Interview: El Mac at the Montana Factory
El Mac uses a can of spray paint like no one else in the world can. Whereas most people would use a fat cap to fill in a piece or catch a fat cap tag, El Mac creates precise patterns of cross-hatching that result in larger-than-life portraits that maintain the feeling of graffiti while taking on classical notions of beauty in fine art. El Mac recently stopped by the Montana Paint factory in Spain to paint one of his large portraits and took a couple minutes to sit down for an interview. We posted the images and interview below from Montana’s website.
How did you get into graffiti?
My mother is an artist and I was always drawing as a child. I started doing graffiti in ‘94, more or less. When I first started I wasn’t sure if it was going to be one of those fling things, or if I was going to be into it for the rest of my life. I don’t really believe there is much difference between doing murals and graffiti. There’s a clear distinction, but they come from the same roots.
I got my start painting out in the street thanks to some guys I went to school with. I saw them tagging and the book Subway Art,… thats what really set it off for me.
What would you say the first link in your creative chain is?
I always listen to music when I paint: jazz, music from the 60’s, 70s, stuff that’s got rhythm.
What attracts you most when you’re walking through the street?
It depends on the city. For example, in Barcelona I look at the buildings, the graffiti, and peoples’ faces. Amsterdam is another city with a lot of culture, though the whole red light district strikes me as pretty interesting, I like to look at the buildings and the gargoyles there.
Do you have a plan?
You mean a five year plan? HA!
I guess I mean to ask if you have been headed in a particular direction since you got started?
Well, life is full of surprises, but ever since I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to art some way or another whether it was graffiti, murals, or paintings, I wanted to paint for the people so they could have something to look at. That has always been a big part of my life.
What are your strong and weak points and what might be your biggest challenge?
I have problems organizing my time between my work and my life. When I’m painting I put everything aside and totally focus on what I’m doing. I think I paint really slow. I’d like to be able to paint faster and make better use of my time.
When one begins to paint, there’s a type of freshness and a sort of innocence they have, that with time, technique always seems to transform… how has your transformation been?
When I started I never thought much about concepts nor ideas, because I love to paint and I felt that I was learning on my own about body, and shading, etc… But recently I’ve been working on the abstract angle of my paintings, giving them a bit more soul.
Is that what you want to convey? Your paintings are generally gentle, and very human-like, and if there´s any criticism is “smooth like silk”.
I’ve painted some real ugly, negative and dark stuff. It is part of my sensitivity, but I feel it is my responsibility to demonstrate positivity to the people, stuff that elevates the spirit to get them inspired.
I like dark stuff, like Goya’s art… it’s hard realism. Sometimes I do things like that, but I´m an idealist and I like to do things that convey perfection.
How have you developed your technique?
In the beginning I had almost an airbrusher technique, smoother and more refined, but after years of painting in the dark with out seeing what I was doing, that changed. I started seeing photos of fatcap lines in portraits of friends and others, and hundreds of mexican farmworkers.
Are you very critical of yourself?
I´m the worst, I´m so critical of myself.
Which artists do you admire?
I’ve recently seen some new stuff done by Aryz and Os Gemeos, and a bunch of graff writers that are doing a lot of very good work, though my biggest inspirations come from the more classic artists such as mexican muralists like Ribera and Chiquero. Jorge González Camarena is one of my favorite muralists. They were doing an earlier version of what we’re doing right now. It was art that wasn’t necessarily for the rich or for some religious organization. They were doing a huge part of social work with their art.
Apart from the muralists, I like the masters. Caravaggio, Miguel Angel, Vermeer… I could go on and on.
What do you think about the controversy over painting on public property… respectful or not?
Public space is public space. I have a problem with people that hit up on churches, monuments, and peoples homes, but we live in cities and in essence, if you´re going to paint in a public area, my opinion is that you should do it as best you can, even though you are risking it. It’s not only out of respect for others but for yourself. If you tag, do it nice. Practice your writing style, it represents who you are. No one was born knowing everything.
There’s another thing as well. They’re trying to shut down everything in cities like Barcelona and Los Angeles. Wherever you want to paint you have to ask for a permit, even if it’s a private job. Thats why the murals are disappearing and now it’s all bombed out. I don’t have a problem with that at all, I like it, seriously, but I´m a bit sad to see everything else go.
What do you lose sleep over?
Good question. Well, normally I work a lot and have that problem, maybe that’s why I work so much.
What makes you feel like you are at your best?
In general I feel good good after I do something good, an art pieces, something good for my friends (maybe I could do more), and when people come up to me and tell me they like what I do.
What do you like more, painting big or small?
I prefer to paint big, or as big as possible.
What do you looking for in a can?
I want it to cover nice; it has to be thick. I use a fatcap for my technique because I need it to make a perfect circle but empty.
I have a lot of things to do. I am very fortunate for the opportunities I have, to do what I do, and I’m able to travel and all. Soon I´m going to Mexico where I’m really looking forward to painting, getting to know the culture, and the people. I have a few prospects here in Barcelona in a gallery next year as well as another show coming up next year in L.A.
* Special thanks to Musa for the interview, MTN Team and Jorge Gerada (Avant-Garde) for make it happen, Mar Roig for the pictures and, of course, to El Mac for giving us this amazing gift… A video will follow soon.
Source: MTN World