If you’ve lived in London longer than half an hour then you will definitely have seen one of street artist A.CE‘s post ups. Using figures from popular culture to devastating effect, his work has become engrained in the London landscape.
Graffiti opened up to you through skating but do you remember when you first saw wheat pasting?
I guess that would have been around the mid to late 90’s, similar time really, being a skater and just generally out and about on the streets seeing things beyond tags and stickers, in London and Brighton mostly.. I remember a great London Police pasteup down the lanes in Brighton above a wicked little shop called Jello. and them probably anyone who was moving in the pre ‘Finders Keepers’ circles. Also, Lodown magazine was one of the first places I remember being aware of what Shepard Fairey, Dave Kinsey and the like were doing. Things were much sparser then. The quality was great too. Output seemed a little more considered and the impact seemed greater because there was just less of it.
What made you think “I’m gonna do some paste ups” – was it the speed and fact you can pre-prepare?
Speed is going to appeal to anyone putting anything up in the streets. I love graffiti but I actually thought it was becoming a bit like background noise – it’s just where my head was at. It’s fair to say the good stuff jumps out. Or maybe it’s just a style that I like and look out for; something that goes against the same look that i’ve become so used to and bored of seeing. You only have to look at someone like Oker to see my point. You can put a shit pasteup in amongst some decent graffiti and actually the public might warm towards the pasteup – they can relate to it. Maybe it’s easier to like. It was a cheap medium and a way of putting more out than just the generic tags. I could bring in more influences. I was about pop art, graphic design, punk and Dadaism and a certain aesthetic at that time so it offered more opportunity, and it still does. I love the process too much to want to switch to anything else. You design your piece, run your prints, make the wheat paste, get your stuff together in a bag and that’s it. All that prep and the last stage takes you like 30 seconds!
What was the first wheat paste you ever did?
I started playing with computers and little graphic programmes again around the mid 90’s, so I was exploring new tools. I think it was the big ‘GREETINGS FROM ACE’, and a Twiggy image that i worked from a photo in a book that my Mum had. she loved Twiggy so it was quite nice to put that one out! I did this image of a dude in a hat which I probably thought I would just run as being my alternative tag. That didn’t last long. I don’t like to get too stuck on one image, which can be hard when the nature of printing and pop art is really about repetition. Early paste ups were very simple, black and white, and I’d mostly photocopy them before I started screen printing them. I had friends who had access to big architectural printers and they’d sort me out, so that helped a lot.
Have you ever gone past an old favourite piece, seen that it’s gone and been a bit gutted? Or are you totally zen with the ephemeral nature of art on the street?
I like the ephemeral nature of art on the streets. That’s just the way it is so you really can’t fight it. It’s out of your control. Things look better when they’ve aged. Generally I just put my work back up again. You have to own a spot. I have a sort of graffiti mentality when it comes to putting up my work, yes I’m not using cans but I understand you have to maintain something quite persistently that is this impermanent. To be honest, when I go out pasting and all my stuff is still up I’m bored. There’s no reason to take a space back. Sometimes I go over myself just for that reason. I could go further afield and I do, but I’m also quite lazy.
You’ve just had a show in Japan, have you got anything coming up in London?
I have and that was a really important thing for me to do. Wish Less Gallery have been amazing to work with. They really get where I’m coming from and have been very supportive. As well as a couple more things coming up in Japan next year, I’ve got a part in a group show later in October. I’m in talks with a few galleries in London and there’s a loose plan at this stage for a solo show with one of them in the New Year.
Where can we see more of your work?
In York, I have some work on show at the ‘Art of Protest Gallery’. In London, you can see work at BSMT Space, Stolenspace, Well Hung, or in my studio which I occasionally do by appointment.