Interview: Pose

“It is a natural shift for some people and they might approve of certain people doing it, meanwhile it is a completely unnatural, sacrilegious act for other people.” – POSE

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When catching sight of an outdoor mural or piece of street art, we can easily gaze on in uninformed ignorance, neglecting to consider not only the amount of time that went into creating that specific piece, but also failing to touch on the thought of just how many hard hurdles and hoops the artist had to bound and leap through in order to reach this point in their career.

As an onlooker you merely stand there, you see, and you believe what you want to believe. However, can your imagination really take you to where this person has been in his or her past?

Henceforth we caught up with the world renowned artist, Pose, firing away the following set of questions, leaving him to produce answers that even after days of researching, our very own imaginations could not have begun to comprehend.

Hailing from the art-rich Chicago and having reached satisfactory milestones in his own outdoor and studio careers, this is one interview that left our jaws dropping in disbelief.

So, Mr Pose, what essentials are a must for you Trunk?

I try and pack lightly… I come with enough emotional baggage as it is, so bringing much more than the pure essentials can be a real burden. As long as I have clean white tee’s, draws, socks, shades, Layrite, and good spray caps then I’m golden.

Could you please tell us how old you were when you first started creating outdoors. Could you please describe the graffiti scene in America at the time?

I was 12 years old when I made my first feeble attempt at graffiti. I sprayed, got chased, got away, and I was instantly hooked. The twenty years since have been spent chasing, exploring and at times fighting that same high. At that time I didn’t know much about the American scene, all I knew and cared about was my city and my train line. At the time Chicago’s Graff scene was booming and the lines were completely crushed. It was incredible, there was no serious buff and no internet.

Everything was learned through exploration and trial and error so when you figured something out, accomplished, or invented something it was an incredible experience and a milestone that changed your life. You owned it and no one could take it from you.

But that time period was also incredibly turbulent and very violent, so things were “hard earned” physically as well as mentally. In the mid to late 90’s Chicago took the eradication of graffiti to extents that no other city had and soon the playing field changed dramatically. Shortly after I started travelling a lot and my eyes were opened to other scenes in America and abroad.

So where exactly did you grow up? How did these areas influence your street or your pursuance of this form of art?

I grew up in Evanston Il and Chicago, but my family bounced around a tonne due to work, so the list of where I “grew up” ends up being long. I got a tonne of experience from every place I lived. For instance, living in the south made me really wild, reckless and introduced me to way too much way too soon.

Although I’m never really here (due to travel) I still reside in Chicago and am raising a family here. For better or worse (it’s a tough city for everything, but it has a tonne of history and soul) this is my home and I love my city. I definitely feel like it has given and continues to give me a different perspective from my peers…Again, for better or worse.

We understand the conditions that you were creating artworks under at the time were quite pressured and challenging due to different perspectives between artists and society, specifically the law? Care to share a bit of insight into creating works in an age that seemed to mostly frown upon street art?

I feel nowadays that it’s quite the opposite for me. When I was younger and painting in Chicago, the laundry list of opposition was around every corner, and the last thing it called for was a long or prosperous career.

From cops to gang bangers, opposing crews and Joe hero’s, you were hated, arrested, beaten, and shot at. Basically, you were scum and lived a double life to protect your identity and freedom at all costs. Now I feel like things have changed quite a bit.

For instance, some country’s government might pay for me to come to their country to paint for their president, give a lecture to a bunch of college kids, or whatever the case may be. A company will stand behind me financially so I can continue to progress and do my art. It’s incredible.

Obviously, you have to be careful how you go about everything, it’s a fine line legally, but at the end of the day I never would have dreamed that I would have these kinds of opportunities. Basically…YES, people are narrow minded and I have to worry about my family’s future every time I go and paint (it’s actually a vital part of it), but I also can jump on an all expense paid trip to many places in the world where I can paint freely and my work will be celebrated. It is all amazing to me. I am in awe of where things have gone globally and feel incredibly blessed to be in the position that I’m in.

What was your ultimate fear when creating, and were these fears ever realised? Care to share a story or an account of different incidences?

Honestly, I don’t. All I can say is that my fears were realised many of times, and it cost lots of money and created lots of stress.

As you mentioned, works like yours are now celebrated. Is this something that a few key individuals in the industry worked towards achieving? Or did you always think to yourself that people would get it one day?

As a kid, I definitely never set out to change anyone’s perceptions of what Graffiti was. I just wanted to paint as much as possible, get good and get my name up. As the years progressed I did find that I was trying everything I could to continue painting and not let go of Graff. It’s a grand experiment. Many people have pushed the envelope and continue to push it.

Did you use to paint from a more rebellious or angered frame of mind?

