Ian Stevenson: You Should Put Something Really Great Here
There comes a time in every girl's life where she realises she hasn't lived until she's started drinking too much Stella Artois and recording the thinkfunk of a wonderful artist on the eve of his latest KK Outlet exhibition, Click Here To Unsubscribe. What follows is the results of my Wetherspoons epiphany.
An Ordinary Type Writer meets Ian Stevenson.
An Ordinary Type Writer: Photo by DK
Ian Stevenson: Enjoy This
Here we go - don't slurp your beer, the voice recorder will pick it up. The lovely people at They Made This have asked me to interview you because they believe the general public want to know the truth about Ian Stevenson.
They don't really. The truth is, I'm not going anywhere, so they can keep on finding out. I'm going to carry on being here, telling them stuff, a bit at a time. Then they'll go 'hasn't he gone away yet ?' and I won't have, I'll drip feed them bits and just keep doing my things. I can tell you a truth about me involving this place if you like?
Yes. Right, I'm in the house, the doorbell goes. I answer the door, it's a package getting delivered. Whilst I'm signing for it, the flat door slams shut behind me and I'm locked in the hallway of the building. Trapped. No shoes on. I thought I'd try having a nap in the hall, in the vain hope that someone would come back soon. That didn't work. So, I made a decision to go out - I had a tenner in my pocket, I thought I'd better get out. It was damp, and then you realise how hard it is to walk outside for any distance in just your socks. I went to a charity shop with my tenner to try and buy some shoes.
Ian Stevenson: Credit Card
Ian Stevenson: Rich People
What were the shoes like?
Cuban heels (big laughs).
What? You're not fucking Prince!
I didn't have any choice. When you're in the shoeless zone, you need cheap shoes that fit. No trip to Urban Outfitters for cool stuff. It's shoes under a fiver or nothing. You suddenly care a lot less about what they are. You just need to get coverage for your feet. So I took them to the counter, and explained my dilemma to the lady, and asked for a discount, so I could hang on to as much of my tenner as possible. And the old dear said 'what, you've walked here without shoes, darlin ?' And knocked me a bit of money off.
I headed back outside and discovered what those sort of shoes do, they give you a walk. I was like John Travolta. Suddenly, I had a proud walk. I'd gone from no shoes, walking down the high street humiliated, to strutting around like a massive peacock. They gave me an inner strength, those shoes. I felt like I owned Forest Hill. So, I went and bought a pen and paper, then I came here, to this Wetherspoons and had a pint and a burger and did a bit of drawing. It was just one of the best days. It started as a NOOOO, this is a nightmare and then it wasn't. Everything about it was good, out of my comfort zone, a challenge.
Ian Stevenson: Happy Pills
Ian Stevenson: Sunshine
Did you draw anything decent that day?
No. Load of old shit. The best bit was the day. Small pleasures are good.
Ian Stevenson: Looks Shit
Ian Stevenson: Please Wait Here
Okay, tell me how you became Ian Stevenson.
Ooh, it's tricky. You do things that you're supposed to do from the start - you go to school because you're supposed to go to school, and then it was expected that I'd go the academic route, which I did for a little bit, just because it was what I thought my parents wanted. But then it just all seemed so boring.
Did you study art at school?
Yes - and I managed to get a C grade at GCSE.
You got a C?!?
Yeah, a C. Better grades in other subjects, but a C in Art. So I thought, let's pursue that, I enjoy it. But even then, I was doing the art that I was supposed to do, because schools have a preconception of what art should look like. Draw a chair that looks like a chair. No soul, nothing. It's about technique. A lot of what I do has people saying 'eh? I can do that', and I think, 'well, go on then - please do'. The technical aspect of my work isn't the big deal - it's always about the idea.
Ian Stevenson: Fine Art
Ian Stevenson: Philosophise This
That C grade didn't hold you back, then. You went to college?
I studied architecture for one week. The fresher's week was good, away from home, meeting new and interesting people. Then the course started, and it suddenly dawned on me I was going to have to learn about concrete. Learn about how it sets, how to make a building out of it. And then it hit me - I was doing it all to please others, and not for myself. I thought, 'hang on a minute, this isn't good', so I decided to do an art foundation course, throw paint around, sculpt stuff, take photos, an assault course of creativity. Once I had that, it was the passport to being able to do a degree.
The art powers-that-be back in Leicester said 'you're a bit not quite right, you should go to London (Camberwell), they'll let you do your art in your own way', so I did. Great bit of advice. I tried to do the normal stuff, and then what I wanted to do naturally became the real me. I don't see any of this as a job - it's trying to sort out my head, basically. Art as therapy...and I still haven't sorted it!
Ian Stevenson: Idiots
Ian Stevenson: Now That's What I Call Art
It helps your head, then? How does a typical 'therapy session' happen?
