Graffuturism have curated a show which is due to open next month in LA. The extensive line up includes Delta, Mare139, Doze Green, DVS1, Eric Haze, Jaz, Futura, Greg Lamarche, Kenor, Sowat, and others.
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.
Right now through October 30th, Pure Evil Gallery is showing Culture Shock, a show put together by the fine folks at Choque Cultural. Of particular note are the two large canvases by Zezão and that stunning Fefe Talavera and Doze Green collaboration on glass that has been in the gallery for quite a while (what can I say? I guess I’m a sucker for anything from Doze in black and white). That said, all those pieces are downstairs in the gallery and there are a few pieces upstairs by Presto, so it may be best to just run downstairs and enjoy that part of the show.
And November 11th at Pure Evil Gallery is the opening Panik’s latest solo show.
Usually, I love the shows that Pure Evil hosts. With a keen eye for fellow artistic talent, Pure Evil has put on some amazing solo shows with the likes of ROA, Dran and Specter, just to name a few. This time around though, I am a little disappointed to hear that Robbo is the latest artist to invade the gallery. You can think what you want, but in my blunt opinion, I think this atrocious to back an artist who has remade a name for himself late in his career because of a beef with another artist. I am, however, surprised it has taken this long for him to capitalize on his rejuvenated fame since the “War on Banksy” began. No doubt, there will be some pieces that make fun of the stencil artist, but I think this would be a good time for Robbo to step away from the controversy and show his own talent in a gallery, especially one that is so well respected in the street art community. If he does, I will eat my words. But his current actions in London, hyping the show, beg the differ as he and his cronies continue to bomb over Banksy pieces and make digs at him. For someone who has issues with an artist selling out and getting too big for his britches, I think the pot is calling the kettle black.
The show’s preview will take place tomorrow, September 30, at Pure Evil Gallery on Great Eastern Street. Stop by and let me know how it goes down since I am in Liverpool for the Biennial this week.
This link post is definitely going to be a weekly thing. Hopefully it will allow me to link to things that I just haven’t had the time to cover here on the blog, my Twitter or Vandalog’s Facebook page. So here’s what you may have missed in street art this week:
Nychos’ solo show at Pure Evil Gallery (in cooperation with End of The Line) opened on Thursday. Go here for the press release sort of info or go here for photos from the opening.
That I May See, Matt Small’s latest solo show, opened last week at Black Rat Projects and it looks absolutely stunning. My family and I can’t thank Matt enough for his support of the Robert Shitima School in Zambia, which is where Matt and Black Rat Press have decided to donate 40% of the proceeds from this show.
OFFSET has once again put together an interesting conference of creatives who will be speaking next month (October 1st-3rd) in Dublin. OFFSET 2010 will have presentations from Gary Baseman, Steve Powers, Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective and many more. Early bird tickets are available online for 150 euros (with discounts for students thankfully).
Just Seeds has put together Resourced, a set for political posters that you can download and print at home. There are designs by Gaia, Armsrock, Chris Stain, Josh MacPhee and many more artists.
When I first heard about JR’s new Unframed project, I didn’t really care for it. Basically, JR is wheatpasting other photographers (often famous) photographs around in cities. To me, this sort came out of left field. I don’t mind when Blek le Rat does similar things, but with JR, I always liked the stories behind the photos as much as the images themselves. I thought that with Unframed, that aspect of the art would go away. Luckily, Angelo at FAME Festival reassured me in an email and said once I learned more about the project, these would be just as interesting as the rest of JR’s art. Because I trust Angelo, I waited and didn’t write anything about Unframed or JR’s piece at FAME Festival. Earlier this week, Hi-Fructose’s blog posted a better explanation of the project as well as some photos of Unframed taking place in Switzerland. As usual, Angelo was right and after reading that post on Hi-Fructose, I’ve been convinced about Unframed.
With Specter‘s recent solo show at Pure Evil Gallery, I thought it would be the perfect time to ask Specter a few questions.
RJ: You were just in London (or are you still there) for your solo show at Pure Evil. What do you think of the city?
Specter: London has a vibrant energy to it. I only got to see a small chunk of the city but have nothing but good things to say about it and the people. Pure Evil was a great host.
