Studio Visit  |  July 2012
ADW is an artist that works both on the street and on canvas. Whichever form his work takes it always has a personal, political or satirical story behind it. I met him in his studio to talk to him about his practice.

ADW’s studio

He has always been a fan of graffiti and ‘tags’ but it wasn’t until he saw Banksy’s work that the whole idea of street art took on a new meaning for him. He said there is a fine line between street art and graffiti and that it is possible to communicate something or tell a story with both. He thinks a concrete wall looks much more interesting with a dripping tag on it as opposed to without. (A tag is a name written on a wall, usually in one colour and it is generally done by someone who is trying to get their name around a city, in as many places as possible.)
In 2008, ADW made his first stencil piece called SPOILT which illustrated the exploitation of the Eastern world by the Western world. Some of his first works of street art were picked up by newspapers and were photographed and printed onto free postcards, resulting in a wide dissemination of his work. Among these first street works were Leprechaun and Do Not Pass Go, which illustrate the austerity that was affecting the country at the time.

Do Not Pass Go, 2009. Image courtesy of  the artist

Many of ADW’s works are satirical and often political. He said he likes to take something negative and turn it into something comical. He often ties his work in with particular events or topical activities in the country and said that sometimes an event can be an incentive to do something. It can be the drive behind a work.
One work that ADW had done in 2011 and then re-did early in 2012 for a specific project was Labelz are for jars not for People. It was done on the side doors of Filmbase in Temple Bar, Dublin in aid of ‘First Fortnight’, an arts-based mental health awareness project.

Timelapse video of Labelz are for jars not for People, 2012

I asked ADW to talk me through the process of making one of his stencil works. The original incentive for a piece is generally a particular point of view that he wants to communicate. He said the final image coming together in his mind can take anything from a matter of days to months or sometimes even a year. Like many artists he keeps a notebook and sketches down ideas or phrases as they come to him.
Once he has decided on a visual, he works it up on a pen tablet on his computer using reference photographs. He then prints the image, separated into parts on A4 pages and sticks them together to form the whole image. Many different layers have to be printed to allow for a variety of colours and detail in the final image.
A recent work that ADW did on canvas was The Tide is High but I’m Holding On. It’s a six foot by four foot canvas and took about three weeks to cut out the intricate detail with a scalpel. This is the biggest piece he has done to date. It was shown in a recent exhibition in the ‘No Grants Gallery’ in Temple Bar, Dublin.

Stencils cut out for The Tide is High but I’m Holding On, 2012

ADW said his process of making a work has changed slightly since he started. When he began he was using car spray paint but he now uses spray paints called Montana and Montana Hardcore which are generally used for street art. He said he doesn’t know if what he does is the common process used by stencil artists but it’s what works best for him. He applies an overall light haze of black first and then moves through the different colours. First a solid layer of colour – this stencil layer can be a combination of a few different colours in different places. Then another stencil layer is applied and sprayed over which will depict any shading or fine detail. Finally another layer of black is applied to give the finishing touches to the piece.
When making a stencil piece for the street as opposed to one for canvas, the card used to make the stencil must be a lot more durable so it can be moved around quickly and is weather resistant. When working on the street, ADW says that he uses less colour in his pieces because of the speed at which he needs to work. The piece below, Politics, 2012, which is near Ranelagh in Dublin, took a matter of minutes to get on to the wall.

Politics, 2012. Image courtesy of  the artist

Some street art lasts, some doesn’t.
A work that ADW did in early 2011, called Game of Love, on Suir Road Bridge, Dublin 8 unfortunately didn’t last long. This was a piece that he had in mind for a long time and wanted to situate it at a meaningful site. In December 2010, a couple tragically drowned along the stretch of canal below this bridge. It is thought that one of them fell into the canal because of the icy conditions, and that the other drowned during a rescue attempt. ADW placed this piece here as a sort of memorial to the couple.

Game of Love, 2011. Image courtesy of  the artist

Game of Love, 2011. Image courtesy of  the artist

Unfortunately the boy in Game of Love was painted over in grey paint having lasted less than 24 hours. ADW said that perhaps if people had known the story behind the piece it might have lasted longer.
Plans for making work on the street are always carefully premeditated, but things can still get in the way. A recent work, New York is Killing Me, despite only taking a few minutes in total to execute, took a twoweeks to finish because a woman from the area came across ADW in the process of making the work and he had to leave. The piece was painted over two days after it was completed. ADW said he was not too bothered by this because the piece had a personal significance for him and he was glad that he had the chance to finish it as well as get some video footage of the process.

New York is Killing Me, 2012. Image courtesy of  the artist

Timelapse video of New York is Killing Me
I asked ADW about the audience aspect of street art and if this is something he considers when making work. He said that initially his work evolves from something personal and he will make the work anyway but there is some work he would make on canvas that he wouldn’t put on the street and vice versa. He said he wouldn’t put a piece out on the street if he didn’t think people would get it. So yes, the audience on the street and the audience in a gallery are both considered when placing work.
More of ADW’s work can be seen on his website

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