|Interview. Ric Blackshaw / Scrawl Collective|
"I pretended I was Charles Saatchi and promised them sweeties." That was how Ric Blackshaw founder of the Scrawl Collective said he got his stable of artists to exhibit their fantastic, boundary pushing pieces in Shoreditch last week…but did he really?
We love different here at Beinghunted towers, and spend quite some time discussing the merits of minor, neigh miniscule changes to articles and artwork to give it a different perspective. So it was with much enthusiasm that I braved the weather to view the Scrawl Collective's exhibition "All The People We Like Are Dead" at the illusive no-one gallery in Shoreditch. Shoreditch is London's version of The Lower East Side in NYC - scruffy, urban eclecticism with enough cool bars to get you a bad habit. As I knocked on the anonymous looking door, I was greeted by the man himself Ric Blackshaw - resplendent in what can only be described as the best Sherlock Holmes' attire I've ever seen - plaid coat, deerstalker - the full monty..
And with a warm handshake I entered the multi-roomed space to be challenged by the versatile roster of artists who make up the Scrawl Collective - these being: Mr. Jago, Will Barras, Steff Plaetz, Phlash, Nick Walker, Cat, and new comers Danny Sangra and David Walker. Some European Scrawl Collective members from Italy (Bo130 and Microbo), Spain (Nano4814) and France (Alexone) were on display too.
On entering the first room you are almost stopped in your tracks by the gigantic black Yeti featured on three pieces painted by Phlash - huge in size and impact they set the tone for what is to come around the corners of each room - which are better explained by clicking on to the slides and viewing for yourselves. My personal favourites were Nick Walkers haunting portraits, combining Victorian stature with futuristic colours giving a feeling akin to a snapshot of life in the off-world colonies. Cat's take on the ghoulish world of the macabre using earthy tones, petrified expressions and an octopus (?!) stimulated a heady mixture of horror and delight in equal measures.
There weren't only oil on canvas affairs here, some amazing up-lit pieces in the form of 'scrawlvsuckuk-spotlights', and Nano's unusual model was a sight to behold in it's mutated glory - a mish-mash of colour starting on the floor, and crawling up the wall. And with a slightly surreal smile on my face I headed back to my West London environs to have strange, bright and twisted dreams…
As you all know by now we like to speak to the people who put these challenging and individual productions together, so it's now over to Ric Blackshaw.
Hi Ric, firstly could you tell me where you heard of beinghunted.com?
Not sure, probably from my girlfriend LJ.
Tell the people a potted history of yourself, and how you came to where you are today?
In 1999 myself and a few friends produced a book called Scrawl dirty graphics and strange characters. Through researching this book I discovered and befriended a number of artists who not long after became the first artists in the Scrawl Collective. These were Mr Jago, Will Barras and Steff Plaetz. The book was ostensibly about the generation of artists, graphic designers and illustrators that were influenced by a common set of signifiers. Hip Hop, Graffiti, Comic books, Star Wars and Sci Fi in general, to name a few. Scrawl was the first book to attempt to cover this group of artists and identify them as a significant development in design and art. We followed a few years later with Scrawl Too more dirt which continued to chronicle this worldwide scene. Over the years Scrawl Collective has grown into a stable of 15 artists and continues to expand. Unfortunately the books are now out of print but like all pioneers we have our shameless copyists so you could buy their books or even better wait for Scrawl 3 which is currently in the early planning stages.
17space - "All the people we like are dead"
Take us through the show highlighting some of the artists, and how you got them to do the show?
Basically all the artists in the collective have contributed something to this show. The shows signature Yeti painting was done by Phlash. We're showing the work of the Scrawl Originals Jago, Will and Steff along with other long established artists like Nick Walker and Cat. Relative new comers to the collective like Danny Sangra and David Walker are joined by Scrawl Collective members from Italy (Bo130 and Microbo) Spain (Nano4814) and France (Alexone). How did I get them to do the show? I pretended I was Charles Saatchi and promised them sweeties.
Is there a theme to the show?
Yes there is a theme. I asked all the artists to produce work in homage to their favourite artists or artworks. As nearly everyone decided to work on pieces based on artists who no longer inhabit this plane of existence I decided to call the show "All The People We Like Are Dead” which I nicked from a song title by long-forgotten-but-not-by-me-eighties-group Felt. Some artists took the brief quite literally, for instance Nick Walker did a stunning reproduction of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring but called it Girl With a Gold Tooth. Others took a more subtle approach as in the case of Microbo who decided to pay tribute to an artist she actually despises. Taking Lucio Fontana's spatial ripped canvas theme and sewing the rips back up. There is a real mix of ideas in the show because the theme I set was purposefully wide. We have work influenced by comic book legends like Jack Kirby and Carlos Ezquerra, abstract stuff based on the likes of Sol Lewitt, tributes to Philip Guston, Saul Bass, Jean Dubuffet, Ray Harryhausen... the list goes on. We also have a collection of decorated spotlights on show made by Suckuk and decorated by Scrawl Collective artists.
What’s your favourite colour, and why?
Red. Because we keep the red flag flying high 'cos Man Utd never die!
Who are you heroes or role models in life and why?
George Best is my ultimate hero because he's a flawed genius, and there is something compelling about people born with a talent like that and who have an equal talent for fucking up. You appreciate the genius all the more for some reason. It’s probably a load of romantic old bollocks on my part but I've cried a few times watching my tapes of Best ripping defences apart single-handed.
You are involved with many of the most influential Japanese brands - how did these relationships evolve?
I am just lucky to have all these friends. Such great friends include, just to name a few, Gary from UK adidas, Ian Brown, Shin from Neighborhood, Visvim's Hiroki, and DJ/producer Hiroshi Fujiwara. From this tremendous and solid network I had the opportunity to work for various and most influential brands and I am very thankful.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
* Born to be with you - Dion
* London Calling - The Clash
* First Take - Roberta Flack
* The Stranglers singles collection
* Forever Changes - Love
How would you describe your personal fashion taste, and what things rock your world at this moment in time?
Classic English gent meets Football Terrace kid. I'm big into hats. I like my hair long. I have this second hand pure wool plaid-hunting coat (a bit Sherlock Holmes) that I got a few months back and I look proper kif in that. Clarks originals desert boots etc will always be cool. I also love to rock a suit.
Can you tell us a bit about the Scrawl Collective, and what it represents?
Scrawl Collective is an agency for artist’s designers and illustrators; we do commercial work as well as stuff like this exhibition and private commissions. There is also a T-shirt label called Scrawl Tees dedicated to putting high quality art on tee shirts. Scrawl Collective only really represents itself. We are not graffiti artists and we don't really have much in common with the have spray can, posca or sticker will deface mentality. We are not part of that scene. Some of the artists come from that background but in their capacity as members of the Scrawl Collective they have moved on from this. I look for artists with that spark of originality and freethinking attitude that often is sadly lacking in most graffiti. That is really what Scrawl Collective is about.
Finally, what’s your favourite animal, and why?
Humans, because you are all so strange!
Until next time, Adrian J W Darby.
Beinghunted says thanks for the interview - we enjoyed the show tremendously!
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