Yes, it does help my head. I might have about ten ideas, so they're there, in my head, and if I couldn't get them out, and had to go and do a normal job, they'd be there, always, just doing my head in. Once they're dealt with, I can have a bit of freedom and go watch a good film. Then the next ten ideas turn up. It never stops.
Ian Stevenson: Cool Cool Cool
Ian Stevenson: Tourist Attraction
I'm tired out just listening to you. It sounds exhausting.
It is! It's torture! I'm currently having a huge fluff battle, because I am in the middle of creating loads of new work for an exhibition.
Well, that seems a good point to talk about the new exhibition. Perhaps we can return to fluff in a bit. You can fluff me later. (Ian does a rather good impersonation of Kenneth Williams at this point).
Basically, KK Outlet - Lucy approached me - asked me if I'd like to do an exhibition, and I said yes. Yes, please. It was great timing. I'd been thinking I'd like to do a new exhibition, had the ideas in place, and it's just about falling into place now.
Ian Stevenson: KK Outlet Flyer
Ian Stevenson: After The Break
What can we expect to see at this new exhibition? I know you work in so many different mediums.
Oh, painting, drawing. The sort of thing people call illustration, but I don't think of myself as an illustrator. Sometimes, I call myself that to make it easier on other people, because they need a title for me. I'm rarely asked to illustrate someone else's ideas - my work is my thoughts. I'm just doing some drawings and stuff. In my head, an illustrator reads an article or book or some given subject matter, then draws what they've been told to do by someone else. I don't really do that.
Ian Stevenson: Just Put It In A Frame
Ian Stevenson: X Factor
Ian Stevenson: Art Installation
Is that because people are scared of you? Clients, I mean.
Sometimes. There's a bit of fear, because there are the type of clients who only want cats. Cats on bikes. Talking cats. Cats playing a flute. Or dogs, maybe. People love animals. It's a nightmare! Say, if I post something on the Internet that I think that's good that is, and it only gets a certain amount of likes. So, I think, alright you fuckers, let's see - and do a picture of a cat, put that up, and get a phenomenal amount of liking. Then I go arrrggggh!, it's just sickening. But I'm still not going to go away - I shall persevere!
Ian Stevenson: Fuck You And Your Cat
Ian Stevenson: Eau De Fashion
I guess some people just don't want to see a knob up the bum of Art?
No. But then some people do, thank god.
This seems like a good point to return to your fluff issues.
Oh, it's so annoying! The battle against fluff. This piece I'm working on for the KK Outlet show should be worth about £20,000 because of the sheer amount of effort going into preparing the canvas. For fuck's sake, if only people could sit with me and witness the painful fight. Maybe there's some secret I don't know, that the rest of the art world knows. Can we ask them ? How do you stop the dust? Anyone?.....
I'll have everything spotless, all prepped, air duster brush, cool, can't see any dust, then I'll start painting my isolation coat, and out of nowhere some fucking dust will just fly onto the canvas. What? Where have you come from? You weren't here a minute ago. To the point that, only the other day, I thought that this may be the end of me and canvas. Unless someone has the answer for me - a solution. Maybe I need to live in Silicon Valley, work in a lab environment. I think God is against me. He's appeared to challenge me in fluff form.
Ian Stevenson: Time To Rise
Ian Stevenson: Quack
I pray God sends you a solution. Once you start a new piece, does it come together quite quickly?
Well, often I over-tinker. I find it very hard to stop fucking with things. When I'm truly there, I can just stand back. But at the minute, I just keep messing about, sometimes I nearly break it, break my own ideas, stop it - LEAVE IT. Knowing when to stop, that's when I'll be there.
Ian Stevenson: Window Looker
Ian Stevenson: Luxury Apartments
You've recently done a collaboration with Russell Brand, the skinny-jeaned comedy subversive. How did that come about?
I'd done some work with Street Art London, and they were working with his publisher on his Revolution book, and they put my name forward to Russell. He seemed to like the cut of my jib, and we were away. That's pretty much it. The rest is art history. I'm not political as such, but I suppose I use my work to speak out, to provoke thought. I hope that the integrity and honesty of what I'm trying to say comes across.
Ian Stevenson: Revolution Mural with Russell Brand
Ian Stevenson: Revolution Mural with Russell Brand
Whose art or music do you like? When you've thought - 'that's just great, that'?
The Kapow fella - whatsisname? Roy Lichtenstein. Him. It's so visually brilliant, his work. The scale of it. But I don't like lots of the usual. I like crappy adverts on the TV, stickers on things in charity shops, I can get great joy from 99p shops and feel inspired. People assume that if you work as an artist that you should know who everyone is in the art world, and I really don't. Name dropping. It's something I prefer not to do. I know people do it as an identifier, but it's not for me. I actually find it hard to say what my influences are. I like things, obviously, but I don't like to bang on about it. Some people do, but I just don't. I don't feel the need to cross-reference other people's work and align myself with them, or to name drop things that are perceived as cool so I can be 'in' too. The same with Facebook and other social media - they're very useful for creating a platform but it's for the work, not about the real me.
