If you hang out at art galleries in London long enough, you’re eventually going to meet my friend Esther F. Castelo. She’s finally stepped into curating with Espanish Conexion, the next show at High Roller Society. The show includes some of the best of the Spanish street art and graffiti scenes such as Suso33, Pez, Liqen, and Kenor.
Espanish Conexion opens November 30th from 6-9pm and runs through December 16th.
There are a bunch of shows open now or opening in the next month that I’d like to mention, but there are only so many hours in the day. So here’s a bit of a round-up:
Détournement: Signs of the Times is a group show that just opened at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC. It was curated by the legendary Carlo McCormick and features artists who “subvert consensus visual language so as to turn the expressions of capitalist culture against themselves.” Some of those artists in Détournement are Aiko, David Wojnarowicz, Ripo, Posterboy, Ron English, Shepard Fairey + Jamie Reid, Steve Powers, TrustoCorp and Zevs.
Chris Stain and Joe Iurato are showing together for a two-man show at NYC’s Mighty Tanaka. The show opens on Friday. These are two great and underrated stencil artists. I highly recommend checking out this show, particularly given the superb quality of Stain’s recent indoor work.
Sweet Toof has a solo show opening this week at High Roller Society a pop-up space in Hackney Wick, London.
Contemporary Wing’s (Washington, DC) latest group show, opening on the 16th, is an exhibit of secondary market work, but there should some nice stuff, including work by Shepard Fairey, WK Interact, Gaia, Faile and Blek le Rat. I must admit that I’ve included a piece in this show, but I’m not going to say which one (so if you want to help me out, just buy the entire show…).
Last Friday I headed to the opening of Good Times Roll at High Roller Society. The gallery played host to a group show comprising of 39 artists, all with differing styles, using different mediums, and with varied influences and backgrounds. In fact it was rather refreshing and a highly interesting creative mix of people presenting their ultimate passion.
Tonight (29th June) sees the opening of Good Times Roll at High Roller Society. The show presents “an eclectic selection of 39 international artists for a salon style Summer Show that finally heats things up a bit this season. Ranging from the street to the studio, painters, sculptors, photographers and printmakers hailing from Australia, Brazil, Portugal, USA and UK join forces to showcase their wares through their passion for different creative practices.”
Following the opening, the t-shirt and letterpress printing workshops with artwork by Rowdy, Sweet Toof & others will keep you going back for more. So check out the opening party tonight, add these following dates to your diary and let the good times roll.
Workshops (minimum donation of £3 per workshop):
T-Shirt Printing: with COPYEM12 –– 30th June and 1st July 1.00–5.00pm (both days)
Letterpress Printing : with Alex Booker –– 29th July 1.00–5.00pm
This week seems to be the week of pre-Christmas art sales in the UK, or at least attempts at pre-Christmas art sales. In London, there’s the Taking Liberty’s pop-up shop open now through the 21st with a great group of political charged artists and 10% of sales going to Reel News as well as Season Ticket an “underground art fair” in Shoreditch from High Roller Society and Alex Daw opening on Thursday. Over in Newcastle, Unit 44 have a big party planned to celebrate their 1-year anniversary, also on Thursday, with new work from artists including SheOne, Hush and Stormie Mills. With Pictures On Walls‘ annual Christmas show being cool (keep an eye on their homepage for print releases this week) but allegedly nothing like the “good old days” of their Santa’s Ghetto events (not that I would know, as I wasn’t there then and I’m not in London now), it seems that a few groups may be trying to rekindle those once warm and fuzzy feelings of Christmas cheer around street art, or they know that people like getting art for Christmas.
Here are fliers for all these show… Personally, I’m most excited about Season Ticket…
This Friday sees the opening of Savant at London’s High Roller Society. Moving away from the direction of recent shows at the gallery; Ludo, Malarky & Billy, and Skewville, this event brings together seven artists who are all fueled by the passion and precisioned techniques of Old Master painters and sculptors.
Showcasing these multinational artists together for the first time, Savant is an exhibition of New Gothic Art at its finest – a mix of some of the most bizarre images a twisted mind can conjure, extremely subversive, often offensive.
