Look around you: Worldwide & London Street Art Life
Street art is a type of art ‘developed in public spaces’ - Wikipedia says. Boring. Street art is a way of life where you can express your thoughts and ideas completely, honest, inspired and global.
Talking about Street Art as a popular art movement, people are used to underestimate the value of the latter. It was perceived as ‘low’ form of art, and its creators are ‘bullies’, running from the police. Definitely, situation has been changed, and nowadays street art corresponds not ugly daubs on the walls, but independent contemporary urban art. A street artist painting is not a bully, but a creator’s seeking for attention to many social problems, struggling against philistine indifference of urban greyness and gloom urban landscapes.
For those who are totally unaware of the subject: street art is not tags and graffiti, or rather, not just that. It includes traditional graffiti art work, as well as, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheat pasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, and guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations. Also, street artists just need a photo or video camera, because their work is extremely short-lived. To capture it in memory is the first thing they should do (before to escape).
Moreover, street artists often work in studios, hold gallery exhibitions or work in other creative areas: they are not anti-art, they simply enjoy the freedom of working in public without having to worry about what other people think. Many well-known artists started their careers working in a way that we would now consider to be Street Art (such as Jenny Holzer, American Neo-Conceptualist artist who famous of her light projections).
Relevance of street art is proved by growing interest of advertising to this movement: creative agencies started to use outdoor environment in addition to traditional billboards (e.g. McDonald’s French fries – pedestrian crossing; Durex). Governments of different countries became more loyal and started to assign special places for organizing thematic exhibitions and outdoor festivals.
It would take several volumes of pictures to illustrate the fullness, variety and professionalism of street artists works from around the world completely. There is a few hundred well-known work are created every month around the world.
There are the most well-recognized European artists such as Banksy, Vhils, Mark Jenkins, Above, Roa, Mentalgassi, Julian Beever.
Particular interest is the street art movement in Russia, where democracy is about 20 years old; and artists have definitely a lot to ‘say’ to their audience. The most vividly names of Russian street artist whose works has recently received international coverage and acclaim and were mentioned in BBC News, The Telegraph and The Guardian: Nikita Nomerz, who is best-known for his ‘Living Wall’ project, which applies human features to rundown city walls and other large objects; and P183 - a mysterious Russian street artist who is being compared to Britain’s Banksy, with his graffiti stencils selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Luckily we have interviewed Ashes, an amazing street graphic artist, photographer and illustrator who has lived and worked in the UK, Canada and the United States. Her artistic career began in earnest in 2003 when she moved from London to Montreal. Surrounded by the city’s large musical and artistic community, she was able to focus exclusively on creative projects and developed her unique line drawing style and vector graphics. Ashes spent the summer of 2005 working with Shepard Fairey in his Los Angeles design studio, where the richly creative atmosphere proved an enormous source of inspiration. She worked on a number of Obey exhibitions and street art projects in the following years and her photography documenting these experiences has been included in publications such as Arkitip and Supply and Demand - The Art of Shephard Fairey and has also been displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
Later in 2005, Ashes moved to New York to work as the Art Director of Cool’eh Magazine, a role that combines her passions for illustration, graphic design and typography. As dubstep first made its way to NYC, she soon became an important part of this exciting new musical scene through the flyers and posters she produced for the legendary Dub War parties. When Ashes returned to London in 2008, she joined forces with some of the most influential and prominent producers and labels in the scene and her illustrations and designs have since graced labels including Deep Medi, Swamp 81 and DMZ. This helped to bring her art to the attention of the Wu-Tang Clan who invited Ashes to illustrate the cover of their 2009 album Enter the Dubstep.
In the past year, she has worked on the Future Me TV series for MTV and designed board graphics for Palmer Snowboards, whilst helping to run Cool’eh magazine and keeping up the prolific output of her own artwork. Towards the end of 2009, she co-founded LAVA Collective, using her wealth of contacts from the worlds of visual art and music to program and curate multimedia events in London.
In the interview, we tried to understand details of street art from inside out at first hand. At that moment Ashes were painting of the Brick Lane café’s shutter.
How would you describe your painting on 47 Brick lane E1 shutter?
It is a black and white painting on the front shutter of SUZZLE, a cake/coffee and art shop on Brick Lane. The painting is about the euphoria and effervescence of a Friday nigh out on Brick Lane, where everyone is out and interacting in the streets.
What is your name and what did you study?
My Name is Ashes57 and I have graduated in 2 Bachelors degrees and I did the first year of L’ecole des Beaux Arts in France then quit. My parents were really reluctant in my art studying and they thought I will never make it as an artist so they pushed me study what they thought was a really career as in Computer Engineering. When I graduated I did another degree in England in multimedia where I learned all the fun part of the computer.
How long have you been an artist?
It is hard to put a date on when I started because I have always been creating pictures. I have been freelancing since 2005, but I am full time artist since 2009.
How will you describe your painting?
