SpearTalks: Sickboy

Posted on December 12, 2008 Under Art

We talk a lot about artist on joshspear.com, but when we get to talk with artist its like peaking inside their head full of amazing visions. Sickboy’s Stay Free is full of scary, amazing, funny and just wacky visions. The show is best described as an art playground. He took over a building (not a gallery) and put up paintings but also a sweet factory, weird girls in mask walking around, paintings planted in pots, a house to walk through (check out our exclusive pictures of the opening night for a better idea) and of course his iconic temples. Sickboy’s Stay Free is an entire world and in this interview we walk hand in hand through that world.

JoshSpear.com: The Stay Free exhibition is so huge thing to walk into, how does it feel for you to walk through it?

Sickboy: The problem is that I think you don't stop to think and then when the opening came that day I was kinda down about everything it was just a hectic life and I had a realization after that of "what the fuck have I been doing for the past six months?"

JS: The Stay Free exhibition is like a huge world? Give us some of the ideas behind it?

SB: It depends from what you are talking from. My work is about creating environments, if you just look at the paintings, there's a lot of that sort going on. So I felt that wanted something that was installation based in the show. For example my tag is a temple and that's a building itself. I'm a bit obsessed with something that you can walk into.

On a second level. I wanted people to  have to come in here and be able to walk away with something whether they have money or not. That's quite a nice translation for me if paint outside then you can have it, whereas if your in a gallery if you haven't got a minimum of £100 you can't walk away with any artwork.

That's why there is a sweet factory down there. And the idea is just to balance between those worlds.

The whole idea of the Stay Free was that I wanted to creatively free and outside of a gallery context. We needed a place like this  We did want to put a slide, stay free to a certain extend but heath and safety wouldn't let me. But you saw the girls giving out sweets.

JS: Who were creepy!

SB: They were a happy accident. We had asked for actors, I assumed guys. But guys in masks are much more harsh than girls. They got really into the zone of it. I didn't ask them to do it, my mum asked them to do that. I was running around with the BBC and my mum said, "alright girls what your going to do is give out sweets and freak everyone out." That's what they did!

JS: I feel like it should be asked, but the Charlie and Chocolate Factory references, obviously that is intentional, is that a big influence on you?

SB: Yeah, it is the environment. Stuff that influences you at a young age sticks with you. That was a big one and the Wizard of OZ. I just like stuff like Wizbits and the Movements and the crazy shit people come up with. Artist can get away with doing a lot of mental stuff through the medium of children’s cartoons and films. It was a bit of inspiration but I didn't want it to be really contrived.

It just to give people something tangible. I'm not trying to be overly cleaver with my work. The kids have liked it. They've sat there with their hands out for the sweets and their parents are taking it and putting it on eBay. At 9:34PM opening night a sweet and a key for the factory went up on eBay. They left the show and put it up on eBay.

JS: We blogged that you are giving away the factory, to someone with the lucky golden key? What do you think the winner will do with it?

SB: Um… that's a good point, I would like to think they are going to put in in their garden. It's difficult for me to imagine at the moment because I'm just so bewildered by the idea. A lot of people on the forms say "yeah i would love to put that in my front garden" but its as big as a house, it would block all the sunlight.

Some of the things I would like it to go to someone who didn't have house. But that's really not going to work. I would love to see it under a highway as a bit of a posh cardboard box or something like that.

My friend who suggested we should move it and have it as a workshop for a year. So there are lots of different ways to look at it. You don't have to look at as plunk it in your garden, plunk it in a field. I don't really know. Maybe I shouldn't say that.

JS: I've read a lot of interviews with you over the past week or so, and I've read the social aspect of street art is really important to you?

SB: The enjoyment you get from painting with people is great. I don't know how old the interviews you read, but in the past, in Bristol it was important for me to go and paint a wall. Go abroad and paint with you've never met. Its like a bond in a group where you are all applying yourself to a wall. Especially freestyle works with people who don't speak the same language as you. You get to communicate them through the artwork. Try to understand what the guys trying to paint next to yours and where the space is going to go. It's like your dancing on a wall.

JS: How did you get started doing street art, was it a community you began with or did you start as an individual?