Curated by participating artist Joe Becker, “Savant’s subject matter lives up to its word, promising to make your eyes pus and your jaw drop off completely.”
For the last few years I have rather admired Ludo’s art – a surreal mash up of nature and technology. So I was rather happy when I heard he was headed over to London to put on his first solo show in the city at one of my favourite galleries, High Roller Society. Eager to see his work I popped along a couple of hours before the gallery doors opened to meet Ludo and to have a chat about his work, bus stops and Thrasher magazine…
Hey Ludo, welcome to London. Having had a browse of your website, the thing that perhaps struck me most, alongside you art of course, was a quote by the founder of Surrealism, André Breton.
“Collage allows people with no technique to make works of art, to express themselves in a visual way.”
But I’m sure that many would argue that you have a fantastic artistic technique, so why the quote and why do you choose to produce collages and paste ups?
I think the quote is more about saying something. I mean, everyone can say something with whatever they want. So it’s not about technique, or about a nice style. And I like things that say something, so I don’t really care about the technique, it’s all about the message. Collage and paste ups give me allow me to do that. It’s a technique that just suits me.
Well you have certainly mastered the art of the paste up. Did you ever go to art school or college?
I did some studies in Milan. Doing some graphic and design stuff.
So do you come from a more graphic background then?
But being a street artist did you ever start out tagging, following the more traditional graffiti route?
Yeah, I started tagging when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I used to write on trains and everything, I used to love that kind of thing. But it’s just visual, it’s just writing your name. I felt there was less depth to it, I couldn’t say as much as I can with paste-ups.
Do you still go tagging now?
No, not any more. I still like it but my style has evolved and I just stick to that.
Much of your work is encompassed by the term Nature’s Revenge. Can you tell me a little about it and why did you choose to juxtapose machinery and mechanical objects with natural ones?
Honestly I don’t know why. It just started one day and I continued with it. I like to play with art, and I like to contrast things – curves and squares, straight lines and organic shapes, cold and hard, grey and colour.
So it’s more about the contrast rather than the content?
Exactly, and it means I can say whatever I want. I feel like I don’t need anything else to portray what I want to say.
I personally really like the fact that your work is in an urban setting. It’s almost like nature is re-claiming back space that was once green but has now been covered in concrete.
Of course, but perhaps it’s more about putting something in front of someone. Making nature really common, making you ask; who cares about nature? Who cares about the flower? I know its stupid to say that, but I like making things really big, violent and sort of rough. A mix of nature and domestic things, making people think.
I wanted to ask about the use of the colour green in your work? You have almost become famous for the ‘Ludo green’. Why did you choose green and why only one colour?
I don’t really know! I think it’s because I don’t like too much colour in my work. I started with grey and then just added one colour. And I thought “Yeah I’m happy with that.” But I don’t really have any reason for green, I just like the colour and it’s maybe a bit unusual.
Your “co-branding” project was based around re-appropriating advertising. Do you have anything against advertising in particular? And why did you concentrate on adverts in bus stops?
I think it’s more about trying to use the spaces within the bus stops. I don’t have anything against advertising, and as artists I think we also do advertising in a way when we step outside. But when I see a commercial, I will think how I could re-create it. I will take an advert and change it and put it in my way. But I like the space they have, I like the bus shelters, it’s maybe more about the space than the advertising.
How long do you find these bus stops advert hacks tend to last? Are they removed instantly or do they go unnoticed by the authorities for at least a few days?
Oh, it depends. I know when they change the adverts and billboards, so I try to be clever and go the day after. At least then I know that the piece should last for six days until they are changed again. I do the same for bus shelters. And during the weekends the authorities don’t work so I will go on a Friday night because then you know you will have your work up for at least two or three days.
And the same with your paste-up pieces, how long do you find they last when up on a wall?
Again, it depends. I saw some in Paris the other day that have been there for over a year, but then some just go the day after I put them up.
Is this because the authorities remove them or do people steal them?
I actually think it’s to steal them. I once saw someone taking one.
But I like to see people’s reaction to my work when I change billboards and adverts. I like them to think; “What, what, what?! There is a collage, a commercial, what is it for? Is it new?” And when you have used a Nike logo, they think, “What are they saying? But ok, they have used that logo so it must be a commercial. So it might be something new?”
