we’re all one people made up of many different cultures, which in my mind is a beautiful & vibrant thing idea. At the moment, the world in some sense has come closer together due to faster communication via the internet and smartphones, so information moves instantly. Over in Cambodia which has suffered war after war…(during Pol Pot) people of an educated background were murdered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge; they slaughtered anyone that disagreed with them and it was a very, very dark time in Cambodian history. It’s affected people here greatly, including myself. I lost family members on my mother’s side, my grandparents were in fact killed during this bloody genocide. I feel at this point in time a lot of people have mistrust for each other, one minute someone is your friend the next minute they’re not, it’s a very strange state of mind out here. At times I want to pack up and head back to New Zealand where my daughter is, and who I miss greatly, but at this point in time of my life, I feel there is a mission I have been given to be a part of this cultural bridge to make people unite in a creative and peaceful way, both in Cambodia and all over Southeast Asia. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on a crusade to heal the world (haha), but I do want to be a part of moving towards a better state of being and art is the gift I have been given to pursue that.
Evan: What are some other cool places where you’ve put walls up?
PEAP: All over Cambodia, Paris France, Bangkok Thailand, Hawaii in 2012, as well as Geneva Switzerland. All very memorable and fun times.
Evan: Tell us a bit about the technical side. Setup, tools, paint, etc. How is it executed?
PEAP: It’s all really quite simple. All that is really needed is black vinyl paint or anything that is weather resistant and water proof. I have a small bucket of water for mixing down the paint and also empty bottles of water and a box cutter. As a large scale painter, I don’t use spray paint, but I use paint and large brushes from big to super size depending on the scale of the wall, and of course a ladder of some kind. The only time I use a bit of spray paint is for extra effects, but it’s largely the brush – I’m not out bombing the city. I’m not a graffiti writer and I’m not a street artist, I just like to paint on a large scale. I love graffiti art and grew up around graffiti, but as a artist I don’t want to be labeled. I want to be free to create anything I feel like – art has no rules.
Evan: What other street art scenes around the world inspire you?
PEAP: I’m very much inspired by the local art scene in Auckland, New Zealand because that’s where I’m from. I’m also inspired by what I see happening in Brazil. I feel like the Brazilian Graff/Street/Urban scene has trailblazed and truly created their own style, much respect to them all. Thailand has a growing and very cool urban art scene with some truly great talent. I love what’s going on in Japan, South Korea actually all over the world I still look to New York, LA and also Paris, France.
I’m an internationalist. I’m inspired by all the great things happening all over the world its really hard for me to pinpoint one place because the human race is a beautiful thing!
Evan: Name one artist or musician IPMM readers should Google right now.
PEAP: Lisa Mam ( Cambodia ), Chip7 (Thailand & USA), P7 (Thailand), Rukkit (Thailand), Never (Thailand), TRK (Thailand), MAMAFAKA (Thailand), rip Tawan Wattuya (Thailand), SETH Global Painter (France), BERNS (Peru/France), 2Toes (New Zealand), Askew One (New Zealand), Paul Shih (New Zealand), Misery/ Tanja Jade (New Zealand), Deus / Elliot Francis Stewart (New Zealand), BERST (New Zealand), Angry Woebots (Hawaii), THEY (Malaysia), Artime Joe and Jay Flow (Seoul Korea), Pixel Pancho Leza One CHAZ BOJORQUEZ O.G. SLICK, and ZEROSY ( JAPAN). (This list could go on and on.)
Check out Peap Tarr on Tumblr
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/PeapTarr
Instagram handle: https://instagram.com/peaptarr/
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