Never Satisfied: An Interview with QUIM

By - Friday, February 5th, 2016

Letters are taken for granted as gospel, as all we need in our bizarre life. But what happens when they just don’t feel exciting anymore? what happens when you outgrow your art? Where do you go next? 

 

“I’ll never understand how some writers can recycle the same outlines time and time again. Einstein wrote ‘Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result each time”

Quim 

 

2015

2009

Introduce yourself and give us a little bit of background as to how you get started?

I’m Mike, I write Quim when I’m painting letter pieces but that’s currently taken a back seat. I first got into graffiti when pieces started to appear in a local park in the early 80s. Unfortunately I never took photos, and I’ve asked around and no one seems to have any either, but I can remember the pieces like it was yesterday. Experiencing these crazy letters and characters really ignited something in me, and it was the start of a life-long passion for graffiti and art in general. I was also fascinated by political graffiti which appeared a little later; VICTORY TO THE MINERS, BOYCOTT CIRCUSES and, my personal favourite, FILM NOT VIDEO – SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CINEMA all popped up in my locality as the angry youth chose to publicly express their feelings.

How would you describe your style and approach?

Art over all-out vandalism. I value the creative process over any desire to be known through quantity. I’m very relaxed about graffiti. I paint a wall, take my photos, and that’s it. I couldn’t care less if it gets taken out 30 seconds later. As long as the process was fun and the result was pleasing to me, I consider it a success.

What interests you about graffiti over anything else?

Everything about it is wonderful. The exploration, the creative process, meeting new friends and old, travelling, appreciating high points and learning from the lows, the documentation, and looking forward to the next cycle. It’s the most addictive thing in the world.

From looking through Flickr, you’ve experimented a lot with different styles over the years, how has your mentality about graff changed since you started?

I’ll never understand how some writers can recycle the same outlines time and time again. Einstein wrote ‘Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result each time’.You’re right, my Flickr photostream is a real patchwork of different styles and approaches. I go through stages, and I guess I have quite a brief interest span, as nothing seems to take root or remain for very long, even when I feel that I’ve locked into something enjoyable. I occasionally wonder if I’ll look back at some point and regret producing such a varied body of work as opposed to something more coherent, but I’ve enjoyed the journey to where I currently am so I can’t complain. I’d make a terrible bomber; I have too much respect for other peoples’ property and feelings! I’ve gone through stages of doing illegal stuff but I really appreciate the opportunity for a nice relaxed paint these days. A nice quiet spot, with friends, doing something interesting. I moved away from letters about a year ago; it was a conscious decision after reflecting on pieces done leading up to that time. I wasn’t that I hated what I was doing, but I felt that I was getting less and less enjoyment out of conventional painting methods. After a period of relative lazyness (in terms of not putting much effort into pieces) I started to invest more time into walls incorporating letters, characters, background etc., but I often left the wall feeling cold and unsatisfied. I guess I had gradually lost interest in ‘normal’ graffiti and felt the need to pursue an alternative avenue. I longed for more opportunities to fulfil my fine art desires so eventually letters gave way to abstracts. I love the stuff I’m currently doing. I get a real sense of satisfaction and fulfilment when painting these days and I don’t envisage going back to letters any time soon.

How do you start a piece?

By clearing my mind! I try not to approach a wall with any preconceived ideas or intentions. That way, the process and the outcome are always a pleasant suprise. With my current abstract paintings, the combination of different media on the wall often results in something that morphs and develops whilst the overall composition takes shape.

 

2008

2014
2014

2015

2015

I’m really into the graffiti removal process. I love the hideous blocks of poorly matched emulsion that attempt to cover tags and throws on prominent buildings. I often use that kind of process to start a painting – block out most of the space with various shapes and shades of emulsion, then work into it with spraypaint and other media to create little areas of interest. Fine art is far more interesting and influential to my current practice than anything else. I’ve been making collage pieces recently, using old posters removed from unofficial hoardings in my local area. The tatty, weathered quality of the paper combined with the range of colours, fonts, printing processes and thicknesses available can result in some really lovely surfaces and textures.