I like just staying and watching. I like the reaction, and to see how people think. I find it funny, especially that people think it has to be selling something.
Perhaps it’s because in the modern society there is that expectancy that everything is actually trying to sell you something?
Yeah, exactly. I actually once had someone that asked me to pay to put up work.
Yeah, he came out of his shop and said, “Do you know you have to pay to put things up there? Usually you have to pay.” But why? You can’t rent public space!
Ha ha, I hope you didn’t pay! Having been to London a couple of times now, what do you think of the graffiti and street art here and how does it differ from Paris, or perhaps other places you have travelled to?
I think in general its more quiet now, which is good. And there are some people here that I really like and respect. In Paris, it’s perhaps more decorative, which is not always that good. And then New York is maybe a bit more rough and I like working there. I really like the vibes, they are great and I like it a lot. But I think London is actually between the two, a mix of both.
Moving onto your gallery work, High Roller Society is playing host to Metamorphosis, your first solo show in London. Can you explain a bit about it, your influences and thinking behind the pieces?
It’s really about what I have listened to, or what I did, or things I’m still doing. Like the Thrasher piece I have done. I really loved the old colours from the 80s in the magazine, all the graphics and images, I was really into all that kind of stuff. So the show is about that and other simple things that reflect my simple life. Nothing too political or too social.
So it’s a bit of a retrospective of your life?
Yeah, yeah. It’s all about remembering moments.
When you move from the streets into your studio and the gallery do you find your way of thinking and ways of producing your art changes? Is there a different mentality?
Of course, my thinking changes but my technique does too. Outside I use acrylic and inside I use oil. And my pieces inside are aimed to work inside. When you go outside you try to use the space the best you can and so it would be stupid to work inside in the same way. But you must also grab the chance to show your stuff inside, you have to make sure it is interesting and try to improve your work.
Obviously that’s where your sculptural work comes in.
And the house we built in the gallery, I think it’s great to have the chance to do that. My sculptures started as I though it would just be nice to do one and try it, but then I stopped for years as I was more into doing stuff outside. I would just go out everyday and put my work up. But now, I want to do more, I really like making them. I want to do bigger pieces and to progress, but I also want to progress outside, I was to improve all the time and hopefully I will do.
If you want to check out Ludo’s newly built house and sculptures for yourself, alongside his fantastic graphite drawings, then head over to High Roller Society sometime before October 7th. It is well worth the trip, especially as you have a chance of catching some of Ludo’s freshly pasted pieces on the streets. Have a hunt around Shoreditch and Hackney and see what you can see.
This week has been a lot of trying to get ahead on my work, because on Saturday evening I’m headed to New York City for the night. I’ll be checking out Flash at the Wooster Street Social Club. Here’s some stuff I missed covering over the last few days:
Bast has a show opening this weekend at Lazarides’ Newcastle location. Most of the work is in a completely (almost unrecognizably) new style.
This Friday, Metamorphosis opens at High Roller Society in London. It will be Ludo‘s first solo show in London, and certainly something his fans (like me) have been looking forward to for quite a while. I’ve been a fan of his Nature’s Revenge series for at least two years, but rarely have I seen what Ludo is capable of when he moves indoors. The work in this show includes, in addition to prints and drawings, some of Ludo’s sculptures, which might just be the most underrated things he makes. The opening for Metamorphosis doubles as a book launch for a Ludo book, Opus #23, with an introduction by Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective.
On a hot summer’s day, about a year ago, I headed to High Roller Society for the second in a series of three workshops on the art of printing. I was particularly excited as this session covered the subject of screenprinting, a technique I actually knew little about. For me screenprinting was nothing new, in fact for anyone with an interest in art, let alone street art, it should be nothing new. But I will openly admit my knowledge on the process behind it was lacking.
Whilst I was eagerly anticipating the workshop itself, I was equally interested in meeting printermaker extraordinaire, Aida. Starting out from her mum’s bath, which she claims she ruined, Aida began producing her own clothes over a decade ago. Now running her own successful brand, Brag Clothing, alongside lecturing at the London College of Communication, Aida is perhaps equally famous for her work with some of the UK’s leading street artists. A list that includes the likes of Lucas Price, Sweet Toof, Sickboy and Kid Acne among others.
