This week we had a chat with Xenz about one of the upcoming exclusive editions being released as part of our exhibit at Moniker Art Fair this May, ‘To Catch a Butterfly’. Excited doesn’t quite express just how hyped we are about this heart-stoppingly beautiful giclee edition! Made up of only 30 prints, every single one is hand-finished by Xenz with dripped aerosol to combine the masterful painterly work with his true passion and history as one of the UK’s most respected street artists. Get excited people, not long to go now!
- You grew up in Hull and started your career in street art in its warehouses – were you inspired by your city in the same way that other graffiti artists all over the world were?
When we started doing it it was just something fun and different to do, a bit like breakdancing, BMX and skateboarding, but we just preferred the graffiti because we had a lot of wall space.
At the time the influences were all from New York and LA. Graffiti became our past time and it kind of bonded us as more than just friends. Our hometown wasn’t such an influence more than it had lots of derelict warehouses which we painted in. We developed our own ways of doing it because we were only really doing it for our entertainment we always bounced ideas together to be painted in the future, this developed our styles and approach to the artwork we still to this day work with the same process.
- Your work doesn’t conform to the more traditional version of graffiti/street art that most people associate with the medium, have you always painted like this?
I’m just a painter, I let the paint do its job. I’m more into painting than the idea of all city domination with my tag but I still see my work as something that comes from the graffiti scene it’s just evolved into this strange dreamy enchanted forest.
When I do walls I often work with my crew and I always do the backgrounds. So that is how my work is probably taken differently. It all requires the same skills to produce but it’s about what you enjoy I suppose. I also feel it’s important to do your own thing!
- You capture the movement and expression of animals (particularly birds) so well, do you ever paint from pictures or real life scenarios?
I prefer to work from memory or real life. I’d always paint sky’s and clouds as backgrounds because the sky was always a point of reference. Then this is how the birds came into it. It’s more about creating atmosphere and depth. We invented cameras to create photo realistic pictures, I believe painting should be expressive.
I think observation comes in many forms: photos, videos, real-life experience and stories it’s about how to get that essence. Make a painting feel alive.
- Your works seem to be reminiscent of both Japanese Edo period prints and also Van Gogh’s later colourful work (inspired by his own experience of Japanese art) Do you ever find inspiration in other places outside of the street art community?
When I’m painting I usually draw on lots of different influences, but I do enjoy the contrasts. I like to try and create delicate work using all the marks usually associated with vandalism, chaos and control destruction and creation. That’s what drives my work.
- Aerosol has been such a huge part of your career in terms of medium, so what makes you excited to see your artwork in print?
I try to combine the mark making and details like the little birds that I do in my murals within designs for prints. Working directly with the printer trying to give the handmade feeling every time.
Making editions of works gives people a chance to get close to my process and aesthetics. I often make a print that is essentially an original in its own right, because all the marks and drawings are only done specifically for the print. It’s an almost sculptural process of painting working in layers and creating multiples.
- You will be releasing two brand new editions with Nelly Duff at Moniker, ‘To Catch a Butterfly’, a hand-finished XL giclee print – and ‘Wish Tree’ a hand finished silk-screen, what sets these aside from previous releases for you?
The Giclee is bigger and focuses more on my drip paintings, capturing the spring blossom. The silk-screen combines layers of paint spills and drips with an ink painting of small tree it’s about how you can create something beautiful from almost nothing at all…