Ewen Gur cracks me up! When I first saw his website, I laughed. I emailed him right then and there and asked him to do an email interview with me. His work http://www.ewengur.com/ is witty, naughty and subversive. What inspires such work? Check out our cool chat and find out …
“… I’m an observer and like to amplify what I see around me ... The foolishness of human nature … I have a lot of funny characters … The screaming little girl who listens to punk rock, the teddy bear who likes to party, the overweight Superman who prefers to contemplate the world instead of saving it …”
MICHAEL: Ewen, Your work is wild! Your subject matter is a clash between innocence and corruption. Is that how you would describe your current themes? Why do you do this?
EWEN: Yes, you’re right. I’m a relaxed guy in my everyday life, but I have some sort of energy when it comes to my artwork, driven by action, experimentation and fun.
I like this duality; like my characters that look innocent but aren’t really. Like the lovely wife who needs to solve issues with her husband, a .44 magnum in her pants.
EWEN: Maybe I like this kind of humor because I belong to the MTV generation? Kill the establishment! In general, when I have an idea that might generate some reactions, mostly inspired by urban characters and funny situations, I just do it without too much thought. I like the comic style, simple in appearance, but also complex with a lot of little details - involving sex, drugs and rock n roll - that can be understood differently according to a child or to an adult.
MICHAEL: I love that. Your work has a very strong graffiti vibe. It's legal graffiti which I think actually makes it more effective because you're not defacing anything and we can fully concentrate on the work. It's the work of a rebellious teenager who I guess is quite a bit older than a teenager. No? Do you relate at all to my graffiti analogy?
EWEN: I’m influenced by the urban movement in general, including various fields like music, art, architecture, motion design, etc. People often give me the label “Street Art,” maybe because it's trendy or because of the wild style or my big canvases.
MICHAEL: Have you ever done graffiti?
EWEN: Sure, I did some graffiti in my youth, in the toilets of my school, smoked weed and blasted the mailbox of my poor neighbor but to be honest, I’m not that kind of badass today. I prefer to say that I draw rebellious or provocative Ideas. I am aware that there is something naive in my work, like the selfish teenager who doesn’t want to grow up. I’m truly trying to keep that brat spirit alive and to subordinate the commercial aspect. One of the most frightful remarks that I've ever heard about my work is that I should paint flowers, instead of wild scenes.
MICHAEL: I just finished an essay called, "Baby Food Art," in which I addressed that frightful remark encouraging artists to paint flowers. I know the answer to this, but why do you find that remark frightful?
EWEN: I definitely respect flowers and any kind of art, as long as the artist is true to his work. I also do commissions and I am always open to any suggestion. In the case of that frightful remark, it was simply meant that my art wasn't commercial enough and that I should consider what people expect me to do. But, hey! I'm expecting a baby, so I will probably change my mind and soon start playing with food too and painting the city with fuchsia pink flowers!
MICHAEL: I'm sure you can find a way to make flowers subversive. You could do an entire series on that alone. Back to your work ... It has sort of an animation, cartoon-like quality that makes it somewhat whimsical. How do you achieve this? It's very graphic.
EWEN: As far as I can remember, I never really tried to copy anything. Even as I was studying at art school, I was always doing it my own way, for better or for worse. Difficult to say if it was a kind of ego I had or simply laziness. It's just how I started to focus on “visually strong drawings” that would appear like a logo.
MICHAEL: I totally see that in your work.
EWEN: My main focus by drawing is on the line - strong, intense and black as possible. The color is more like ornamentation! The animation feeling probably comes from the vibrancy of the lines, done with a calligraphic brush. You see one vibrant line, but I actually painted several irregular lines! It involves much more time than one thinks, but it's what it takes to find the perfect shape, curve etc. I often get caught by people who ask me to do a quick drawing because they think I certainly work fast ... but it takes time.
MICHAEL: By the way, congratulations on the baby coming! Your work also seems to have strong social commentary. There are so many bad things in the world that ruin innocence and hurt children and adults. However, you seem to be taking a comical view about it all. Is this how you will explain the world to your kids?
EWEN: Thank you Michael! Cheers! It’s a really harsh world out there. Just this morning a car bomb exploded next to my Berliner studio! Crazy.