2015

Whats the weirdest experience you’ve had when painting?

A few people were painting in a factory in Dudley. It’s a well known spot for heroin users. We were painting a wall when a young girl rushes into the factory and shouts “Oi! Come and have a look at this!” so we follow her outside to see what’s going on. A young lad is laying on the floor and another girl is about to inject him in the neck. He tilts his head, she pumps him full of gear, but he spasms and manages to snap the needle off in his neck. His mates start freaking out (in their strong Black Country accents, which made the whole thing even more incredible) and we returned to our wall, a little shaken by what we had just witnessed.

Do you think that initial reaction to the graffiti you saw has affected the way you paint today? I remember picking up a Stylefile in my teenage years and the things that blew my mind then still influence me today. 

It hasn’t affected the way I paint – not currently anyway – but it certainly ignited something in me and served as a catalyst for my art passion. It wasn’t my first encounter (I remember seeing a few tags and pieces in my local area) but it was my first experience of, what was essentially, a hall of fame. The location was King George IV Park in Wordsley, West Midlands. I was returning home with my family from a summer holiday and we drove past the park. I thought I caught a glimpse of something through the gates so as soon as we got home I jumped on my bike a shot back to the park. There they were, the most amazing things my young eyes had ever witnessed; WEST, DOOM, KOL, ICA, MASTA-8 in glorious technicolour. I stood in front of the pieces for hours, wondering how they were done, who had done them, and how they had got away with it. My earliest graffiti experiments were very conventional; simple letters and characters ‘heavily inspired’ by Subway Art and another black and white book of 70’s NYC train pieces which I found in Wordsley Library and I’ve never seen it anywhere since then.
 
Why do you abstracts are more rewarding than standard letter pieces? Is it to do with this morphing / progression throughout the piece? 
 
I’ll attribute that to the lack of planning or desired outcome. It’s a really free and organic process. Start with a few basic patches of colour and just push/scrape/roll into it until you’re happy with it. It’s the antithesis of how I created letter pieces with sketches, reference, carefully considered colour schemes etc. I can work on an abstract for a short time, step back and evaluate, then go back to it and block bits out, add extra lines, and suddenly it’s exciting to me again. The morphing and progression is especially powerful when painting in the winter – cold misty days and wet walls aren’t exactly ideal for letter pieces but I find that those conditions really lend themselves to easily and effectively changing the aesthetics. 
 
2014
 2014 Finished

2015 

“I still consider what I’m doing a form of graffiti as I still use mainly spray paint and emulsion on walls. I’d fully understand if people didn’t share that view though. I’ve enjoyed using unorthodox combinations of wet media in my paintings such as bitumen, UHT paint, felt roof glue, anti mould paint, gloss, pond sealer etc and incorporating elements of collage too. There is no long term plan or intention, I’ll keep painting and see where it goes. My track record suggests that this too will become staid and I will feel the need to move in a new direction.”  
 
Any favourite writers / artists you’d like to highlight as influential to you?

Despite what I’ve said, I haven’t renounced graffiti in it’s conventional format. There are plenty of people out there, UK and abroad, who are doing really interesting walls. Raek is consistently good, his recent walls have been awesome. I always love seeing new stuff from Dreph aka the king of connections. The TGB guys always bring the funk – Vent, Hello, Deus etc. Krek is a style master. Neist is amazing, the level of detail he manages to incorporate into his letters whilst still retaining the funk (rather than it turning into a calculated skills excersize) is insane. I’m really into Moderne Jazz from France. Oh and I can’t forget Moses and Taps; the amount they get done is wild. When I got their book, I was glued to it for months just like when I saw Subway Art for the first time. From the world of fine art, I’m into Basquiat, Olafur Eliasson, Katharina Grosse, Pierre Soulages, Mary Weatherford and many more

 
Could you sum graffiti in 3 words? 

 

Fivepanel, Northface, Airmax.
 

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2014

2015

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