London based artist A.CE has been creating graffiti art on UK's streets for over 10 years. Known for his wheat-pasted images and stickers, this prolific poster paster works using a remix of found imagery. We caught up with A.CE to learn more about his urban art-what influences him and his medium of choice.
How would you characterize your work?
I guess its a hybrid of pop art, early skate graphics, collage, graphic design, and graffiti. All the sort of work that inspires me. Its easy to get lumbered with the street artist label because a lot of what I do is displayed in that environment, but that title doesnt mean a great deal to me. Its too vague. Im an artist who leans towards collage.
Tell us about your creative process. How do you come up with the themes and images you create? And how do you actually create the piece?
I collage and cut together found imagery, rearranging and transforming the whole time until I have something new, with a new message or meaning, as well as a commentary on the old. Ultimately I dont start out with a recipe in mind, but I know roughly how its going to end up by the key ingredients Ive selected. If the found imagery meets my intuitive filtering process, and works in the piece then its in. I usually scan and arrange on a computer which gives me the option to rescale things to fit. The themes then become apparent the more pieces I create.
Why do you like to work with pasteups and screen prints?
I love screen printing - so many of my favourite things are screen printed. Skate graphics, t-shirts, pop art, DIY band posters. It feels like the right medium for me. It has history. Its solid, functional, feels substantial and credible, and gives you a lot of options in terms of colour-play and image repetition. Every time I pull a screen I get a buzz, theres always that chance that after all the fill-in work that final layer might bleed or worse but thats the risk you take! Pasteups work in the street environment and have done for hundreds of years when you think about it. They look at home there. Theyre quick to put up, theyre impactful and they age well. I love the interaction they invite from other people and the elements.
Your work is often punctuated by logos, cartoon characters and other recognizable images from pop culture. Why do you incorporate those elements into your work? Does it go beyond just an appreciation of the aesthetics of the logos?
Often the aesthetic is a very important factor. When these elements are combined they can result in something beyond the sum of their parts. The timeless and reliable characteristics of these popular images appeal to me. I think you can really describe a person, or a type of person, with these references. They communicate so much about culture, age, lifestyle, and sensibilities. I also strive to use quite ambiguous imagery. Im told everything we create is autobiographical in one way or another because were choosing to use this element over that?
Do you prefer working on the streets or in the gallery?
Ultimately both are fulfilling, but theres a buzz you cant match by working outside. I think you have limitations or benefits to both in terms of scale and time, and I dont think you can necessarily recreate the same impact you might get on the street. Theres a level of expectation in a gallery. Often an added objective is of course to sell, so again you have that to bear in mind. You can be a lot freer when youre putting up work in the street because you know it might be gone over in a matter of days.
Your work is so recognizable on the London streets. What does London mean to you? Do you ever work elsewhere?
Fundamentally I have a writers mentality. It is in my character therefore to want to get up wherever I go. With regards to London, being a part of a place that has inspired me so much over the years is really important to me. I was born in London, moved away and then I came back to live here. I have never felt as happy or as at home living anywhere else. Im proud of London which is why I make that mark in my work.
Who are your art heroes?
So many to mention! Some are an inspiration far more than others. People like Keith Haring, Basquiat, Warhol, John Baldessari, COST & REVS, Sister Corita, Fergus Purcell, Peter Blake, Barry McGee, Christopher Wool, Stuart Cumberland. I really admire artists like Mark Gonzales, Misha Hollenbach or Ed Templeton who work well on a multi disciplinary level.
What is important for you to get across in your art? Any messages, any themes? Are you reflecting society in a pop art way? What are you saying about society today if so?
It is important to me to be intuitive when creating my work. I think if I start out with too many themes or goals in place it is not going to be as honest as it could be. Its a regurgitated interpretation of society for sure, and I get to learn more about myself as the works begin to reflect the choices, and the subconscious selection processes that I am making.
Why the name A.CE!? Where does this name originate from?
I wrote a few names to start with. A.CE was initially the result of easy letters I liked playing with. On reflection it couldnt really have been a more toy name, plus it was a tad short, so the dot was eventually put in place to mix things up and space things out a bit - graphically I thought it worked better. I used to watch Quodrophenia a lot growing up so the Ace Face I think was something that stuck in my brain at that time.
Whats next for you?
Im looking forward to 2013. More new work, a collaboration or two and a new print release. Im going to be in a couple of books which will be nice. Hopefully a show in the States. Theres also a great London based festival in the pipeline which I hope materialises. Id like to travel a bit more, and Im working on a clothing label after a 10 year hiatus, which I hope can go live in the new year. I spent many years working in the fashion industry so this is really a combination of my two big loves.