Damien Hirst @ White Cube Bermondsey

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Whereupon art critic Jonathan Jones hates on Hirst so hard that he writes, “The last time I saw paintings as deluded as Damien Hirst’s latest works, the artist’s name was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. This is the kind of kitsch that is foisted on helpless peoples by Neros and Hitlers and such tyrants so beyond normal restraint or criticism they believe they are artists.” Oh.

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Hush

2d3f7cf743ngs lo.jpg Hush work white personality Life Interview Hush hip hop flash Features city citrus report

Hush is the moniker of UK-based artist known worldwide for his beautifully constructed abstract Geisha images that are a juxtaposition of both traditional graffiti and abstract expressionism. Heavily inspired by the aesthetic of street art and armed with an in-depth technique that includes painting, screen printing, spray-painting and collage, he has continued to create new works that instantly draw the eye in and holds the viewer’s focus. —James Pawlish / The Citrus Report


JP: Who is HUSH? Tells us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been making art, did you have any sort of formal training?

Hush: I’ve been making art all my life, from first experiences in graffiti to graphic design. I always made my own art and have been painting seriously for the last fifteen years. I studied illustration & graphic design at art school for five years.

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I read an interview where you used the phrases “action painting” and “pure expressionism” to describe your practice. Do you find abstract expressionism and graffiti to have similarities in terms of approach and hand style?

I think now that graffiti has had time to be reflected on as an art form, there would be a serious argument for the action of tagging, dubs etc to be taken seriously as a form of abstract expressionism or action painting and can be seen as a contemporary art form. Of course this is down to the viewers discretion, but that is true in how all art is viewed I suppose.

Tell us a bit about your creative process and the method of distressing your canvases.

I play with lots of ideas in the paintings that I make and like to reference a lot of movements, past and present. I have always loved that old graf rule about how a throw can go over a tag, a dub over a throw, a piece over a dub and so on.

I love the transient way in which work on the street evolves and usually looks more at home the longer it settles, gets tagged over, degrades and fades. I try to create all these actions and mistakes in the studio. I always create two of each painting and work on them simultaneously, partly for the fact that I will take more risks on one, so my work progresses; there does come a point where I will only finish one as it becomes obvious which one is working.

I also do this so that when i make a new painting i can go over the discarded painting and leave remains of it visible to the viewer. I kind of take pleasure in knowing that there was a good piece and lots of work underneath a painting. It always feels uncomfortable working on a clean canvas, I like the feel and textures of a worked-on canvas. It gives it some life straight away and the complexity of a piece matters to me, I like the viewer to discover this.

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I understand you worked in Japan for quite some time…What was that like, and how did it shape your style?

I worked and lived in South East Asia for a few years; it was an extremely important influence on my life both philosophically and visually. The way the East, especially the youth, adopt western styles and cultural influences but struggle with holding onto traditional values is of interest to me and my work. The place is a melting pot and very inspirational. It has influenced my work greatly and has me thinking about a combination of factors; when you add my interpretation of this, we end up with a very eclectic mix. I try to capture and contradict these cross cultural differences and influences in my work.

Your work seems to be a juxtaposition of everything from pop art and abstraction to anime and comics. Are you tying to break the bridge between “high” and “low” art?

Not so much the anime these days but it is still an influence. However, when I see graffiti, especially tagging, as a form of expressionism or a political action, and when lots of it is seen in one place on the street, it creates a visual image like nothing else I can compare it to. It’s beautiful.

Taking it from the street and applying it to the work you make in the gallery setting is difficult. That’s why I approach it as action painting; it could easily be determined as abstract expressionism also. You need to capture that instantaneous decision to make the mark. That’s why I have canvases continuously around the studio. I throw everything at them, tag them, throws, the lot. It feels like it carries a bit of that excitement. It also places this movement into a category that is continuing to build on past art movements, which every new movement does.

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A large portion of your work is centered on the female form. Is there any specific reason why?

I like to keep the eyes dark so the viewer can’t connect with the personality, the figures then become somewhat serene or mysterious. The figures are important in finishing the composition of the piece as before they are formed it’s purely abstraction.

When I make my art I try to translate my interest in tagging, graff, decay and street art aesthetics into my work and juxtapose it with images of beauty, sensuality and the female form; allowing the later to be seen in a more positive way. The act of a tag is no doubt beautiful in its own right but fusing the two together in an expressionist action creates something in its own right and puts questions out there.

