Street Art

"Everything is Political:" An Interview with Ron English

June 18, 2017

Instagrafite collaborator and creator of Art Synonym, Enriqueta Arias, caught up with legendary street artist Ron English this past week to discuss politics in Street Art. English has just made his way to the renowned Mural Festival in Montreal, Canada.... 

Ron English, well known as one of most iconic street artists alive and inspiration to many creative minds for the past twenty five years, participated at MURAL Festival this year. Not only did he create a great piece on the streets of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, in Montreal, but also presented his Popaganda pop-up show from June 8 – 18th, 2017. English created a movement that criticizes corporations and consumerism, where he incorporates elements of the pop culture and gives a big twist through his imaginery, which he describes as a mash-up of low and high cultural touchstones. For MURAL, he presented a series of paintings, prints, sculptures and billboards which are constantly growing his arsenal of original characters, including MC Supersized, Mousemask Murphy, Charlie Grinn, Ronnnie Rabbbit and his famous Cereal Killers series.

Enriqueta Arias: So… For you, what is the most amazing part of being an artist?

Ron English: Probably the most amazing thing to be an artist is that I own my own life… you know? I can wake up tomorrow morning and decide I am going to make something and create something, and then doing it. There’s nothing in the way. There’s no restrictions.

Do you think your work defines you, or you define your work…?

I think you are your work. If you’ve been an artist for a long time, then you become your own language. In a weird way I think that you will know more about me if you look into my art than meeting me, you know what a I mean?

Yeah… I remember the other day I was reading this story of you and your sister hanging out at the studio, when you were teaching her some art techniques, and she used to say  that would be cool to have musicians invited to play some jams while you were painting, then there’s this rumor of Daniel Johnston playing some music for you guys at the studio…is that true?

Oh! Yeah… When we were in College, I used to teach her how to paint. Yeah! She said it would be more interesting if people just came by the studio and they read us some poetry and play some music and yes, people just came to the studio and read poetry to us, I mean, propably more to her—my sister—but yeah… Daniel Johnston had this big crush on my sister…

Woah!

Yes! I know! Never worked out though. It’s like dude, all your songs are about this girl ‘Laurie’ and if you are into my sister, you should write songs about her! And I mean, you don’t want to date a guy who’s only singing soings about another girl, right? That’s lame! Hahahaha…

Do you listen to music while you’re painting though?

No, I don’t listen music while I’m painting, because I find it distracting, but I like any kind of music. I prefer indie rock and pop, stuff with really, really good lyrics. So like The Eels. Some people dont take the lyrical part serious though. They just do rhymes and stuff, but I like musicians who put effort on that. I had a band called “Rabbits” and its all about the lyrics. We propably never do very well because it was more like a 70’s kinda sound, but I think if you don’t arrive at the right time, then its not going to work out.

RonEnglish1 Photo EnriquetaArias

And so… If you’re not paiting or creating art, what do you like to do?

I like to drink.

Hahahaha… really?

Why is that funny? Hahahaha… I think there’s a lot of people here who like to drink A LOT. Hahahaha… Don’t you?

Yeah! Yeah!  That’s true! I like to drink too. Not that much though.

You see? Back to your question, I think I usually do boring stuff. Like walking my dog. Hang out with a bunch of old dudes and talk about life. In a weird way, when I am not doing all these stuff, I am just a boring suburban dad.

Talking about boring stuff, don’t know if you read anything about what happened with the Bowery Wall and all the controversy with David Choe? 

Oh, yeah! David Choe. Oh! Well, I haven’t read anything from him. He didn’t say anything about it and I think he propably didn’t care, or he will pretend he didn’t care. But probably for him, there are just some black lines over his mural and it will be just fine. I think he’s trying to be a shock jock, right? So, to be a shock jock, you need to say shocking things. Don’t have to be true. But then, people going to be mad at you. But I think it’s weird, because people could be mad at you for different reasons and there are different kinds of anger. So, “rape” makes everybody mad. Have a different political opinion makes people mad, but is not anger. Its more like “I don’t agree with your opinion but I respect your opinion” and that’s it, but with “rape” there’s no upside. But also when you have that kind of money, you don’t really have a moral compass. You know? For me, my moral compass is my family and my wife. But also when you have that kind of money, probably could be the magic number to save the world, you know? It’s just a shame that only the few people who actually could make a difference, take no responsability… Don’t know.  

If you could be any of your  characters, who would you be…?

Well, I think the character of Ronnnie Rabbbit its me. Kind of neurotic and nervous and with this weird extra brain to make everything more complicated.

And… If Montreal could be a character, what kind of character would it be?

 Uhhh… That’s a hard question. Oh man! You already though about this before right? Hahahaha… Can I steal your answer? Hahaha… Well, I think It would be like a multicolored polar bear.

That’s cute!

Yeah!

Last but not least, do you think all art is political?

 Yes! Absolutely! I mean, even if the intention is not political, we all have certain political purpose. Like abstract expressionism helps creating art where they can play money games without playing content games. So, everything is political, right?

RonEnglish4 Photo EnriquetaArias

Interview by Enriqueta Arias

Images by Enriqueta Arias and Instagrafite