You've probably seen those wall murals of a dapper besuited man in a hat with the word "Vandal," but you might not know that Nick Walker is the artist behind them. Known within the street art community, Walker is branching out with a huge new mural and a solo gallery show opening today. He told us, "If you want to be an artist, and you want to do and live off your art, then you have to take a stab at it, and paint in the best city in the world, which is New York as far as I'm concerned."

Walker got his start with graffiti back in Bristol, England in the 1980s and creates murals, stencils and prints. The new show, All I Ever Wanted Was My Name On Fire, is, he said, "the continuation of the Vandal character storyline... I'm also entering into a more abstract version of this particular kind of storyline, kind of fragmenting it and also continuing with the main ethos of what he does. There's the prankster in him that is kind of being shown more and more within." And a press release asks, "If you look at each Morning After painting as a cover for a novel then this show is the pages within the book. Does he live or die?"


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Walker frequently comes to New York, painting his own work or collaborating with other artists. (He was even commissioned by Stanley Kubrick re-create graffiti'd New York for Eyes Wide Shut.) "There's so many people here, it's a massive opportunity for any artist to come here and have their work seen on a regular basis by thousands of people," he enthused. He also loves seeing other artists' work, "I have the worst attention span ever. I'll be walking around, I'm like, 'Oh, look at that! Look at that wall!', 'Oh, it's a chance to check out that new piece'" or I absorb it. I'm constantly sort of, my eyes are everywhere... I'm always on the lookout. There's loads of brilliant artists in New York."

Like the TATS CRU. "I've always known of their work and stuff, always being very inspired by what they were doing, they're the part of the proper old school writers of New York. It's funny how you career goes and things take place, because often, you find yourself... meeting up and painting with the people that actually inspired me and stuff, which is amazing," Walker said. "I feel kind of blessed to be called up by those guys and say, 'Hey look, do you want to join me on this painting?'"

Because they both use stencils, his work is sometimes mistaken for Banksy. Walker shrugged it off, saying, "It's annoying, but it's just something you kind of learn to live with. I think a lot of people think that there's only one stencil artist in the world, and because obviously he's a complete household name these days, and he's done a lot of amazing projects." He added that he appreciates street art enthusiasts who try to correct attribution, "I try not to get too pissed by it because we're both from Bristol, we know each other, and it's just one of those things."

While the outside world becomes more fractured, Walker doesn't think his work has become more political—though he does occasionally comment on current events. "I kind of went down that road once, around about 2010 when [then-French President] Sarkozy wanted to ban the hijab in Paris, and the timing on it was just the most important thing for me because I was thinking from, like, you can't do that," he said. "That's kind of as simple as like rights and religious rights to dress the way they want to dress and stuff... There's no telling what people are capable of doing in politics these days."

"I ended up painting I think seven women in burqas doing the cancan, and, it was really a hot, political time," Walker recalled. "But it was weird... it was embraced by both sides. So you have to see the Islamists thoughts: that they liked it, that they thought it represented liberty, freedom of speech, freedom to do what you want. And on the other side, there's the far right wing thinking it was something that was in their favor, which they welcomed."

Still, he prefers to be "a dreamer... I like to think of things a little more far flung and outlandish."


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"Nick Walker: All I Ever Wanted Was My Name On Fire" is at 345 Broome Street in Manhattan, is open to the public tomorrow through October 22.