For THE SOAK UP episode 9 from Venus & the Cat we sought a few choice words from street art legend Eye-Saw. Check out his banging new website here.
VATC: Did you grow up in Colchester? Is it covered in early tags? Did your surroundings have any impact on you becoming an artist?
Eye-Saw: Yes born & bred Essex boy... As far as graffiti is concerned there is not much of a scene here. A handful of old-school writers... There's still a couple of old tags from back in the day still going strong lol
VATC: You’ve been going now for around 20 years. What have you seen change in that time, in your work, around you, the scene, other artists?
Eye-Saw: I have definitely seen it become more mainstream and more accepted. There wasn’t such things as street art festivals when I very first started. I remember painting at the first upfest in a pub beer garden with about 15 artists, now it’s one of the biggest street art festivals with over 250 artist from around the world.
VATC: The Aliens you painted on the Bow Flyover many years ago had the moniker “I Saw”, but you were already going by “Eye Saw” at the time. Was it a play on words or were you still settling on your identity?
Eye-Saw: Yeah, a bit of a play on words... I'm dyslexic... lol. I used to write ISAW or SAW when I was a graffiti writer before I transitioned to being more of a street artist. Plus, it would have meant painting two more aliens... lol
VATC: Whatever happened to the Eye Saw character?
Eye-Saw: Not sure. He went AWOL
VATC: For someone discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your work?
Eye-Saw: Rebellious... lol. Currently I have a new concept that I'm working hard to develop. It’s based on the idea of there being a “GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM”. My work has always had some sort of underlining political statement or subliminal message attached. I want my work to question the status quo. I encourage the viewer to also question the meaning or the intent of the work. Currently I'm experimenting with freehand graffiti cartoon characters with some sort of twist to them. I'm trying to paint them to look like they are glitched (a glitch in the matrix)… lol.
I like to think my street work is helping “GLITCH THE SYSTEM”.
VATC: Your talent is diverse – graff, fine art, abstract, graphic design and so on – not many artists can turn their hands to so many styles at such a level of quality. Was there any formal education behind this, or was it all self-taught?
Eye-Saw: I studied graphic design. I had a brief career as a freelance designer. I'd get excited by customers’ briefs and would come up with amazing solutions and ideas, but that was it. I didn’t actually like doing the work to see the ideas to completion... also, I’m not keen on being told what to do.
Art has always been my passion. To me it’s just more free. Plus, I don’t have anyone to answer to, which suits me fine. I like to push myself and have always been looking for my own unique style or my own identity as an artist, hence the reason I have explored so many different types of painting or ways of producing art. For an artist it is like finding the holy grail, that distinguishable style that makes your work stand out or sets it apart from others. It’s taken nearly 20 years for me to finally find myself as an artist and a style I'm happy to call my own... after the GLITCH THE SYSTEM concept came to me it’s like something just clicked into place. I now have a concept and my own unique style which has reignited my passion. I actually feel unstoppable at the moment... I’m very excited for the future.
VATC: Is there an artistic streak in the family that has reached you?
VATC: Have you stopped doing stencil work for now?
Eye-Saw: No. I still use stencils, mainly in the studio to produce canvases and prints etc. I never rule out any technique. There's a time and place for everything. I produce work by any means necessary.
VATC: Of all your artistic disciplines, do you have a favourite?
Eye-Saw: I love it all, from developing ideas in photoshop on the computer, cutting stencils, print making, freehand graffiti, fine art oil or acrylic brush on canvas... even been playing with short Digital clips using emojis to promote a message or idea... The only thing I really hate, which I believe every artist does, is packing artwork for shipping... lol
VATC: There’s a clear political discourse in much of your work. Is art a way of expressing your opinions on the world?
Eye-Saw: Yes 100%. It’s my platform to express myself.
VATC: Is it also important just to have some fun?
Eye-Saw: 100%. That’s what I love about painting in the street, people you meet conversations you have etc.
VATC: What is street art’s wider role in society?
Eye-Saw: Art’s subjective... but for me right now it’s the GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM...
VATC: Has there ever been a time you’ve felt like giving up? If so, what kept you going?
Eye-Saw: I have had breaks but never quit. I always come back to it, it’s part of me. Art has always been in my life. It’s never let me down...
VATC: What was the graff influence in your early days?
Eye-Saw: 1980s NYC train graffiti, DONDI, SEEN, COPE2, films like wild style, Subway Art by Martha Cooper
VATC: Who are some of the artists that most inspired you?
Eye-Saw: Old school 80s graff writers, Banksy, I love Adam Neate’s work (fun fact, we were actually childhood friends - I went to school with him until the age of 11), the greats like Picasso, Warhol.... there’s so many.
VATC: Are there any significant life experiences that inform your work?
Eye-Saw: Mainly the injustices of the world, power, greed, the human condition, advertising.... to name a few.
VATC: Do you like to make anyone in particular proud with your work?
Eye-Saw: No. I do it purely for myself... I'm not trying to please anyone, although my two kids are my number one fans and think it’s cool Dad’s an artist lol
VATC: Are you done with bus stops?
Eye-Saw: Never say never
VATC: What should we expect to see next?
Eye-Saw: Glitched bus stop adverts... LOL
VATC: Is there a burning artistic ambition that you’ve yet to fulfil?
Eye-Saw: Yes, possibly a show in 2022
VATC: What/where in the world would be your dream mural space?
Eye-Saw: Don’t really have a dream location as such... but I would like to travel and start painting large scale around the world
VATC: Describe your mind in one word
Eye-Saw: Genius, mess… that’s two words. I gave you one for free
VATC: What advice would you give to an 18-year old you?
Eye-Saw: Borrow loads of money and invest in the property market... lol
VATC: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Eye-Saw: Don’t eat yellow snow
VATC: If you had the world’s attention for 30 seconds, what would you say?
Eye-Saw: Quit complaining, turn off your TV, radio and social media and go live your life, no fucks given
VATC: Who would play you in a movie about your life? And what would it be called?
Eye-Saw: Tom Hardy, just so the women watch...lol. It would be called GLITCH THE SYSTEM