16 May 10 Q’s With Typograffic Circle
Graffiti artists and curators of the ‘The Typograffic Circle’, Gary Stranger and Pref, join us for an interview about their work and current show at the gallery.
(Installation shot of ‘The Typograffic Circle’ show, showing work by Pref and Gary Stranger)
You’ve named the show/movement Typograffic – can you define that term in your own words.
Gary & Pref: Typograffic is a word we’re using to try and encapsulate the work we’re making. Our backgrounds are in graffiti and our passion has always been for creating type, so it’s a hybrid of the two. We feel that there is a sub, sub genre within the graffiti / street art scene that is currently untitled. There are a handful of artists who are making genuinely interesting, type based work in the studio and on walls, using spray paint as their primary medium. Typograffic Circle is a collective of such people.
Why do you think words or text make for such great images?
Gary: For me, when words are written down they are more powerful than an image. There is less ambiguity and I feel that a lot is lost through symbolism, so a word or phrase is more direct, more efficient. The point of what I / we do is to manipulate the type in such a way that it has aesthetic merit anyway, aside from the message itself.
Pref: Imagery can be limitless but text sets out rules and limitations that I enjoy pushing, experimenting and playing with. I like taking something that is usually used in a formal way, something that we are all very familiar with and turning it on its head. Then there is the other dimension of the message, I like that this can either be a part of the work or not depending on your choice of legibility. Personally, I have always enjoyed words and the use of English language, it’s a large part of my sense of humour in general and I like being able to reflect that in my work. Aside from humour, I love the poetry of putting certain words together. Just like abstract imagery, you can create messages which have multiple meanings and in this respect is important for offering the viewer a meaning that is personal to them.
(Work by All Type No Face)
(From L-R: ‘Momentum I’, ‘Letter Studies 2.3’, ‘Letter Studies 2.2’, ‘Letter Studies 2.1’, by Said Kinos)
Can you explain how you go about choosing words or phrases for your work?
Gary: Personally, the word I choose to write will have a particular poignance to me at that time. I don’t feel like its necessary to explain it to an audience, it’s often a personal reason for choosing a word. I like that the viewer can make their own interpretation of the word in the context I have painted it. There are many different ways to approach a single word and if you connect with the word it may not be through the route I intended and that’s great too. I find myself thinking in words rather than in images.
Pref: Sometimes it can start with a particular word or phrase that I have seen or heard, it can also start with an idea or concept from either a client or the body of work I am working on. However, I usually start with deciding on how many words I need for the particular work or scenario. This can depend of size of canvas/wall, number of colours or time available to work. From there I can create a parameter or brief to think around and work within.
(‘Desire’ and ‘Wow’ pieces by Gary Stranger)
(From L-R: ‘A Word is Worth 1000 Pictures’, ‘Sad’ and ‘Change’ pieces by Pref)
Talk us through the other artists in the show – what do you admire in their work?
Gary & Pref: Firstly, they are all friends of ours and secondly they are all exceptional in their own ways. All Type No Face, is constantly pushing himself to find new and exciting locations for his paintings. For them, the setting of each piece is as, if not more important than the artwork itself. The ATNF work is always very well executed and always in the most challenging of environments.
Georgia Hill is from Sydney and paints very large scale murals with a heavy type element, entirely freehand. Her work is an interesting balance of abstracted shapes from her environment and brilliantly executed text. Her choice of location, scale and attention to detail all make her mural work interesting to us.
Kinos is from Holland and paints beautiful murals with a collaged aesthetic, using single letters or abstractions of lettering. The composition of his work is always well considered to suit the location.
(‘Not Long Now’ piece by Georgia Hill)
(Main image, ‘Intersection’, background piece, ‘Momentum I’ by Said Kinos)
(All Type No Face series of photographs)
Is there room for new members in the circle, are you on the lookout or is it more an as and when type situation?
Gary & Pref: The collective will naturally grow, we hope. We discover new artists all the time through traveling and through social media, so I’m sure it will expand.
Your styles obviously integrate well with each other – can you describe the process of a collaborative work.
Gary & Pref: The process is different in almost every case. Perhaps the client, if there is one, has a particular request. In which case that’s where we start. If it’s just for us, the location, wall size and ratio all have an influence on what we paint. Generally though, I (Gary) paint a word or a single character and Pref applies his layer over the top. We then work together on the whole image, painting each other’s sections as we go.
(Street work by Pref)
(Street work by Gary Stranger)
What influences your colour pallets? Does the word effect the colours you use?
Pref: This is a difficult one. If I can, I will always refer back to the idea and chose a colour that makes sense with the rest of the concept. However, if I’m painting a small wall, it can depend very much on the spray paint I have available in the studio. Alongside all this, I want too chose colours that look good. Having the right colour combinations can make or break the piece, there have been many times that I have had a great concept and wording but haven’t had the paint to be able to do it justice with the right colours and in the end to doesn’t work.
Gary: Colour feels like it’s a less relevant element of the piece for me. If a design doesn’t work in black and white, then i won’t paint it. Aside from black and white there are favourite, stock colours that I default to, like turquoise.
(From L-R: ‘7.’ piece by All Type No Face, ‘Neither One Thing Or The Other’ piece by Pref, ‘Peachy’ piece by Gary Stranger)
There’s definitely a sense of enigma to both of your work, is that intentional?
Gary: I can speak for myself here, but the enigma if there is any, is not intentional. I suppose it comes about through not explaining the work to the audience and the sentiment behind the work not being too obvious. Enigmatic isn’t what I’m striving for, the goal is to make work that is iconic.
Pref: This is mostly a result of using text to create images that unlike the signage and instructional typography that surrounds us daily, aren’t immediately readable. I like that it often demands a moment of your time to stop and look at it. If it’s too hard to work out people lose interest. However, I think people enjoy being able to successfully decode the work – it gives them a sense of accomplishment and inclusion.
Pref: I don’t have a favourite word. I think all words can have their place when used in the right context. From a visual point of view, I definitely have words and letters that I try to avoid; words that are really long are difficult to work with, also words that have too many repeating letters in tend not to look very good with what I do. I avoid letters like Ts, Ls, Fs and Js, which can be really problematic due to their thin and unbalanced nature. Squarer letters like M, D, O, H, R, G and B etc are always easier for me have fun with, they have more of symmetry and presence and you can bend and push their aesthetic more without losing legibility or weight.
Gary: Quiet. Not enough people are.
(From L-R: ‘Soon’, ‘Only’ and ‘Not Long Now’ pieces by Georgia Hill)
(Main image, close up of ‘Lemniscate’, background piece, ‘Wow’, by Gary Stranger)
How do you plan on building the Typograffic movement?
Gary & Pref: The collective will grow naturally and we plan to include new artists going forward. There are plans to put on large scale exhibitions of work and installations, create a platform to showcase print editions, merchandise etc etc. Really try and explore what the collective can be and what it can do for the members.
(‘1.’ photograph by All Type No Face)
CLICK HERE to see available work from ‘The Typograffic Circle’.
CLICK HERE to see merch from The Typograffic Circle.
Interview questions by Max Benham.