Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday ProFile: Victor Ash

Photos of street art are great, but seeing a piece live is an absolutely breathtaking experience. When I was in Berlin, street art was everywhere: on buildings, sidewalks, and street signs. However, Victor’s giant astronaut stopped me dead in my tracks as I rounded a corner. This larger than life space ranger blew my mind; I’d interviewed Victor not long before and now I was staring at his work in real life. The experience embodied everything I love about street art and graffiti.  
Victor shares my love for all things graff. As a child, he enjoyed drawing from an early age. Artists like Marcel Duchamp andJoseph Beuys along with film actors like Sasha Guitry and Charlie Chaplin influenced his artistic taste. Growing up in Paris, he got into graffiti through the subway art of New York. “We played a lot with the letters,” he recalls. “I chose A-S-H because I liked the letters. I started being serious about painting in the early 80s when I looked at the book Spray Can Art. I felt like graffiti was really something for me.” Victor got an early start; he was one of the first people to paint in Paris in 1983. 
Back in the day, Victor had to be quick to run from the cops. While law enforcement never intervened during his bombing missions, he admits there were some times when “the adrenaline was pumping.” At the beginning, Victor rolled with a crew and painted with other people. “It was great and we had loads of fun,” he insists,“but at some point, an artist’s ego doesn’t fit with a collective way of working; everything becomes a problem. Now I prefer to work alone.” 
Today, Victor’s solo style is a far cry from the early New York aesthetic. “In the 90s, I went away from the typical New York subway letters style,” he explains. “Since then, I’ve found my identity in various aesthetics. I really think artists that keep on doing the same for 20 years are boring. They just become a copy of themselves.” While he doesn’t distinguish between street art and graffiti, he admits, “I see the act of tagging and doing old-school graffiti as more of an American New York thing and I respect that. Personally, I prefer to take my culture with me when I create art rather than copy the original.” 
Currently, Victor is based in Copenhagen but paints all over Europe. “I have been in many cities to paint,” he says, “but I really feel comfortable in Berlin.  It’s like there are no barriers to creativity in Berlin.” His wildest tagging experience to date took place on a train bridge nestled into the frigid Swedish mountains. (He’s lucky the cans didn’t freeze on that mission.) No matter where he paints, Victor says, “I want my art to be useful, to have a purpose, and to make people think. I would like the viewer to remember it after he has seen it!” 
While he works primarily on authorized outdoors projects today, he still loves the thrill of painting. “I tried to do something else but it’s like something is missing,” he says. “I am not fully happy if I can’t be creative. My life in general is a great adventure and that is because art made everything possible for me.” 

Merci, Victor! For all things ASH, check out his website. Hopefully, the rain in the Northeast will let up a bit so I get outside for a second this weekend. Have a great one!

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