But I’m trying to stay positive and make people laugh, to transform my emotions into funny satirical artworks. Art is an incredible weapon for that. I will do my best to prepare my kids for this world and teach them to see the glass half full instead of half empty. And probably paint with them some giant, innocent, pink flowers.
MICHAEL: Are you German? Is Berlin where you're from? Berlin really seems to be the place to be for artists. What is it about Berlin? Is it a better place for artists than London?
EWEN: I’m French, but I have German roots. And yes, I’ve been living in Berlin for seven years now. This city is great to build up a career because you’re not ripped off by living costs like in Paris, London, New York, etc. And you have time without pressure to develop your project. But on the other side, it’s difficult to move forward and you quickly get stuck if you don’t network outside the city, because everything here is very Boheme and slow. London is more high profile from the working perspective, Berlin more experimental. But for the living quality, I would definitely recommend Berlin.
MICHAEL: And what’s the art scene like in Berlin?
EWEN: Very open to experimentation! It tends to change slowly because of the gentrification, but finding a pop-up gallery in an empty building before renovation is still possible! The city is evolving very quickly and a lot of ideas are cooking here, just look at the start-up scene. To get attention here, you have to be original and contemporary; people want to see new stuff. I’m feeling the influence from the city right now. I’m working on new mediums like aluminum and doing fewer paintings.
MICHAEL: Wow, that sounds cool. When did this whole art thing begin for you? When did you first call yourself an artist?
EWEN: My inner creativity was always there. I would define it simply as personality. When at school you suck in mathematics, but you excel in creating concepts for design projects - that may say something about your state of mind, right?
MICHAEL: I understand completely.
EWEN: I tried several creative fields: graphic design, music, painting, etc. But I would say that I’m more comfortable with drawing. Drawing was the first thing I did and it will be probably the last. It’s not easy to define yourself when people ask what you do, so I answer something like “Visual Artist” or “I-create-characters-that-I-put-on-several-mediums-like-canvas-or-on-products-and-l-feel-like-a-cartoonist-who-loves-digital-stuff-in-xxl-size.” Most of the time, I get the answer “Oh, so you do street art?” and it ends up with a fight.
MICHAEL: Haha! What does creating art do for you? Since you focus on human nature and society, doesn't creating art sometimes make you feel worse? Your pictures are not always pretty pictures that show good things in the world.
EWEN: First, art makes me feel good and it is something I have to do to feel better. I’m an observer and like to amplify what I see around me. The foolishness of human nature and the absurdity of the world we live in today, for example. It is not sad, we have to deal with it so I add some Punk Rock and everything is fine. But, hey, don’t make me look like a pessimist! I have a lot of funny characters here: the screaming little girl who listens to punk rock, the teddy bear who likes to party, the overweight Superman who prefers to contemplate the world instead of saving it, etc. Okay, there is satire in it, but this is meant to be funny!
MICHAEL: Haha! Yes, it is funny. Finally Ewen, what's the point of all of this art? Most people in the world will never visit an art gallery and art is not curing cancer or helping the homeless so what's the point?
EWEN: Very good remark Michael. What I do has no pretense to change the world, but I think it can help to make it a better place. For example, by participating in charity events where 100% of the selling goes to good purposes. It makes sense to me when I’m doing that.
I also love when people tell me, “You made my day” or when they laugh in a positive way seeing my drawings. I take it as a compliment. Life isn't easy, so it’s like a mission to spread some good vibes! Another great reaction is when I attract people into art or when kids want to be an artist after looking at me or my works. Just for that it makes sense for me to continue.
I also believe a lot in the internet and social networks because I don’t do street art and it’s a great way to reach a lot of people. Maybe we can call it, “Street Art 2.0”?
It’s free and there is no money or gallery involved in that. If people want to support me they can come visit me at my studio or in a gallery and if they can’t, because of the distance or the money, they can simply see my art on the internet for free. Virtual art doesn’t replace original art, but it helps to keep people connected.
MICHAEL: It’s keeping us connected. Thanks Ewen. This has been a cool chat.
EWEN: Thanks Michael. It was a pleasure doing this interview with you!
Check out Ewen Gur at http://www.ewengur.com/.