Driven by an unrelenting nomadicism that echoes the ephemeral essence of street art itself, Above is driving the power of art as a way of life ever deeper into international consciousness and the global landscape.Monumental wordplay’s up to 100 metres long, site specific subversion’s slamming into straight up heists, raw, charged stencils and the circumnavigating arrows juddering out of walls in electric colour all sizzle in his perpetual wake. Oscillating between the abstract, the sociopolitical, the elementally human and the wry conceptual flicks writ giant, Above is on a serious mission. Skewering injustice on a grand scale from the diamond dealers of South Africa to the bespoke suited, Wall Street pimps of industry, when he goes – he goes BIG. Denial may be an option. Ignoring him….not so much. Sticking a massive indictment of blood diamonds up on the wall of the biggest diamond exporter in the Southern hemisphere – just class. Chiseled by the endless road, windswept into new cycles of ideas and shaped by a constant flow of experience, Above lives his life firmly outside the box and that spirit – that dynamism, bursts unyielding out of his art. From the arrows that became his trademark, pushing ever higher to the vibrant funk of his dancers to the imprinted words sculpted from paint, concrete and restless neurons, he is always pushing for the next epic piece, the next slippery idea trapped in a vice of expression. We managed to catch up.
How much do your nomadicism and the ephemeral nature of street art feed back into each other.
Well I am nomadic and constantly traveling due to that simple fact you just stated; that art left in the streets is ephemeral and not permanent. Say I’ve been to London putting up lots of street works in 2010. Everyday thereafter the works start to decay, get buffed, stolen, crossed out or if lucky actually survive to live another day. If I return to London in 2012 I might not find any of my street actions still on the street so it evokes me to return, and to take it a step farther and keep spreading the circle of my artworks in new cities and countries around the world. Time makes things grow old so for me I feel it’s important to keep my feet moving and my hands busy making artworks.
How much does the arrow represent a personal journey and how much is it just a great template for street work
The arrow symbol for me is a constant reminder for me to ‘Rise Above’ my challenges, adversities and keep pushing myself. I have high ambitions and with those high ambitions comes equal if not more challenges. If the road to ‘success’ was easy then everyone could do it, so the arrow symbol and desire to push through difficult situations and keep persevering. The arrow as an icon is quick, easy to digest and understood regardless of what country I am in. It’s one of the oldest symbols known to man and if you think about it on your day to day life you probably see an arrow symbol some 100+ times per day. I enjoy a great deal traveling so the journey and more over the process of the journey are all the excitingly random aspects I enjoy.
I have always aimed towards having my artworks be as site specific as possible. Whether it be a hung arrow, a word play painting, or a full colour stencil it’s important for me to connect and relate the piece to either the city, country or particular environment it’s painted on. For instance the most recent wordplay I did was in Johannesburg, South Africa on the exterior of the southern hemispheres largest diamond exporter. Since I decided to travel to Johannesburg to make a wordplay statement that was social and political against the illegal and unjust blood diamond trade the enables African wars. I hijacked the wall as I had permission to paint “ Diamonds are a woman’s best friend” but I lied to them and added “…and a man’s worst enemy!” This piece would not have had the impact if it were not site specific and executed in the manner done. So to answer your question, yes travels keep my mind and imagination active to incorporate as much as possible the current global, social and political events partaking in that specific city and country.
How aware were you of the Occupy movements as they developed – and how much did they inspire you to get involved however you could.
I had first heard and knew about the Occupy movements in early October, 2011. I was in San Francisco and leaving for Miami the next day. On the plane flight I read an article in the San Francisco chronicle that was very informative. 1 week later already in Miami I searched for a creative spin on some ideas I had and furthermore the wall which I could manifest this idea. As time went on the numbers and mainstream attention of the Occupy movement grew immensely to a worldwide issue. Cities from all around the world were experiencing protest, marches and upheaval from the citizens. Like the previous question answered I aim to make my street works current, social and political so the occupy movement was a great platform to make a bold statement.
Have bankers hung themselves or did everyone else get hung but them.
Well seeing how the appropriated proverb usually goes: Give a fool enough rope and he’ll eventually hang himself.” I reckon that it’s the banker that hung himself.
I determine it by how many letters it has. No just fucking around, I try to feel how to best communicate and represent the sentiment and message I’m wanting to convey. If a figurative gesture, or image of a person can convey this message then I will choose to paint something in a figurative form. If I don’t feel I can properly deliver this message then I will literally S-P-E-L-L- I-T O-U-T in hopes that the viewer knows how to read?!
How much do you find a location to fit the work and how much does a location inspire an idea.
Like any real estate owner will tell you it’s all about the 3 L’s. Location, Location, Location.
In street work – where is the balance between making people use their imagination and making something clear enough to impact someone’s understanding as they walk past.
It’s a balance for sure, a balance I have fun trying to conquer. Situations change and so does the balance point. It’s challenging as I see things naturally from my perspective. I must take a step out of myself and imagine you the viewer and try and decide if I should leave room for imagination or literally make it so visible that even a blind person could see it.
Quite honestly I really enjoy being alone. However 98.7% of the time I travel I have a friend(s) waiting for me to arrive to their city. I’ve been extremely fortunate (and want to take this time to thank all of you who have welcomed me into your home) to have a large network of friends, crazies, junkies, thieves, and suits so I’m fortunate to have local company showing me their city when I arrive.
How important is movement in your stencil figure.
That depends on what I’m trying to convey. With the recent large dancer works in Miami it was crucial. In my opinion dancers stenciled or painted on a wall with no movement is like painting a hummingbird on a wall with it’s wings visible, It just doesn’t make sense.
How does reaction to your work vary across the world – and do you stick around long enough to find out.
I really don’t know most of the time as I usually spend most of the time in the city walking the streets, brainstorming then conceptualizing the piece. After
What are your current projects.
Just flew from South Africa to here in Melbourne, Australia for an ambitious solo show of mine opening in July.
How optimistic are you about the health of the world we live in;