Medium and Method: an Interview with Ludvig.
Graffiti allows a glimpse into an unseen world, a flicker of some kind of truth that is kept hidden behind the everyday. Experience unconcerned with convention, act unconcerned with consequence – graffiti exaggerates the artists love of freedom and forces it upon the public.
Ludvig is not your ordinary writer, intent on letting expression and gesture dictate his pieces his painterly work stands at the forefront of what has come to be termed ‘Ignorant style’.
“It’s funny how people pretend to hate the set up of the establishment and the way that we are governed and then, as soon as they are able to, they try to establish the same type of phoney system in their favor”
Could you introduce yourself and give us a little bit about how you got started? What first drew you to the art form etc.
I write Ludvig. I represent NNC, 1LS, MLC, EE and 1%.
I first started a long while back… I don’t really remember how or exactly when, there was no big bang moment, at school I drew on stuff and practiced letters but never really got anything done. There were other kids who just had these amazing handstyles, the way that people did letters in their tags back then was so good, the letters were kind of broad at the bottom, sort of squat, with smaller top ends, It took me a couple of years after that to get started. I wasn’t really that naturally drawn to writing as a package of elements in the same way that I saw happening with some others, there was really no musical connection for me, I liked the punk graffiti and some of the people writing band names but I also liked a lot of the more political and protest statements done with roller paint you used to see a lot of these on bridges and along motor ways. You don’t really see it anymore, I think that people thought it was a good way to get a message out at that point in time now it’s a pretty limited way. What drew me to writing was a mix of wanting to create something while not being the best at art and wanting to make a mess and irritate people. It was a bit like prodding people with a stick and then running away. I was definitely angsty and angry but then I’m still that way now… I didn’t really think of it as an art form, it was just something that we did, the same way that it happens today, wherever you end up your name ends up.
“It’s important to me that a piece is expressive and has some depth to it, that it’s not just a picture of a word… I’m not a big fan of pieces that all look the same or where you can’t see any of the character of the person behind them; it’s confusing to see a piece with no character coming through in it. Sometimes you see pieces that seem to have no humour and seemingly no passion; just something painted by some Norris, fuck that”
In modern graffiti we’re seeing a lot of writers take up a deliberately naive style a lot like yourself – where expression and release seem to take precedence over technical ability etc, could you describe / explain your style a little?
My feelings on this are a bit warped and mixed; I can paint technically well with a spray can and did that for years, it wasn’t until later that I stopped with that and found a different path so I really appreciate some of the technical pieces, some of the works I see are clearly executed amazingly, but they just leave me cold, I can’t see the human element in them. I just don’t want to paint like that. So at the moment being able to express and being able to do it quickly are definitely important. Sometimes painting a more technical piece in the past would get me stressed but I never feel like that anymore. I use the first line I draw every time, never really making any corrections, I strongly believe that the first line is the right line and should be worked with, no cut backs, no corrections, no faffing. It’s important to me that a piece is expressive and has some depth to it, that it’s not just a picture of a word… I’m not a big fan of pieces that all look the same or where you can’t see any of the character of the person behind them; it’s confusing to see a piece with no character coming through in it. Sometimes you see pieces that seem to have no humor and seemingly no passion; just something painted by some Norris, fuck that.
My stuff is about having fun and making a mess, it’s about not really giving too much of a fuck. I like for things to look weird, childish and a bit off key, I’m definitely not looking for any kind of balance or flow or clean details with thin lines, a million fades… The style is about releasing energy and expressing something, painting freely, fast and with a sense of fun or anger or whatever it is that you’re feeling. It’s very important to me that the pieces are letter based, I’m always just writing my name, I’m not really that interested in doing pieces which aren’t based on words at the moment. Occasionally I’ll do a big blockbuster or two just to check that I can still do ‘normal’ letters, or just to shut someone up when there’s too much talk of weird styles and lack of letter structure.
It appears you’re a fan of the multimedia approach to pieces which is really refreshing to see, could you talk about your decision to use a brush?
I nearly always use a roller and emulsion, bucket paint. I find it much faster to use a roller, it’s good because I’m very impatient. There are also other factors at play too, I like to be in contact with the surface, using a roller does this; with a can you’re always just off the surface. I like the reach of the arm to make a line and then the swipe quickly back to start filling in, it’s a fast way to paint. I never really sketch out a piece and then fill it in, I generally just do one letter at a time and then go backwards and forwards along the piece until it’s finished. The downside to this is that I’m pretty bad at scaling so pieces tend to come out big in scale. Also roller paint is easy to come by too, cheapish to buy and often to be found in skips or thrown out onto the street. I do use cans sometimes but in conjunction with mulsh, very rarely alone. What I find though is that I can’t really get the overall look that I want for a piece, I lose the fluidity and spontaneity of it with just cans, it feels forced and fiddly; slow and lacking energy. I admire writers who use only cans and manage to make their pieces look spontaneous and full of energy. I’ll occasionally use cans for the outline, I do like the dusty look you get from a can with a stock cap, I like the 1970’s look of doing that.
