The sky is limitless: Globally renowned graffiti artist Sofles on why the Benalla Street Art Festival is a must-attend event

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Proficient in a variety of mediums, including acrylics, aerosol, brush painting and digital illustration, Sofles has left an indelible mark on global metropolises such as Berlin, Copenhagen, and Los Angeles. After a stint in the United States, he returns to take part in the highly anticipated Benalla Street Art Festival, scheduled from March 21 to 28. In an exclusive interview, we speak with Sofles about his experiences with Benalla, often hailed as the largest regional art gallery in Victoria.

Benalla Street Art Festival

  • One of the greatest street art festivals in Australia
  • Running from 21-28 March 2024
  • Taking over the picturesque town of Benalla in  Victoria
  • Follow them on Instagram here or visit the website here

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Why Benalla? It seems like an unusual place to be dubbed, ‘the largest regional art gallery in Victoria’?

S: Yes, the festival originated in 2015 under a different name. They have over 80+ murals. This year, it’s simply known as the Benalla Street Art Festival, which makes perfect sense. It’s truly gratifying to witness the positive influence murals are having on regional areas, creating a mutually beneficial scenario for both artists and the locations involved.

Last time you went to Benalla, you were opening a solo exhibition at the Benalla Art Gallery? It was only for a brief time. Tell us about that.

S: In March 2020, I opened a solo exhibition, but it was swiftly shut down due to the onset of the Covid pandemic. Despite the unfortunate timing, I acknowledge that compared to the broader challenges people faced, it wasn’t a major disaster. I’m excited to come back and contribute to the artistic scene in this town, especially given Benalla’s evident enthusiasm for art.

How did you get involved in this year’s event?

S: Eddie Zammit, the curator, and I have worked together before and collaborated on some pretty prolific projects. Eddie saw my inclusion as a perfect continuation from the closure of the 2020 exhibition to the present. I’m excited for this new opportunity and am pleased with the diverse array of artists this year, particularly those with a background in graffiti.

Do you know who else has been invited?

S: Yeah, I know that Eddie has been reaching out to artists, who possess mad mural skills but seldom have the chance to participate in street art festivals. I find this approach refreshing because it prevents us from featuring the same artists repeatedly at each festival, year after year – offering instead a unique twist each time. DXTR from Berlin, part of The Weird crew, is one standout this year for me. David Bromley’s inclusion is a genius move. It’s wild that some of these talents haven’t been thrown into projects like this more often.

What is your involvement in the festival?

S: I am doing an art installation at the entrance of the Benalla Art Gallery funded with support from the gallery. In addition, during the festival I am painting the entire carpark area underneath the library. It’s a mammoth task, not too dissimilar to the space I painted in Limitless. I can paint pretty fast but it’ll take me around two weeks to complete.

Can you provide a recap of Limitless for those who might not be familiar with it or were unaware of its existence?

S: More than a decade ago, Selina Miles and I collaborated on a project where she documented me and a group of friends painting an entire warehouse. After completing the artwork, I intentionally painted over it, emphasising the transient nature of artistic expression. Remarkably, the video has over 13 million views.

Sofles’ expansive murals, inspired by graffiti, nature, society, and traditional art, serve as emotive visual narratives. He aims to evoke strong emotions through his creations, exploring the concepts of abstract amalgamation of past experiences, dimensions, and time. His artistic journey transcends borders, leaving an indelible impression on the global art scene.

Follow Sofles at @sofles and Benalla Street Art Festival at @benallastreetartfestival. For more information, head here.

This article was made in partnership with Benalla Street Art Festival.

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