Since Tyke Witnes/The Eyewitness, started getting involved in southern California’s graffiti scene in the early 1990’s, he has gained notoriety through his “experimental” graffiti murals that challenge the boundaries of traditional graffiti styling.
For Tyke, graffiti pieces [spray painted murals in public spaces] are like monsters. He compares the feelings that would overcome him — as he came across graffiti pieces hidden between alleyways and clinging to broken walls — to the feeling of witnessing a monster revealing itself to him from beyond our everyday reality, both seeming at once magnificent, magical and mysterious. Tyke’s tag name ‘Tyke Witnes/The Eyewitness’ is a deliberately chosen name, reflecting his stumbling upon unexpected explosions of text in abstract color and angst, skillfully mastered in a matter of seconds due to this form of artistic expression considered a destruction of public property in many parts of the world.
In this series of paintings on canvas, Tyke references creatures from urban mythology, Asian folklore and even the infamous Bigfoot footage shot by Patterson and Gimlin in 1967. Painting in a graffiti-esque style that references both popular culture and childhood cartoons; Tyke’s “monsters” call forth a kind of anxiety that exists within our social internalization of the unknown and our simultaneous desire to experience this.
The works in Unknown Monsters continues Tyke’s fascination with how society characterizes fear through urban cultural myth, inspired by the controversial findings of a ‘yeti-like’ creature spotted by Vietnamese scientists in the mountainous regions of north Vietnam. These large, hairy, human-like beasts are here rendered small and impish, their faces poking out of stylized brushstrokes — letters that become monsters — as if the land of graffiti is their much sought-after home. This exhibition occurs at a time in Vietnam when its younger generations have begun to consider graffiti an essential means of self-expression, recognizing the power of public space as a platform to engage new ideas. For this exhibition, the language of graffiti has been transferred from urban wall to canvas, making this stereotypically rebellious style of image making a mobile painterly practice. Challenging ideas of what is considered real, natural, conventional or stereotypical, Tyke’s ‘Unknown Monsters’ takes the medium of graffiti beyond the urban environment, not only as an attempt to re-define the practice of this stylized art, but also as a challenge to conceptions of fear in public and private space.
Unknown monsters is Tyke’s first exhibition in Vietnam. From the streets of Los Angeles, USA to the gallery walls of Milan in Italy, Tyke has painted and exhibited alongside artists such as Steven Powers, Saber, Krush, Revok and Barry McGee.