“It does look different but to me that’s part of the point, the point is not for everything to look the same, the point is not to stick to the rules”
As it differentiates so much from the norm, where do you place it in terms of graffiti?
To me it feels like the same thing, I know that the pieces end up looking a little different from the average but I think that most writers would want their stuff to look different from other pieces. If your stuff doesn’t stand out then it’s most likely not going to get any shine. There haven’t been many writers doing the dirty style in the UK over the years but in Europe there have been some guys really pushing it for a while. It does look different but to me that’s part of the point, the point is not for everything to look the same, the point is not to stick to the rules… not for me anyway. I’m not sure where I’d really place it, it obviously is an outlier and not that close to the traditional fundamentalist New York style but it has the same root. It is no more freakish in my mind than people who claim to be writers and just paint large spray painted murals with no letters for corporate money, for me they’re further from ‘graffiti’ than I am.
Why do you feel what you are doing is important to graffiti?
Haha, that is a difficult question to answer without coming across as a total tosser! I’m not sure that it really is that important to graffiti as a whole but it is very important to me, it’s a way of life for me, or a strong part of my life. I have a compulsion to paint and try to do a fair bit, it’s fun. If it was important to writing in any way, I would stay that it is asking for a bit more open mindedness, it’s another voice saying that it’s ok to be yourself, to do what you like… not to always feel the need to conform. But if that’s what you want to do then that’s cool too. I know that there are people who do like my stuff but there are also plenty who don’t like it at all, some people get so angry about it it’s funny. Maybe that’s important, it does seem to make people think something or to form an opinion, it’s not always pretty so it does push against all the ‘pretty pictures’. I think that it’s most probably just important in that it adds to the diversity of what exists as ‘graffiti’ so all writers are important in this sense. It’s also important that not everything looks the same, there is room for big messy stuff too.
Where do you draw your influences from now? Is there anything from outside this culture that feeds into it?
Most of the things that influence me are not from the world of writing, there are exceptions like early and mid 1970’s pieces and some of the styles coming out of Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic… But what mostly influences me are things that I see or hear. This comes out in the pieces and the little bits of text that I try to add to them, I’m inspired by things like music, hardcore, NYHC, HXC, punk, the rave scene, DnB, techno, metal and hardcore t-shirt imagery, religious and cultural symbols, booze, illegal subs, films, tattoos and flash, fine art, really shit art, outsider art, violence, sex, female genitalia, animals. Stupid things that happen when you’re out and about… all sorts of stuff… sometimes I can get really inspired by one thing and then mine that for a bit, other times I’ll just flick through an old sketchbook for reference. Other graffiti doesn’t really inspire me much, I like seeing other people’s stuff if it’s not in a HoF as it’ll buzz me up to want to paint but I think that’s just being competitive and wanting to do more. Sometimes I’ll see other peoples stuff and I’ll think ‘what a fucking waste of paint…’ I know people think that about my stuff all the time too though.
Your Instagram features a lot of pastel drawings of phrases, could you talk bit about those?
When you’re using oil pastels it’s a bit like using a roller and sloppy paint on a surface, they’re both slightly unpredictable mediums, both scrappy and dirty. I find the work in the sketchbooks fun to do and they’re quick, you can get whatever is on your mind out pretty quick, it’s part release and part self-actualisation. Part of it is also just about using what is at hand, I’ve been using highlighters a fair bit, the reason for that is just because I had some so they got used. I also like using acrylic on canvas and in the books, I’ll mess about with any medium that I can get my hands on really, it’s all good and challenging in its own way.
“I think that this is why there are lots of people who paint pieces that end up looking the same whatever their mood, because they are in a different place mentally when they’re painting not really feeling the overriding emotion that they may have at that point. What I mean is that an individual can paint when they’re sad or when they’re happy and the pieces may look the same”
I think with graffiti it really allows you to remove a lot of baggage from experience and get close to some real honesty regarding things, you seem very in touch with and understanding of how to use the medium to get a certain feeling so is this true of your opinion of graffiti in general? Do you use it in the same way? To get to grips with a certain part of experience that you can’t with other art forms? Perhaps because of its inherent illegality etc?
Yeah I would agree with this in general, I think that writing is a great escape for lots of people. Actually I think that this is why there are lots of people who paint pieces that end up looking the same whatever their mood, because they are in a different place mentally when they’re painting, not really feeling the overriding emotion that they may have at that point. What I mean is that an individual can paint when they’re sad or when they’re happy and the pieces may look the same, for me it’s different, how I’m feeling comes through and has to come out in a piece. If I’m feeling sad or angry it’ll be clear to see or if I have something to say I’m going to say it in the piece. Sometimes it’s better to go and paint a nasty, energetic and aggressive piece rather than punching someone in the face.
