DURING THE SURFACE GALLERY'S ANNUAL STREET ART FESTIVAL, THIS YEAR LUCY MUSSON HAS BEEN INTERVIEWING THE ARTISTS ABOUT THEIR PRACTICE, WHAT STREET ART MEANS TO THEM, AND QUESTIONS SURROUNDING THE GENRE MORE BROADLY.
NEXT IN OUR INTERVIEW SERIES, IS JAKE FRANCIS...
Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistic background. How did you get into creating art and/or Street art?
In my earlier school years the art I would bring in and liked to create from objects and junk set me apart from my peers and from what was being taught on the school curriculum. Fast forward to my time at art school, and I realised I wasn’t so different, everyone did that sort of stuff.
I suppose what first attracted me to Street art were these two things: 1. I could create art at a low budget (!!). 2. I was also attracted by its appeal and accessibility to people who perhaps wouldn’t usually engage with art.
In your opinion, what is ‘Street Art’? How would you define it?
When someone talks about street art, people quite often immediately think of Banksy. That’s fine, but I think Street Art today includes work that has less of the cliché urban rhetoric to it. For me, it is art free of institutional meddling where you are free to practise and engage with it as you wish.
Why do you create art and/or Street art? Why is it important to you?
I believe art, or Street Art more specifically, is much needed in the spaces we inhabit. I often describe our towns and streets a bit like a Flintstones carton with high-street brands, like McDonalds, Starbucks or Zara, clogging up our visual airways. Street art can shake and defamiliarize the environments we live in; like refreshing totems that break up routine and challenge the status quo.
I also love the type of Street Art found in public places because it is open to an element of vulnerability and chance. An artist like David Shrigley views his work as a collaboration with the public and even if their response is complete apathy, he finds the process cathartic. I like this approach to Street Art because it views it as a medium implicitly designed for exchange and encounter, change not stasis and as an active insertion upon a space.
Street Art can be used to make a statement about topical issues. Are the pieces you’ve submitted for this year’s Street Art Festival designed to make a statement about society? If so, what are they?
I guess a lot of artists may want their work to change the world for the better. With my work however, it often features a cynical and self-deprecating tone. Bureau-de-changed is a comment on Brexit, Bitter/Sweet is to do with the sexual assault scandals, and Prospects deals with issues of unemployment. The materials and the style of presentation I use are in some way underwhelming; they do not showcase high-quality craftsmanship or hours of painstaking labour. There is an inadequacy about their physicality in light of the political and social issues the pieces speak of. For me the process is partially about a self-examination of the role of an artist – questioning my own use of discarded cardboard and mouse traps in the face of seemingly insurmountable world issues. What can artist’s offer in times of injustice and in equality?
You’ve mentioned before that you like the way an artist like David Shrigley creates Street Art as a collaboration with the public. Do you see your work as having a similar dynamic?
Yes. I don’t make art unless I know people will see it. I see art as a talking point, it is not created for its own sake. Audience interaction is 100% my goal. I would see it as a failure if someone walked past my work without even glancing at it.
I think when someone encounters a piece of art it’s alright if the medium or tone grates against you, makes you feels negative, or even straight up distaste. Let that feed into how you respond to the work and your ideas. Just don’t pretend you like something because you feel like you should.