Whilst we here at Vandalog strive to cover the latest and freshest street art creations and goings on, we’ve noticed that in our haste our coverage of graffiti, at least it the purest sense of the word, has for lack of a better word been slipping as of late. In a new series of interview we’ve decided to go back to basics or back to where it all began if you will and interview some of the pioneers of the underground art scene before street art became a house hold name. In this, our first interview, we spoke to graffiti artist Panik from North London. Panik is one of the co founders of ATG – one of the most prolific and notorious graffiti crews England has seen in the last decade. From their cross over into music, fashion and now main stream street art, Panik exclusively talks to Vandalog in the wake of his latest solo exhibition at Pure Evil Gallery.
Just for our readers, can you tell us who you are, what crew(s) you represent and where are you from?
I’m Panik aka Mr.P, I represent the ATG crew and I’m from the borough of Camden, North London.
How long have you been doing graffiti for and how did you first get into writing?
I’ve been doing graffiti since 1999. I first got into it through my school funnily enough. There was a hall of fame behind the sports hall and a train tunnel that runs underneath the school with pieces by all of the old school heads. I used to check all the graff when skating over round the Westway and the South Bank as well. When I started, it was quite a natural thing to do as everyone had a tag. There’s still people I paint with today that I was going on my first bombs with at age 12 in my school corridors! It started with trying to be the most up in my school, then the local area then the whole of London and nowadays I am painting wherever I find myself in the world.
Do you see what you do as some thing of an addiction?
Graffiti is an addiction and if your in it for the long haul then it is all about how to tame that addiction in a way that allows you to get on with the rest of your life. When you are fully immersed in it, you become a junkie for it and you start to neglect other things in your life, but if everything in your life is going bad, then it is that thing that will always be there for you and reminds you who you are and helps you move through changes in your life. Going out painting graffiti on my own has helped me sort my head out during hard times but when you know you’re probably going to be doing it for a long time, it’s important not to abuse it. In other words don’t go getting shitfaced on cheap cider all week if you want to be able to enjoy a cold pint on the weekend.
How did your involvement with ATG come about?
My involvement with ATG started in 2001. It came about through friends that were loosely connected through a scene in North-west London that was more or less orientated around selling weed. Basically there was a few of us at that time that were beginning to stand out and were pushing the graff scene forward north of the river so we joined forces under the name ATG
(Antagonizers) which was a name Aset had thought up. The original line up was me, Rest, Aset, Snore, Rayds and shortly after, Harm. ATG was and always will be a lot about partying as well as painting which is how we spread so quickly. We would go to random parties all over the city and then after when we were all charged up we would climb all over shit, bombing our way
home. We also wanted to raise the bar with illegal graffiti in London and try to step on stage with the people doing big things internationally.
Who were/are you inspirations?
Artistically my inspiration has come from all over from old school London Graffiti to Street Art in South America and Europe and various typography and illustration from the past, but my energy is always found through my friends and London Town.
How do you feel the internet has affected Graffiti?
The internet has changed graffiti a lot, everyone knows this, but then it has changed everything in life. The one thing I’ve noticed about the internet and graffiti is that it has almost killed off regional styles. Before the internet really took off you could tell the difference between South London and North London graffiti not to mention the different styles in cities across the world. This was because people would be inspired by the graffiti they see in their area when growing up so the style of local heads would rub off on them. Because of the internet, now no matter where you are from you are probably looking at graffiti from around the world online more than local stuff on walls and so the styles these days all start to look the same like some international Euro/NYC mesh. The internet has made the graffiti subculture ridiculously easy to access. Info on almost anything about it is available online. People these days find spots to paint by checking photos on flickr, order all there specially designed graffiti paint online and track down and message their favorite writers on Facebook or MySpace.
Before the net you had to go out and search for your spots, spend a while stealing shit paint from hardware shops until you finally worked out the good paint to use and if you ever managed to cross paths with one of your favourite writers, it was a special moment. The internet has changed all that, but I’m not bitter. Graffiti has been adapting from it’s birth and this is just another era.
This month you’re opening your second major solo show at Pure Evil Gallery. Can you tell us a little bit more about the show and how it differs from your first?
My first show at Pure Evil was my introduction to the gallery world so although I was at a stage with my work that I felt was ready to put out there, I was still only dipping my toes in the water. Since I started making artwork outside of graffiti, it’s sort of been centered around trying to capture moments of energy in my life, which can be hard as it’s not particularly slow paced and often a juggling act of highs and lows. For this next show my work feels like it is moving closer to channeling that energy through my style and visual communication of my thoughts. I’m sure it will feel a lot more like you are stepping inside my world. The work that will feature has been done over the last year in London and Amsterdam.
What is the key to keeping your ideas fresh and not becoming mentally/physically burnt out by what you do?
I think there are different ways to keep yourself buzzing off your work, but variation in approach is always going to be the most important. Sometimes you just have to live and go and get yourself in to all sorts of situations in order to then go back and enjoy creating work. It definitely helps when I see someone doing things in a way that I have completely slept on. Seeing other people really going for it in a way I relate to always reminds me of why I do what I do. At the end of the day, I’ve grown up in a graffiti world so although I enjoy creating work for myself, I also love to come and make noise, let people know where I’m at and then move on to the next one. And there is always a next one, so that keeps the ball rolling in my world.
And finally, what does the future hold for yourself? In regards to your work, new projects and any other personal aspirations you have in life. Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
Who knows what the future holds for me? My life isn’t slowing down at all so probably just more of the same carry on, more often. At the moment I’m liking the idea of getting into a new studio at the beginning of 2011, spend at least a year getting really lost in my work until I feel I’m creating something that is completely on point to how I see the world and what I want to convey and then do my next show in 2012 sometime. But who knows? I want to do a lot of things so could very easily be pulled in a different direction altogether. There’s always a lot of ATG projects to get busy with and walls that need paint on them. Generally at the beginning of the year I have a long list of stuff I want to complete or get underway by the end of the year, and then I just get stuck in and see how much of it I can do while while dealing with all the other stuff life throws at you. It’s nice to not know what’s around the corner.
Panik’s solo show at Pure Evil Gallery opens on November 11th.