This is a continuation of the Asone In Depth article. Read part one of the interview.
Street art and graffiti – perceptions
Artists like Lush like to throw a bit of shit over the whole ‘street art’ and ‘street artist’ label and community. There’s been growing contempt for many years now, usually directed from the ‘graffiti artists’ towards the ‘street artists’ if you’re not aware of it.
One of the seeds of this anger comes from preconceptions relating to graffiti art and street art. For many, ‘graffiti’ is still a byword for vandalism and criminal activity, whereas ‘street art’ sort of gets an odd kind of respect, even when it isn’t very good, or commits the same crime of painting illegally in public.
Lush making his feeling on “street artists” abundantly clear.
I was keen to understand his view on this and if it had improved over the past few years. Are people slowly beginning to see the artform as legitimate in the same way that they see street? And if not – why not?
“I think that’s definitely the case. Big murals are hip and trendy and cool, but graffiti pieces are bad. Folk forget that without graf you wouldn’t have “street art” in the form it is today.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against street at all, I like loads of it, and will probably dabble in it a wee bit – just don’t pretend to be a graf artist when you’re a muralist, and vice versa, some graf artists forget their roots.”
Asone sketches displaying diversity in style
“Graf is pure calligraphy, since when did that stop becoming an art form? In fact just as I’m writing this have just heard they’ve jailed a Sydney graf artist for 12 months for painting pieces on trains. Imagine that had been an art school student painting a picture of a cat?”
“I think people accept “street art” more because they don’t understand graffiti, they can’t read it half the time and they feel threatened: Humans are ego maniacs, if you asked them their name, and then said you were going to do their name in a design they’d be loving it.”
Further Asone work and experimentation from his sketchpad
“But it’s also what they can relate to – draw a face or an animal and they can immediately relate to it, so they feel safe. At my local spot, I think it was Macism who painted these two collie dogs on the wall, it was really well done – that was back in 2014. They’re long gone now, but folk are still stopping me and asking me if it was me that drew them.”
“The whole tunnel is covered in pieces, but they just want to talk about the dogs, ‘cos they can relate to them. I painted a stag next to a piece I did a few months back, and I’m getting the same thing, they ignore the huge piece next to the stag, which is about 70% of the wall.”
“Also, Graffiti symbolises “lack of control” by the system that owns us, we’ve all been trained to be good little pro establishment worker bees since birth – for some people – they see graf in any form as “graffiti names” and they freak out.”
“Having said that though, if I’m painting a legal spot somewhere in public, I’ve got more positive reactions than negative.”
The age of the internet and the street art celeb
The internet’s had a fairly huge impact on the world of graffiti and street art. In fact it probably helped to boost “street art” as we understand it today (the generally more accessible stuff like stencil art, murals etc) and some of the “personalities” that it has spawned.
For a scene that resolutely rejects the mainstreaming of its culture I often wonder how a graffiti artist looks upon the internet, and myriad of blogs and websites dedicated to the art. Sure there are positives, including the increased exposure. But can that be unwanted at times? Or do the positives outweigh the negatives…
“I think both good and bad – Good in that now you can see globally just how many styles there are and know how it’s evolving – it’s great for influences. I can google “volcanic reactions” or “lightening storm” or something like that and get millions of images up, everything is there at a touch of a button to look at and get inspired by.”
“You can also find out easily where is good to paint in the world, what countries have a good scene. You can travel anywhere in the world and hook up with artists you’ve never met and arrange to paint with them, it’s amazing. You can get cheaper supplies online and show your stuff to folk across the planet.”
But, the negatives that Asone talks about definitely show that it’s not all rosey. In fact you begin to get the feeling that the internet is breeding a sort of street art celeb…
“I think it’s responsible for shows like “Street Art Throwdown” and that any twat thinks they can now get in on graf because it’s “trendy”.
