Art is Trash: The Street Artist Turning Trash into Art

By James Buxton

Art is Trash is so contemporary; his work gets removed the following morning. Epitomizing the fleeting existence of street art, he creates a motley crew of weird and wonderful characters out of the rubbish he comes across on the street. A testament to his incredible imagination and a commentary on consumerism; Art is Trash is upcycling our garbage, turning our bin bags into mischievous monsters, staring out at us with jaundiced eyes. Like a vicious joke you just can’t forget, I caught up with him to find out who has the last laugh.

This interview was written by James Buxton, interviews editor for Global Street Art, a website which encourages artists and photographers working in the streets to create profiles and share their work worldwide. Big thanks to Kareem Ahmed for helping translate!

Gone Shopping

Art is Trash is a provocation, it’s pushing the extremes of what people expect. To the rest of the world it seems like a very radical thing to be doing, like an artistic suicide.

I’ve been making art out of rubbish on the street for the past four years. Before, when I was young I was doing classical art, more traditional painting. The streets have changed me completely. With the street art I’m trying to do things which haven’t be done before, I started working on the street with a clear conscience, like a virgin. You start with a purity and your mind changes as you go further into it, because the streets are very tough.

I came to London to follow my work, it’s a very large city, the pace of life here is quicker and more complicated as it’s bigger than Barcelona. I didn’t have a bank account in Spain, the system didn’t want me. Getting older it becomes even more difficult, it becomes less normal to be in a state separate from the establishment, also the state that Spain is in, it’s less likely that I’ll be able to make a living out of of my profession. The last exhibition I had four years ago was a failure, I didn’t sell anything, it angered me. For me, it’s the freedom not to be forced to depend on the big galleries.

Together

I feel secure and I have a lot of creative power which the street gives me. Before, I felt a lot of frustration and doubts in my work.

Rubbish is the only legal place you can make art on the street. There was a law in 2006 in Barcelona which outlawed painting on the street, suddenly all of the freedom was eliminated — all the best artists from Barcelona left. I couldn’t paint on the floor, on the walls, anywhere, but I had a need to express myself, so where? Three undercover police officers came when they saw me painting on an electricity box, so I started on rubbish, on a chair, on a mattress, little by little, I made little discoveries. First of all I just painted on cans, objects, and then I thought I can put an arm, as a way of getting round not being able to paint on the walls on the floor, I started painting on rubbish. You’ve got to improvise. (Tears a piece of a tape sticks it to my beer can) That’s an arm or a leg. The police in Spain they are much stricter, they don’t let you do anything, here the police are different, they are more tolerant, here they see it and they say: “Hey okay, it’s rubbish, it’s intelligent.” Street art has a short life, you make it, it lives and dies.

Posterwar

When my freedom was limited to do what I wanted to do, I had to improvise and this led to looking and taking whatever was available. I was thinking, what if I’m brought before a judge. I was afraid, because the law in Spain is very harsh. I was thinking of a way of not stifling my creativity, to use as much as I could from other things. I only paint what I find in the street. I just bring my paint, markers, and an empty head. I paint what I feel at the moment.

In Spain there’s been a lot of political art because of the situation. I look at what’s in my environment. In London it’s different, I don’t speak the language, its a whole new experience, I don’t know the politics, I don’t have nightmares like in Barcelona. I have a clearer perspective here.

The meaning depends on the moment, its not so conscious, I want to surprise people with my installations. I like to do art for all types of people, not just for people who go to art galleries or exhibitions but to get that surprise or different response from people who come across it.

Old st

The characters in the work shouldn’t really think or say, but have a sensitivity. It’s sort of like a portrayal of the monstrous side of humanity in some ways, it’s what hurts me and what affects me. I’m thinking of all the bad aspects of human beings. The bad parts of people I transmit through my art. I do it for a reason I can’t explain.

I think that trash is a true place to express yourself. I do it out of necessity, otherwise what is there to help me achieve my goals. It’s very important for me. I’ve found something which can support my creativity. At the beginning I didn’t take the importance of this into account, now if I go to any city in the world, I can express myself, any part of what I’m feeling.

We consume a lot, and rubbish is part of that, it’s people wasting things. There’s a romantic aspect, somebody’s given it up, they don’t want it, because one little bit is broken, because they don’t want to fix it, that’s the Capitalist mindset, so I give it life, so there’s a sensitive and romantic side to the work. It’s not all about monsters and nightmares in the work. Even when I’m making monsters, I’m taking things and bringing them back to life, giving them meaning.

Snowden Assange

I only collaborate with work which is broken, with things that might have been part of something. Art is Trash is very ephemeral, it’s to do with putting my style on it. Because my installations are so ephemeral, people can identify the art through my tag. My strongest work is with the rubbish.

I worked in Berlin and I learned if you want your work to develop in a city, and for people to recognize it, you have to be there a minimum for a year, especially doing this kind of street art it’s very temporary, it’s not like graffiti which stays for a long time. I was in Berlin for nine days and it is a very clean city, there’s a lot of graffiti on the street but no rubbish. I’m not interested in looking for walls or murals, I’m looking for rubbish; like a man who goes looking for food in rubbish, I go looking for rubbish to make art.

Row Row Row your boat

I came to London with the intention of staying for four or five months, I’m unsure because when it’s winter it gets dark at four or five o’clock and when it rains the paint washes off. I need warm temperatures, I work very quick. I’m very anti-social when I’m working, I invest every part of myself in the feeling, in the characters, I like to cut myself off. I’d like to be invisible, even though I can’t. I like to do my work very badly and very quickly! Everything against how they say an artist should paint. Ugly and fast. It’s something I’ve been conditioned to do, because of Barcelona. Now I can grow in London because in Barcelona there was a lot more pressure, now I can breathe more, the conditions mean I have more time, I can do things better.

I currently have an exhibition in Notting Hill at West Bank. If it does well, I will be able to go to another city, I want to go to New York. Everything’s up in the air!