RJ: The work at your solo show is part of a new series. Can you explain the series and how it came about?
Specter: The series is based on people who personally influenced me artistically. Instead of painting the subject’s face I decided to paint a garment that tells a story about them.
RJ: On the whole, your street art is more conceptual than that of most street artists. Have you found it challenging to execute and be appreciated for conceptual street art when so much popular street art is, at one level, very graphic and literal? How have people reacted to pieces like your ready-mades?
Specter: I don’t think about it often, but whenever you work outside the framework people have trouble grasping it. I transition between painting and sculpture often and rarely sign my pieces, so it’s sometimes hard for enthusiasts to recognize my work. With hand drawing, painting and constructing everything I put out and commonly taking weeks to find the right spot I get less coverage than your average poster or stencil artist.
RJ: Why do you work outside, and how does your street art connect to your gallery art?
Specter: I work outside because it is all I know and love. I was introduced to art through graffiti and have been working on the streets for over fifteen years. It is my strongest passion and I take it very seriously. I try to be very honest with the street because the street knows when you’re faking. Showing in galleries requires a new approach to one’s work, and it’s a choice I’m happy I made. Adapting concepts to an indoor and controlled environment can be a challenge and you’re also starting from a blank canvass. The transition from the street to the gallery doesn’t work for a lot of artists but for me I feel it is just another venue to express concepts.
RJ: Earlier this year, you took on the issue of gentrification in Brooklyn, and you have consistently depicted homeless people in your art. On the one hand, you’re raising awareness of these issues, but on the other hand, street art is bringing about gentrification. How do you deal with this apparent contradiction? Do you think that your art has had a positive impact in the communities you’re working in?
Specter: I don’t believe those contradictions apply. I put up work where I want to. The neighborhoods are chosen because they are beautiful and the people appreciate and empathize with the subject matter.
RJ: What do you hope to accomplish through your art?
Specter: To get people talking.
RJ: One particular street piece that you did in London has turned out to be pretty controversial. At first, people generally seemed to love it, but then it was pointed out that you had partially covered an old hand-painted sign. I guess I’d like to hear your thoughts on why you put the piece there and give you a chance to respond to the negative things that people have been saying about it.
Specter: At its essence graffiti and street art is both the work by the artist and the public space in which it is put up. As an artist every wall in the public sphere is fair game. I go to great lengths scouting locations for my work and often look for hand-painted signs and walls to revive in the collective eye with my hand-painted installations. I have absolutely no remorse for any placement of my work.
I choose that spot for a reason. I like to involve my pieces in a dialogue with their surroundings. The art is not just my painting it is the entire environment, the interaction of all parts.
I identify very strongly with these old signs and feel that my additions are just part of the evolving cycle of their lives. My incorporations are changes to their ephemeral existence, often highlighting their under appreciated being.
Specter‘s show at Pure Evil Gallery opened a few days ago, and one thing’s for sure: the judges on Work of Art would hate Specter’s new work (sorry Jerry Saltz, but you don’t need to include somebody’s face in a portrait for it to be a portrait), but that may just be proof of how good it is. Almost all the paintings are portraits of artists who have influenced Specter, as represented by pieces of fabric and clothing.
While my favorite artworks from Specter are still his sculptures and readymades, these new paintings are definitely interesting. Perhaps most importantly, they show how much Specter is thinking outside the box that so many street artists become trapped in.
And since Specter is in London for this show, he’s also been getting up outside:
It’s a bit short notice, but here’s my recommendation for where Londoners should be this Thursday evening: The opening of Specter‘s first London solo show, which will be at Pure Evil Gallery. The gallery’s newsletter was pretty vague about what people should expect to see (there was no text, just some photos of Specter’s street art), but Specter is one of New York City’s more interesting and unique active street artists.
Pure Evil Gallery is the place in London for emerging street artists to try crazy things, and few street artists are as well-equipped or brave as Specter to experiment. Specter always seems to have a new series up his sleeve.
The only hint of what Specter might be up to are a couple of paintings by him on Pure Evil’s website that I haven’t seen before. They are portraits of Specter’s artistic influences, but they are abstract portraits of fabrics that remind Specter of those people. Here’s one titled ‘Derek Mehaffey’: