Prince ‘Purple Rain’ Artist Mr G And His Message of Hope - Hope 103.2

Prince ‘Purple Rain’ Artist Mr G And His Faith in God

The Sydney artist known as Mr G, famous for the mural of Prince that's gone viral this week, is on a mission: to spread a message of hope.

By Clare BruceMonday 2 May 2016Hope MorningsGuests and ArtistsReading Time: 5 minutes

Listen: Emma Mullings chats with Sydney street artist Mr G, aka Graham Hoete.

The Sydney artist known as Mr G, suddenly famous for his striking mural of Prince, is on a mission: to spread a message of hope.

Graham Hoete (pronounced Hoy-teh) is a New Zealand-born street artist who has rapidly gained international attention, since painting a 5-metre-high portrait of Prince on Speed Street in Liverpool after the singer’s death.

A lifelong Prince fan, the artist painted the mural – inspired by the song Purple Rain – as a heartfelt tribute. In just a week after he put the final touches to the painting on the afternoon of April 24, the image has been ‘liked’ 4,000 times on Facebook and featured by news outlets worldwide. Already Mr G’s manager is telling him to consider moving to America to capitalise on the opportunities that are coming out of the portrait.

But behind the apparent overnight success, is Graham’s real story—years of dedication to his craft, and a faith in God that has seen him through very dark times.

Artistic Passion From A Young Age

Michael Jordan portrait by Mr G

Sports fan: Michael Jordan features in one of Mr G’s many sports portraits.

In an interview with Hope Media’s Emma Mullings, Graham, who was a church youth pastor with his wife in New Zealand before they moved to Sydney, said his passion for art began at an early age.

“I’ve always been into drawing and painting since I was a little kid,” he said. “My father was very creative; he’s a twin and both of them are very creative. It’s just a natural progression.”

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Graham’s also a passionate sportsman, occasionally competing in kickboxing, and as a high school student he represented New Zealand in volleyball and was headed for a potential sports career. But a back injury brought that to an end, forcing him to look for a new passion.

Sitting in church one day, he was inspired to pursue art.

Dogs in Bondi by Mr G

Famous image: Mr G’s iconic portrait of three dogs at Bondi Beach.

“An African-American preacher came to New Zealand from the USA and preached about ‘what has God put in your hand’,” he said. “That one message impacted me and caused me to look inside and think, ‘I can draw, I can paint’. And I committed that to God.”

His prayer led to what is now a fulltime art career. He’s painted portraits for rapper Ice T, US basketballer Dennis Rodman and all Blacks rugby player Liam Messam, and an obsession with painting dog portraits has led to what he now calls the ‘Dogathon’ – a dog-painting marathon that’s seem him paint more than 800 pooches and counting. He’s also known for creating paintings of sports heroes like Michael Jordan and Jonah Lomu, and numerous images of Maori warriors.

His most famous dog painting is an iconic mural of three pups wearing mirror sunglasses at Bondi Beach.

Bringing Healing Through Art

Hope painting by Mr G

Hope: An image depicting Graham Hoete’s faith, painted at Easter time.

Despite the celebrity portraits, though, Graham’s most memorable work was painting a portrait of the Maori Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu after her death in 2006. The portrait moved the Maori King to tears when he presented it, an experience that showed Graham he can use his art to bring healing.

“I believe God has given me this gift for a reason,” he said.  “One thing I’ve learnt about art, is that it’s very powerful in communicating messages. Art can offend but it can also heal as well.

“I know I’ve been given this artistic gift for a higher purpose and so I’m committed to honing my craft. I’m very passionate and dedicated to that. I think as an artist I think that’s the only way your work will truly shine and ooze maturity.”

Graham always looks for a purpose in his work. For example, when planning his Prince mural, he had four available walls to choose from, and settled on The Street University in Liverpool, because it’s a Ted Noffs Foundation youth development project doing great things in the community.

But he also paints for the sheer joy of it.

“Whenever I’m doing large mural commissions and stuff I feel like a little kid with crayons,” he said. “It really is fun. I consider myself blessed because I get paid for what I love doing.”

Art With Purpose And Compassion

Ice T portrait by Mr G

Celebrity: Ice T is one of the famous faces Mr G has painted

Graham’s art has gained a new edge of compassion since he experienced a serious bout of depression three years ago—an experience that had him stuck in bed for months, feeling suicidal.

He emerged from that valley slowly but surely, and is now a changed person who has a lot more understanding for those who suffer. The experience has changed the way he thinks about life and his Christian faith, and he’s now even more passionate about using his art to bring hope and healing to others. The word “hope” appears in a lot of his artworks.

“The journey God has taken me on has been a real rollercoaster ride. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Now I write a little tag line every time I do a hope piece: ‘Hope has a name, Christ’. Because at the end of the day, He is the source of true hope,” he said.

Graham is now considering an opportunity to travel to Prince’s former hometown in Minnesota, USA, to paint a giant commissioned portrait of the singer. He’s also preparing for the Miami Art Basel at the end of this year and is excited about where his career is headed.

“The journey God has taken me on has been a real rollercoaster ride,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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