Reposted from Fresh Paint Gallery
Tongson Chen put in a nutshell the general philosophy of the group on painting: “It’s an urge, every day you think about it. I’m sure it’s the same with every artist, it’s something you just have to do whether the money’s right or wrong. Being an artist is always doing your art”
All of them are trying to live from their art, sometimes doing a little side job to stay afloat. It brought us to talking about the common problematic of making it as an artist while remaining true to your values and being able to pay the bills. They pointed out that art school can make you believe you need to paint boring commercial things or to sell out to be able to live from your art. Christina summed up a problem many underground artists face: “I’m trying to find that balance between being a commercial artist and being true to yourself, where I’m making money as an individual but also creating art to create art because you love it and you wanna put something awesome out there and share it with people and not necessarily have it be about money.”
Just like Billy, who abandoned graphic design, because it was “too clean” to get into something he loves, they are all proofs that, no matter what you’re taught, you can decide to make your own thing and find that balance with hard work. Jordan made me take a step back and realize that “When art becomes your means of survival you have to look at it as a business, and you have to do things you don’t want to do, take commissions you don’t want to take, talk to people you don’t like, go outside of your comfort zone a lot, and that’s art.” He said he couldn't trash talk people who got on the level where people know who they are because they had obviously put a lot of work into their success.
When we talked about their hometown Toronto and its graffiti scene, they seemed to admire the openness of the Montreal community. They mentioned the animosity and stigma towards street art but underlined that the reaction of the public was never going to stop it, that a lot of areas were still heavily bombed. Politicians end up ruling over what is art and what isn't, without having anything to do with the culture or having any kind of education about it.
Billy explained: “It’s winter right now, so we’re seeing a lot of it linger and hang out, but we’ve got the Pan Am games coming this summer and the city’s gonna be spotless. If you put it up, it’s gonna be gone the next day. I used to come to downtown Toronto in 2005, 2006, 2007 and this city was destroyed, it was fantastic. You could be right downtown and you look up and every rooftop is hit. And that’s all gone now, it’s all history and those writers are gone too. When Rob Ford came in, he said “I’m gonna clean up” and he kinda did that and now it’s really clean, the buff is out there. Now you have organizations that decide what goes where, it always comes down to the same 5 people.”
Chris expressed regret that the writers in Toronto were not more educated enough about the ethics of graffiti: “There’s no education within the street [about the 'hierarchy' of graffiti], it’s just about what looks nice and what looks good for the community. They don’t put into consideration that there is history to the person making it.”
They all agreed that in the end a piece is judged by how long it stays before being painted over and not by the talent of the writer. Jordan developed a very interesting concept about this phenomenon: “You see spots are getting buffed, but if you paint on a mural, chances are it’s gonna stay for awhile. So it’s kind of culture cannibalism you know, the culture is eating itself because it’s so starved in a way.”
But Christina pointed out that this auto-cannibalism could have good aspects too, for example when it comes to commissioned murals with almost automatic attribution to mainstream artists, which brings us back to Billy’s previous remark on the politic grip on urban art and the unfair monopoly of commercial/mainstream artists on municipal approval. The infinite vicious circle that Fresh Paint is trying to break.
Photo Cred. Adrien Fumex
Original Post by Lina