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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

torontoist interviews anser

Torontoist: Did you start [drawing the faces] last year? Or were you doing it long before then?

Anser: I've been doing traditional graffiti for a really long time. Then I had a fall out where I wasn't into it. I wasn't really appreciating it as much—I still liked it, but it just wasn't me. And I had a bit of an epiphany after a while: I realized graffiti itself is very elitist...it's only meant for people within the graffiti culture to really participate. And after a while I just felt like, it's in the public realm, why not involve the rest of the public? Especially because graffiti gets such a bad rap because of that: people fear what they don't understand, and they don't really understand graffiti....I just felt like I wanted to put a friendly face on graffiti; that was the whole idea, basically, and I wanted to involve the whole public. I didn't want to just be another graffiti artist. And that's why I chose to do all these faces in spray paint, so that [the public] could see the medium, still see the link to graffiti, but all of a sudden say, "Wait, that's not a jumble of letters that I can't understand. It's a face. It's looking at me." And half the time it might be smiling.

[The faces] blew up this time last year. I started two years ago, but I didn't have the balls: once you stop doing it and you're out of the scene, and you try to get back in, it is fucking hard. It is shit-your-pants type shit, 'cause it's not easy under pressure to just bust anything out. I think that's one of the funniest things, when I get criticism for how a face might look. I just think it's hilarious because, I mean, give them a spray can, tell them in ten seconds to get a face done, and they'll see how the proportions go.

What was the first one you did?

The first one I did was overseas. I was travelling, and I was just painting with a bunch of friends. All of a sudden I just looked at the bombs they were doing, and I felt like standing out. And I don't even know where the fuck it came from. I just did an eye all of a sudden, and then another line led to an eye, and because I was trying to do it fast they would all turn into one line, and that was the start of it. It's kinda funny, though, because when I think about it, if everybody in the graffiti world did characters I'd probably be doing letters. But half the reason I'm doing the characters is because I want to stand out. I want people to notice [graffiti] in a different light.

I also noticed you don't tag your name, really, ever.

I try not to.

The brand is more the actual style of what you're doing, right?

Exactly. I kinda wanted it to be like that; I wanted people to recognize the face and not think, "Oh there's a whole other person behind this." It's like the face is the thing.

Is the [fundraising] logic behind putting it on t-shirts, too? Like "I'm gonna make some money for my friends and some for myself?"

That's not completely it; that incorporates another form of graffiti, which is advertising. The more people that have that shirt, the more people notice the face, the more it'll get out there.

And you want that.

I do kinda want that. But I wanted [the face known] more in the context of the streets, because I'm really trying to be the bridge between street art and graffiti, and I'm trying to get people to look at how it's not so scary.

I almost think of street art and graffiti not as two separate things but as sort of the same...

Oh, they're totally separate, they're totally separate. I mean you look at the mediums that they use. Street art to me is the more artistic, the more easy-to-access side of graffiti. Graffiti really is a totally different cultural phenomenon that people are participating in.

Like having a huge tag on a wall is more graffiti...

Oh, that is graffiti. And someone who does an amazing image and puts it on a poster and posts it up—that's street art. It's having a dialogue with a total different medium, total different people, total different space. And to be honest, I agree more with street art.

And that's why you moved a bit from graffiti to street art...

But I love graffiti. So that's why I'm in between these two boundaries. Personally, I do do some postering, I do do some other forms of street art. But really, I think the thing that attracts me so much to graffiti is that it's a moment in time that is a moment of creation, where you have to step to this spot, you have no time to think, you have no time to go "okay, this line's gotta go this way, and I have to make sure that this is perfect"...you have to just boom [snaps fingers] and do it. And that is why I think a lot of graffiti artists can't appreciate street art—because you're removing that instantaneous creation.

Because of all the prep work, right?

Yeah, exactly. It's like you're sitting at home and you made this amazing drawing, sure, and then you just went to the spot, you go buh-buh-buh-buh-buh, and it's on the wall, instead of you actually creating it there. And that's one of the reasons why I do the faces, because it's still using that tool of creating in the spot, which to me is a very very valid art form.

For the full interview go here.A Mysterious Date With Anser runs until February 21 at Funktion Gallery (1244 Bloor Street West), with a student discount for pieces on the final day.