WHEN THE WALLS CAN TALK
Baby Guerrilla’s artwork is a constant across the west, defying gravity and gazing down at us as we walk, drive, shop and work. The Westsider recently met the artist to discuss her work, the process, and a life of anonymity.
Q: So can you tell us how your art is created?
A: My street art begins with creating a very detailed drawing – the process starts from there.
Q: What materials do you need?
A: I often use ink to create the drawings
Q: The art that goes on walls around the west, what is required for those?
A: The stuff that you would see on the street would be paper and ink and glue
Q: How long does each wall piece take to do?
A: It really varies, depending on the piece. At the moment I’m working on a companion piece for VU. It’s of the same model, a recent African immigrant and she has a very detailed dress, so that has taken me a couple of months to draw a really large drawing. It depends on the picture and the amount of detail, but normally I’m looking at, at least a month or two.
Q: What is the process like?
A: The process is quite meditative, lots of time in the studio, listening to podcasts, music and talking books. I enjoy it, it’s nice.
Q: What led you to this style of art, outdoors, walls, that kind of thing?
A: There’s a million motivations so it’s hard to answer comprehensively but it’s a way of expressing myself and connecting with others, it’s politically motivated, a desire to reclaim public place, to contribute to our urban environment and to find an alternative to bland bureaucracy and bland walls. On a personal level there are so many reasons why we end up where we end up in life, but those are a few of my motivations.
Q: How do you choose the locations?
A: The locations are often based on my daily travels, walls that I go past. I think people who do this kind of art, we’re always looking at walls, we can’t help it. It becomes a bit of an obsession. So it’s based on colour, size, shape, function, history and location.
Q: Do you find yourself gravitating towards empty walls especially?
A: I love a nice blank wall.
Q: When you are doing them are they actually stencils or are they hand
drawn at size?
A: It’s a combination of techniques, there’s no one method.
Q: How did you end up choosing that kind of material and that kind of style?
A: I guess it’s a continuous process of trial and experimentation and finding out what works best.
Q: Can you see it as evolving into something?
A: I think I’m evolving all the time, if I felt like I’d stopped evolving I’d move on to something else. As an artist you’re always trying to evolve. That’s the appeal of art to me, growing and doing things differently. It’s a continuous learning process.
Q: How do you cope with heights?
A: Heights are not a problem for me. I’ve done a high rope climbing course and high rise window washing briefly. My focus is always about creating the best artwork I can do.
Q: So once you pick a site, do you contact the owner of the wall or do you just do it?
A: As I said every wall is different. Some are commissioned works and some are not. I think you can probably tell by looking which ones are commissioned and the ones which aren’t.
Q: What percentage is commissioned and what is spontaneous?
A: I really couldn’t answer that, it’s not a fixed variable or equation.
Q: So overall it’s a mixture?
A: Probably a lot of the artworks you’re seeing like the ones in Sunshine, aren’t commissioned. They are earlier works. The ones which are too high and too large for a 10 metre ladder are commissioned works where I’ve had to use a machine or lift to get up to the wall. If you see something that looks like a bit of a slap up, it’s non-commissioned.
Q Does it take some logistics to get something up there?
A: Yes often quite a lot. It can be a bit like a military operation.
Q: Have you ever been up a ladder or hanging from ropes and someone’s yelled out “Oi! What are you doing?!”
A: Ah yes! (Chuckles)
Q: Have you ever got into trouble?
A: Ah yes!
Q: Without being specific, how do you handle that situation?
A: Quietly try and keep your cool and get out of there if you can.
Q: So how many pieces would you be working on at one time outdoors?
A: I normally work on one thing at once. I find it very absorbing and it has its own momentum which I find can get broken by doing too many other things. Sometimes I have a couple of things on the boil and always lots of ideas but physically I’m probably never working on more than a couple of things at once.
Q: So what’s it like operating anonymously?
A: That’s my preference, I just like making my art, that’s my focus. I don’t want my appearance to be a distraction from what I actually do. I think that in this day and age appearance can get in the way for most people, particularly women, with what they do. I just want the artwork to
speak for itself and to get on with it.
Q: Do you ever run into difficulties trying to remain anonymous?
A: I haven’t so far, most people have been respectful about it especially once you explain your motivations.
Q: What are your thoughts on some of the high profile artists that get a lot of media attention that do outside work as well like Banksy?
A: I don’t consider myself a spokesperson for any type of movement or for street-art in general. Every artist is different and has different aims. I admire Banksy and a lot of other artists as well. More power to them. The more art the merrier and the more types of diverse art there are just makes the world a more interesting place.
Q: So you’re definitely coming from a perspective of self-expression, whereas Banksy seems like he’s pushing a political barrow most of the time?
A: Well some people would say anything you place illegally on the street is a political act in itself and I would probably tend to agree with that. Whether something has an overtly political message or not is another distinction.
Q: So what can we expect in the future, could you give us any clues?
A: At the moment I’m just working on a second companion piece for VU so I’m looking forward to completing that. I’m just taking opportunities as they come. I’m also really into doing sculptural stuff at the moment, so i will probably try a few different things, different mediums and keep mixing it up. Art takes you down it’s own path.