You spent many years as a photojournalist covering subjects such as political riots, earthquakes and human trafficking. How have these experiences shaped you into the artist you are today?
My previous work has shaped everything that I do now. Working as a photojournalist taught me the ability to create one compelling image that conveys a story. A good news photograph should convey the story, the emotion, human experience and outcome. As a photographer it’s important for you to understand the emotion of a story and try to tell that story through you images. In Haiti shortly after the earthquake in 2010 the scene was so horrific, I had tears running down my face as I was photographing the devastation. I hope some of this emotion came over in my images. If it didn’t I fail at my job.
This is essential, what I try to do in my street art. It also taught me the value of ’shock’ content. Whilst I’m never trying to horrify people with my photographs or art, I want them to be engaging and stun, rather than shock.
It also gave me a great logistical means to get more eyes on my work. If you mention a news publication I probably know someone who works there, either in on the photo desk or news dept. This helps greatly when trying to get media attention for my work.
Master graffiti artist Banksy inspired you to recreate his stencils into incredible photographs. Is what got you interested in using street art as a medium?
I was always interested in Graffiti. And engaged in political and culture. I remember as a child there was a big campaign in London to try to free a convicted armed robber. His supporters painted “George Davis is innocent” on a very prominent wall in North London. Anyone who regularly visited London during the 1970 will probably recall. Although I was only a child it struck me as a very powerful way to get guerrilla attention for your cause. Banksy has almost single handedly changed the whole concept of street art. Giving it a very cutting, relevant edge. So yes, like so many others it would be true to say that Banksy paved the way for many of us.
I greatly admire how you choose to confront social issues, such as fame and politics, through your work. Which piece do you feel has had the greatest impact?
It’s difficult to judge impact. Just because a piece goes viral and millions of people see it, doesn’t necessarily mean it has impact in any meaningful way. To me impact can only be judged by effecting change. I would like to hope that some of my work forms part of a catalyst for change. Sadly I don’t think I’ll ever know.
What do you feel are some of the biggest issues within our society today?
There are so many issue that are staring us in the eyes but sadly so over looked. Poverty, financial security, hunger, drug use, crime. All these probably have a great effect on people's well-being and quality of life than most things we are force-fed by the media. However they are “not sexy” to report. Do people lose sleep over the national deficit or the GDP figures? I doubt it but they do loose sleep over concern about paying rent or school fees, feeding their children or a personal drug addiction.
Some of your more provocative work includes; the Academy Award Statues, the Trump Mini Wall Hollywood star installation and your Harvey Weinstein Casting Couch sculpture. Would you consider Hollywood your muse?
Haha Great question. Hollywood is an amazing entity, the creative output, not to mention the financial contribution to the economy. Like any medium I believe Hollywood should be a true reflection of ourselves and I feel that often in the name of "glitz and glamour" so much is hidden from view within Hollywood. In fact so many problems have been created by the industry. I mean where else is drug use so rife? Along with sexual abuse and abuse of power. For me Hollywood makes a justified target. It can still be amazing it just needs to clean up its act. They say every artist needs a muse. I guess I’ve found mine.
What is your process like from conception to installation?
When inspiration hits me I usually play around with a few ideas, and either run the by a few close people to see if the message that I am trying to convey really hits home, or if I have the time I’ll leave an idea for a few days and come back to it. If I still think it’s a good idea I’ll go ahead and make it. We’ve all had the most amazing idea in the world and then come back to it in a few days time to think, “Actually that’s a crap idea.”
Once I decide on the concept, I then consider the execution. I love making physical works but obviously this can be way more time consuming and expensive than a spray stencil, so these issues also play into the whole final decision on the install.
You’ve placed 12 feet lines of cocaine (synthetic) along with an 8 foot tall rolled dollar bill and giant American Excess card on Melrose Avenue. You installed a No Kardashian Parking Anytime in front of the Kardashians store, Dash. While your work is focused on raising awareness it still has en element of humor. Is this intentional?
Yes, totally. I like my work to connect on a number of levels, firstly I like the viewer to be amused, fascinated, slightly shocked, then I like them to think a little deeper about the issue I hope to address. For example anyone who stumbles across 12 feet lines of coke will initially be shocked but then I set out to create a piece where hopefully people will consider the extensive use of cocaine within society. Most people when asked will deny using cocaine however in 2016 cocaine sales in the US grossed $400 BILLION. So someone somewhere is doing a shit load of cocaine.
What drives or inspires you?
Simply getting messages over that make people think.
Do you have a piece you are most proud of?
I loved creating the 12 foot lines of coke on melrose. But sometimes it’s the simplest ones that catch the imagination most, like Useless Plastic Box 1.2 or the Trump Mini Wall.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I love to collaborate with artists from other disciplines, maybe architects, city designers, fashion designers. I think that there is a huge overlap in creativity and love to exploit this.
We would like to thank Plastic Jesus for sitting down with us. Look out for the new documentary on this incredible human and artist, For Your Consideration directed by filmmaker Patrick Green.