Surrounded by tables of printing equipment including her trusted squeegee, Aida began the workshop in earnest. Her passion and extensive knowledge kept the audience captivated from the first minute whilst she covered everything from producing screens and mixing inks to actually getting hands on, with everyone having the opportunity to pull their own print. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I now view screenprinting in a completely different light. The skill, attention to detail, and creativity needed to be successful is amazing.
Following the workshop I was eager to catch up with Aida again and discuss screenprinting further, including its relationship to street art. It may have taken me a year but it was definitely worth it. Not only is Aida’s studio an Aladdin’s cave of printed wonders but it was refreshing to sit down and hear her opinion on a variety of subjects. I often think that the process of screenprinting and the printer themselves are forgotten, you may have a wall of prints yourself but have you ever thought about what goes into producing them? Hopefully this interview goes some way to answering that and you find it as interesting as I do.
Shower: How did you did you get into screenprinting?
Aida: I got into screen printing when I was about 18. I had seen it done before and at the time my work was quite photographic. And I liked the fact you could make multiples of something and change it.
But I suppose it depends who you are though. Most people that I know that have got into screen printing, are people who enjoy some sort of learning through process, and most produce work that actually lends itself this method of printing. However the people I know who are successful at screen printing were screen printers first and became an artist second.
How did you get involved in street art and the artists who you work with?
I actually didn’t know anything about street art up until about 3 or 4 years ago. I had my shop in Brick Lane and I just made clothes in my workshop downstairs. I just loved printing and I used to make loads of stuff – clothes, prints, canvas’s, and obviously being in Brick Lane I used to get loads of street artists hanging around. It is a great place to showcase work, it’s amazing.
The little street I was on was covered in quite a bit of graffiti and the artists used to come to the shop. I didn’t know these people whatsoever; it was just bizarre that they used to just approach me. I first got approached by a few to paint next to my shop, I didn’t know who they were so I researched them a little bit and reluctantly let them do it.
So I suppose I just got into it that way, and next thing you know, I had people like Kid Acne coming in and saying “Oh your clothes are really cool, did you print these? The colours are so good. I want you to do a print.” You just got a phone call here and there and that was it. To be honest, I still don’t know a lot of people in street art, it’s mainly just the people I work with.
So a lot of it was through word of mouth?
Yeah, word of mouth. And through the clothes and through the quality of the print. I think it’s a relationship really between myself and the artist.
Can you explain to me a little about that relationship? How do you take an original and produce a print?
It depends who you work with. For example, for a project like Safewalls, both Glenn [Anderson] and Sweet Toof wanted a full reproduction of the work. Due to the amount of colours I opted to cross between spot colours like flat colours and process which is CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
If you haven’t been printing for a while it’s a really difficult process to do because you have different varying sizes of dots, inks are mixed, and I like to mix mine from scratch so I can control the amount of CMYK in relation to each other. That’s one way.
At other times, a lot of other people I’ve worked with like to come into the studio and draw directly onto drafting film. You have two light fast pens and they draw sporadically, often improvising. But personally, I think the best way and the most successful prints that we have done are the ones where the artist has worked directly, hand drawing work that is transferred directly onto the screens.
Why do you think street art takes so well to the screen printing process?
Screenprinting is a process that allows you to get multiples out of things, but it’s also about documenting. Street art doesn’t last for too long on the street so the best way to capture it before it gets buffed, while a canvas may take a long time, is to screenprint. It’s really is documenting it.
In addition, there is a trend at the moment where everyone thinks “Oh yeah lets put out a print, it’s going to be an instant hit, it’s going to sell out!” But, in reality, no it’s not! A good print isn’t about copying what’s on the street to make an instant hit. You just have to go into some print house or gallery, and you’ll see loads of editions just left over, that have cost thousands to make. It’s a silly way of thinking.
I just think you have to understand that not every single piece of work lends itself to being a screenprint. In fact, when I was talking to Glenn [Anderson], he said, for his work that’s so detailed with so many colours, he would like to start thinking like a screenprinter and how images can be broken down and simplified, almost like when you are trying to create stencils but with a lot more detail.
