LSD Magazine interviews Boswell

Issue Two – Booting off the Doors – 2009


Some of your work has an alien, surreal, and some would say dark quality, can you give us a bit more of an insight into the characters in your work  ?

Yeah I think the characters have an elemental and dreamlike quality. They seem to be emerging from a shadowy underworld. I enjoy an underground style to my characters they come from my imagination and are sometimes created from forms which I find pleasing; cogs, mechanical items, plant life and microscopic forms such as pollen or germs, bacteria and virus s. I think they can be paradoxical in nature as although they can look shadowy and emerging from the darkness, I also feel they can be sort of friendly and not necessarily malevolent. In some ways I think I might be communicating the idea that obvious beauty is not always a positive thing and things that are perceived as a weird or ugly in the same way are not necessarily evil. I think society pushes this perception that pretty perfect things are good and something to aspire to… and the abnormal should be pushed under the carpet or hidden away. I like to think my characters help to turn this idea on its head .Im an ambassador for the weird and wonderful.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Name is Boswell , I’ve had other pseudonyms which I wont mention here .25 years in the game and loving it more than ever. Here is a very potted history of noteworthy events in my life which may be of some significance to the Art I make. I was adopted at 6 months by my birth mothers Sister and her husband .I had a happy but somewhat alienated childhood drawing a lot of the time and an interest in archaeology collecting fossils with my father at the coast. I was dragged under a car aged 12  and spent 6 months at home away from school …it was a near death experience which my mother says changed my outlook on life during this period I got into comics in a big way and started to listen to Punk Rock.I learned a few chords on the guitar and joined a band .Been playing in bands on and off ever since . I got into graffiti quite late compared to most in my late teens ..and its been a constant in my life to the present day.

What is your artistic background?

I am completely self-taught. I’ve drawn all my life and in some ways my most productive period was in childhood. I did some album covers for techno pioneers: Eat Static and that helped to push illustration skills and techniques. Being into graffiti and painting walls has been the thing that pushed me most.


How do you feel about the transient nature of street art?

The transience is part of the appeal and beauty of street art. It’s like a channel of communication outside the control of the government and the powers that be. I see graff like lichen that attaches itself to surfaces and just grows, layering up and constantly evolving .Its not meant to last forever, I get photos for the archive and that’s the best I can hope for, its great if something runs for a good time but if it goes it goes and that’s it, I dont get too hung up about it. It seems like today theres not enough wall space and too many painters, so stuff is gonna get gone over. Having said that when I started out there were rules about” going over” it was: go over my piece with some thing more spectacular and I cant really say shit but if you drop a throw up over a burner then that’s just an insult…this unwritten code of conduct seems to have gone out the window these days , which is a shame .

Why the streets?

I’ve always enjoyed the alternative canvas of the streets, abandoned warehouses, factories etc. the environment around me brings a lot more to the work and I react to it as opposed to working on a canvas at home which can lack atmosphere and be sterile.  I think the canvas itself needs to be inspiring or its placement in the environment is also very important …the work becomes part of everyday life , interacts with it and with the public who see it …this all part of the process for me …knowing that Ive left something behind which remains when Ive gone is a buzz.

What outside of art influences your imagery?

I guess nature and the world in general influences the work,  heres  some off the top of my head : animals, plants, faces ,emotions, weather, chemicals, microscopic forms, pain, rock forms trees, swamps ,birds ,rain, storms, love, hate, hands, war, peace, happiness, sadness, sex, noise, machines, technology, genetics, mutation, music, death, humans, all these things and more…

What does collaboration with other artists mean to you? the pros and cons.

I’ve collaborated a lot with other artists and continue to do so, mainly with members  of my old crew; S.O.F: Vermin and Pen. I’ve always viewed collaborations like  being in a band and creating a  track in a  visual way…each artist acting  like a cog in a machine with a singular mission of creating a piece that works as a whole .I think our approach is  to a different from a lot of other graff writers, a lot of them tend to concentrate on their own pieces with the backgrounds being secondary. When we work together the background is very important  , a strong atmosphere is needed to get the piece working from the off, it sets the tone and mood of the piece. Sometimes it can cause some confusion in the viewer  as to whos done what in the piece but apart from that collaborating with other artists is usually positive. Recently Ive done collaborations with Cheo & Turo old school Bristol  legends  and  they came out great, the one with Cheo was interesting as we both have seemingly opposing styles, his characters being a fair  bit cuter and happier looking I guess than my stuff which tends to be darker and swampier ….could have been a bad collision but it pulled of a treat and had great contrast. That’s the thing with collaborations you never know what your gonna get and on large walls I think it helps to have a few styles interacting with each other as one style all over can look too much of one thing.


