Adelaide Abroad: Vans the Omega

He’s one of Australia’s most influential street artists and a pioneer of the local and international graffiti scene. Adelaide artist Joel Van Moore – or you may know him as Vans the Omega – has spent the last two decades catapulting his street art onto the international scene. We caught up with the talented Adelaide artist to get the low down on his inspiration, top pinch-me moments and future ambitions.

You’ve been dubbed a pioneer for both the local and international graffiti scene.  When did you first become interested in art?

As soon as I could hold a pencil I was drawing. I spent a lot of time watching my grand-mother paint and use different materials in her studio, so I think this kind of exposure just sunk in and made art a very natural aspect of my life. I was born and raised in Christies Beach and spent a lot of time on trams and trains getting to my grandparents place. I was exposed to a lot of graffiti on these lines and by the age of five I was fascinated by graffiti to the point of obsession.

Where did the name “Vans the Omega” come from?

Van is my fathers name and my middle name, so it’s something that came natural for me to use. I later used Van One, than added the “S” to make Vans.  After a decade of playing with these four letters and a bunch of other alias names my mother found a bag of drawings and sketchpads from Primary School. Opening the sketchpads I saw that I was writing Omega 2 at the time and re-gravitated to the word. I later combined them to create Vans the Omega.

What are you hoping to achieve through your work?

To learn, engage and to spread love through colour in the streets. A challenge is always something I gravitate too. In the near future I want to take my art to new levels and push towards sculptures and fine art using technology.

Graffiti isn’t always supported in the art industry. Why do you think graffiti is an important type of art form?

Graffiti comes from a sense of freedom and expression, and it isn’t created for anyone else except other artists. Now we see everything from high-end fashion to mainstream advertisers ripping off graffiti, which is only a testament of graffiti’s cultural importance. Like any form of art, it’s only a matter of time before it has a large enough audience and support to become legitimate in the art world.

If someone has never seen your work before, how would you best describe it?

I use so many different ingredients in my works that it’s pretty hard to describe, but colourful is the easiest.  Maybe something like multi-dimensional portraiture meets pattern-making and fabric design collided with graffiti.

You’ve travelled quite a bit with your work. What has been some of your favourite highlights?

Working in Europe in the early 2000’s was an amazing because of the boom in the graffiti and art being painted there.

I painted an event called Wall Street Meeting in Weisbaden, Germany and it literally had 5,000 artists painting over five days. I managed to meet most of my heroes and spent a lot of time with great artists. Copenhagen has always been a favourite of mine to paint graffiti in.

Who are your biggest influencers and inspirations?

Nature is by far my greatest influence. There is no technology greater than the natural world and what it has made possible. Architecture and ancient traditions would round out what really gets me going.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’ve just finished a large mural in front of La Buvette and Break Free Hotel. I have a couple interior jobs and two large-scale works in Adelaide before Wonderwalls hit Port Adelaide again this April.  Ongoing there is a couple national projects before I head off overseas for more adventures.

Joel is also the artistic director of the Wonderwalls Festival in Port Adelaide which will be held on Friday, April 21-Sunday, April 23


Hero photo and photo of Joel by Josh Geelen.