We sat down with Eelus before his solo show with us to get some insight into his process, inspirations and what he's been working on.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and give us a little background on your work?
I’m a 37 year old self-taught artist from the UK who’s been fumbling around blindly in the dark room known as the ‘art world’ for around 14 years. I moved to London from the quiet shires of ‘The North’ and was inspired and excited by the growing street art scene there. It was Banksy’s stencil work that resonated with me the most and after cutting and painting my own stencil in 2002, I was hooked.
I knew I didn’t want to spend my life working a normal 9-5 with a boss and reviews and coffee breaks and pay rises and all that shit so I put everything I had into this new hobby in the hope it would get me away from all that. I walked away from my career as an online designer around 9 years ago and have been making art full time ever since.
Your work plays with a lot of opposing forces, humorous and macabre, vivid color and high contrast grey scale, how do you approach this balance? Are there any major departures from past work in "Dark Side of the Rainbow" or continued exploration you're excited about?
I’ve always been drawn to contrasting and opposing forces. Without darkness there’d be no light, we’d have no appreciation for it. If you’ve never experienced the cold, how can you appreciate warmth? To be honest when it appears in my work it’s rarely a conscious decision, it’s just where I’m led naturally. I do have a lot of contradicting sides to my personality, maybe that also has something to do with it.
In my paintings, the stark black and white female figures kind of represent us all, the average person living our lives caught up in the trials and tribulations of being alive on planet Earth in 2016. We get caught up in the dull and the meaningless on a daily basis without realizing; our experiences are monochromatic. When the reality is there’s so much colour out there, so many of us never realize. The coloured areas of my paintings are representative of the potential we all have, that life has. Or maybe it’s just a bunch of stripes and I’m talking shit. I never know.
Is there a particular piece, subject or motif you are particularly excited about for the show?
I’m really happy with all the work but Trip The Light Fantastic has come out really nicely and I’m also really happy with See Through You. I had fun laying the colours down for that piece, it’s probably my favourite from the show.
When translating your work from large scale, like your mural work, to screen-prints, are there any particular challenges you've encountered? Are there particular elements of your work that you feel resonate more in a particular medium or scale?
I’ve never encountered any real challenges in the translation to be honest. A mural has a set amount of time to be worked on, you’re outside, you’re interacting with the environment, with the people in that environment, you’re dealing with weather, with all kinds of potential problems. Then you recreate that piece on a smaller scale within the cosy confines of your studio and you have all the time in the world with all the privacy you need. I often wonder if the energy and message in a mural is lost once it’s on paper and behind a frame. I think that can often be the case but generally people want to own a part of that message and energy, they want to experience it and interact with it daily from within their own homes. I think that’s a good thing.
I’ve always had positive feedback from my large angel street pieces. I’m not religious but I’m fascinated by religion, and in particular by the idea of angels and demons, that contrast again. The war they had, the uprising in Heaven and the fallen angels driven out, banished. I like to see these pieces out there and larger than life. They hold a certain amount of power at that scale and from the emails I’ve had people seem to get good vibes from them. They offer a certain amount of positivity and protection. I had an email once from a single mum who walked past one of my angel pieces every day as she took her little boy to school. They saw the angel as theirs, looking out for them as they went about their day. That made me realize how positive and important street art can be.
Are there any other interactions with fans, supporters or the public that you find particularly memorable?
I recently painted a mural in Dubai for the Dubai Walls project, where street art isn’t a thing. It doesn’t exist. One evening we were chipping away at the wall oblivious to a group of Emirate schoolgirls behind us taking photos on their phones, giggling. They were wide eyed and couldn’t really grasp what was going on. We had to explain what we were doing, they even asked us if we were ‘allowed’. It was a new experience for them not just to see art in a public space in that way, but to see it being worked on. They were excited and interested, and that made me more excited and interested. It was a great exchange.
Within your particular mark-making language, how does your approach to hand painting, stencil/aerosol, screenprinting differ or stay the same?
They’re both a very similar process. You create a screen or a stencil and you push ink or paint through the holes in that screen or stencil to create a picture. I really enjoy working with both mediums as they go really well together. A screen print edition of a stenciled canvas is just a great thing to work on and put out there. It allows people to collect and enjoy art at an affordable price and the end result of both can often be almost identical.
Do you see the creation of your large scale murals or live screen printing events as performative? Does the public act of creating the work influence or affect you?
I personally wouldn’t say performative. This gives the impression it’s some kind of act where as in reality it’s the complete opposite. You’re out there in public, nowhere to hide, every mistake you make is under the watchful gaze of every bastard street art tour and Instagramer. It’s brutaly honest. You interact with people face to face. You’re not hiding behind an email or some online social media persona you’ve conjured up. People get a chance to see who you really are and get a slice of what you’re about.
It can be a very positive thing to get out of the studio and paint outside. You spend so much time alone as an artist, which I love, but it’s healthy to step outside and interact with the world when you can.
Do you listen to music or put movies/shows on in the background when you work in the studio? What have you been listening to/watching?
It changes depending on what stage I’m at with the work. In the early stages of brain scraping, chin rubbing and pencil chewing I listen to a lot of ambient and electronic music; lots of film scores too, mainly from horror and sci-fi films. I find anything with lyrics really distracting when I’m generating ideas.
When I’m cutting stencils I listen to podcasts and audiobooks mainly. The Joe Rogan Experience, Tim Ferriss Show, Duncan Trussell Family Hour. All mind expanding goodness that helps me think and see differently. Audiobooks I’ve listened to whilst working on this particular show are ‘IT’ by Steven King, ’11.22.63’ by Steven King and ‘Travels with Charley’ by John Steinbeck.
When I’m painting, anything goes music wise but I like to keep the energy high. Metal, rock, jazz, electronica.
Pop culture references are prominent in your work, what are your other influences in the design or art history realm?
I love all kinds really, symbolism especially. People like Arnold Böcklin, Aubrey Beardsley, Henri Fuseli, Gustav Klimt, William Blake. That’s where it’s at. Japanese art gets me going too: Kuniyoshi, Hokusai, Hiroshige.
I get an absurd amount of excitement from pulp sci-fi and horror book covers too.
After the project on the preserve in Gambia, are there any social causes or issues you would like to work on and give visibility to in the future?
I’m mainly into animal welfare causes and donate work annually to certain rainforest foundations. I think the rate at which those areas are disappearing and the loss of animal life that goes hand in hand with that is devastating. I don’t have kids at the moment but if I ever do, the thought of them growing up in a world where animals like the Orangutan are just pictures in books is pretty heart breaking.
Hypothetical - If you could pick any wall/surface in the world to utilize as a canvas for your work, where/what building would it be and what kind of piece/subject matter would you use?
Man, tough question! OK, two options. Paint an animal sanctuary deep in some south American jungle, purely from the point of view of just getting chance to spend time in that environment. God knows what I’d paint, something to keep the Orangs chipper.
Live painting the backdrop at a metal gig would be fun too. Metallica, Queens of the Stoneage, Iron Maiden. Saying that, I’m so slow at mural painting, it’s ridiculous. The gig would have to go on for about a week.
The Darkside of the Rainbow will be on view June 30th - July 23, 2016 with an opening reception Thursday, June 30th from 6 to 10pm. To request a collector preview, simply email us at SF@spoke-art.com