Do you have a Philosophy?

Not sure, but as a way of looking at the world Im interested in evolution and mutation ,the way that life is always changing, nothing is static , everything is in a state of flux and everything is moving all of the time. We live in an unstable universe.

What Impact do you feel your art has?

Ah tricky one this…I never really know as people only tend to say positive things .I have managed to provoke some angry responses a couple of times from people who said it was too dark to put out into the community and scaring their children , they said as a public artist I should do something neutral and non challenging. I reckon it probably does a few heads in here and there maybe within the Graff community, as it tends to be more off-key than a lot of other stuff. I like to think it challenges convention within the Graffiti scene .I guess some of my work can be viewed as weird and surreal I am happy with this  as I reckon it brings back some of the shock factor that Graff once had  or the” What The Fuck factor “ is a better way of putting it .I remember when seeing a piece of Graffiti was a rarity ,walking round a corner and discovering a piece was like wow !w.t.f? now its everywhere its lost a lot of its impact in my opinion ,so maybe Im bringing a bit of that feeling back by dropping more off-key stuff. Although having said that Id be dropping this kind of stuff whatever as Im quite an off-key person.

Where is the line between street art and vandalism?

An interesting debate this one…..I will try my best to articulate my views…..firstly I think it is a matter of taste , Im always hearing the classic line: ”I like the good stuff but I hate all the shit tagging ”I think this view which is very common with people outside the scene needs to be reassessed .I respond to this by saying: what if you only had good stuff done by masters all over the place? That would look contrived and pretty boring I reckon .The chaos and messiness of graff is what appeals to me in a lot of ways .All the tagging, pieces ,stencils, pasteups  and any other means of getting up are all valid in my view and I can enjoy a well executed tag as much as a burner. Secondly choice of surface and location is a big issue, I mean if someone hits a wall in an abandoned factory or a trackside that dosnt seem as bad as hitting a listed building or an ancient monument for instance. In the eyes of the law hitting up on any surface which dosnt belong to you and without the owners permission is considered vandalism and illegal ,artists should employ common sense and a certain sense of morality here I think. I believe certain surfaces in the environment are fair game like those green telecom boxes you get on every street, why not paint those things up? they are boring street furniture that we all have to live with…also buildings that have been neglected by their owners and bring the area down… that’s more like a subtle, slow vandalism  by the owner who dosnt care what effect their neglect is having on an area. Paint these places up improve the area with art. At the end of the day Im not gonna judge anyone who feels an urge to hit any surface …if they feel they want to do it they should do it and be prepared for the consequences. In Bristol Banksys work is not considered vandalism  anymore as it brings tourism and ultimately money to the city ,but on the flip side a tag by someone else unkown next to a Banksy is considered vandalism , this kind of hypocrisy is tying the authorities in knots at the moment, they don’t know how to deal with it and its showing them up to be the money grabbing hypocrites we all know they are.


Where do you think the street art movement came from and why has there been such an explosion?

The obvious first point of reference would be the book Subway Art and the first wave of hip hop that was packaged and delivered to the world in the early 80s.That book had such an impact on me and probably millions of others around the world at that time… was an artform that came from the roots up ,with a DIY ethic that was outside the bourgeois elitist artworld , true outsider art in its raw state.The pictures of all those beautiful trains blew me away and I was hooked, I guess it was the same for many others. After the train scene in NY died out it all seemed to go flat for a few years but there were pockets of people that carried on and NY inspired graff cropped up in all corners of the world. These graff is massive , I never thought it could get this big  even in small market towns you can find maybe 30 or 40 writers active.Its just everywhere. I guess it’s the anyone can have a go DIY mentality that makes it appealing to so many .Its like vehicle of expression that you can stamp your own identity onto. In an increasingly globalised world being forced into one way of thinking and operating by the forces of democracy and capitalism .Graffiti or street art can be a way of reacting against this by promoting and nurturing identity and culture.


Issue Two – Booting off the Doors – 2009