Painting is a cathartic process, I use it to push energy out, working with rollers and bucket paint helps with that, it has an intense immediacy, its full of energy.
On your last question, yes, it does reach places that other forms of creation cannot, it is dirty and nasty and generally on a large scale less restricted. It’s fun because of that… Writing gets you out and about, painting canvas or working in a sketch book is good but you are generally geographically more restrained, sat in one place, with writing you are on your toes seeing and doing things, often with other people. I think graffiti not only expresses something of the character of the person behind it, but also about their energy.
The ‘dirty style’ you speak of is something i’m a massive fan of, with the French crew PAL doing some interesting things. Are there any distinct writers you admire?
I like the PAL guy’s stuff a lot too, have a look at CAP crew from Prague, Germes gang and Apl314. There are so many amazingly talented painters out there!
Cap Crew – http://crewagainstpeople.org
What have the complaints been against your work?
Nothing that I care about at all but lots of funny things that make me chuckle. People love to make up rules when actually there really aren’t any in this game, the only things that act as boundaries for us are our own personal moral codes, what we are and are not willing to do, our own codes of respect. Generally people do the right thing but often also don’t. I don’t see any particular reason why people should respect their elders or their betters or those worse than them; that’s really just old fashioned thinking which is put in place by people trying to maintain the status quo. It’s funny how people pretend to hate the set up of the establishment and the way that we are governed and then as soon as they are able to try to establish the same type of phoney system in their favour, I see this so much… ‘You must respect this’, ‘X is a king’, ‘Y can’t paint over Z’ etc, blah blah.
You seem to place a real importance on progression and experimentation, is there an end goal you’re heading towards? artistically or personally?
Yes and no, when I was painting often with Bino a few years ago, we were constantly pushing to progress and talked about what the logical end would be. There was never an end goal as such, because if there was then that may indicate that it is not worth painting any more, and that was definitely never the intention. We played with minimising pieces into just lines and dots or smears of buffed out colour. We painted a lot of walls like that and ended up providing a lot of decent backgrounds for other people’s pieces in the process haha. I still focus on progression and love to experiment, I never paint the same piece twice, so every piece is different. I will push off in one direction and explore that for a bit and then do something different when it feels right, i’ll often follow a direction to see where it goes.
However, to really experiment you need to paint hundreds of pieces a year otherwise it is just not possible to explore anything properly, or you need to hit the blackbook hard as a proxy. Artistically it is important to me to paint a lot, as much as I can, I try to paint over 100 pieces a year otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to move forward and develop enough. Personally, it’s just important for me to carry on; I enjoy it! I am not aiming for any kind of perfect style because there’s no such thing, it is different for everyone. I remember people looking at pieces and telling me ‘look, that’s tuff, that’s the perfect style’ But, for me it rarely is, I look at it and see the same piece I have seen tens of times before, sometimes exactly the same outline…
So, yes, progression and experimentation are really important to me, they are some of the key reasons that I carry on.
What has graffiti taught you?
I think that the main thing it has taught me is that it’s ok just to be yourself. With most things in life it seems that there are rules, restrictions, regulations or that you have to please someone else or work to a brief, with graffiti and art in general you can just do your own thing. You can just do what pleases you, art is the same, unless you choose to make it something that you need to earn money from… People are still going to judge you and critique your work, but who the fuck cares? My friend Insane says that all graffiti writers are mad to varying degrees; I think that he has a point. There are a lot of good crazies amongst us and a few bad ones; some very loyal people and some absolute snakes, some people who will tell you things to your face and others who are too cowardly to do so talk behind your back. There are a lot of negatives, but also a lot of positives. Graffiti allows you to have a lot of experiences that you wouldn’t have had otherwise and to meet a lot of interesting characters along the way. It is also generally a meritocracy, it’s not exactly, you still get hype and people trying to control things in their own favour, but in general you reap rewards if you put the energy into it.
The idea that graffiti has is actually backing up traditional laws whilst aiming to subvert them entirely is an interesting point. Its common knowledge that we must respect our elders, but in an art form whose main appeal is that exists outside of common action why must this be so? Surely if ‘graffiti is war’ as so many people aim their actions to be – why then are we building the same social system we’re aiming to avoid, inside this? If graffiti is a lifestyle, why are we not doing more to embrace the illegality it promotes? (i’m not talking about ‘racking’ and theft, necessarily) If we are aiming to break down barriers, why stop at letterforms? Surely the greatest crime graffiti is doing is to itself, by not taking it’s playful subversion far enough.