“Also I think it’s brought out the absolute worst in those people who are painting for fame and are desperate to be liked by the public – from people rushing to paint “iconic celebrities” when they die, to painting pieces in fancy dress for the camera even when it’s not for a commercial job, to girls painting – posing in tiny hot pants, high heels or underwear.”
“I’ve come across all of this online for internet fame, it’s some pretty narcissistic shit. I suppose It’s different if you’re being well paid for it though, and it’s part of a job, that’s cool, but I’d draw a line at painting in my underwear though” he laughs…
Turning graffiti into a business
In a scene as brutal and as self conscious about style and authenticity as the graf scene, I was really glad to hear that Asone had taken the steps to turn his undeniable talent from a hobby to a full blown career.
Asone is self-employed, under “Scottish Graffiti Murals” – and paints commissioned murals for a range of clients. As a graffiti writer who takes a space and makes it his own, is it difficult to take direction from someone less aware or experienced in art direction than himself?
“Working with clients can be amazing or make you want to top yourself…”, he laughs again, “just joking”.
“I’ll just say this though. At worst, doing commercial art for cash and being self employed can sometimes feel worse than a regular job ‘cos you can’t switch off, really really long hours.”
“There’s a massive, shitload of stuff folk don’t see behind the scenes. From endless designing to sourcing all sorts of supplies, traveling around to see premises to do quotes etc, plus all your admin stuff. Then you’ll get super fussy clients or just ones with bad taste who don’t appreciate you’re the artist. It can get frustrating aye. It can really drain you ‘cos you just feel totally swamped with shit.”
“But, the plus side, the good side of it is much better than any “normal” job. You get some great clients out there – these are the clients who give you free reign to work, who appreciate what you bring to the table, who don’t try and push their frustrated artist side on to you, who give you a few ideas they want/like and are open minded and like to see how you make their ideas become a piece of art.”
“You get folk who pay you on time and value your work. You meet a lot of different folk all trying to make a go of their business, it can be inspiring at times. When you get one of these, and a good job to paint – it’s cool – it’s lucky – you also get a lot of time off during the day when other folk are in shops, call centres, offices, down holes, whatever.
“So aye, it makes it worthwhile”.
Illegal walls to four walls
I’ve always liked the idea of organising a group of graffiti artists that represent a city and organising an indoor exhibition. I wanted to sound Asone out about this, and if he thought this sort of art translates to a gallery setting. If so, how how does he think the scene would look upon that more generally, or would it potentially dilute the scene.
“I think pretty easily, It’s fun to explore. Lots of artists have done it, Does, Mad C, Soles, Nychos are good examples of graf writers that’s made this work.”
“I don’t know, to be honest if I was organising am exhibition I wouldn’t care how other artists or the scene looked at it, remember there are a lot of dicks in the graf community, it’s one of the few creative communities that’s constantly hen-pecking and fighting amongst itself like kids in a playground.”
“I mean if somebody was painting lots of pieces then got a chance to show one of them as a canvas in a gallery, and somebody offered them say over a grand for the canvas which it took them 2 hours to paint in spray paint – they going to turn it down?”
“I don’t think they would. I think there’s ways of doing exhibitions which keep your graf integrity intact”
“I don’t think it dilutes the credibility, if it was done in the right venue, promoted the right way, and with artists who are all time served graf artists that have got their paws dirty if you know what I mean.”
“It’s a far better and credible way to showcase genuine original artwork than being an internet fame hound, “Street Art Throwdown” type character.”
It was really insightful chatting to Asone, and refreshing also for someone to really speak with honesty, allowing me to get a proper insight into the graf scene, especially here in Scotland. Despite having followed it for a few years, I still know relatively little about how the culture operates in this city and the attitudes within.
I feel like I know a great deal more about the scene having spoken to him, so I’m really glad I took the chance to reach out, and grateful that he spent the time to give considered answers to my questions.
Make sure you check out more of his work over on Facebook and Instagram @asonegraffiti. If you’re in the market for a mural, look no further than Scottish Graffiti Murals on Facebook or google – a better artist working in this area you’re unlikely to find.