This is a kinda oldish interview with INSA that was originally from a different, long since dead publication and it seemed a shame to leave it gathering dust so, with his permission, here it is again. INSA is a stalwart of the UK graffiti scene. Often careering around Europe with either the Monorex Secret Wars or doubling up with the likes of Inkie to paint vast pieces,he’s no stranger to painting images of sexy ladies and his signature ‘INSA high heels’ have been seen all around the world.
Didn’t you start out as a tagger mainly?
My graff life started with tagging-yeah. Though I was always drawing pieces at the same time I just wasn’t good enough to paint them then so tagging was the quicker fix.
You’re probably most famous for your heel designs – how did that start?
Sounds funny to put it down to a precise moment, but I was holding a pair of high heels one day and saw it made an awesome S, so went on to do pieces spelling out INSA in heels. I was also doing lots of contour line drawings mainly on my letter pieces but some characters and bodies too – I loved the 3D effect you could get. It was like in direct contrast to a lot of the shady fading stuff I was doing – just flat bold lines. Some of the earlier curvier line stuff I was doing I started to add heels and it reminded me of Hans Belmar’s work, an artist I had always been a fan of since doing art at school, and liked the notion of referencing a more classical artist in my graffiti rather than following the set formulas that existed in graffiti.
When did you decide to get involved with designing for brands and companies?
At my first solo exhibition of artwork I was approached by OKI NI asking if I wanted to design some clothing. I have always been into exploring new creative outlets and the idea of people wearing my artwork was great, so I designed my first clothing with them.
Do you get any negativity about your embracing big brands and working for them?
I don’t really get any direct negativity, but I know there is probably plenty of bitching and moaning in the graff world as it’s full of so many narrow minded attitudes. I do wanna say though that I don’t just embrace big brands in general. Just a few selected projects that have seemed like good opportunities to me.
One of the main ethos’ behind graffiti is the whole getting your name up in front of as many people as possible. So working with someone like Nike you’re totally doing that at another level aren’t you?
Yeah. I have always seen the collabs and special projects I’ve done as a way of getting my name out to a wider audience. But it’s more than just getting them to know my name – I see it as an introduction and hope people come to my blog and see all the other stuff I’ve been doing. So even if it is just product it comes back to my artwork being the most important thing. It is another level to graff though – like on this NIKE project they played the animation I painted on loop in the big window of NIKETOWN on Oxford Circus and that is a reach! There’s no way you’re gonna get a tag or throw up there that would last longer than a day so it is next level exposure.
You’ve been in the graffiti game for a while now – how’s it changed since you started out?
Well loads has changed- the fact it’s a complete packaged lifestyle now. It’s so easy to pick up, buy all the right tools. It seems so boring to me these days – like people just pick the random choice of letters for their name and then pick a style to imitate. Also now it seems very divided like you either bomb or do trains or do walls – when I was a kid the idea of a writer was someone that did all of it.
Where’s your favourite place to paint?
In another country, in the sun in a fairly busy city.
What do you think of east London’s graffiti scene?
Possibly a bit incestuous, I mean that only of the people that have lived and died their graffiti career just on the streets of east London. I do like the fact you see a lot of graff in the area – writers from all over London and other countries get up as it’s such an easy place to get up.
Do you run with any crews or groups?
I have painted with and get on with plenty of the writers that live and work in the area but don’t really run with any one set crew – I enjoy doing my own thing and having my work seen as an individual thing.
Are there too many scenesters or try hard wannabe’s doing it in east London?
Hell yes! Have you seen some of the shit that gets put up in the area?? Though I’m not keen on calling people out or bitching in interviews so let’s leave it there.
A lot of folk fancy being the next Banksy don’t they?
Yes – so boring- why be the next someone else??
Which other artists work are you into at the moment?
I love both the pieces and art stuff that ROID is doing right now and a lot of the other MSK stuff both here and in the states. I’m really into the work of El Mac and RETNA. I don’t know why I have just named writers here – I am into so many artists work that I see.
What new stuff have you got lined up?
Always onwards and upwards – hopefully I have a few shows in some far flung parts of the world. Keep checking www.insaland.com/blog to see what’s next.