ARTIST SERWAH ATTAFUAH TALKS FUNERAL HYMNS, 3D RENDERS & LIFE IN WESTERN SYDNEY
Words By Christopher Kevin Au // Photographs by Chris Loutfy
Serwah Attafuah has a lot on her plate, but when we visit her home studio in Sydney, it’s clear that she’s brimming with enough creative energy to deliver in spades. Aside from playing in local bands Dispossessed and Nasho, Serwah has also been paying increasing attention to other art forms, here in her studio amongst The Matrix and Grand Theft Auto posters.
Her oil paintings of Nike Air Max and half-finished bottles of Mounatin Dew are novel depictions of teenage suburban life that still feel achingly familiar. And more recently, it’s her slick 3D renders which have caught our eyes; depicting tattooed, gun-wielding angels that ooze with fierce energy and staunch spirit.
Serwah’s studio is an eccentric trip down memory lane and an insight into her mental moodboard, and once we finish taking everything in, we asked her a few questions about her DIY approach to creativity, her soundtrack of funeral hymns and hardstyle, and her insane tour of Western Sydney:
You play in punk and metal bands, and taught yourself 3D software to create your artwork. What do you think informed your DIY attitude towards your creative output?
My upbringing had a big effect on it. My mum’s a graphic designer and my dad’s a sculptor and a drummer, so I was always pushed to create as a child. I was a gronk delinquent in my teens with no friends, so I skipped school for weeks sometimes, learning to paint and play guitar because no one else would teach me or hang out with me. Even when I lived in Canada, I had to homeschool myself, so I just taught myself whatever I wanted through the internet and books.
The first gig I ever played was at DIY space Black Rose in Newtown, we organised the whole thing ourselves. It was stressful as fuck, but the feeling post-set was next level. My whole ethos is: No one’s going to do it for you, or as good as you, so you’re better off doing it yourself.
How do you think your art affects your music, and vice versa? Or do you see them as two seperate creative outlets?
They used to be symbiotic, now I kinda use each of them as a break from the other. When I don’t have to record or play, I sit in front of my computer for 15 hours a day and render; and when I don’t have commissions or artist block, I write.
Some of your recent work has focused on tattooed angel characters. Where did you find inspiration to create them, and what message are they sending to the world?
It’s probably some subliminal programming from getting too fried and listening an alternating playlist of Papal funeral hymns and Necro. I don’t know what message I’m trying to put out. I work on autopilot and then I try to post-rationalise and pretend like I know what I’m talking about.
You’ve got a lot of The Matrix memorabilia in your house. Do you think we’re all currently living in a simulation?
The Matrix is like my Bible. For sure we are, but in some way I feel like we control the simulation ourselves. Open your third eye, dis n dat.
You previously made realistic still life paintings, what made you make the jump into 3D and learn a whole new medium, and how was that process?
Me and my dad lost our garage studio space three years ago, so I had to find something to do in the meantime that didn’t take up much space. I’d done some super basic theatre prop and film set-related 3D for a couple weeks in TAFE, so I assumed it would be easy. But rendering the stuff I do, especially with a home setup, is way different to that. Ive burnt through computers, tried dozens of software, ran into shitloads of technical problems. It all comes down to persistence, finding what works for me and blessed Youtube tutorials.
We saw you quote Slipknot's classic 'Wait & Bleed' on Instagram. Who is your favourite member of the band, and why is it the clown who hits the beer keg with a baseball bat?
Yeah, that nigga goes hard in the paint! I mean, how many other people can say that they made a career out of dicking around with some trash for royalty cheques, and still end up making it sounds good? Jim Root is cool too, because at least I can refer to him when people say I’m on some bullshit for playing metal on a Jazzmaster.
Speaking of Instagram, your handle is @defqon.oner. Has hardstyle influenced your approach to songwriting/art?
I had this idea of ‘Blackened Hardstyle’, so basically some kind of black metal/gabber crossover. From that, me and my talented friends Heli and Hannah started the world’s first multinational blackened hardstyle group, MANA. My vibe for songwriting in that is to write repetitive dark hooks and long soliloquies, like you would hear in most hardstyle tracks. In terms of art, I’d love to animate a full hardstyle music video someday, design a stage or do visuals for a hectic rave.
Have you been on the helicopter ride at Defqon? We would highly recommend it.
Nah, I haven’t! I’ll do it this year, if it still goes ahead... I’m trying to get to Defqon.1 this year in my mother country Netherlands, I’ll suss if they have it there and report back.
Imagine that aliens come to visit you in Western Sydney. They only have 24 hours to spend here before returning to their home galaxy... what's an ideal day in Western Sydney look like?
So, we have morning smoko and a Jim Beam at Pendle Hill Woolies and argue with the locals. There was this goth traphouse I used to go to in Windsor that was full of juggalos and pre-teen eshays, they could sesh there. Are aliens into weed? If that mansion that’s painted fluoro green in Colyton is still up, then we can go look at that and speculate about what’s going on.
Pork ribs and a game of bingo at Rooty Hill RSL. Arvo shisha and milkshake at Brimo’s in Merrylands. Dinner at El Jannah, DUHHH. Hopefully its late night, so we can go Parra and listen to R&B bangers at Mecca Maxima. Then go pump menthols and watch boys pop wheelies on Kawasakis at Prospect Hill, it overlooks all of Sydney so we can roast all the other areas to filth while we're up there.
How would you like to evolve as an artist in 2019?
There’s always so much more learning to do, but most importantly I’d like to learn how to make something in VR or a game. I’d like to explore 3D printing, product and fashion design, too.