Lady Aiko

Japanese street artist Lady Aiko works in all kinds of media, did an apprenticeship at Takashi Murakami’s Brooklyn studio and is a street art legend worldwide. I had a chat with her when she was in the UK for a show in Brighton.

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Hey Lady Aiko, how’s it going?
I’m in Brighton for my new show – it’s really nice here, such a good vibe. Even though I’m really jet lagged, quite sleepy, every day has been so productive, I’m loving it.

Can you tell us about what we’ll find at your ink-d gallery show? I hear you’ll be hand finishing screen prints as we watch?
It’s really exciting you know, the mix of the old and the new. The oldest piece in the show dates back from 2007, just after I became solo. So I suppose it’s almost like a retrospective in a way. The largest canvas is 91 x 91cm. If you come to the show you will find canvases, spray cans, collage, unique and original work. Yeah, I have done a really limited edition for the show, it’s not the smallest edition that I have ever done but it’s really special. Because the Japanese festival is happening here at the same time of my show, I have created a traditional motif with a very Japanese feel. I think it’s beautiful as it is but when I hand finish the prints they will be even more so. I know what I will be doing to the prints but you will have to come to the show to find out!

You use everything from spray paint and stencils to coffee stains and wood when you paint. Do you decide before you start what you’re going to use or do these things just happen? (and have you ever just accidentally spilled your coffee and just gone “Meh, that looks good, I’ll leave it”)
Both actually, I love to work with found objects and this obviously involves an element of chance, although I also plan ahead too sometimes. I try to find cool textures, for example I’ve found the most amazing old Asian fan in shop here in the Lanes, totally by chance. I’m so excited about it as it will add a really special feel to this show, some local character?

You’ve collaborated with some absolutely amazing artists early in their careers, such as Murakami, Faile and Banksy – are there any experiences from your time working with them that have impacted on your own work? 
To be honest, working with each of these artists has always been by accident really! I wasn’t really thinking at the time…’Oh I’m working with Murakami’, it was just us, sitting around, talking. We had a real bond, we were really good friends (you have to remember at the time there was no internet so we always had to meet in ‘real life’ not socially, life was so much more spontaneous)… people always ask but it was just so normal. Looking back, I’ve kind of realised that guys like to have girls around, we make them look good but I decided it was time to go alone and make myself look good! I appreciated those times, I was surrounded by the most amazing artists, I learnt so much, including how to communicate with people etc.

When you were commissioned to paint the legendary Keith Haring Wall on the Bowery in Manhattan in 2012 did you feel the pressure of all of New York to do something good? It’s a number 1 spot for an artist to paint right?
Yeah, it was totally monumental for me. It made me think, it must be my time? For years, that wall had always gone to guys. I waited to paint it for three years. I got the call, and I called my girlfriends as I wanted to make it a ‘female only’ wall! I called five of my good girlfriends, from the girl whose does my nails to Martha Cooper (the legendary photographer). There were loads of people watching and I think they really appreciated the fact that there were all these girls working away, it  bought a new vibe to the mural scene. We did the wall, I felt honoured.

Where can we see more of your work?
You can see my work in fancy galleries all over the world but you can also see my work in unknown streets in many different cities including Africa, Europe and Asia.

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