SB: I do get labeled as a street artist, I don't necessarily like that. But if you are a graffiti artist then you're going to get labeled as a street artist. I didn't set out to do street art, I set out to paint graffiti. Tags, pieces, all that sort of stuff has just developed into what's known as street art. I think that's been there for longer. Before that was all based around Latin pieces. That's what what I was doing, that's what I saw as a kid.

I was just being like a creative kid. Loads of young kids want to do something more edgy than just sat doing water colors, so it worked for me. It was creative for me it just went hand and hand for me with something like, I don't know… smoking weed or whatever, I was like let's go paint a piece or do a drawing.

That's still true now. For sometime I was doing workshops with younger families, that sort of stuff. It really gels with them, because its kind of edgy but I can paint. It was great for the teamwork for these kids when they collaborate on one piece and be proud of it. I'm deviating slightly, but those things were important when I was young. I like the… not the image, I just got a good vibe from it. I use to be obsesses with it, my friend's brother did it. I would go around his house and steal all his paraphernalia, collect newspaper clippings of all the people that had been arrested and such. Like crime watch or something.

JS: Is there a big difference between doing works outside and doing an inside works like big projects like Stay Free?

SB: No, we were talking about social aspects before and when I paint I don't like to think its a really illegal thing I'm doing. A lot of the stuff I do outside doesn't have an aggressive nature to it, although I haven't had permission to do it. So when I paint I do it in the day not at night. Because I just thing fuck it, what are they going to say?

I just try to go for a positive feeling. I say, "I'm just trying to make it brighter, if you've got a problem with it then I'll paint it white again." If I paint it white then I'm painting over the racist slurs, tags or swear words that was beneath.

When you go about saying is it edgy inside or outside, its all one big thing for me.

JS: A lot of street artist or graffiti artist have a message for the random people passing by, what is that for you, both inside and out?

SB: What do I want people to get out of my work?

JS: Yeah.

SB: I don't necessarily have a big political agenda. I think a lot of people tried to pick up on after the Banksy movement. Everyone was trying to juxtaposing an image of an ice cream with a bomb or whatever. Banksy does it well but there's no point of copying, especially in graffiti, that's just a bit of a no-no.

I don't really try to adhere to any rules that's the beauty of what I've been trying to do with street art as you call it, graffiti art as I call it, whatever art. I didn't feel you had to give a big message. For me it nothing more than a positive vibe. So when you look at it, it's interesting and the colors make people happy. I've said it before on a few interviews that I just want to make some people smile. There some satire and symbolism in there   Rather than fuck Bush or whatever. Although that can look quite nice. That side just gets on my tits.

JS: You are a bit it bored with it?

SB: Yea, completely it's played out. I'm not saying that what I'm doing is any better. I think that if you just stay true to what you want to do and go into your own little zone and people like it than its a bonus. But if you look at my paintings some of them are pretty bonkers, I don't stand around and ask what people get from them.

If I really start to break down my work there are some things, but the general overall vibe is just the positive vibe.

JS: How does that vibe fit into the Stay Free show?

SB: This show isn't like a gallery it has been like a DYI show. I know that's not a ground breaking thing people have done it before. But I felt that over the last year, the graffiti/street thing has become so big. I felt that I wanted to do something that was a bit more than sticking some paintings on a wall because I know they are going to sell.

JS: Every time a street/graffiti artist enters a gallery and simply sticks paintings on the wall there is always a bit of controversy because the context of the street art is has been so obviously removed. When I first say the Stay Free exhibition I thought is this the new way for street artist to show their work in a context, because every thing in the space revolved around your art?

SB: I just took over the space, but that's something that is natural to me. I want to take over spaces and write something big in there. Given the time, I was really stretched creatively by the owner, I would have loved to painted more walls, which is difficult because it is a listed building. But I wanted to paint with a fire extinguisher write massive words on the walls.

I'm still kicking myself about some things.

JS: Do you do that with your outside works as well?

SB: No, that's easy. You do it and leave. There is a time constraint as well, you don't want to be hanging around.

You mean criticize it?

JS: Feel constantly undone?

SB: Yea, that's the thing with painting. When is it finished? You get a feeling for it. The problem with Stay Free is we are paying for the space only had five days to build it. And there was a fucking lot of work that went into it. If I had months to do it, yea it would be different.