I like soundtracks. That fella who does the music for his own films. Who is he? (at this point, there was an awful lot of to-and-fro, we finally worked out that he meant John Carpenter)? JOHN CARPENTER! I like cinematic soundtracks. When you look back, say in the 1970s, filmmakers were really breaking new ground, not just visually. They were pushing boundaries, even if it wasn't going to be commercially successful. My ideal pleasure is watching old films with the amazing soundtracks. I like World War II music (I had no idea what he meant here for a minute, turns out he means swing/jazz, things like Duke Ellington). But then, I like noise-drone for ages on end. Also, I don't mind a bit of Taylor Swift.
Ian Stevenson: Lost Heroes
Ian Stevenson: Mickey Mouse
Do you use the internet much? Get in an internet loop, clicking and clicking and clicking, from one thing to another? I don't tend to do it, but I have friends who say they do. What about you? And I don't mean for porn.
Oh. Well, in that case I don't use the internet.
Ian Stevenson: Bigger Than Jesus
Ian Stevenson: Page Not Found
Hahaha - we won't tell Tim Berners-Lee that you've no use for his creation other than that.
But it's special research! Okay, I'm kidding. But I do use it for reference, image research. And then I do end up in odd places on the internet, which is good for me when I want to create. But in the first instance, the ideas are formulating within me and I lay off the surfing. I've only just got a phone that's of any use other than to make a call or text, in the last 3 months. So, now I have the internet at my fingertips and I can take a picture too if I want, now I have it, it's amazing to have that. But I don't use it constantly, the way I see with other people. See - it's been in my pocket all this time, I haven't used it once.
That's because I'm fascinating company.
Yes - that's it. You and the pint of Stella.
Ian Stevenson: Follow Me On Twitter
Ian Stevenson: Tweet
Where did 'Rubbish' come from?
The whole idea of painting on rubbish was just heading out and painting on something and leaving it. No press release. No 'likes'. Not structured, like a gallery exhibition. The audience might be three people, it might be seen by 300. People will see it and possibly never know it's by me, but hopefully, they see it and it makes them think.
Ian Stevenson: Why
Ian Stevenson: Worth It
Ian Stevenson: My Legs
Ian Stevenson: Messy
I like that - it's not about the notion of an in-crowd , 'oh, that's an Ian Stevenson'. Just anyone, out and about, popping down Sainsbury's for milk and a loaf, might see it and react to it.
Exactly what I was hoping - it's the sort of thing that would only have been seen in the theme park of street art that is East London a few years back. Instead, I'd prefer to head somewhere I'd never been just to have a look around and create something there. Foolish, maybe, not playing to the crowd, but that was never the point. It's good to have an audience, but it wasn't the initial idea in my head.
It'd be interesting to have a webcam set up to see the reactions the work would get, maybe?
In my head, they just walk by!
Ian Stevenson: This is not a Tesco Express
Ian Stevenson: Every Little Helps
Ian Stevenson: Art
Haha - well, they don't. When you created 'Look At This' (Ian did a huge mural on Barry's car park wall opposite my fourth floor office window, back in the days of the dearly departed artist agency Blunt), I'd happily watch as folks would stand and point and laugh and take snaps. On occasion, it would look like coach parties had turned up, it was so popular.
Well, that's nice - and good to know I'm not wasting the paint.
Ian Stevenson: Just Look at This
Ian Stevenson: Photographer
What do you plan to do next? Once the KK outlet/fluff fiasco is complete?
Street photography - so I get to leave the house. And music. Music is like maths, I quite like maths. It's about patterns and codes - music is like that, trying to break the code. It feels like time to break some boundaries, get rid of some of the restrictions I've inadvertently set myself. This latest show, Click Here To Unsubscribe, is the start of this.
Ian Stevenson: This Is Graffiti
Ian Stevenson: Now Open
Someone asked me to ask you something, but I'm afraid of you rolling your eyes at the banality of the question.
No I won't! I haven't rolled my eyes once yet.
Okay - here it comes - if you had to wee out of an area on your face instead of out of your genitalia, what would you choose? Nose or ears?
Whoa! No! I'd be thinking little toe. Discrete. Hidden away. Maybe a little hole in your shoe for release. Not waving it about in your face. Or, in fact, in my face. This is a perception thing, the public perception of me as a person is wrong. Not that that really matters at all, the work is the thing - it really doesn't matter if people understand the actual me, as long as they get what I'm trying to put across via my work.
By now, we'd been talking for ages, sunk quite a few pints, eaten some crisps. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, in the very excellent company of a charming bloke who isn't afraid to speak his mind via his work and is completely unfazed when wearing charity shop cuban heels down Forest Hill high street. Utter respect. Ian Stevenson 'Click Here To Unsubscribe' at KK Outlet. Launch party tonight Thursday the 2nd April 7 - 9pm. Exhibition runs until 25th April.
Ian Stevenson: That's All Folks