By Maria Nilsson

Artist collaboration with artist MLAK (Karlee Mackie)

We are stoked to release our latest print tee, featuring a knockout print designed by our clever friend and amazing artist, MLAK. So let us introduce you to Karlee Mackie! AKA artist MLAK. Karlee is an amazing talent - as one of Australia's first female paid free surfers, she has now turned her focus to art and has established herself as an accomplished artist, having multiple sellout exhibitions around the world. We chatted with Karlee to find out more...

Photographed by Portia Sarris 

As one of Australia's first female paid free surfers, can you tell us about your early beginnings of surfing and the highlight of your free surfing career?

The early beginnings of my surfing was with my dad, brother and a few other families in Culburra beach like the Wrights and Cheadles.

South Coast beaches were beautiful and having nothing much else to do down there, we’d never surf less than two hours a day.

The highlight of being paid to free surf, was doing amazing editorial trips all over the world.

It landed me at a few favourite places like Jamaica, Mentawais and NYC where I was exposed to the artist Basquiat and Julian Schnabel.

Looking back now I’ve been so lucky to have been able to been exposed to life in a way like that.

The freedom and friendships at some of the most amazing places was paradise.

Without giving away too many secrets, what is your favorite surf destination of all time, and do you have any stories from this place?

I love home. I love how easy it is to find a wave, a friend and the temperature.

I’ve had some wild experiences like Hawaii, where I paddled out sunset on sunset and ended up kissing the land after being washed up the beach and coming in around almost at Rocky lefts just on the other side of Kammielands hahaha, or a wipeout that had me under water, being shot to the beach, like the shape of the letter u, both my feet and head level like a scorpion at V land.

Mentawais was incredible, a film called Gone Mentawais was made about that trip.

While we're talking surf travel, if you could teleport anywhere right now, where would you go?

I’d love to check out the Maldives, Costa Rica or Sri Lanka. 

Tell us about your connection with the women's surf industry?

Right now I’ve no connection, I actually don’t have the same addiction or lust for surfing the last few years. I’m now loving painting, but I’m slowly getting more excited as my son is 5 and loving it. So hoping we can both be in the water together soon, and reignite that old flame I used to have.
I had a ball rolling around the tour as a youngster when I did compete on the wqs- super grateful for those times with the women on it, so strong and passionate.

How can we imagine your work environment?

Haha it’s chaotic and a mess! I paint till the last minute I can before I have to do normal life admin, so it’s always left just how I left it.Cyclone was my nickname when I was little and it hasn’t changed much.

Was there a particular political or social event that sparked the idea for this artwork?

I’m very sentimental, It’s a mash up of my dads art, snails waves and mushrooms. I’ve always painted topless women type characters unconsciously, which became conscious.
Maybe it’s the need for freedom. My work is a playful combustion of symbolic meaningful representations and not very much thought out placement that goes into it.

Do you find clothes and fashion in general good tools to reach people?

I like that they’re a fun way to present a message or show up for yourself. 

Why is it important to raise your voice and stand up for what you believe in?

I’m either a bull at a gate and passionate like a mad woman, or neutral and processing haha 😂 I feel it’s important to express yourself however that feels food for you.

I like to play with beliefs as I see them as so powerful.

They shape us. They’re the frames, like different shades that filter our perceptions of our external environments.

I’ve a collaborative show coming up with Portia Sarris and it’s all about the play on the word believe

Taking the lie out and leaves

B eve, which was impaired by a dear friend Brigitte Serhan. Eve is the symbol of a story that I feel is widely open to discussions,

I feel before anyone gets to have an opinion toward woman, taking it right back to fact is in my little mind...

We all came to earth through the legs of a woman. So through this simple acknowledgment, hoping it births respect and honour, before you get swept up in all sorts of beliefs against woman, to see woman as the beginning of anything.

Show is 14th April at the Thom Gallery.