Hello Carrie, The Donald has quickly become the new enemy, hundreds of artists have already produced icons of outrage and protest. How do you relate to it, is it something you are interested in?
Yes, I am. Trump is a gift to artists really – how could you not want to express a view about him and his disastrous policies. I have been sticking up tiles about Trump since he ran for office. I stuck lots up in the USA. Also the artist Bob Osborne and myself have been working on a series of vintage seaside postcards using Trumps head. Now more than ever I think artists should be using their creativity to comment of what is occurring globally. We seem to be going backwards, losing our hard won rights, becoming more fascist, destroying the planet with greed etc.
Meanwhile in Europe divisionist forces are getting stronger, England has already decided to leave, and in Deutschland, France and the Netherlands there are strong oppositions forcing to leave the EU. What do you think will happen, and how do you imagine a return to the individual European states?
I really don’t know what is going to happen, but I do worry what kind of world my kids are going to grow up in. It all seems to be getting pretty tribal, I guess that is what austerity does – divide and rule, works every time. If we do not address our dependency on oil, and how we are polluting mother earth, we are all going to perish. Fuck knows how we get ourselves out of this mess. It definitely seems to be getting worst and not better.
I frankly think is largely a problem of communication, and this is definitely something that you managed during your artistic production. Too often it is important how you say something than what you say, and when you can bomb the crowd with slogans, the result is to reduce the space to think. How do you feel about this mystification work?
I think we now have communication overload….24 hour social media, everyone fighting for space. We live in a world of fake news, fake reality, no one knows what to believe anymore about anything.
Your mosaics have always had a strong concept, I think the evidence is clear since they work both on a small and on a large scale. But a part from rare exceptions, the street art scene is largely affected by illustration and figurative art. You know the game, I draw a small crocodile in my notebook and then I draw it big on the facade of a building. It ‘s always the same crocodile, but all the people say “Wow!” We see a lot of huge walls that would not be so impressive painted on a regular canvas. What’s your point of view about scales?
Yes it does always seem to be about size! – bigger does not necessary mean better. I like small, intimate pieces. I like the idea of people discovering them, like hidden gems. I think in a way its more personal, more connected. And I am into craft – I think it resonates with people in a way that a huge mural can’t. I am not saying it’s better, just different. I’m not so interested in the whole ‘street art’ scene. I like certain artist’s work, but I have always been more interested in political and socially conscious work. I am more interested in why an artist creates, what’s their motivation, their true intent – that the actual finished work.
How long have been you on the scene? Maybe enough to be able to say: “uhm, already seen it.” How difficult is it to find something new in what others do, I talk about any field, street art but also contemporary art in general. Can you get excited about something new (what?) or you don’t find stimuli in other artists’ production?
I have been a practising artist since about 1995, and putting work on the streets since about 1998. I spend a lot of my time working in my studio or at home and don’t go to that many shows, but when I travel I often see work and artists that totally inspire me. . I don’t really think I have ‘been on the scene’ – I not really completely involved in any one area of art, I am more on the edges of many – street art, craftivism, mosaics etc. I think my influences cross many different genres, mediums and there is so much to get excited about.
I just exhibited at the Nuart Street Art Festival in Stavanger, Norway and I was blown away by the other artists I was working alongside. In fact I could have been very imitated just by their talent and skill but they were all such lovely people that it was a total joy and extremely inspiring to be there.
In 10 years everything has changed: bigger street art festivals, world renowned artists, rich sponsors and thousands of blogs reblogging the same picture.. What’s happened and who’s really gaining something?
Street art became bankable – it’s the Banksy effect. It is now an excepted part of a process of regeneration/gentrification. It is why I am more interested in an artist’s intent – are they trying to comment on the society we live in, change it, or is it just a way to sell a print and get rich from it. I do think it’s great though that street art has made art a lot more accessible, it has taken it out of the gallery, which for many is so intimidating and opened it up to a far greater audience.
Let’s go back for a moment to your beginnings. What was the urgency that pushed you on pasting something on a wall?
