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In Conversation… STAK, Glasgow Graffiti Writer

Written by Elliot Seth Faber

[CW: explicit language]

E: What do you do?

STAK: I have a name and I put it places – in different ways. There’s lots of different ways a graff[iti] writer can put their name out; stickers, tags, with markers, all the way up to full colour productions. People always like these big colour productions. But if you don’t have the stuff at the start, you’re not gonna get there.

E: So why is getting your name out so important?

STAK: It’s not. It’s not important. I have always been creative, but I don’t actually have a purpose to be creative anymore. In school, I always did art, and there was always a reason: “I’m gonna make this to do this”. Whereas now, there isn’t that same purpose. With graff, it’s like… say you go out one night and you paint something. See when you go past that again, you see it, and you think, “nobody else knows that’s me, but that’s me”. Obviously your friends know, but yeah. I don’t know. I quite like that. And I want to see that in as many places as I can. Even if it’s completely insignificant to people that don’t know about it.

It’s like a game for the writer, but also for people out and about. When you start noticing pieces done by the same people, a whole world gets opened up to you that you’d never notice before, and it becomes a game in that way. You start looking out for it.

E: Do you take pleasure in the anonymity?

STAK: Yes, but also, what other art form actually gives you the same physical buzz? Obviously, when people create, they gain excitement. But going out and writing, you get that adrenaline rush.

E: Because it’s illegal?

STAK: Sure, but even if you paint legal pieces, you’ve still spent time sketching it out, and getting that final piece up. Same thing if someone’s painting on a canvas. But because it’s in the street, people are forced to react to it in some way. Whereas I could paint something in my room, and no one would ever see it. A lot of artists do stuff like that. But with graff and so many types of street art, you’re putting it out to the public straight away. It’s like: you fuck up, you fuck up. And it’s there for everyone to see…

E: But you can always take it away – paint over it.

STAK: … yeah, but I’m not gonna come down to a spot… say I painted this building over here, if I fucked up, I’m not gonna come down tomorrow and cover it up – what’s the point? I’ll just leave it up. Yeah, you make mistakes, but it’s kind of raw.

STAK: I’d say I have a very different outlook to a lot of graff writers myself. I don’t care if other people don’t think I’m up enough or if I’ve got enough spots or enough variety. I do it for me. I like doing it. Whereas there’s a lot of other writers that want to be known as the best within the community – I couldn’t care less. I’m not trying to keep up with anyone. If you like what I do, you like what I do. If you don’t like what I do, that’s fine. And that’s not me trying to be some pretentious prick.

E: Do you look to any of these other writers as influence?

STAK: Graff’s a weird one now because there’s all the local writers that you see with your own eyes. All the Glasgow writers, guys that are really skilled. But then, you can literally go on the internet and search up books, like Martha Cooper’s Subway Art, the first book on documented graff. But growing up in that generation, it was different. If you wanted the book, you either had to steal it or find some other way…

I generally feel that, if you do what you do because you like doing it, why does it matter what it is? You don’t need to do anything a specific way. You can go out and paint, and not consider yourself a graff writer, or even a street artist. You might just like going out and making a mess. Don’t be a bam though.

E: Do you have any other artistic outlets aside from graffiti?

STAK: I really like graphic design and photography. Skateboarding videos as well. Basically all of this comes from me skateboarding; it’s where it all started. And seeing stickers out and about as a wee guy. Graff and skateboarding kind of overlap in places. But I tend to keep my graff separate from all of that.

E: And with repetitiveness presumably comes improvement?

STAK: Yeah, every time you do a tag, it gets better. It’s like a signature. You just… *spray can noises* … I don’t know how to explain it. Everyone has a signature.

STAK: Banksy can go paint a train, right? In London, that was a big one that happened there. As soon as these other guys do it, artists that are a part of the subculture, they are put in prison. Their pieces are buffed [cleaned up] straight away. But because Banksy has a name in the marketable art world, it’s fine, it’s allowed. And people can get in trouble for cleaning them away. People pick and choose what they like from street art. There are people that would never say that graffiti’s an art, you know; “it’s just vandalism” or “they’re being rebellious”. But then the opposite also exists. I don’t really want to say what I see it as.

E: Is that topic a stigma within the community?

STAK: Kind of. Certain writers don’t like calling it an art form. Other writers don’t like seeing it as vandalism. But I would say it’s both. There’s always a wee bit inside of you that has to think, “well this is somebody’s property”. Sure, the government’s property, but somebody owns this. And you kind of accept the fact that at the end of the day, somebody’s going to get paid to clean it up. But at the same time, fuck ‘em.

E: So with that in mind, why do you write?

STAK: Because I like being creative, but I don’t like the whole “arty-farty” business. Like, you know I’m not pure uneducated on art and history, but I don’t really see myself as part of that world. That’s why I never pursued it after school. There were opportunities to actually take it further to do it as a career, but I feel like as soon as you make something a job, it’s not fun anymore. Whereas graff will never be a job. You can get paid to paint murals, but going out and tagging will never be a job. It never gets boring, and you’re walking through the street and you see ones you forgot you did, and it feels class.

Written by Elliot Seth Faber – 10.08.2020

Post: Blog2_Post
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