Kid Acne interviewed
July 28, 2011
Killing his darlings for his first solo retrospective exhibition
Kid Acne’s new show ‘Kill Your Darlings’ at Millennium Gallery Sheffield, is a submersion into a world of voodoo and romance, a dive into the pages of a kooky Kid Acne ‘zine, encountering his workings and creations in an overview unlike anything he’s done previously.
World famous graffiti artist / musician / fly paster / illustrator / designer, invites us to a theatrical experience of the Kid Acne archive, of sorts. His true archive is too vast and varied to fit in the gallery. In this space we’re inspired to become characters ourselves like the ‘Stabby Women’, coming to life in his new film bearing swords and striding determinedly through darkened forests. They play out something of how this accomplished artist works, how he’s come to exhibit in this way, to this scale, and on his terms.
Kill Your Darlings i.e. be ruthless and remove your cherished characters from the story if non-essential. Do you really believe in this, as an artist?
Yes I do. As much as people love to see honesty, conviction and integrity in an artist – there’s a fine line between these and self-indulgance. I’ve never been a fan of lengthy guitar solos for example. I’d rather hear a 2 minute song full of energy than watch someone fret-wanking for 2 minutes in the middle of a half hour opus – no matter how amazing they are at playing the guitar. I feel the same about overly technical scratch-DJ’s, just play the record and let people dance! It’s much the same in putting together a show. How much is too much and what do people really want to see? I’ve worked alongside Millennium Gallery and design practice, Peter & Paul to curate this exhibition and feel that together, we’ve made the right choices. There’s a lot of work in the show, but it’s considered and presented in a digestible way.
Which darlings have you killed for the Millennium Gallery exhibition?
Many. I’ve been losing my religion. For me, this exhibition has been more of a chance to look backwards, in order to move forwards. It’s a purge in many ways. My first solo exhibition in Sheffield, my first show in a museum and my first ‘retrospective’ of sorts. It’s all downhill from here.
In recent work you have taken to sculpture. This exhibition includes a séance installation and miniature totem pole, both historically expressing kinships and cultural beliefs. So is this your ultimate nod to classic Kid Acne characters, each now somewhat archetypal?
It’s more to do with the fact that I know what my characters look like in 2D now because I’ve been drawing them for years, so there’s really no surprises anymore. Although illustration is the starting point for all of my work and I love to draw first and foremost, I’m becoming more interested in how my characters look in 3D, film and animation. It’s a good excuse to collaborate with other people and means I won’t get bored or lonely.
Film work – tell us about the short film which is installed in the exhibition (and what makes a Stabby Woman?)
I used to make edited-in-camera super 8 films as a teenager, but never really pursued it. The only other film stuff I’ve done has been the music videos, which were all pretty hit and miss to be honest. I’ve wanted to make a Stabby Women film for ages and this is it’s first outing. It’s a collaboration with director, Dscreet and musician, Cherrystones. What’s in the exhibition is an edit on loop and for me, it’s very much a work in progress and something I’m keen to develop further. Stabby Women are somewhere between a cult and a tribe. They’re enigmatic, powerful and have a belief system, which seems to combine freemasonry, paganism and the occult. In short, they’re a feisty bunch.
You allude to religious rituals, obscure sex toys, séances, mythology. How do you settle on source material like this?
Google image search works for me.
Your work has evolved from experimental graffiti and rap in your youth to the ability to be recognised simply by signature sprayed murals of hair. How have you tackled this exhibition as a retrospective and at the same time, a forward thinking presentation?
Nothing has really changed since I started painting graffiti 20 years ago. It’s all part of the same thing and it’s constantly evolving as a body of work. I was never really bothered about ‘keeping it real’ or having a misplaced loyalty to others. I’ve always been interested in what’s on the periphery of the scene and have always been inspired by the artists who’ve carved out their own niche and done things on their own terms. The only rule I did pay attention to was “don’t bite”, meaning don’t plagiarise, so having a recognisable style has always been important to me. It’s not about being the biggest or the best, but about being yourself and doing things your own way.
What is your ultimate slogan?
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
Kid Acne: ‘Kill Your Darlings’ at Millennium Gallery, Sheffield from 21 July – 23 October 2011
Interview by Jane Faram. Photographs courtesy of Sven Davis, Kid Acne and Stefan Willhoit.