13 May 2013

Martin Whatson: Undercover

Martin Whatson

Reed Projects Gallery, Stavanger
Stencil street art on canvas

Martin Whatson: Public piece
Public piece

Stencils of street art have been around for some decades, it is not the rebel teen anymore, but an adult entering its identity crisis. These days anyone (or any commercial company or political movement) may spray a crude A4-size stencil onto a more or less visible wall. It takes more than just the technique to stand out from the crowd. The handful of stencil artists that manage to remain interesting, creative and surprising are either focusing on an extreme level of technique or the motive. In my opinion the best street art communicates with its surroundings. But the skilled artists also manage to deliver a message from works presented in a neutral gallery setting.

Martin Whatson: En Pointe + +
En Pointe + ? + ?

Martin Whatson is returning to the roots, the graffiti. The topic of his works is glorification of the graffiti, or the sense of loss when it disappears. In his works the wild mess of colorful graffiti is mended into new forms and settings. Graffiti becomes a soft pillow, angel wings, a heart, fashion clothing, or framed as a valuable art piece.

Martin Whatson: Hardcore Angel + Cushion + Make Love
Hardcore Angel + Cushion + Make Love

Whatson is balancing on a thin line by this topic, risking that his art might become a parody on itself. Art that focuses on itself may easily become introvert. But instead he manages through the art to present the artform graffiti in a new light.

It all depends on the graffiti part. The stencil part is stable, which you may especially notice by the same figure used in both “Hardcore Angel” and “Cushion”, but the graffiti is what makes it different.  The placement and form of it is crucial, but also the spontaneity is deciding whether this is a unique piece or a reproduction parody. The moment we sense that the graffiti is not spontaneous, or even made by stencil, the value is gone. It is the roughness that makes it all happen. I dream of artwork like this incorporating “real” graffiti from the street, but that would probably create a lot of enemies.

Martin Whatson: Photographer