On the cover: ‘Contravacuum’ by Pablo Delgado
What is Contravacuum about?
It’s about going against the grain. The woman in the artwork is cleaning, but in the opposite direction to the stripes. I always use images that are publicly available and this is no different. The image of a lady cleaning from the 1950s, which seems very symbolic of the time, is taken from the internet. And the cleaning is symbolic of what I’m doing working with minimalism.
How did you make the image?
The process is kind of subconscious. It can begin as one thing and quickly become something else. I think I probably started with a single line but it wasn’t planned. The lady doing the cleaning I found through a Google image search. These characters could be from absolutely anything, anywhere in the world.
How did you become interested in minimalism?
I wasn’t before moving to London. The street art made me minimal, firstly because it was practical – these small characters could be produced at home with a printer and an internet connection. Also, when I’m on the street the whole process takes seconds as long as the pieces are small. I like to generate the art quickly, move around quickly, and place it quickly. I enjoy the rush of being on the street but I get scared. I don’t want to get caught and done for vandalism or something, although I think it’s unlikely. They can all be very easily removed.
Mexico is known for its murals and public art. Did this inspire you?
I never thought about it until after I left Mexico and started to appreciate my culture. It’s not only murals: every shop is covered in painted signs. Maybe it has always been part of me and I didn’t realise. However, in Mexico there’s still a perception that street art is vandalism. In London I realised that it was OK, that it was valid, that the walls were inviting artists to do something with them. London gave me options I’d never had before. I used to do five to seven pieces every night. I’d put them on a wall and race off to do another.
When did you realise people were enjoying your work?
My girlfriend booked a tour for her parents and when the guide was talking about street art she mentioned my work, saying that people are talking about it and that nobody knows who’s behind it. That was around three years ago.
How did you get from anonymous street artist to having exhibitions in galleries?
I really don’t know. I was lucky in that the first gallery I approached knew my work. That guy gave me the chance to have some income, and a journalist from the Guardian wrote about my work. It happened step by step, all by word of mouth. For a while I had a website to promote my work but I took it down because I want a minimal presence.
You don’t want to have your face photographed…
I’ve created a world with these characters and I want them to have a freedom that’s not affected by the perception of the artist. I want the art to live entirely on its own.
How is preparing a gallery show different to making street art?
It’s a very different process, having to think about the exhibition as a whole. It’s a bit like creating an album; each piece of art needs to be a song on that album. There needs to be a concept. I love working indoors in private spaces because it gives me tranquility and the time and space to do exactly what I want. But I love the rush and spontaneity of working on the street.
Would you say your art is political?
Well, everybody is political. I live in this world and in this society and so I can’t deny there’s politics involved in some of my messages. But I’d prefer to keep the meaning of my work ambiguous. I like the art to inspire different conclusions in different people. They are surreal, full of metaphors. And they become very personal – they’re so small you have go to up close and really engage
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