A slight clarification on the headline: UK wordsmith Mobstr is making his debut indoors with his upcoming solo show “Sex, Drugs & Painting Walls”, opening May 15th. He may be working legally, but you can expect the same cheeky subversiveness that we love him for on the streets. Mobstr was nice enough share some of his thoughts with Vandalog. Though he did not divulge any details of his sex life or drug experimentation here, Mobstr did assure us that he tries to answer all (sensible) emails from fans, if that’s what piques your curiosity.
Caroline Caldwell: In your ideal world, would painting walls be legal? If so, would you continue to do so or would you need to find a new method of being subversive?
Mobstr: I think so long as advertising visually dominates our urban environments something has got to be said for the importance of graffiti competing with it. If I am truly honest I am not sure if I would carry on doing what I do if it was legal as, for me, it would lose its edge. Now that street art has gained credentials a lot of legal work is possible and the big mural stuff seems to be dominating the scene. However, these large mural pieces you see popping up around the world aren’t street art for me. It’s the little subversions which interact and play with its surroundings that I define as street art. An analogy would be calling taggers street artists; they don’t play the same game. That is not to say I don’t like the large mural stuff, they are the obvious and needed realisation of the urban environment. The area of Shoreditch, London is filled up with art on walls. It is fantastic but it’s the stuff which was done in the dead of night that captures my attention.
Caroline: What’s your relationship with the street art community beyond the people who see your work on the street? Do you communicate with fans or participate in any dialogues online? Are you interested in other work that’s going up around the world?
Mobstr: I look at pictures online but beyond that and what I see out and about I have no interaction with the street art community.
I make a point of answering every sensible email I get. If you are appreciated for what you do, then you owe something to the people who appreciate you. Unless you have no desire for the world to see your creations then that audience is part of the reason you continue on.
Caroline: Why did you choose now to have your first solo show? Also, why did you choose to have a pop up show when you probably could have worked with any number of galleries?
Mobstr: I actually started to put this show together a few years ago however I realised I was far more interested in painting out on the street so stopped work on it completely… I had an outdoor addiction to feed. The decision to start work on it again was very fluid. I wanted to see this body of work amassed under one roof and it felt like the right time. I decided to do the show independently simply because I like to be independent. It also means you have 100% control over how it goes down which is something that is important to me.
Caroline: Do you feel that you’re addressing a different audience with your indoor work?
Mobstr: That depends on who comes down to the show.
Caroline: If you were allowed a free full-page ad in the newspaper, what would you do?
Caroline: How important is documentation to you?
Mobstr: Very. It is almost as important as painting the actual piece. Depending on the efficiency of the graffiti removal team sometimes the only proof a piece existed is in the memory of mine and that of the graffiti removal team but most importantly in the documentation.
Caroline: One of the interesting things about the art in this show is the frames you’ve chosen for your canvases. Why did you choose elaborate frames for work which even describes itself as minimal?
Mobstr: I am glad you picked up on that as there is a little bit of structure behind the framing. In general any work that is a critique of the art world comes in an ornate frame. I also used ornate frames to exaggerate the message or absurdity of certain pieces.
Caroline: What can people expect from Sex, Drugs and Painting Walls?
Mobstr: I see it as a direct translation of my street stuff into an indoor environment. I think the body of work can be generalised as a critique of art, attitude and culture, punctuated by some general musings. I called it sex, drugs and painting walls not because it contained any of those three things but simply that it has a good ring to it. Also it summarises nicely what I’ve been up to for the last 12 years.
Photos courtesy of Mobstr