Only 2 days left of Trailblazers curated by Coates & Scarry! All artworks were made exclusively for Above Second. See them while you still can!
We’ll be closed for the Affordable Art Fair!
Wednesday March 13 – Monday March 18th
Come visit us in Booth B07
We’ll also be closed Saturday, March 23rd. Sorry for any inconvenience!
Come by Friday March 1st from 7-10 PM
for the opening reception of “Trailblazers” featuring:
Angela Lizon (UK)
Carlo Cane (Italy)
Carne Griffiths (UK)
Joe Sorren (USA)
Lindsey Carr (UK)
Nick Walker (UK)
Nigel Cox (UK)
Pure Evil (UK)
Rose Sanderson (UK)
Sas Christian (UK)
You started out as a goldsmith before moving into painting. Was this a natural transition?
Yes, I think so. The work of a goldsmith calls for precision and rigour.
Do you see any parallels between your work as a goldsmith and your painting?
Yes, both share many key fundamental characteristics: precision, rigour, design and creativity.
Your work is very architectural. Do you have any technical training?
No, my architectural works are a return to the techniques of metalworking and, in particular, to miniatures painted in enamel. When I was young I would look at the artwork of Imperial Rome during the rules of Hadrian and Trajan through the remains of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
Your architectural landscapes have been described as ‘futuristic’ yet are devoid of human life, why is this?
Man is not there physically but he is present through his buildings.
Your architectural landscapes move between realism and the fantasy. Thinking particularly about the series of works you have shown with Coates and Scarry where houses are suspended amidst ‘unreal’ canopies, how does this reflect your own view of the future?
The future I envisage is one of a growing harmony between us and the environment.
In the body of work you have shown with Coates and Scarry, houses and municipal blocks float in space, suspended amidst treescapes, the natural world encroaching inwards on urbanity, yet the buildings appear cocooned gently enveloped amongst the flora. Is this deliberate? Are they intended as havens?
Yes… I certainly wanted to create that feeling. I want to make people dream by destabilizing the viewer and encouraging the viewer to ask him or herself questions. They [the houses] are paradises.
I like the way your paintings have a very universal feel – they seem to belong to no specific location. Is it your intention to make work that appeals on many levels?
Anyone who stands before my work is free, without barriers, unconfined and can get lost in their thoughts at the precise moment of viewing and the viewer finds that he or she can travel in their mind to constantly shifting worlds.
When I look at your work, I want to know the story behind that piece. Do you imagine the characters that inhabit the buildings you paint?
To return to what I previously said about freedom, as one interprets one of my paintings, at that moment various thoughts spring into one’s mind. Those thoughts can be positive or negative and they lead you to imagine, to dream and escape reality. I can see myself living in one of these places, they could be the perfect haven, with much love for life and for all that surrounds us. Just think, you could find yourself sitting at the table with a lovely squirrel. It would be fantastic!
I’m intrigued by the environmental aspects of your work. What do you imagine the future holds for this planet?
I am not a fanatical ecologist, but a lover of nature and all forms of life. Perhaps we have reached a tipping point where man’s selfishness and aggressiveness has begun to remodel the land according to his own gratification without consideration for the fact that this beautiful planet is shared, it is not ours alone. I think it is absolutely essential that we reestablish a world in which every living thing is allowed its own space. My paintings bear witness to this.
Can you tell us about any exciting projects you’ve got coming up, for example Trailblazers in Hong Kong?
Thank you to Coates and Scarry for giving me the opportunity to show my work in such an exciting and vibrant international context. The dynamism and talent of Coates and Scarry is an explosive mix.
Interview by Lottie Storey. Translated by Elizabeth Lloyd.
London is now your home, having been brought up in Wales and lived for a decade in California. How London-centric is your work?
I’m an international artist living most of my time online, sucking up things from all over the world as they happen and adapting and creating things based on that flow of information. I’m more interested in living in the 21st century than living in the East End of London, but I DO still pick up on the interesting parts of London. It’s a dirty city but you need dirt to make things grow.
The Olympic games was huge, particularly for East London where your gallery is based. How has the landscape of the capital changed as a result?
It didn’t really impact on the local area very much – it seemed like a bit of a shindig for the VIPS and sporting people. It was fun to watch on TV in HD but the whole promise of more business and energy for the East End kind of didn’t happen. A lot of local businesses thought things were going to be mad busy but they lost business at the time of the Olympics. I put out a print taking the mickey out of the Olympics being based in Hackney and I make mad money from it so I’m not complaining. Well, I am a bit aren’t I? I got some free chips from a guy in Hackney because I painted on his wall. That was a result. Crime DOES pay.
Your tumblr is full of vintage and/or American imagery. Is this a major influence on your work?
It’s really all about a longing I have to visit the USA. Unfortunately, I am banned from entering the USA, I just can’t get a VISA to go back there anymore. Remember those guys who had to leave the USSR and became exiles in the West? Well, I had to leave the USA and be exiled in the err… West (UK). A lot of my work has to do with American identity because I LOVE the USA – it’s amazing. I was watching ‘On The Road’ last night and it reminded me of how I am drawn to the American landscape. It’s such a beautiful country. Some of the people are pretty nuts but, let’s face it, who isn’t? I guess Americans are less concerned about hiding the fact that they are as crazy as some nationalities can be. Generally speaking.
Do you consider your work to be particularly politically driven?
Yes, definitely. I think if you can say anything then why not say SOMETHING? Painting on walls is a good way to get your message across in a big way. I am intelligent and I think about how to make the world a better place so it’s good to be able to use my medium to get a strong message across. My ancestor is Sir Thomas More – he had a vision for a Utopia. I do too.
Your father is also a painter (John Uzzell Edwards) who uses a great deal of symbolism in his work. How has his practice influenced your own?
He has taught me to research a subject and to work, work, work all the time. It’s a good lesson. He has taught me to distrust academics and watercolourists and landscape painters. We’re both pretty bloody minded. Our mission is to PAINT.
What has been the highlight of your career and why?
I guess hooking up with Banksy and getting my first piece into one of the Santa’s Ghetto shows he started doing… that got the ball rolling and led to me getting onto Pictures on Walls, and then eventually being involved in the CANS FESTIVAL projects. That was major.
Appearing on BBC’s The Apprentice was a high profile move. Are you glad you took part in the programme?
Yeah, I had two friends who did the Australian version of it and they said ‘do it’. They had a lot of exposure from the programme and the same thing happened with me. Things went mental after that programme came out.
How was it received by the street art community? Isn’t it a notoriously secretive community?
The street art community is not at all secretive and has never strived to maintain its anonymity – they all have PRs and call up the press when they do anything. Graffiti artists are the notoriously secretive ones because they don’t want to go to jail, they are the ones you are thinking of. The street art community wants to be famous and to be household names and to have their retrospective at the Tate and have their own trainers and customize a GUITAR HERO plastic guitar and have their own TV Show. On the whole, they completely LOVE attention and thrive on it .
Is it a competitive world to work in?
I don’t think it’s too bad to be honest. People are extremely supportive and helpful and, wherever I have gone in the world, I find other street artists to be the greatest bunch of people ever. They are happy little bunnies because they are doing something they love and it’s the kind of thing that welcomes collaboration. The ones who do bitch and moan should just shut up and paint.
What’s next for Pure Evil?
I get to watch my wonderful little baby BUNNY grow up… her first smile, her first steps, her first words, and then show her how to get really good with a spray can!
Interview by Lottie Storey for Coates & Scarry