Thursday, 24 June 2010
LSD Magazine interviews Graffiti Legend Mear One - ISSUE 4
If the apogee of the graffiti artform is the hijacking of commercially numb public space to question, provoke and elevate the viewer into a higher state of reflective consciousness then Mear One is spraying up the cutting edge. Unifying the psychedelic truth of inner space and the multi dimensional journey of the soul with a piercing lament for the geo political genocide of the human spirit, his work shatters the barricades of daily reality and forces engagement with the archetypal issues we face both as individuals and a society. His spirit floods forth in paint, colour and sublime abstraction, questioning our existence, subverting our comfort zones and relentlessly driving the consciousness of the street into bitter realisation, the anger of activism and the transcendental exhaltation of true unity within our collective consciousness. LSD caught up with the man himself for a quick trip
Could you please tell us a little about your background and your journey into art
I got my start as a graffiti artist in Los Angeles in the late 80’s doing vandalism, learning how to evolve my art through the graffiti form and practising and competing as an artist out here in America. Being a graffiti artist means that you have a lot of competition and it really provokes you to go places with your art that no school can ever reach or to pull unexpected bits of information out so that you can get the attention, make the noise or get the big bang that all graffiti artists are looking for. I think we all start out in graffiti looking for a major impact to get some recognition because we’re coming from the hood, coming from the streets and we’re coming from a place of poverty and coming from a place where you don’t really have a chance. In the mid nineties I evolved into a different head space after witnessing the LA riots and after going through years of gang violence in LA, being endlessly in and out of jail, dealing with getting beat up and watching the courts financially wrench the hell out of you and take all your money all the time. I think it caused my mind to metamorphosise into a new state where I started to look at the world very differently. I was raised by an intensely liberal hippy mother who was a deeply radical thinker in her own right and whose ideas and training went into me and started to emerge at this point in my life. I was waking up to what was really screwed up with the world and what was really going on, relentless oppression and this whole capitalism, money matrix that’s running the planet, and realised that as far as graffiti art went… It was great to put up my name and my crew’s, but I wanted to dive artistically into a far deeper message and I think that some of my first canvases began to reflect that. My message was revolution - don’t believe the hype, wake yourself up to the complicated world around you and take some accountability. I guess my art has now evolved into more of a story telling language machine that communicates ideas that we’re not always talking about but need to be discussed, and what I’m doing now is working on a lot of pieces that are either social commentary or politically charged and have some essence of the spirit in them that lifts us out of the mockery that we find ourselves in.
Speaking of spirituality, a lot of your work references eastern spirituality and there’s a lot of third eye’s in there. Can you give us a bit of insight into that?
Absolutely. A lot of my work also references western traditions, I’m very much into philosophy, psychology and theology – I find all these ism’s incredibly fascinating… Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism whatever it may be. Religions and sciences enthral me. I’ve actually come up with a term called “ismology” - ism and ology fused together and that is effectively the type of work that I do. I incorporate a lot of fantastic ideas that come from philosophy and spiritual beliefs that are a huge influence to me and I feel that to express these philosophical or spiritual ideas is the most rewarding act I can take on as an artist, because when you are painting these things they actually realise themselves in your life and start to resonate within everything you do. It actually becomes in a strange sense, healing as an artist to paint this way because it’s the association you’re hanging out with. If you’re hanging out with your art all the time and your art is talking a lot of negative shit it’s gonna affect your head space but if you’re hanging out with your art and you’re really pouring some heavy work into philosophies and spiritual ideas that thousands of people have invested thousands of years into, suddenly you have a very powerful generating energy and reality manifested around yourself and I think that that’s probably what people recognise in my art. My overriding passion within this art form is to tell stories and to speak to people directly about whatever is hanging me up in the moment or whatever I feel is hanging the world up - quite often it’s both me and the world, all of us being held up by something and you know my biggest joy is to try to articulate that hold up. What’s blocking our lives? What’s fucking with us? And I want to illustrate that for people so that they can get a firm grasp around at least the conversation, at least inspire them to start talking about their lives and the world that they live in and the way that it’s politically or spiritually growing or diminishing around them.
On that note should art ever just be about aesthetics or should it always be pushing the boundaries of understanding and consciousness?
Well that’s an interesting question! Should life be purely functional or should we enjoy it and get something better out of life than we put into it? I don’t know. I think that there is something spiritual and powerfully moving just in colour alone; purely in form and shape. But I do think that one has to have an understanding of something higher than themselves and something greater than their own ego just to be able to use colour in its higher form because we can use colour to match the couch and we can use form to shape the environment, but at the end of the day a lot of form, shape and colour around us just falls to the background. It has no voice, it has no entity to it at all and my goal is to try to invest as much of that entity, of that voice into my work as possible. You know I don’t think that everyone needs to dig deep into their soul and express their spiritual or philosophical spectrum to do good art but I do think that art should communicate and it should communicate something that’s worth communicating.