Feature – Stephen Hiam

BizarreBeyondBelief: What is your influence, passion and/or motivation that pushes you to wake up and create instead of going to a 9-5 job?

Stephen Hiam: I had a 9 to 5 job once in a supermarket and constantly sort of entertained myself by provoking the customers, until one day a customer came back to kill me with a baseball bat, a knife and a hammer. It was reported in the newspaper that I heroically defended myself with a tub of margarine and a tin of Heinz baked beans. Anyway after that experience I thought “Fuck it”, it’s just not worth the hassle.

BBB: How important is it for you to connect fine art with your graffiti background?

SH: I don’t want history, I can only deal with what’s happening now. That’s really what it’s all about. I have a problem with remembering things, seriously, and feel like a bit of a goldfish. I like to act in the moment, grab a feeling and express it. I‘m not really painting… I‘m breathing.

BBB: And how do you feel that this work is received from both graffiti writers and art critics alike?

SH: I have no idea as the works are relatively quite unexposed and private. Some have seen it and said “Fuck” and maybe that’s enough. Some people hate it and don’t quite get it, but that’s cool, it’s not really for them is it? I’m doing it because it’s a safety valve. A secret way of expressing myself without getting arrested for violent and psychopathic actions.
BBB: What separates Berlin’s art and graffiti community from that of any other cities you have lived or traveled?

SH: I’m not really qualified to comment on that.

BBB: How would you compare and contrast street-art with advertising?

SH: I think they are both turning into the same bastard child.
BBB: How would you descrive your art school experience?

SH: Terrible.


BBB: Do you feel it is important or is it merely a financial institution?

SH: I wish someone had have been there to guide me. Instead they asked us to draw with twigs. Re-reading this it sounds quite interesting, maybe I should have listened more…?
BBB: You’ve worked in a lot of different creative fields in your time as an artist, what would you say differentiates fine/graffiti art to other fields like commercials or special effects?

SH: If you’ve got the guts, I would say the freedom to express yourself without limits, or constraints, regardless of the consequences or what other people might think. Originally I was seduced by the attitude of the London-based advertising industry when the creativity was king. It was like give us a million bucks and we’ll make what the fuck we like and you’re gonna love it.  Unfortunately, now mainstream advertising I feel is creativity by committee and this naturally dilutes the potency of the original idea.

BBB: What is the first thing you think about when you approach a canvas?

SH: “Oh shit I’m going to fuck this up.”
BBB: From there, what’s your creative process and when do you tell yourself a piece is done?

SH: Meditating on the image and watching it progress. I’m kind of painting chaos, so it’s pretty hard to define when it’s done. Maybe it’s doing.
BBB: How would you describe your work to a blind person?

SH: I’m screaming hysterically down your ear, as satin skinned virgins lick the tears from your cheeks then someone slits your throat.
BBB: If you were to classify your artistic practice into a genre, what would it be and how did it get there?

SH: I can’t really classify my own works into a genre, I don’t think thats my place. But I do like the Japanese aesthetic about the beauty of imperfections and I respect this honest approach. I spent my working career busting pixels and creating “perfect” images for brands and artists. Effectively making false images. Therefore I never wanted to combine my advertising skill set with the “Artistic” one, but finally found a way to combine photography, graphics, sculpture and animation in a series of paintings titled “The Fallen”. I realized that if I had to say something, it had to be honest and brutal. Those oil paintings were painful to create both mentally and physically and when I looked at them something was missing, a pure energy and a physical vibration, I suppose. In hindsight  I was painting Death, now I’m chasing the physical vibration.
BBB: If there was only one thing you could take to the after-life with you, what would it be and why?”

SH: A tin of Heinz baked beans.

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