It has been a while since my last interview here at Onion:Blogg. So to make an decent comback, I sent the London-based artist K-Guy a few questions. With his sharp comments on political, economic and religious affairs, he has made a name for himself the last couple of years, and especially with the brilliant “in loving memory”-installation outside the Bank of England in 2008. Here is what K-Guy had to say about the financial crisis, high politics and other things that pisses him off:
Could you tell us a little about yourself? Where you from, what you do?
Male and singleâ€¦ minded, GSOH, seeks wall to paint something arsey on.
As you made the brilliantÂ â€in loving memory of the boom economyâ€ installation outside the Bank of England during the financial crisis, I assume that you are more interested in the subject than the average artist. As I am very interested in the subject myself, do you mind if I ask you some questions related to the crisis and the big business world? How did you came up with the â€œin loving memoryâ€¦â€-piece?
The idea for the â€˜boom economy shrineâ€™ was one of those concepts when everything just clicked into gear, one of those light bulb on moments when two elements unite as one perfectly. If my memory servesâ€¦ at the time I was kind of bemused by the fact that the media via the government started using this Credit Crunch tag to soften the blow. To anyone with any intelligence and nouse this was a massive spin on the truth and the country was fucked by years of overspending and banks blatantly encouraging personal debt. Anyway, the subject was rattling around in my brain for a couple of days and while I was out and about driving, I noticed a shrine to a car accident victim, BING, light bulb on and I then spent 3 days putting it all togetherÂ and installed it on the Sunday.
When the financial crisis hit, all the focus in media and elsewhere was on discussing the negative sides of the boom years with regard to how it caused the crisis. One of the reasons why I love the â€œin loving memory ofâ€¦â€-work, is that it presents a different angle on the boom years. The boom was great for a lot of people (and especially for many of the people who are to blame for the crisis), so why shouldnâ€™t it be missed? Do you think we should direct attention towards mistakes made in the boom years that caused the crisis, or just look at it as a good party (followed by an unavoidable hangover)?
I donâ€™t buy that, we elect a government and trust them to make good, sound decisions , we expect them to have foresight, we expect them to be on the button not brush things under the carpet. I just canâ€™t abide the lies, the cheating and theÂ blame free culture that politicians submerse themselves in.
Were you and/or your work in any way affected by the crisis?
To be honest Iâ€™ve been OK, I never saw art as a way of making a quick buck, I was always in it for the long haul and in a bizarre way itâ€™s been good for me. What I have done as a direct result is not flood the market and not try to move too quickly.I strongly believe street/urban art is about strong concepts and good executionÂ and thatâ€™s my ethos.
The art scene, and especially the urban art scene, experienced a major boom in the years before the crisis with skyrocketing prices. Then the crisis came, and prices (and a lot of hype) started to fall. As many artists profited from the boom by selling more art to higher prices, Isnâ€™t it a bit questionable that so many artists now suddenly start criticizing the greed in the boom years? Is it like stock brokers that start to criticize the system as soon as people stop buying their structured financial instruments, or is it different?
Iâ€™ve sold a hell of lot more art in the recession than I ever did in the boom so I don’t quite know what that means. Having said that, isn’t the entire art world all about hype? Without hype you wouldnâ€™t have half the multi-millionaireÂ artists that we have today because generally people need the follow like sheepÂ philosophy to be convinced? I just get on with my thing, money isn’t a dirty word, with money comes opportunity and I’m far too old to suffer for my art. I made a promise when I switched from designer to artist, no compromise, no boundaries and so far I’ve kept that pledge.
Another work of yours I really love is the â€œNO BLOOD ON YOUR HANDSâ€-installation at Art Amsterdam 2010. Once again you direct attention to the top levels of the society. Could you tell us about the idea behind the work and the process behind it? Is it once again directed towards the (hidden) greed of the corporate world or did you have a more general core-periphery exploitation in mind?
This basically all came about because the organisers at Art Amsterdam asked about 80 artists to submit a proposal for a piece of work to feature under the banner of the â€˜No Holds Barredâ€™ special project, fortunately mine was one of the few selected Â by the independent jury.
My concept was to take the cleanÂ white shirt: the uniform of the rich and theÂ powerful, Politicians, big business etc.Â and display it in what at first seemed like the calm and rarified atmosphere of a bespoke shirt makers. When the viewer enters the spaceÂ it is illuminated with a fluorescent stripÂ light that is intermittently flashing. When it goesÂ out UV lighting reveals a new and horrifyingÂ narrative to the story. The UV lighting revealsÂ that the shirts are splattered and splashed withÂ bloody hand prints â€“ young, old, female andÂ male. So what appeared at first to be the safe environment of a bespoke shirtmakers is now a crime scene or, perhaps, a clinical display of forensic evidence.
I always hoped that each viewer would come away from the No Blood installation with their own unique narrative but hopefully some of the messages were clear.Â The stains of suffering and death will always be visible even when hidden under a crisp, new shirt. No matter how hard you scrub away the blood, no matter how hard you try to hide the evidence and lock away the secrets, the truth will be revealed.
The funny thing is that Iâ€™ve just regurgitated this imagery for a collaborative piece with Amnesty International. They asked me to produce a screen print to raise some needed funds and general awareness but the problem was that my show in NYC was looming and I didn’t have much time to turn it around. I tried a few new things but in the end it seemed stupid to ignore that the ‘No Blood On Your Hands’ piece was absolutely perfect and spot on – why fight it?
Much (if not all) of your work is commenting on important issues regarding the economy, high politics, religion, capitalism, war and peace. Could you make a piece that was purely visual without any political message at all, or would that be impossible?
I donâ€™t really do pretty pictures and I kind of like my art to have a message but I guess Coke Moss fits the mantle of none specific subject matter?
What issues can we expect to be commented on in future works from K-Guy?
Who knows, I guess it depends on what pisses me off enough to get a visual reaction.
And now for something completely different: Any artists you admire and suggest that we should interview next?
I canâ€™t imagine for a second youâ€™ll get an interview but Banksy is still up there, his work is perpetually strong and always provokes a reaction.
Anything else you would like to add?
People say I take chances with some of my work but I couldnâ€™t produce anything else so I donâ€™t see it that way, itâ€™s me, itâ€™s what I do.