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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Dilk on Montana Shop's Tenth Birthday

20 April 18 interview: Alex Kuster

It might be our hundredth issue, but there are plenty of other boggers in the city coming of age this year. Montana Shop is celebrating ten years in Nottingham, so we caught up with longtime LeftLion friend Dilk, the graffiti artist who brought the worldwide spray paint shop to the city, and featured on our cover back in 2012...

Congrats on ten years of Montana. What you been up to lately?
More of the same, really. My life doesn’t change so much. Just painting, lately a lot more work on canvases, too. I’m off to Hong Kong on Monday for an exhibition, but other than that I’m just running the shop and travelling.

What’s Montana doing to celebrate ten years in November?
We’re working on quite a few things with the shop; a few secret things. We’ve got some big plans that should happen before the end of the year; it’s time for a bit of a change for the better, so watch this space.

How have you seen the graff scene change over the years?
There’s more general awareness of it now; people are definitely accepting it as an art form. More and more people are getting involved with it and putting their own spin on it. Generally, the kind of people who come in the shop are not necessarily graffiti or street artists; there are a lot of regular artists using spray paint more than they ever were. It’s become more accessible, more mainstream, dare I say. I’ve got to accept a lot of changes both within the shop and the wider art field.

What is it that you love about this particular art form?
It’s hard to put it into words, I’ve been doing it for so long. I don’t really know to be honest; I just love it to death. What I really love is that there’s no finishing point, so you’re always chasing goals that you set within yourself, whether that’s style or painting different places or working on canvas. There’s no end result, so that keeps you going, and keeps it passionate and interesting.

Who are some of your favourite street art comrades?
I mean, I’ve been painting forever, and it hasn’t really changed. All the old-school guys are still painting, and some of the younger generation are coming up, too. I wouldn’t want to pinpoint one person; I appreciate everyone who’s painting and putting effort into the city because I’m proud of Nottingham and I always push it. As a scene, it’s moving forward quite nicely.

Is there anywhere in town you’d just love to get your hands on?
I’ve said it a million times, but the black walls of the Victoria Centre opposite Wilko’s. Those walls are crying out for it and have been since the eighties. It’s just tired! It’s always had graffiti on it, but they keep cleaning it. That’d be a nice spot in the centre of town.

What’s the most difficult location you’ve worked on?
Nottingham’s been pretty hard over the years. More from a legal stance, it’s not always been the easiest to get a space to paint, but to be fair it has got a lot better. Painting abroad can also be a challenge sometimes; you used to be able to take paint on the plane, but now it’s not so easy. There are graffiti stores all over the world now, so it’s not that difficult to buy spray as long as you know where you’re going. I like going to other cities and supporting their local graffiti scenes, cause I know how hard it is. It’s a very niche market.

Hockley is ever-changing. How do you find being a business owner right in the heart of Notts?
The passing trade is not as it once was; it goes up and down. But I like this area, it’s a bit more colourful and free than other parts of the city centre; we eat at the restaurants around here, buy coffee in the area, chill. We don’t really wander much further into town where it’s mainstream and corporate. I hope it picks up more and people continue to come down here, not just in the evenings when it’s really busy.

Do you see a point that street art becomes vandalism?
Everyone’s got their opinion on it these days. Street art and graffiti are two different things, for starters. It’s always difficult because if you’re going to write on someone’s property and they don’t want it, then it’s going to be deemed as vandalism. And it’s their property, so they have the right to say what it looks like. I can understand that someone wouldn’t be too happy with you just tagging their wall, but I think most people are liking more colourful pieces now.

It’s a difficult one; it varies from city to city, too. If you go to Berlin, it’s a bit more fitting on the streets there. Same with Barcelona. It all depends on your surroundings and vibes. If the end result is a beautiful painting that was done illegally or damaged a wall, it’s still beautiful, right? Whether it’s right or wrong is a different matter completely.

What inspired you to put a Montana shop in Nottingham?
One of the key reasons was to help put the city a bit more on the map; not that the artists need it, cause the talent here is really, really high. But as a city it’s not been a good platform for everybody, so I thought a few more eyes on it wasn’t a bad thing.

I travel a lot, so that makes living in Nottingham pretty good. I’d like to move away eventually, but Nottingham is a really good hub. I was born and bred here, so that’s why I’ve stayed; it’s still home. I like Holland a lot, and my mum was Dutch so I have a lot of ties there, and I really know the graffiti scene too. I’d like to go there, or to Hong Kong; my girlfriend’s from Hong Kong, and the graffiti scene there is really growing. For now, I’ll stay here, though.

Do you pre-plan your pieces or just get out there and let rip?
I’m always thinking about stuff. I often tell people to draw; that’s one piece of advice I always tend to give people. But I don’t always do that as much as I should myself. I always have a bit of a safety blanket, a bit of an idea, but then when I get to the wall, the scale gives me the freedom to add things and take them away, not strictly follow a sketch or an idea. We used to do a sketch in a sketchpad, take it to the wall and try and perfect that. For me, that’s an old way of painting now.

Anything you’d like to say to readers of LeftLion?
Keep enjoying it. Keep picking it up. Keep doing more street art. Congratulations to LeftLion on the hundredth issue, and I wish you all the very best. Thanks for supporting the city.

Montana Shop, 6 Goose Gate, NG1 1FF. 0115 941 3544

Montana Shop website

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