My Painting is usually Black and White intricate scenes inspirited by the city I have traveled to. I try to represent the essence of life through minimal lined in a very busy drawing illustrating the complexity of life.
Apart from painting what else do you do? E.g. exhibition?
I am a music photographer. I do a lot of musician portrait and party photography. I am also the in House designer for the records label Swamp 81 and the art director of LAVA Collective.
How do you promote and sell your painting?
I sell my work mostly from my web site online. I have also a list of people that collect my work. So I usually inform them first when I have a new print out. Few Blogs or magazines sometimes review my work and that helps to promote my art to a broader audience. But also with LAVA Collective we used to have a gallery on Carnaby Street and that really helped for promoting my art or other artists on the collective. I also let people know on Facebook /twitter when I got a new painting.
Where do you get your inspiration from and what makes your art different from other artists?
I get my inspiration in people, music and party. Walking down the street. I am not really different from the others as we are all putting up our image on the wall or Shutter. It just used a small brush and acrylic to paint this project whilst a lot people on Brick Lane are using more Stencil and spray can. But as this was a legal project I thought I should take my time and do a painting.
"Street Art is about making the streets better including the voice of the people"
How would you describe Street Art?
Street Art is a Movement that has grown maybe from Graffiti, it is older then what we think. It is putting art in the streets in a clever stop to mark an instant of life. Some have political message and some are just decorative. Street Art is about making the streets better including the voice of the people.
What process does Street Art face in finding a spot to place their painting in the street?
I think you have to be aware of the surrounding environment and the neighborhood. Always be on the look out for new spots. I usually look for old wooden boards because I feel like they are less likely to be covered or cleaned by the council. You have to considerate the risk, the visibility and the longevity of the piece.
What do you feel about people taking your photos while you painting in the street?
For this project, there is no problem of legality issue so I don’t mind if that makes people happy. I try to hide my face a little bit.
Do you work alone or work with other artist?
I work mostly alone but lately I have been trying to collaborate with other graffiti artists to work on bigger projects. Last year I took few members of the DPM to Outlook Festival where we had an art installation in the middle of a 15 000 people festival in Croatia. I needed a team with me. I like interacting with others. I think it can push your work to different direction.
Tell me about your ‘Queens’ painting and why do u have dog in your painting?
The dog is there to protect the property and the bees are there to check if everybody is all right (p. 169-171).
What is the best painting you have ever painted?
I think the best one I have done is called the Vinyl Factory. Each time I looks at it makes me calm and happy. My artist strength is in my hand drawings.
You are going to Greece. What are you going to do in there?
I am going there to exhibit my work and to take photos. We are doing the art show for the weekend in relation to a club party where DJ LOEFAH and ONEMAN will be performing. I will show a mix work between photography and drawing reflecting London and the music. I am also going to do a large mural in the club. I am going to bring my new prints with me and see how it goes.
Do you do exhibition?
I have done about 50 exhibitions in London, Manchester, Bristol, Los Angeles and few places in Europe. I have also curated about 24 group exhibitions with LAVA Collective. I try to make things happening and never wait for tomorrow.
What have you achieved as an artist?
I don’t feel like I have achieved enough as an artist. I feel pretty young in my art. I feel like I want to create the world over. I want to be able to explore my full potential. The project I am the happiest with, so far, is the «House of Dub». Last September Outlook Festival in Croatia asked me to do an art installation in a old broken down house on the festival site. With the collaboration of Ziggy Grudzinskas, 4 other London artists and Paddy Walsh we changed this old military House into an art installation using smoke machine, Strobe lights and optical illusion to create an unique experience to the ravers. People had no ideas of what we were going to do but they let us do it providing us lots of paint and a massive sound system. On the first night we had about 2000 ravers coming through the house and coming out with the biggest smile ever, it was an instant reward.
What is the best thing that’s ever happen to you?
Few things have made me who I am. First, I won a scholarship to go study in Canada for a year. Without this I would probably still be in France. I was the first one who won this scholarship in my University. To win you just had do describe your ambitions. Everyone at that time said I was dreaming too much and that would never happen. But it did and that made me be aware of the WILL POWER. Do what you want to do. But the best thing was that in 2005 I went to Los Angeles to do an internship with Shepard Fairey to assist him in his art, exhibitions and Street Art (p. 167). I learned everything from him. He was kind to me, patient and thought me the entire things that school will never teach you.
Apart from art what else interests you in life?
I love snowboarding and deserted snowy mountain.
Who is your favorite artist and why?
Shepard Fairey is my favorite artist. He always surprises me, and his messages are strong and to the point. His designs and typography are a delight. But I love the work of all the original New York street artists such as Basquiat or Keith Haring. When I was younger Toulouse Lautrec inspired me. His posters were amazing. All those artists were pioneer in a style that wasn’t seen as an art before and then became accepted by the art world maybe be due to the popularity.
If people want to buy your painting how will they find you?
The best way is to go to my website ashes57.com, lavacollective.com, or to come to Suzzle. I am also represented by Jealous Gallery in North London.
