It’s interesting to see how artists develop through the camera lens. It can go from having to use the macro setting to get a clear shot to the panoramic mode to fit it all in and all in the space of a year. 616 is such an artist.
When I first encountered 616‘s work on the street it came in the form of a pistachio nut glued onto a brick wall on Sclater Street. Over time that nut grew and 616‘s medium developed and so came a variety of expressions from discarded rubbish with humorous messages to sculptures placed discreetly in the street. His most ambitious piece has to be the 8ft high kidult syle splash of his tag along Brick Lane. Here’s a little photographic timeline followed by a few words from Mr 616.
Painted pistachio nuts back at the beginning of this year
What’s it all about 616?
Its about having something to do, a hobby, its about making people stop and look at their surroundings. When a person sees a tree do they think about the veins on the leaves, the insects crawling through its network of branches. I think people need to take a closer look at what is around them. Life is not all about themselves.
When & why did you first start leaving your mark on the streets?
I have always mucked around with the environment that I have lived in but it was always when I was drunk. I could get away with doing weird things then and people wouldn’t think too much about it. The problem with living in a mainstream area is that its hard to get away from the shoal, I have always considered myself different from the friends I’ve known as a kid but never really got going with anything because I felt I wasn’t an artist. I was comparing myself to other people. A very bad habit of mine.
But then through starting to work in London, I realised that no matter who you are or what your ability there is always someone out there who will smile at your work or at least stop and glance at it. I looked at the childlike style of some artists and the rough style of others and thought, yes I can actually have an outlet for my mind.
So around the beginning of February I drew an oak leaf and just did what I felt like, then stuck up the results in a street which had lots of art in it already. I was hoping that someone might photograph it and put it onto flickr. The next day I found it on flickr. I was ecstatic. I chose a street with art already in it because I then wasn’t nervous of what I was doing.
You seem to express yourself with so many mediums, nuts, spray, glued pieces on the wall, trash talking back after it has been discarded, is this mix of styles intentional or have you not found your niche yet?
Most people can filter their thoughts and not say what they are thinking. I tend to come out with comments that haven’t gone through that filtering process. I just throw my ideas out at people but never do anything about it (hence why I now have an outlet for all this jumble in my head), so all this jumble on the streets is just what I felt like doing at the time. I do now and then like an idea and try to do my own thing on it. I am working on a bird box at the moment but its made from a industrial discarded electrical box.
So this mix of what I would call things, is purely just me having fun with the environment around me, but in a place where it might be noticed more by open minded people. The nuts were and still are for the people that notice the small things, the details, its easy to miss the nut shells. Its mostly stuff I make previously because I don’t note the ideas down, so I try to act on them the same day.
The rubbish comments are done because I enjoy making myself smile and reacting with the environment. Its done on the spur of the moment. For that moment in time that rubbish once again becomes something other than merely rubbish to be ignored and becomes an installation, it gets noticed. Also it might make the bin men’s day reading some comment or note. It cheers me up when I have submitted an image to Pictures Of Walls and it gets uploaded, Its a great website, as it says itself “with art done by idiots for idiots”. At times we’re all idiots aren’t we?
The extinguisher style tag you did recently in Brick Lane seems to be your biggest piece to date, has your ego landed or is this just another medium you are experimenting with and will we see more of this?
Since seeing Katsu do their throw up fire extinguisher piece I have wanted to make a fire extinguisher paint sprayer myself. I had almost forgotten about doing it but then watched Kidult on the internet and that was a big kick. I did manage to get hold of an extinguisher but to do the wall in Brick Lane I used something else, something similar. The temporary huge black wall appealed to the inner child in me and I just had to do something about it.
It’s something that I have wanted to do for ages and I finally got off my behind and did it. I just wish the internet ‘street’ artists would do more on the streets. It would be such an interesting place. I am now getting to the stage where I am worried about saturating the area with my stuff, so at the moment I am trying to stop myself being too much in peoples faces, might be a hard habit to break though, this art thing is addictive.
I suppose if I was invited to submit something to a gallery my ego would inflate but the bigger the ego the bigger the burst. Its a hobby after all. I was surprised how easy a lot of the artists are to speak with and feel that a lot of them are very down to earth. Some have an ego, but it’s all part of the theatre, the brand they are representing perhaps?
When you leave your pieces on the streets what are you saying about yourself and to people who will see it?
When I leave pieces on the streets I hope that people will stop and look. Even just for a moment to think. I have stood and watched people look at the snake on Sclater street and take photos of it, its great to see them smile and it become part of their day. I think I am not saying anything about myself really, it’s self gratification to keep me from going mad perhaps?
I have always had to do something to keep my mind occupied, from collecting 1970’s West German vases to mud larking, it all stops me from being bored or drinking/drug taking my way through life. Its fun to have an alternative side of life. I think art is something that everyone needs to explore. To not create something would be like never taking that big deep breath.
I enjoy the spontaneous collaborations I have done so far with Obit and Smells like Angry Face. They are fun and once again are an instant reaction to the environment around me. I think Jonesy’s work is outstanding and really is someone I admire massively but I would like to learn from him rather than collaborate with him.
To the internet recluses: Get out and Get up.