Bristol Graffiti: Your new show, “Unforscenery” , opens at the Forster Gallery in Shoreditch on Thursday, what’s it all about?
Xenz: I kind of imagined visions of hell created by our greed, then painted them alongside some really beautiful things. To put it simply.
BG: Has it been fun to put together?
X: I have many ideas for exhibitions and collaborations with artists, and the key is to focus on the plans that are for this show and divide ideas for future plans. It’s like a sculpture, I think of the whole show as one piece of art. Some ideas I’ve had for this one have been put on hold for my next one, it’s exciting. Inevitably with hindsight, the week after it’s all hung, I’ll think it could have been better, but it’s in my nature to perfect, even if it’s just a splash.
BG: It looks like a bit of a move away from your previous show, more landscapes than birds of paradise, is this a long term move, and where’s your work heading at the moment?
X: My first show, “The Law of Attraction”, was inspired by the mating ritual of the bird of paradise. If that was about desire, then this could be seen as more about rejection. Nature is an endless source of inspiration for painting. I have always loved landscapes, my work is about continuity and contrast. I’m motivated to create paintings that blur the transition from outside to inside. Each piece looks to be part of a much bigger painting, I began to see my work like an imaginary jigsaw puzzle. I have worked onto surfaces I have found, and also canvas, but I treat all this with the same style of painting; a similar pallet over everything. Like graffiti with no words, linking the wall to the art and the art to the person seeing it. Simplicity, naivety, all come together with respect to the ancient cave man recording their thoughts on walls. I’m using a moment of someone else’s time to get them to daydream at the same time as thinking about man’s effect on nature.
Butterflies and moths feature in these “mess produced one offs”. The butterflies help me to show how beauty comes from ugliness, they symbolize the simplicity and beauty. I selected rather useless bits of metal or rusty serving trays, all of which had been fly tipped practically on to the door step of my studio in Hackney. I decorated everything with gold leaf and bright colors to contrast with their time ravaged appearance.
BG: Now it’s all got bigger, do you ever wish you could go back to just painting graf on the streets?
X: No, not at all, I’m loving it! I paint graf on the streets and I do art exhibitions, why the hell would I want to go back to just painting graf on the streets?
BG: Since moving to London you’ve started to paint more with other people and get busy with painting for a living. What’s the score with the TCF at the moment?
X: We’re planning a multi-stadium sell out re-union tour in 2012. I think the limited edition signed tickets go on sale soon.
BG: With the economy heading downhill, the ‘street art’ market (or whatever it’s called) seems to be heading down with it. How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s going to be good or bad for the graf scene generally?
X: Recession is a great breeding ground for talent. I know when I was venturing out as a kid in the late 80s, with a bag full of spray cans into a park full of glue sniffing punks, I wasn’t thinking ‘one day I’ll get paid to do this’. I’d just seen the perfect wall for the sketch I’d drawn one rainy day…
Over the past 7 or 8 months I’ve been painting away, listening to the radio, hearing the tidal wave of depression which has inevitably influenced my painting subjects. Although I started being obvious, painting canary wharf and other financial institutions melting away, I didn’t feel satisfied. It was too obvious. I wanted to pick on you and me instead of pointing at the politicians, that’s been done before. The problem begins at home this time, too many heads in the sand. We’re supposed to be united, but it’s all just about keeping up with the neighbours. We all knew it was going to crash or burst or crunch and now it has. Do you remember all the scientists talking about all that ice and stuff and the sun exploding…that’s next. After the Olympics of course…
Anyway, back to my exhibition. If you want to see what it will look like after we’re gone…
BG: Last year seemed a bit like the year of pubs and clubs getting painted in Bristol, and you did your bit by painting the Farm as well as the Cadbury House. Any more pubs or venues on the list in future?
X: Nowt as such yet. Maybe somewhere with more sunshiiiine…
BG: At last year’s Glastonbury, you had a hand in painting what seemed like pretty much the whole of Shangri-La. What was that like, and why do you do so much painting at festivals?
X: Well, it was a classic festival experience that begins with all the anticipation and amazement and ends with you looking in the mirror trying to peel your skin off. I was only asked to do a little bit of painting, and then as usual everyone sees you painting and suddenly realizes they don’t have signs. I mean, what sort of market stall goes to Glastonbury without signs? So I end up eating loads of bean burgers.
BG: Plans for the future?
X: Travel and explore, buy a football team, hypnotise the fans, start a coup, rise to power, abolish slavery. Stop a war.