Do you have any project coming up?
This year is going to be busy. I got 4 shows already booked. I am doing Outlook Festival again and it should be even bigger and better. I am also going to Ireland to work on a 57th long wall with a Graffiti artist called Type. Then London and Sweden in August. I got lots going on, I hope to have enough time to create new work.
JOHN DOLAN: FROM HOMELESSNESS TO THE ART WORLD
There are a lot of Shoreditch street artists making Shoreditch a creative hub through their arts. To ordinary people walking by John Dolan is just another homeless guy sitting on the pavement begging for money with his famous dog. Hedonist Magazine decided to find out more about John’s life story who is actually well-known in that area.
So what do you do?
For the past two years, I have sat on Shoreditch High Street. I started by sitting me dog in a hat and I stand a few feet away from the dog and it looks like the dog is begging and people would take his photograph and put money into is hat. I could only do this in the summer time when the weather is nice and warm. But in the wintertime I have to dress up the dog in coat and blanket. It would make a very good photo.
What do you do in the winter?
In the winter, I still sit down next to the dog all wrapped up. So while the dog is sat, I sat next to the dog away from him drawing buildings opposite me mainly every time I complete a drawing they sell.
Who buys the drawing?
Because I have been sitting on Shoreditch High Street for so long people know me, admire my work, and buy it. Those who work in the area, club goers on Friday and Saturday nights, architects, builders, shop owners who want their shops drawn. Generally, people walking by and seeing me drawing ask me, if I want to sell my paintings and negotiate a price with them. I have been approach by channel 4 and by Scandinavian businessman who wants me to make a drawing of their new office building.
So how did you become Homeless?
The situation that led me to what I do is because the government benefit I leave on is basically underpay every two weeks; the reason I’m on benefit is because I have problem with my legs some month I can not walk.
What was your life before?
My life before that were petty crimes, prison, and homeless for the best part of 22 years and I have changed my life so much that, when I’m hungry I would not walk into a super market and steal food. No, I will not do that now.
If people asked you, what explanation will you give for doing this before?
I’m a great believer in what goes around comes around. If you put good in the world, you get good back - vice versa. It happens not very often but when I get £100 for my drawing, I always donate something to Great Ormond Street hospital.
Why do you donate money to charity?
There is a great reason for this donation. Once when I was homeless, struggling with drug addiction, I was walking pass a Homeless Day Center and outside was an Irishman; up to this point I always consider him to be the most stupidest Irish Man to come out of Ireland.
This particular day, I was withdrawing from drugs and very depressed and looking to earn money fast way could. The Irishman said to me: ‘John, why are you depressed today?’ I told that I was withdrawing from drugs, I could not find anything to steal and feed my drugs addiction. He said: ‘John, can I asked you a question?’
What was the question the Irishman asked?
‘John, apart from drug withdraw, are you healthy?’
I said ‘Yes’ to Irishman who then proceed to call me a selfish bastard – ‘You brought this affliction upon yourself. In Great Ormond Street Hospital, there are children fighting for their lives every second of the day’. What the Irishman said always stuck on my mind and it changed my life forever.
Did you have any education?
I left school without education, I came from Islington and my brother David is got a boxing club called The Times and he got OBE of the Queen two years ago.
Where did you learn how to draw?
My great grandfather was an artist so it was something passed down the gene.
How do people treat you in the street?
A lot of different people sitting in the street with their hands out begging for money, but they treat me with a lot of respect with administration because they see that I’m trying to change my life.
What is like sleeping in the street in a cold weather?
I have a council property, the council pay my rent and bills, also I sit home drawing two particular building next to Bank on the high street they got graffiti on the roof. I like putting graffiti on my drawing. I have sold 40 pictures of this building.
How much do you sell your drawing?
Cheapest I ever sold a drawing for is a tenner (£10) and the price I’m asking for is £25 to £30. I consider it is very cheap I put a lot of work into it and the fact that I’m selling them sitting in the cold.
I'M A GREAT BELIEVER IN WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
Has any of your work been published?
While I was sitting down in Shoreditch High Street, two guys approached me and commissioned me to do two photos for a book they doing called Shoreditch Unbound.
How pleased were you to see your work in this book?
Well I was the Black sheep of the family to be able to leave my mark upon this world and share my artwork along side people like Boy George and all top artists in Shoreditch made me proud. And my family is proud of my drawing in the book to.
It took me 40 years to achieve something positive in my life.
Now that you have achieved something positive in your life, what is your next move?
My main goal is to get recognition for my art. I will not like to be famous but if it happens, it happens. I will probably have a Grand Illusion. I’m getting a bit above myself.
What have you achieved by sitting in the street?
By sitting in the street drawing, couple of positive things has come from it. When I finally get up my bum I will go to the art galleries who have approach me to show case my drawings before I did not have confidence but now I am confidence and could with an agent. So everybody In Shoreditch watches this space.
Where can people find you?
Almost all the time I’m sitting opposite Tesco in Shoreditch High Street. Yet.