The statement of rebellion or anger might be inherent in the act of doing something you believe in regardless of the opposition to your act, but I never really felt like I was trying to be rebellious or angry. I do feel that being angry and bored is very common for youth and that finding an outlet to express and be one’s self is a vital part of human nature.  Maybe as you get older and continually “act”, you learn more about yourself and why you are doing it. I’m sure that seeps in and changes the “act” quite a bit.

Please name a handful of names that have influenced you through your career?

Revok, Rime, Eklips, Retna, Kc 1, Espo…There were so many people who had so much to do with influencing my career.

So you made the move from outdoors to indoors, doing more illustration and design work. Getting into too much trouble hey? In all seriousness, what inspired this move?

I’m pretty sure I’m only going to get one shot at life and it’s been a wild ride so far. So for me, if I wake up and realise this doesn’t feel right, I’m not having as much fun, not being as challenged, or if feel like I might be beating my head against a wall, doing the exact same shit I was 20 years ago, I may then be prone to switch it up or make things a little more interesting.

Jumping into the art world for me is just a way to find a new challenge and be a toy again, one that has to work for what he has and where he gets. If I was spray painting my graff on canvases it might be different, but for me and what I’m trying to do, it’s just purely a new drug and a new challenge.

Is this change becoming a popular trend in the industry?

Yes and no. It is a natural shift for some people and they might approve of certain people doing it, meanwhile, it is a completely unnatural, sacrilegious act for other people. It all depends on what you’re going for and where your beliefs lie. It has been happening since the late 70’s in New York and is just sort of human nature.

We are in a really insane time because of “new media” where everything is documented, promoted, and instantly obtainable, so just about anything will look like it is a massively popular trend these days. Also, from my perspective, the shift I see happening is people being able to go “indoors” while still working simultaneously outdoors.

Making more of a lifelong career out of it rather than saying, “I’m getting old,” or, “I did time so I’m going to quit and move on to something else.” It seems like with all the graff writer owned companies, apparel, paint, marketing etc., people are just getting savvier and more resourceful when it comes to continuing to do what they like doing. A writer’s name has always acted as their “brand” and visual identity. Some people are using their “brand” to achieve the patronage necessary to continue painting Graff as long as possible and further their career.

To put it bluntly, in the past I heard that someone had quit Graff, or moved on to other things like the art world and now it’s like, “I always liked that guy’s Graff and look, holy shit that dude had an incredible ‘art’ show in Europe, while he also went out and smashed the streets, did a vid, made an edition of posters, and I can see what he ate for breakfast this morning before he murdered some panels.”

It’s like the old fame game on some new bionic steroid juice. I think for some of the people who are into it, working in a gallery setting is simply just another thing to master and achieve while still sticking to the root of things and doing everything else. Obviously, this is the positive side of things. There are plenty of people that just want to cash in on a trend, or a week’s worth of street cred by jumping into their galleries, or a phoney agenda. However, I am from some of the best crews in the world, and my peers and friends are much more real deal renaissance men than cornballs or cop outs. So who knows, I may have a skewed perspective?

What is it about painting outdoors that you find most attractive, rather than studio work?

It is completely site specific. You are creating work in the same environment that the work will inevitably exist; so the influence of the site on the work has a direct and powerful connection. It’s also a much more physical act, engaging your whole body where you are not confined to a room, a canvas, or a computer screen. The scale and the environment are the most fun…honestly, there is nothing more fun than painting real Graff outdoors, it’s total therapy.

What aspects of studio work made the outdoors easier to partially step away from?

When I work outdoors I know exactly what the potential outcomes will feel and look like, but when I work in the studio I have much less of a frame of reference for what the potential outcomes will be. Right now this is incredibly exciting to me, and hopefully one day I will have done and achieved so much in the studio that I wind up getting enticed by another new medium or outlet.

The grass is always greener and newer always looks more fun and more attractive. Also due to laws at hand, a lot of times working outdoors can wind up costing me lots of money whereas working indoors makes me lots of money. That is the one mathematical equation that makes it an easier pill for me to swallow.

How have you found the change personally and from a clientele point of view? 

Personally, I always need to shake things up and get a change of scenery otherwise I get bored really quickly and start spinning my wheels. I feel like if you have a good head on you shoulders and try to be a student of life, any new challenge is going to enrich your course, not kill it.

For instance, if a studio artist with 20 years in the art game decided to do Graff, run around at night and put a bunch of work in the streets, they would probably have a hell of a time and learn a bunch of shit from it. By no means am I suggesting that artists do this, I’m just making a point.

They might wind up in jail, or back in the studio with some war stories and a new found appreciation for how rad their studio life is. They may turn into the new Banksy, get uber famous and never work indoors again. You never know.

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For more from Pose, visit We Are Supervision

Browse the Trunk Junk collection; maybe even pick one out for yourself.

© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

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