But an important point to consider is that most screenprinters would say that screenprinting isn’t a process that is for a full scale, full colour reproduction. It doesn’t lend itself to that. If you want that, you go to do a digital Giclee or opt for a more traditional process like Lithography. For me screen-printing is an interpretation of someone’s work and not a full scale photographic reproduction.
So it’s almost an art form within itself?
In the hands of a professional printer, yes, it can be an art form. It takes so long to get the colour balance right, the right separations and screen mesh, even the way you set up the hand bench contributes to the quality of the print. To actually produce 70 prints that you don’t have a finger mark on, especially when the paper has been in and out of the drying rack about 10 times – printing, drying, letting the paper breath, cutting it to size, it’s a long process. A real labour of love.
On the subject of some people turning to screenprinting with the aim of becoming an ‘instant hit’, I wanted to ask if would ever work with artists with that frame of mind?
Personally, I’m in a really comfortable, happy situation, where I only work with people who I want to and respect. That’s why I’m an independent printer, that’s my ethos, work with people who know about the process, who are true and can actually draw or paint.
You know, you can approach any print house though and they will knock anything out for you. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being an entrepreneur and using initiative to make money. But at the end of the day it’s the respect and the longevity that they probably won’t have. So you know, yeah a quick buck is good but your reputation is going to suffer or bring any longevity for your career as an artist.
You say you only tend to print for people you know or like, but do you ever end up printing pieces that you don’t personally like even though you like the artist?
[With a smile] I have done in the past, yep, quite a lot, you call it your “bread & butter” jobs, we all have to pay the rent! There are some people who really want me to do their stuff and I’ll have a time slot and I’ll think “Why not? Let’s do it.” But I might not gel with them, you know. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’ve done a print and they aren’t happy with it, it hasn’t looked the way they want it to. But that happens.
But on the whole they are happy?
Of course, most of the time they are happy. But you know what, I hate to say this, but when I’m printing something, I know fairly straight away if it’s going to sell or not. But my clients never ask me that, most just want to see the finished print. Although if I am close with the artist I do offer my professional opinion sometimes.
Is that based simply on aesthetic value or as a printer do you possess a more in depth understanding view?
I’ve had my own business for over 7 years. I started on various market stalls, grafting in the cold, and for 3 years did a lot of market research watching people’s faces and hearing the comments. So I kind of more or less know. That’s why when I release a print myself, I wait and wait and time it. I time it commercially. I more of less know when to release things, colours etc. I’ve got good experience in selling.
What impact do you think screenprinting has had on the street art movement and its commercialisation?
I think in the last 2 years, it’s played a really big part in the street art movement. For example Eine’s 70-odd colour print had a really big impact. It showed the versatility of screenprinting. I love the way you can take away a colour, bring a colour in, take some off the rack and just play around.
I don’t know whether you could call it kind of selling out for the street artist but I’m still toying with the idea of this fast buck and making a quick profit. In general, I still go back to thinking street art doesn’t last. I still think, for the pure people, it’s about documenting.
But I do know some street artists that are real craftsmen and craftswomen, who do their own print making and screenprinting. And I think if they do it themselves it’s a really good form of expression. However then you have people like POW that mostly release street artist’s prints and they have made a really huge business out of it. So I suppose they have had a really big impact on street art, they are the foremost forerunners in the market in my opinion.
So having a print with POW sort of means you have made it? It’s kind of a big deal.
It’s a really big deal, I would say a privilege to even be asked! The impact of POW in the screenprinting world for street art is huge.
But, the question is, what do you do after you have had a print with POW?! That’s the thing about screenprinting, its about producing multiples, it is so easy to get carried away and make so much art, flooding the market and having your prints left on the shelf. It’s such a sad thing when you look at a big stack of prints and realise only 30 per cent of the edition have sold, does this affect the collector who only buys a print as an investments?
So maybe the way forward with making street art prints is to make small editions, with a bit of hand finishing. But still, I think that a print should be affordable as that is why any type of print process was born to be. I think artists thinking of producing prints should remember this, unless they are a screen printing artist and only produce work in this medium. If you can’t afford to buy an original work of the artist that you like, you should be able to afford a screen print by them.
