THE BLOG
16/07/2013 08:09 BST | Updated 14/09/2013 06:12 BST

Coming Up

Vibes, a well-respected illegal graffiti artist in London, is now making a name for himself in contemporary art. We talk to him about what it's like to jump over the fence and find yourself in the modern art world.

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Graffiti for the earlier part of the last two decades has been an underground 'illegal' movement. What was life like making a name for yourself in this environment?

Fun, exciting, happy, sad, educational, overwhelming, pressured, anxious, nervous, extreme, physical, damaging, fast moving, daring, egotistical, inspiring, character building, segregating, influential and emotional to say the least.

The early graffiti scene was closely linked to underground gang culture, how true was this for your journey?

The relationship to graffiti crews and gang culture currently portrayed through the media is a joke.

Like the majority of kids getting in to graffiti, you aspire to climb the fame ladder and be part of the most famous crews or the most talented. Others start their own crew with friends at an early age and it grows from there.

As a kid I made the grade for a few crews I really respected, each time I was put in I was so hyped, it felt like you had been recognized for your skills and hard work. When I left school most of these crews had stopped painting and dispersed, so I decided to form my own.

The people who are part of my crew now are all some of my best mates, we work together, party and still occasionally paint.

The only relation between graffiti crews and gang culture is they sometimes as a collective break the law from time to time by painting to a surface that doesn't belong to them.

From my experience I can only name a few crews who could be classified within the current gang culture based on the crimes they commit and the lifes' they live

Graffiti has moved from an underground subculture to a commercial trend. Do you think it has had a positive influence on UK graffiti?

Anything established from an underground movement that becomes current and popular is soon gobbled up commercially, not fully digested and thrown all over the place with no respect.

Whether this has a positive influence on UK graffiti its debatable. It does generate work for people and allows artists with talent to follow their ambitions and be succsesfull, which is positive. At the same time it has killed off what was an underground culture.

What I like to see is when an artist has progressed from painting graffiti and is now working commercially on something that is different to what they paint on the street.

You've managed to turn a 'controversial' teenage hobbie into a full time career. Do you ever feel some of the excitement of what you do has gone?

Painting graffiti from a young age has really helped me to grow creatively. I have only really come to realize this in the last five years. Studying the art and painting walls regularly has taught me about colour balance, typography, graphic design and illustration and the skills learnt through using a spraycan as a tool are used regularly within my current work.

I still paint walls regularly, that interest has never died, these days focusing out focusing large wall pieces it's a social thing for me like going to the pub or playing five a side footy on a Wednesday.

Your creative style has gone through different stages of evolution. Take us through this journey to where you are now?

For me graffiti is all about style progression, all my heroes as a kid painted so many different styles of lettering and for me this was what made them stand out amongst the rest.

My taste in art generally changes a lot, I get bored quite easily of painting the same thing so I am always up for trying something new. If I paint a style piece one day I will want to paint a font piece the next day, after that I will want to paint characters and so fourth. Painting large scale murals is my passion and as well as painting graffiti I also like to paint other styles of murals from trompe l'oeil to more fine art pieces. I generally have a never ending drive to paint more of everything and finding the time to cater for this obsession is tricky whilst trying to balance the other requirements of day to day life, I fuel this with a strong coffee addiction and refusal to sleep, which is something I need to chill out on.

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Over the years you have painted a lot of public spots, what platforms do you use nowadays to showcase your latest work?"

Painting publically always comes first, I'm addicted! I don't take nearly as much risk as I use to; nowadays I am luckily enough through my work to paint a lot of different styled wall murals.

More recently I have exhibited through galleries with three solo shows and a selection of group shows. My fourth solo show, Forward Motion is just around the corner from the 1st to the 4th of August, the show presents a series of work of detailed, abstract and surrealist landscapes, featuring soft and hard visuals against intangible backgrounds on canvas, alongside mix media screen prints pulled by Rarekind LDN and drinks courtesy of Desperados beer.

I'm really hyped for this one as I've been given the opportunity to take over a premises on 39 Great Windmill Street in Soho and paint the entire shop space inside and out.

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