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Innovative, brash, satirical and often bold, these are the words to describe the work of world renowned street artist Mobstr. From Newcastle, Mobstr sometimes tells stories through his work while at other times they are merely entertaining. Mobstr is passionate about his work which ranges from the very simple to deeper meanings. His work can be said to be a critique of consumerism, advertising and society as a whole.
Mobstr thrives in industrial, urban areas where there are many street walls, signs, subway tunnels and marquees. Much of his art is only preserved temporarily, before it is erased or painted over by the local civil “cleaners.” Not swayed or frustrated by a temporary display, Mobstr instead considers removal to be part of the cycle of art. Whether he is telling a story, making a satirical point, or just creating art for aesthetic pleasure and amusement, the result is gratifying for the city folk. Mobstr says, “I am just having some fun but I hope it has a hint of underlying truth. I don’t take what I do too seriously but don’t be mistaken there is a massive passion behind it.” Check out more of his extensive works here.
Utilising methods designed and employed for decades by the advertising industry itself, Mobstr employs his unique brand of biting social commentary and astute witticism to walls, streets and billboards across the UK. His work tends to form a dialogue between parties, a two-way conversation between the city walls and our eyes. We reached him for a chat about his progressions and the current state of street art.
Hello Mobstr, did you hear about the breaking news? Graffiti has become legal, now it’s called Street Art. Why do you keep on vandalism?
The illegal stuff is more challenging and entertaining. Both legal and illegal have their merits but what I like most is being able to paint what I want, where I want, when I want.
In 10 years everything has changed: bigger street art festivals, world renowned artists, rich sponsors and thousands of blogs reblogging the same picture..What’s happened and who’s really gaining something?
You’re definitely asking the wrong person…
Your most recent piece in Vilnius is a great shot, I found it as a total change of perspective about painting huge walls outside. The medium becomes the message and the object becomes the subject of a street art work.. Would you like to tell me some about quoting Warhol and a McLuhan concept?
The people who invited me out to Vilnius said they didn’t want just pretty paintings on walls. I won’t elaborate more but found their view point very refreshing. That crew was great, big up you guys. Maybe it’s using a famous quote to comment on the rising trend of street art = mural art = internet sensation. Maybe it was attempt to make a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe some other things. I’d like to leave that up to the interpretation of the viewer.
I think there’s a strong connection between the Vilnius piece and your previous “lessons in advertising” Vol. 2. Claiming bigger on a city banner or painting bigger on a huge wall could be compared? Is it something about reaching the audience shouting loud without a sharp message?
Scaling stuff up definitely makes more impact. If you paint the same picture but 100x the size it turn a mediocre image into something more captivating. With that idea in mind it’s possible to be painting boring shit and get away with it. Is that what I was trying to say in lessons in advertising Vol. 2? Yes. Was I using this idea in Vilnius? I was offered a selection of buildings. The reason I picked the one I did was because it had lines of concrete comparable to lines in a notebook. The fact it was very large was a bonus. The piece isn’t exactly a work of literature genius so having the punch of 40+ metres stripes of letters definitely helped.
“The curious frontier of red” is an amazing stage play. A perfect climax between you and a dark legal avenger. It’s hard to say if you were provoking him or he was pushing you to go further.. Definitely one of your best progressions. Could you tell us some about this story?
I was coming back to paint that wall at over a period of approximately 10 months. That progression was of particular interest to me as I had little idea of how it was going to evolve. With my other progression pieces there was a plan of how they would progress and they generally went the intended way. With RED I had mapped out a lot of possibilities but I still had no idea what would happen. In the end it worked out well.
One day I read this sentence on a wall: “If we stop writing, will you stop removing?”
It is obviously a contradiction in terms, but I’m interested in what you like most about this eternal fight, and in what you’re searching for through these questions to the audience.
Is it maybe the perfect balance between two opposing forces?
I was talking to someone my work recently and I remarked how it was pointless. But then when you step back from it all, everything is pointless. Some people preoccupy themselves bringing up kids or by focusing on a career. I distract myself with painting on things I’m not supposed to. I play with the system in place and I question it from time to time, not because I am trying to prove a point but simply because I am enjoying myself. Someone said: “A wall is a very big weapon”.
Do you find the same nowadays, while we’re surrounded by millions of billboards? I mean, don’t you find even thinner the line between art and ads?
There’s that wall in London on Great Eastern Street, opposite the village underground which used to be dedicated to artists painting their work. It’s now dedicated to artists painting adverts on it. I’m not going to go any further other than saying that in this case the art has now become an advert and it’s boring.
Let’s go back for a moment to your beginnings. What was the urgency that pushed you on writing something on a wall?
The story goes that when I was 11 years old (a longtime ago) I found a book of blank sticky labels; the type used for putting on envelopes. On the labels I decided to write quotes and musings that I found of interest and stuck them up all over the place. Why I did this I am not entirely sure but I know that I liked the idea of people finding hidden thoughts within their environment. Maybe that was enough reason for me to go out and do it.
And what do you see when you look back at your earlier works, do you feel comfortable or is there something you would like to erase?
As soon as I’ve finished a piece I dislike it and I move onto the next. My favourite piece is always the one I am working on at the time. This philosophy allows me to keep on striving.
Dismaland Bemusement Park has been the summer hit this year. Have you found something interesting?
Nootropics. Also I came across an old poem I’d written about Laika, the Space Dog.
What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?
Sorry but I never discuss about future ideas or plans.