My first boyfriend was Zaki Dee, of the Chrome Angelz. I was with him from about 1981 – 1986. He was a really important figure in the early graffiti scene, and so I was always aware of the possibility of going out and putting your work onto the streets. We used to sit and watch ‘Wild Style’ together most weekends. But it didn’t really relate to me on a personal creative level until much later. I originally made my first stencils whilst studying Fine Art at Leeds Poly in 1989 – it read ‘No Means No’ and ‘Least Protected – Most Vulnerable’. I was very influenced by The Guerrilla Girls. I made them to spray onto the paths of a local park in Leeds where several students had been sexually assaulted. I never used them as I was too scared to go out at night – I had myself been sexually assaulted a few years previously. I still have those stencils in my studio somewhere – I should go use them now – they are still so revelant. I wished I had of then, as I am sure it would have been extremely empowering and helped me to recover quicker. I think that is what is so special about street art – it can give you a voice, a form of expression – it can stop you feeling powerless.
If you look back at those pieces, do you see something completely different from now? How has your work evolved over the years from when you were beginning?
I think the reason I do my work is very much the same. It is the need to express myself, to find my own inner voice. I think I have just become a lot more skilled, so the medium might have changed, but not the sentiment. I do think that I have always used humour alot in my work too – I think it is important to be able to laugh at ourselves, to not take things too seriously.
Each fucking artist I interviewed in recent years, and they are many, told me “you must be in trouble with something or someone, to have enough thrust to produce art.” Fine, tell us at least one of your problems.
Yes, I would tend to agree. An artist does usually need a reason to be driven to create. I would rather it’s a reaction to a problem than a huge ego. I myself have battled with mental health issues most of my life. I have suffered from extreme depression and had a couple of nervous breakdowns. Art has always been my saviour – without it I would be dead. It is my personal daily therapy, and it is why I called my studio The Treatment Rooms.
People who double my iQ say that at the end of each artistic research there is always beauty. An hidden entity that sometimes turns out in places and in the most unexpected expressions. How many times do you think you have met beauty and captured in your ceramics?
I am not sure if its for me to say that any of my work beautiful – but I do try to make all my work as aesthetically pleasing as possible. I try to always work with beautiful objects. I think the tiles I use, the colours I create, the vintage ceramic transfers etc. I think they are all beautiful in themselves and I try to use this, to encourage an audience to connect with those innate qualities of the material , so that I can enage them in conversations about topics that might otherwise be difficult. I think that is the nature of craftivism – the beauty of craft is that it hooks into a primitive part of our psyche, one that helps challenge viewers both emotionally and intellectually.
If you had to choose one artist, who do you think has had the biggest influence on you?
I really don’t think I can answer this – I am not sure what artist that would be. My influences are pretty eclectic – feminist artists from the 1980’s, pop art, Dadaism , Mayan/ Aztec , low brow, outsider art, early New York graffiti, popular culture, punk – the list goes on and on.
When you were 13, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be an actress, or work in film. I was very influenced by Alan Parkers film Fame. I left school at 16 and went to my local college and enrolled on a course called FEDAS –Film, English, Drama and Art studies. It was a very liberal, free-thinking arts course. That is probably what had the biggest influence on my creative journey, more so that any one artist as I was introduced to such a broad range of interesting creative things at such a young age like Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty’.
Here we go, Proust Questionnaire:
– Your favorite virtue?
– Your main fault?
I am quite self-obsessed – I spend most of my time working.
– Your idea of happiness?
– If not yourself, who would you be?
– How you wish to die?
Without any pain – in my sleep.
– What is your present state of mind?
Content – which is really good for me.
Uhmm wait, last question, let’s say tomorrow Nike calls you to accomplish a serious number of Billboards, invading our cities with catchy slogans.
Of course, for a decent amount of money. What will you say? Know that not worth telling me: “Christie, it has already happened, I’ve already made it and you nerds will never know it!”
I can’t see this ever happening – though to be honest it would be a struggle to say no to a boat load of easy money and huge publicly, but I don’t really think they would want my particular take on things.