With regard your input, how much of a contribution do you have in the prints that you produce? Does this change if an artist just sends you a Jpeg?
If someone does actually send me a Jpeg or something, I’ve actually got a little disclaimer. I advise on the basics that a lot of people might not have had any experience of printing. I try to make it kind of friendly and put in layman’s terms of what you can get away with and what you can’t, the size of the image, shrinking it down and that kind of thing.
Sometimes I do get an image that just won’t be conducive to the screenprinting process. I have some impact in telling them to change it, but in those aspects the artist tends not to much. They tend to say just do this and that, end of.
But then, if I’m working with the artist in my studio and they just come in and do something, they do often ask me about colour, about size. When I was working with Nychos for his solo show for Pure Evil, I think we sat down for a couple of hours and discussed which image would work on what size paper, and then we discussed colour for about 2 hours with my little Pantone book. Whereas with someone like Lucas Price, we sometime improvise which is quite nice, we just try things out.
With the Safewalls project, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much creative input in doing something. I think they trusted me to do the best I could. I was given the images from the originals and told you can basically do what you want as long as you make it look really good. But then you get some artists, even down the phone, who say; “Just choose a green, pistachio green, that will do!” And your like “what do you do?!”
That’s a lot of faith in you!
Yeah, it’s a lot of faith. But that again is the core thing about what I believe – everyone should have a really good relationship with their screenprinter. It has to be a really tight relationship based on trust.
You work so closely to the artists but how do you feel about credit and credit for a print?
It’s fine. I’m just their printer.
I have no attachment. Nothing. I know, I’ve spoken to other printers that are artists as well, and they are always like “Well you know, your hand was in making it.” Sometimes an artist might just give me just a line drawing and I have to sit there physically by hand, because they might not use a computer, and a lot don’t, tracing and doing stuff on drafting film. I’ve more or less made it, I’ve separated the colours, I’ve tweaked it, and I’ve mixed the colours.
You really are the artist behind the artist then!
Sometimes, sometimes you are. But you know what; it’s not your work. You didn’t conceptualise it or draw it, you didn’t think of it.
But you produced it.
I produced it, like music producers do, but it’s the singer who gets the credit! And I enjoy producing work for people. I like the look on their faces when they see the finished work. And usually they will recommend me to other people. That’s my reward, it’s nice. I just like to help people out.
But to be honest, If I wasn’t doing my own art too it would be different. I think I would be quite frustrated. I know a lot of printers that are just in a print house from 9-8 or whatever, who are just printing other peoples work and it gets you down.
You have obviously worked with many successful artists, but what would you say is your biggest achievement?
This is going to sound stupid, but when I was 19 or 20, I always had an idea of what I wanted to do and I always knew I would work for myself as I was such a control freak. And when I was about 21 or 22, when I was graduating, I wrote a little manifesto about keeping it real and being true to one’s self – lots of arrogant views on mass consumerism, and you know, creating something niche but something that I was always going to make a living out of. At the end of the day why do you work? Or why do you believe in your craft and want to better yourself?
It’s to be successful, make your family proud, and if you can make a living out of it, that’s a bonus. And I think that’s my biggest achievement, that’s what I’m proud of. Going back to my core beliefs, I’ve tried to maintain this. I’ve met some of the best, most talented, hard working people in the world and I’ll be meeting loads more, I hope. I’m still making a nice living by doing what I’ve always set out to do.
That doesn’t sound stupid, just pretty grounded and level headed. One final question, who are you inspired by and why?
I’m inspired by all the people I meet and work with every day. Every different person I meet brings a new thing to the table. Like when I met Glenn [Anderson], I thought “Wow.” You look at his pieces, you look at his detail and you think “How do you do that?!” Or you take little Nychos and you look at his walls and again you just think “Wow.” I’m amazed by everyone I meet everyday.
If you would like to know more about Aida, or check out Brag Clothing, then head over to the newly refurbished Aida Prints website. And if she runs another workshop then I highly recommend heading along, but in the meantime you can read up about last years High Roller event thanks to a great review by NoLionsInEngland over on Graffoto Blog.