Interview: Kane Kokaris and an Intriguing Universe of Animals

The art of Kane Kokaris is alluring. Bright, bold colors exist on perfectly clean black backgrounds. This beautiful contrast creates undeniable beauty. Intricate details keep our eyes wandering  throughout the artwork. From fur to scales to tiny droplets of water, it is all laid out perfectly for our enjoyment. His work is rich in symbolism and helps create an intriguing universe of animals.  The natural world is his focus. He finds inspiration from tattoo culture, his environment, and the relationships humans have with animals.

Kane Kokaris is a self-taught artist from Australia.  Continue reading to discover more about his artwork and what inspires him.

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I remember hearing that you are a self-taught artist.  Have you always had an interest in art? Do you believe a formal education would have changed your artwork?  How so?

Yes, I’ve always had an interest in art. From before I can even remember, I’ve scribbled and drawn. I believe formal education would have changed my artwork, I can’t say exactly how but it would have been different. There’s a freedom in the unknown; I enjoy reading, practicing and learning by myself.

You have a very distinct style, what has inspired this style?

Tattoo culture really inspired my style and continues to do so. I have many influences but I think tattoos are stylistically my biggest inspiration. I don’t know if that’s directly portrayed with my paintings but my process stems from that world.

How long does it take you to complete a piece of art?

It varies from piece to piece, depending on size. It can take anywhere from a day to a month to complete a painting. I plan paintings but they evolve organically as I work, I usually end up adding things and getting lost in details. I’m a fairly slow painter and I do prefer to work smaller most of the time so a week or two would be an average time for a painting.

Your artwork depicts solely animals.  What significance do animals have to you?   

I’ve always loved animals and enjoyed painting them. I’m interested in the human relationship with animals, like how we attach meaning and personal symbols to different animals. How we are drawn to certain species and fear others. I (try to) characterize animals to tell their story whilst they simultaneously tell mine.

I see a recurrence of moths in your work, what significance do they have?

The recurrence of moths in my work was initially for aesthetic reasons. But they have grown to hold their own significance to me. Black is featured heavily in my paintings, I love spotlighting the characters. It forces the viewer to focus on the subject and adds an element of mystery, leaving the rest of the story open to interpretation. Although more poetic than factual, I think of moths as a guiding force moving through the darkness towards the light. Bonus fact: I have an irrational fear of moths in real life, though I find them wildly beautiful.

Does your geographic location influence your artwork, if yes how so?

I believe it does. Living in an area so rich with wildlife is a constant source of inspiration; from the trees and birds in the hinterland rainforest, to the sea life in the beaches and local aquatic reserve. There is endless natural beauty that influences how I think and how I create. Even when I’m not directly referencing my area in my work, it’s fuel to continue looking at the natural world and painting it.

There is a lot of symbolism in your work.  Many of the pieces have carvings in the rocks, tea pots, tea cups and swords to name just a few.  What significance do these symbols have?

All of these things hold meaning to me; they are created by humans for humans. But they are often inspired by animals, nature and animal/human interactions. Some items have a special place in my memory; others are in honor of human craftsmanship and add a surreal aspect to my art. I feel that by having them in my paintings they not only help convey a message but also anthropomorphize the animals I paint. I’m intrigued by old (and current) practices like symbolic rock carving, storytelling and documentation through cave art, pottery, rituals etc. Elements of these find their way into my paintings.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out on their artistic journey what would it be?

To someone just starting their artistic journey I would say, don’t overthink art. Don’t add unnecessary pressure or compare. Don’t get too technical or plan too extensively. Just sit (or stand) and make art. Find what you enjoy creating and create it often!


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