After leaving your solo show " Against The Grain" at Spoke New York , I found myself fascinated by you and your body of work. Being an anonymous artist had me wondering if everyone I had met that night was in fact you, GATS ( Graffiti Against The System )! May I ask why you chose to remain anonymous?
I strive to remain anonymous because I am creating works in the street without permission nearly 365 days a year. Once or twice a year I show artwork in a gallery, and during the openings I’m usually out painting. My identity is deeply linked to graffiti and I always choose the freedom of anonymity. I’ve turned down a $10,000.00 commission because they wanted my real name (which was brutal because I was flat broke at the time). Another time I was offered a full paid scholarship to a prestigious university if I agreed to tell them who I was and stop painting illegally. That was about eight years ago, but I didn’t feel like I was ready to stop. I don’t know if I’ll ever voluntarily stop. Other than the obvious practical reasons, I’m not a fan of society voluntarily forfeiting its privacy for convenience and security. Getting my work out to the people is important to me but I have no desire for fame. I just want to have adventures and be free to put art where it needs to be regardless of arbitrary laws.
What are your preferred mediums of choice? In the show, there were so many used that I wonder if any stood out to you that you truly enjoyed working with? Any you choose to shy away from? One of my favorites were the extinguishers.
It is funny you asked what medium I shy away from. That is probably easier than listing every medium I use. I avoid painting on animals. If I use bone it is something I found myself in nature. Still, I avoid it because I don’t want people to think it is cool and then go buy unethically sourced bones on Ebay.
I am all over the place with mediums. What I use depends on what I’m trying to express with the piece. I really like texture and natural colors. I want my work to pop off the wall and be tangible… something that can’t be experienced through a computer.
I love wood because I can carve it, burn it, paint it, stain it, distress it, and build upon it. Wood has its own history and energy. I find discarded wood and imply importance to something that was once alive and creating the oxygen that we need to survive.
That wonderful iconic mask that is truly unique to your work...can you tell our readers the significance of the mask? Is that something that you feel comfortable sharing with our audience?
There is not a brief answer to this question and it’s usually the first one people ask. Maybe I’ll publish something more in depth, but for now I’ll try to scratch the surface. My mask is a universal symbol of duality, balance, and struggle. Both external and internal, micro and macro. Universal because it is halfway between a human face (the first thing we see when we enter the world) and a skull. Life and death. Then duality, because masks represent the different roles we have to play in society regardless of who we feel we really are. The cracks in the mask are the hope that one day people will be free to be themselves and find a balance between roles. Finally, I say struggle because that is what balance is and ultimately what life is.The symbols within the mask go into a lot more depth and vary from piece to piece. They are the story of my life. Many of which I will only tell people I’m close to. You may be wondering why I would bother putting secret symbols in public? It is a personal ritual that I use to reflect on life events. A way for me to honor and remember people, experiences and beliefs. I started doing it prior to the popularity of graffiti on social media. The world was more isolated then. There were no strangers on the opposite side of the world asking me what it meant. It was for my immediate counter culture to communicate.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be with and what would your finished piece look like?
There is the myth of the western artist that stands alone from all influence and creates everything in a vacuum. The reality though, is that everything is created in the context of the artists before us and around us. Not that we are copying, but we are reacting… because you created that, I created this. In that way, my work is what the finished collaboration looks like. Except the collaboration isn’t finished, it’s just onto the next person. With that said, there is no one I would rather make stuff with than my friends.
What is next for you?
After a solo show I always tell myself that I’m going to lay face down on the ground for a month, but that never happens. It is always immediately onto the next project. Possibly a solo show in San Francisco around May of 2018. I’m working towards a book that will hopefully be done by then. Definitely more traveling and putting up public work. I’m experimenting with more 3D mediums. I have a million ideas but every year I end up somewhere unexpected. The general plan is I’m going to write my name on a lot of stuff in a lot of places, read some books, jump in some rivers and eat a lot of burritos. Oh yeah, I’m also going to be featured in a documentary series called Making a Name…
Where can our readers learn more about both you and your work?
I’ve probably told you too much already. I encourage you to walk around and explore. Stumbling upon my work in that context will help you understand me and my work more than reading about it ever could. You can follow me on Instagram @GatsPTV I’m represented by Spoke-Art Gallery (San Francisco / New York City) View some of the “Against The Grain” show here…This is a recent interview I enjoyed doing for Street Roots…Voice of Art Documentary about a project I did in 2012…