What artists have been a big influence on you?

There’s a lot of talent out there but my real influences are Eduardo Paolozzi, Mimmo Rotella, Matthew Ritche, Takashi Murakami, Designers Republic, Inka Essenhigh, Simon Bisley, Roy Lichenstien, Banksy, Peter Blake, Vaughan Oliver, Ian Swift and Robert Rauschenberg, to name a few. James Jean, David Choe, Connor Harrington, and Brad Downey have all been creating fantastic work lately.

I’m influenced by every person in the scene. Probably every artist, past and future! Definitely music has an influence on my work, coming from that whole dance music, electro, hip hop scene, it just makes the work more relevant and seems to make sense in the way that it compliments the work – even in the way that it doesn’t take itself too seriously as well.

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You’re not a stranger to San Francisco, having had a sold out show in 2010 at Shooting Gallery. What is it you love about the city? Do you find yourself getting inspiration from the local arts scene?

I’ve shown a few times here now with Fifty24SF Gallery, Shooting Gallery, White Walls & 941 Geary. I love the place, the people, the liberal attitudes, everybody seems to have a creative awareness here, it’s a very inspiring place. I have had the pleasure of meeting and hooking up with a lot of artists living and working in SF from Apex, Neon & Vulcan to Eine, Blek le Rat & Roa to Aaron Nagel, Casey Gray & Brett Armory…. from that list you can imagine how inspiring it can be.

So when did the dying from disease happen?

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Those Native Americans on the ground there are actually sick from small pox or malaria, and they aren’t really that happy to be eating really filling turkey. They want water and mercy from the white devils. And perhaps they wanted a little more gravy on their mashed potatoes, and don’t know why that white lady is hogging the sprouts wrapped with bacon. But don’t get us wrong, we love Thanksgiving and the football.

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Pedro Matos

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James Pawlish talks to Lisbon artist Pedro Matos about his influences, street art, and first solo show in San Francisco entitled,  “Ephemera

JP: Tell me about Pedro Matos as a person and how your personal life, upbringing, and experiences have influenced your art?

PM: I was born in Santarém, Portugal in 1989 and moved to Lisbon one year later. I have lived here ever since. When I was a kid (10 or 11) I got into a lot of “underground” cultures like skateboarding, graffiti, hip hop, punk, etc. Everything was very connected and things were hard to find and learn about, it made everything so special and precious. I started painting when I was about sixteen and I also had the chance to travel a lot more than most people I know. I don’t know in what way it influenced my work, as I have never lived as someone else…it’s hard to recognize what was influential or not, but definitely skateboarding and graffiti were two of the most important ones.

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You mentioned you started painting at sixteen. Who were some of your earliest influences? Is there any one artist that sticks out as having really inspired you?

A lot of artists were great inspirations when I started, you keep discovering new artists and making new connections and it’s super exciting. Some of the ones that I was stoked about since day one and still inspire me today would be, Anthony Lister, Conor Harrington, Barry Mcgee, Shawn Barber, Kaws, etc..and of course, the old masters like Rembrandt, Velazquez, Caravaggio, & Vermeer.

I read in an interview you started out with no formal training. However, you later went on to pursue your BFA only to drop out after three years. With that being said, what are your thoughts about your time in art school?

Waste of time and money.

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So now that your settled back into your studio, how does it feel having just had your first solo show in San Francisco?

It feels amazing. I am so happy to be showing here. I’ve been following the SF art scene for years and a lot of my favorite artists have shown on these same walls. Everyone at White Walls/Shooting Gallery (and the SF art community in general) are amazing people and I am having the time of my life.

While you were in the city, were you able to draw some inspiration from its rich cultural history and many interesting inhabitants?

Oh man…the Tenderloin….

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Your work has a post-graffiti sense of beauty found in decaying and abandoned places. What first attracted you to this recurring visual theme?

I used to do charcoal on paper paste-ups on unoccupied buildings; I didn’t see many of them in SF. But in Lisbon, the city centre has a lot of them. Just Imagine if you had a lot of empty buildings in Union Square and Downtown SF. It doesn’t make sense! Anyway, as I was doing those, I found a beauty in the decaying look of the buildings, and people tagging over them, pasting event posters, ripping them off, the paper aging, etc. Not only did I find it aesthetically beautiful, but I also thought it went very very well with the kind of subject matter and problematics I am questioning in my work. It’s a lot about subjectivity and ephemerality.

