An interview with Andrew McAttee by Cedric Bardawil

Cedric Bardawil: How did you go from graffiti into studio work, and when did this transition take place?

Andrew McAttee: My transformation from graffiti artist to fine artist began to take shape when I was studying at Central Saint Martin’s between 1992 and 1995. During this period I would paint graffiti on walls whilst creating more accepted forms of art on canvas at college, this is also when I developed my knowledge of art and art history.

CB: How has your style evolved, and where does your inspiration come from?

AM: I think my style has become much more graphic over the years, there has also been some influence from Marvel and DC comic books. I was looking at a painting from 5 years ago and the first thing that struck me was how pure it was in comparison to my latest work which is loaded with the text and various other elements.

CB: What does your studio mean to you?

AM: My studio is my lifeline, it’s where I make my living. It also defines me as a person, it is the center from which I project myself out to a wider public. I love concept that you can make things that people want to look at without needing to be there to answer for them.

CB: Your early work was figurative in relation to the abstract paintings you are currently producing, how did you make that change?

AM: My early work with Elms Lesters was figurative and filled with social statements. I would take ideas from many sources: the news, films, society and mentally paste my ideas together, I never did sketches. Looking back I think some of the work was hard to take in and I guess that’s why I moved on.

CB: How does your painting process work, and how long does the process take?

AM: My work is increasingly laborious, making one painting takes between 4-5 weeks from start to finish and sometimes even longer. It’s the outcome that counts, no one is interested in how much effort you put into something, they just want to see if it’s good.

CB: Do your pieces surprise you?

AM: My work does surprise me from time to time, in that you can never completely pin down a painting before you start. It pulls you along too.

CB: Do you find relaxation in creating your work?

AM: I don’t really find the process of making my work relaxing, it takes a lot of commitment to make one piece and because of this you have to get into the mode of working. You have to say no when the sun is shining like everyone else who goes to work. But I do have a work ethic and once I’m in the zone there is a flow to be enjoyed.

CB: Does anyone help you with your painting?

AM: No, no one helps me with my work, I think I’m too much of a control freak for that to happen.

CB: What are the reoccurring themes in your work?

AM: The reoccurring themes are explosions. I like the way an explosion pulls you in and pushes you out at the same time.

CB: Do you use any digital assistance in order to render and produce your images?

AM: Like most of the work I have done over the years, I don’t employ the use of computers to make it. People have said that when they first discovered my work they though that it looked computer generated. It’s all done by hand, but I quite like it appearing to be computer generated. We are of the digital age so I guess that means my work feels current.

CB: What does your art express?

AM: I think most people believe my work expresses optimism. It has also been dubbed (in the past) as expressive pop. I sometimes think of my work as imaginative events deep in space or as life imagined inside an atom.

CB: Have you always used bold colours in your work?

AM: I have always been attracted to bold colours, it goes back to my earliest memories of seeing graffiti. I guess this is where my pallet emanates from; the chemical colour spectrum of the spray can, hence the super bubble gum appearance present in my work.

CB: Can you tell us about the new print you are working on for Something in the Attic?

AM: The new print I’m working on for Something in the Attic is a suggestive, open ended image. Ohhhhmy! or Ohhhh My! stops short of either Ohhhh My God! or Ohhhh My Love! I think because of the general impact in my work most viewers will be provoked into thinking the former, but I like the idea that the viewer is invited to make up their own mind. I believe that the print I’m producing will bring something a little different from the prints currently available. I am working with flat, bold, primary colours; my aim is that the image will have a more traditional American Pop edge to it.

CB: Do you consider yourself a street artist?

AM: There are aspects to my work that are clearly representative of my past as a graffiti artist. The fact that I use spray paint and my command of it has been built up over many years of practice. I think there is something stylised about my work that makes some people feel a sense of graffiti, but I am definitely not a pure street artist, for number of reasons. If you consider what street art is in it’s truest expression, I don’t think I fit. Street artist’s apply a degree of what they do in public and to do so often adopt a pseudonym that hides their real identity, I dropped my tag (STET) when I began to work in the studio.

CB: What is next for you?

AM: As for whats next, I don’t feel as though I have made it in any significant way, so I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on. No one really knows how long they have in the creative world but one can certainly tap into the possibilities of tomorrow.

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