Anyone who grew up in a city can tell you there’s as much beauty in a piece of well-done graffiti as there is in a piece hanging in The Louvre. Just imagining those artists reaching incredible heights with nothing more than paint in their hands? It’s quite well, incredible. While some graffiti is still revered as nonsense, there has been an upswing in the art community when it comes to acceptance.
Street art ain’t what it used to be and because of that artists like Martin Whatson are able to bring imagination to cityscapes taking basic buildings and transforming them into colorful centerpieces for passersby to enjoy. Always a pleasure to talk with someone as talented as such so sit back and enjoy this exchange between a street artist and a girl who can barely handle a stick figure.
Kendra: Being born in the mid-’80s and growing up in the ’90s in Norway, was there any American pop culture that drove you towards art or was it always graffiti that sort of sparked your interest?
Martin Whatson: It was always the local graffiti scene that drove me from the beginning! Of course, watching Style Wars and Beat Street was inspirational but I had started graffiti before I first watched any of them! I used to ride the subway between mine and my friend’s house. This being before the smartphones so the only thing we had to do was watch the ever-changing walls along the lines! All this led to my start in graffiti and later street art!
Kendra: Did your love of ’90s graffiti start with the classic lettering and evolve into what it is today or have you always been drawn to these larger than life pieces of work on the side of a public place?
Martin Whatson: All started with my interest from traditional lettering, but I never got particularly good at it and started doing characters, that evolved to small stencils and later larger murals when I started doing street art!
Kendra: Even today when people refer to something as “graffiti” it can render a negative connotation as opposed to when it’s labeled “street art.” Especially since in the US people often associate graffiti with gangs. Is that the case in Norway as well?
Martin Whatson: I think this is an issue all over the world! Streetart is very easy to understand for people, a beautifully painted side of a building or a stencil with an in your face message is something all can relate to, While someone’s name is quite cryptic for people to understand!
Graffiti also has also been reputed in media as criminals where street art had been embraced and in many places is celebrated!
Kendra: Whatever people what to label your work, what they will say is that it is amazing. The movement, the colors coinciding with the grays. I especially like the piece where it appears as if the wall is being pulled back to reveal something new. How long does it take for a new idea to come to life for you? From first thought to execution?
Martin Whatson: This depends so much! Recently I’ve come up with most of the new ideas for walls! but it normally doesn’t take too long! It also depends on how good I feel the new idea is! a great one can easily push back a lesser one in the making! Normally I work with a few series and keep evolving them and sometimes new ideas spring out from that!
Kendra: Have you ever been approached to putting your work on t-shirts and whatnot because that man on the moon piece looks like a tee one would see at a skate shop?
Martin Whatson: This happens all the time, anything from big companies to small independent brands and online shops buying an image and putting it on all sorts of products! And for now, I’ve only done one collaboration with a Japanese brand, back in the early beginning of my art career!
You may say I’m waiting for the right opportunity and the correct brand to be in touch! I’m not a big fan of just replicating an image on a shirt and I’m wondering where does the art stop being art and just becomes a product!? So I’m afraid we won’t see that astronaut in a skate shop anytime soon 😛
Kendra: Last year you showed at home in Norway and overseas in Seattle. Do you have any plans to showcase your work in 2019?
Martin Whatson: I’ve shown several places all across the world in the last few years, and I constantly try to find new interesting places to view my artwork! Haven’t got much planned in 2019 except for a few group shows, but gearing up for a bigger solo show in Hong Kong in 2020!!