Preparing for an exhibition in New York, March 2012
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
Interview with Whatisadam
In late 2011, I fell hard for a silkscreen by the artist Whatisadam titled Maple Sizzurp. I immediately took an interest in WIA's work, spotting his Canadiana wheatpastes across Montreal. His illustrations of ducks, buffalo and deer display prominent breasts, bold tattoos and devilish grins, while iconic maple syrup cans are hijacked by a mischievous checkered-shirt-fox. Influenced by advertising, comic books and vintage posters, WIA creates art that is uniquely his.
In this day and age, why create art?
Why create art... good question. In my case, I have actually tried stopping. But after a very short period of time, I always go back to it. It’s like a hunger: it eventually consumes you until you have to pay attention to the grumbling.
What exactly is a street artist?
I believe a street artist is someone who has something to say and doesn’t wait for a gallery or an art lover to notice. They take risks to turn a dull alleyway into an attraction. It's kind of like doing a live painting gig, there's a little bit of problem solving and your limited in time, the only difference in street art is that at any moment someone can chase you away. Seeing as how what I do on the street is in a legal 'grey' area, I prefer not to make it too easy for the authorities, which is why I use the pseudonyms Whatisadam and WIA.
Could you explain your wheatpasting technique?
Wheatpasting is when a poster, sometimes drawn by hand, or painted, silkscreened or printed, is glued to a wall with a batch of homemade glue. It's a technique used to rapidly cover many areas with the possibility of repeated images.
Pasted Maple Sizzurp cans
PartyMixTape has showcased your Maple Sizzurp. Could you tell us more about how this piece came to be?
The 'Maple Sizzurp' can is directly inspired by Andy Warhol's 'Campbell’s Soup' image. I have never been a big fan of Warhol, but I respect his work greatly. The idea came to be after a close look at the work of LA street artist OBEY, and his use of popular culture in his work. I read an article about him, where the writer referred to him as the Andy Warhol of the 21st century. I then realized their similarities and the power of pop art, and using an image people have a connection with. Seeing as how my work is greatly inspired by Quebec culture, and specifically Montréal life, I worked on a few iconic products, specific to Quebec. The Maple Sizzurp Can is just the first to be released.
Out of your entire production, which piece do you feel best represents your aesthetic identity?
The day I decided to draw a deer with boobs seems to be when my street art went into overdrive. 'Roxy' is a character that I keep going back to, she is my muse. Everything I do now stems from her creation. Street art has been a major influence in my drive in the last four years. Every time I see a new mural, or an outdoor piece I rush back to the studio to get started on new designs.
Roxy (in pink)
How did you become interested in silkscreen printing?
I realized early on that all the images I was inspired by most were silkscreen prints. I like the effectiveness of the art, multiple versions that differ slightly from one to another. The control, the sharp result that I ended up with, and I loved the idea that in screen printing... less is more.
In your opinion, is conveying a social message through art a trend or a necessity?
I think most artists starting out, believing it is necessary to have a message. But the funny thing is, as you create more... the message becomes more subliminal. It becomes less obvious, which in turn makes it more interesting.
Describe a day in the life of WIA.
Most of my days are filled from working with organizations like Station 16, Cease and EnMasse. I am working on more commissions and “legal” murals now because of the groups mentioned. But I always try to get in a new drawing or painting once a day. I've also begun working with other artists, on a variety of projects. The biggest one yet to come is AAA, a show in the works with artists Alan Ganev and Antoine Tavaglione.
Trip to Nova Scotia in June 2012
You’ve created street art in Montreal and Brooklyn, and have recently travelled to the Maritimes. Do you plan ahead what you’ll be pasting? How much does location and context influence your work?
Every time I leave the city, I always bring at least a dozen wheatpastes with me, just in case. But sometimes I try to plan ahead, such as in the case of my recent trip to Halifax, where I painted a "Greeting from Nova Scotia" Roxy Mermaid wheatpaste. Mexico is another example, where I made sure to bring an Owl Mother Mary print. So it definitely does inspire my work.
Name your three favourite songs:
Narrowing down my favourite songs is always difficult; I listen to podcasts mostly, like RadioLab. But if I had to choose two artists I'm into right now, it would be Neon Indian & Bon Iver.