Can you describe a little bit about your creative process?

I like to work in a series of several paintings so I can move from one to another while things dry or I am stuck in something that’s not working. I never do studies or previous drawings and I usually start with a background that’s kinda like what an old wall would look like with the decaying look and fading tags. I start adding layers on top of each other with the different things I am using. (Patterns, portraits, words, etc). Once all that is dry there are a few glazings I do to have this “aged look”.

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Are the people in your paintings people you’ve actually encountered in life or do you use photos and other materials as reference?

Both.

I’ve seen many pieces of yours with the now famous Jean-Micheal Basquiat (SAMO) crown painted on them. Do you have a special connection to Basquiat as an artist?

I am a big fan of Basquiat indeed. I read his crowns were a symbol of respect and admiration for other figures he refers in his work, so these can be the same referring to him and the people I paint in my work. But it was very spontaneous the first time I did it, and only a few days later I realized I had done a “basquiat crown”. Then I did a whole series of portraits of homeless people with the crowns above their heads. I don’t do that as much anymore though. It made sense in that specific body of work.

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I know you’ve done some graffiti work on the streets in the past, do you have any plans on making a return?

Yes, there are plans of things I want to do in the street, I am just waiting for the opportunities to be able to perform them. I haven’t been doing the kind of charcoal paste ups I used to, that doesn’t make sense for me anymore.

What are your thoughts about street art and its continuing acceptance by the “high brow” art community?

I think that’s something very delicate and subjective. Any counter-culture that ends up being accepted by the mainstream (or the high brow art world) loses some of it’s initial magic. A lot of people start to get involved with it for the wrong reasons and somehow it loses it’s appeal. On the other hand, the kind of acceptance and money that came to “street art” allows for a lot of new things and big projects; murals, museum shows, etc Plus, it gives artists the opportunity to show their work.

What are some upcoming projects you have planned?

I’m Moving to a new country and starting to work on my next solo show. I am also releasing a new print in the next few weeks.

What’s one word that describes Pedro Matos?

Indescribable

Pedro’s show “Ephemera” can be seen at Shooting Gallery September 3rd – 24th 2011
http://www.pedromatos.org/

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First and Final Fridays: Velvet Underground “White Light/White Heat”

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Its crazy to think that the Velvet Underground’s second album, White Light/White Heat, came out the same year as The Beatles White Album. As both are some of our favorite albums in the whole wide world, it just seems that 1968 was loaded with amazing guitar albums. This album was always the manic Velvet Underground sound, opening with the title track and closing with the epic 17:30 “Sister Ray.” Enjoy.

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When Willie Mays and Barack Obama met in the White House

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Pretty damn awesome today that the SF Giants made sure that the greatest of them all, Willie Mays, got to be on hand to meet President Obama for the honorary “World Series Winner Meets the President” gig. Damn cool. The Giants did proper on that. And, of course, Brian Wilson kept it clean…. cleanish. Images via SF Chronicle.

18128be0d800 PM.png When Willie Mays and Barack Obama met in the White House world series willie white house white President Obama Obama honorary headlines flash video flash culture barack obama

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Weakness Wednesday: The White Stripes “Hotel Yorba”

Remember when you first heard the White Stripes and the music just felt timeless and from another era? And, oh yeah, really damn perfect? “Hotel Yorba” was the first White Stripes we ever heard, and it remains our all-time favorite song from the Detroit duo.

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A Light In the Moon by Gertrude Stein

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bf952610cea pic.gif A Light In the Moon by Gertrude Stein white The Citrus Report ocean not even News gertrude stein gertrude flash citrus report LIGHT in the moon the only light is on Sunday. What was the sensible decision. The sensible decision was that notwithstanding many declarations and more music, not even withstanding the choice and a torch and a collection, notwithstanding the celebrating hat and a vacation and even more noise than cutting, notwithstanding Europe and Asia and being overbearing, not even notwithstanding an elephant and a strict occasion, not even withstanding more cultivation and some seasoning, not even with drowning and with the ocean being encircling, not even with more likeness and any cloud, not even with terrific sacrifice of pedestrianism and a special resolution, not even more likely to be pleasing. The care with which the rain is wrong and the green is wrong and the white is wrong, the care with which there is a chair and plenty of breathing. The care with which there is incredible justice and likeness, all this makes a magnificent asparagus, and also a fountain.

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