“I went to a school called Acland Burghley which had a specialist arts funding and represented Camden in the sense that it was very diverse and liberal. At the time it seemed normal for your class to include every ethnic background with people from council estates, big houses, asylum seekers who’d arrived after fleeing war and poverty and other people who flee the city every other weekend to their second home, and while i know that some other schools were similar, in reality this wasn’t the norm and to be honest is a level of diversity that i’ve yet to come across within any establishment i’ve been involved in since leaving there in 2002. Growing up in this environment and learning to accept and understand people’s difference’s was the most valuable thing i learned in school and is probably something that anyone from the long list of known artists and musicians who attended there will also tell you. I think unfortunately some maybe less funded state schools could stunt your growth if there is too much negative bullshit going on around you and not enough opportunity but on the flip side some private schools are elitist where you can end up leaving with all the grades but a lack of understanding of people from different walks of life. I’m not saying i went to some magical harmonious state school utopia churning out creative children of the world all holding hands in unison because it definitely had lots of the same problems any inner city school has, but i wouldn’t be alone in saying my time there helped cement my desire to work within the creative world and my understanding of people in general, which is something i consider myself lucky to have obtained.”
“ATG started through a shared love of graffiti and a desire to bring something new to the table.This was around the end of the year 2000. Although we all knew each other and some of us were friends independently, in a way we were kind of placed together, with Aset being the bridging element, as a combination of people that could push the scene forward. Similar to a football team or something i guess. If it was more casual than that with people being put in it because they were hanging about at the time or whatever then ATG never would have become what it went on to be. Of course it was fun every step of the way but it required a certain amount of drive and organisation to come up that quickly which was a mentality that stayed with us and lead us into our involvement within other creative realms.”
“In this day and age if somethings popular and easy enough to involve yourself in, then it will quickly become mainstream and cease to exist as a sub-culture which is due to increased exposure of these things via the Internet. Train spotting is still a sub-culture because the hype blogs aren’t interested in billing it as the new cool thing to do and probably never will. Parkour is also still a sub-culture because even though it’s had loads of online hype, your average culture vulture does not have the determination to try and throw themselves off a 30ft building and land in a forward roll. When i was a kid in the pre-internet hype days i would’ve 100% stopped in the street to talk to someone if they were painting a piece or skateboarding or even wearing a certain bands T-shirt as it indicated you shared a sub-culture with this person. To me thats what sub-cultures are about, being part of an underground world that contains hidden depths and romance. If you walked through Shoreditch tomorrow and saw someone painting Graffiti wearing a Supreme hoodie while listening to The Clash would you be surprised or even that interested? Thought not. It’s just how it is. You no longer have to do things like wait once a month for Thrasher magazine to come out so you can get your Skateboarding fix or go to loads of Hip-Hop nights in order to try and meet Graffiti writers or whatever etc etc… it’s all at a click of a button now which is definitely a positive but it’s also re-defining the meaning of sub-culture and also the creative lifestyles that go with them, as things are increasingly produced for the internet as opposed to within the physical realms of our planet.
I don’t think sub-cultures no longer exist or even that it’s such a bad thing when they turn mainstream but things definitely become over-exposed much quicker thanks to the internet which means if you want to operate in a more un-tainted, alternative, creative world then you need to look for the gaps within our cultural landscape however small or large they may be and fill them with your unique take on what has come before you”
“The reason i got into creating the work i do was due to a combination of things. Firstly i wasn’t that kid in school who could draw a perfectly executed drawing of the Titanic or whatever. I was always a creative person but i was never the best in my art class. I learned how to create artwork through being out and painting graffiti, learning what colours contrast for maximum impact and spacial awareness was picked up through the need to balance your letters properly and fill up the space. After painting graffiti letterforms for years and learning all these skills i was able to transfer them into other things like my characters for instance. One of my best friends growing up had animator parents so from when we were really young he was able to draw great cartoon faces which was my first introduction to how you could structure a character so i took a bit from him and a bit from what i learned through graffiti and my trademark style of faces which you see today was what came out. I don’t remember seeing any tribal stuff and taking influence from it although i’m sure it did come in to play. My approach was more to do with the fact that i was never good at drawing still life realistic faces or anything so so when it came to designing characters myself i went down my own path of piecing together shapes and techniques that i had acquired through painting graffiti. Square for head, upside down semi circle for one eye, circle for other eye, rectangle for nose, bouncing lines for teeth, connecting lines etc etc etc… they were essentially a combination of patterns i used to use inside my fills while painting pieces and are the outcome of the natural rhythm of my hand.”
“I think art can mean many things at once and although i believe it’s important to use it in a positive way, i don’t think this always means you need to be doing massive politically opinionated murals or paintings that touch on current social issues. Art can be powerful in various ways much like people can. Not everyone is banging down the doors of Parliament demanding social change, some people can have a very positive impact on their community through their charisma and how they treat people around them. A lot of artists, myself included, don’t really have a choice as to whether they create work or not, it’s just something you have to do regularly in order to keep things moving and stop yourself from going crazy and the work you create will always be dependant on what is going on in your life at the time. In that sense my work will always dip in and out of themes and agendas. One thing i always make an effort to do is pass on my techniques and understanding of the role art plays in society, to the younger generation, either through casual encounters or while working with youth centres. I always had older people showing me how things worked and supporting me with my efforts when i was younger, which really boosted my confidence and steered me in the right direction so i try and do the same as much as possible and is something i will be increasingly involved in as time goes on.”
“At the moment i’m enjoying being back in the studio and calmly pushing my work in new directions on a solid foundation as well as watching on going projects strengthen. I’m still young but at the same time i began actively working as an artist 10 years ago and it’s been a journey that has pulled me in many different directions whether thats due to pure creative urges, art school attempts, legal troubles or the allure of profit, so i feel i’m now at a stage where i’ve consolidated certain opinions on the creative landscape around me as well as my approach to how i deliver work. You never stop developing as an artist and as a person so for now i’m just enjoying being in a this brief reflective window where i can make clear headed directional choices and studio work that is free of any urgency…”
Photo’s by Tom Spellman