We caught up with man about toon, Hush, for a quick chat about his past, present and future before his new show, Desensitised, opens at Opus Underground on November 7. Read the full interview after the jump and check Opus here for more info on the show.
Thanks to Opus and Hush for their time and pictures. Check more out on Hush’s Flickr.
Let’s start from the beginning if we may, can you tell us a little about your early days growing up in Newcastle; what were your interests, hobbies, influences, education, etc?
I spent my youth in Newcastle, just normal city life, i always new from being young i was going to art school.
Art school taught me what not to do really, whatever I was expected to do i always did different, i was thrown out a few times as they thought i was being rebellious, it wasn’t that at all, I just didn’t want to make was was expected.
The rave scene was huge then and the club flyer scene had a big impact, that was probably my first expedition into Japanese/Pop styles as Designers Republic, 8vo and Swifty were doing some great things with typography and illustration at the time. The style in some of the typography and line work to me was a expansion on Graf, just tighten it up, yeah i had been into graf when i was younger, nothing mad but dabbled obviously, i used to draw for alot of my friends pieces.
I did a lot of flyers in those days which informed my non commercial work, which lead to underground pop up shows and sharing, posting art to artists all over the world, street work, it was a great scene. Its all happened quite naturally really. I’m not surprised the scene become popular as so many artists had the same influences and ideas.
Was it during your spell at Newcastle Art and Design school that you became exposed to the influences that play such a strong role in your work today; such as animation and graffiti? Did graffiti play a role in some way your youth? Do you get much time to go hit the streets these days?
Graf was an influence but i didn’t realize till later on, the club flyer / fly poster thing had a huge impact as it was about attracting attention and the impact of 100 different daygo posters on a wall just gave you a buzz, especially as they changed day by day, it was probably those textures that had a huge impact on my work.
I love seeing anything on the street, it’s the aging process that excites me.
Don’t get as much time as i would like, to do street pieces, been really busy in the studio this year but i’m starting to set time aside just to get work up now. Last week i went over to Amsterdam just to do some street work and arranged to meet up with ‘Brad Downey’ who is a fantastic artist and Local boy ‘Lazer”.
You’ve done many things since leaving Art college; graphic design, illustration, etc, but one of the factors that adds to the mystique of Hush is the time you spent in Hong Kong. Can you tell us a little about how you ended up over there, what the city’s like, the lifestyle, architecture, shops and culture and the effect it’s had, if any, on you as a person and an artist?
After i come out of the haze of the rave scene and the flyer thing, i wanted to do something different, i was always making my own work and was well into graphic novels, illustration and pop culture. One of my friends was working out in HK as a toy designer and gave me a heads up on the place. Within weeks i was over and working for some big name toy brands, doing everything from toy concepts, illustration and design, it was great and was influencing my own work all the time. Hong Kong has got to be one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and every street is different, its a mad place. One of the biggest influences from over there was the vinyl toy scene and the manga, its in your face 24/7 and if you’ve ever sat on an MTR at 8 in the morning with your face an inch away from a manga comic you’ll know what i mean.
Was it there that you discovered Manga? Here at UKSA we’ve got a small collection stashed under our bed, you must have a vault stacked full of the stuff? Can we borrow some? And can you tell us a little about your relationship with Manga and why it crops up so frequently in your work?
Also, we’ve noticed that the girls depicted in your pieces often have an”innocence” about them, is this deliberate? Is there any reason behind this?
Yeah people always believe i’m a manga head but really its just an influence like everything else. I do like the innocence of the girls and play on that, the use of the girls is just a contemporary use of the female form is art, which has always been favored with artists throughout time. I also like mixing the innocent with the dark as it entices juxtaposes the message and plays with peoples thoughts (what you see initially can change once read thoroughly) i like playing with those ideas.
In the past couple of years you’ve really come to prominence with shows all over the place, as well as numerous print releases, etc, has there been any particularly fond memories when you’ve thought, “yep, this is what it’s all about”? And what’s been the best experience of your career so far?
After returning from HK i worked with some large design agencies in London, Edinburgh and Newcastle while working hard on my own work which was the real passion, there comes a time when you’ve just got to follow your dreams and do what you want to do, so i wrapped it all just to work on my art and never looked back. The best thing about it apart from making the work is meeting alot of interesting people and traveling.
Can you talk us through making larger pieces such as a triptych – your recent ‘graf geisha triptych’ was a killer and I think was the first time that we realized the potential you have. What technique/routines do you have when making your pieces?
Hey thanks man, and yeah that piece was great to work on, i always have loads of canvases around the studio and while working on a piece i paint on the others, tag them, throw paint at them and generally let them find there way, eventually a canvas looks like its ready to work and asks for a certain piece have in mind. I did sketch work for a week on that piece, then tighten the line work which i then distress through various techniques, screen layers, spray paint, paint over parts and let the work find itself, that piece probably took about 40 odd hours but its the way i work, all the pieces i do are over time, its part of my thing.
So onto your show at Opus Gallery, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few bits and pieces from the show, can you tell us about the general theme for the show and what mediums//materials you’re using and why?
The general theme is about the way people have been desensitised to news/imagery of violent acts, pornography.
People are being de-sensitised to crime and violence, through the media, tv and especially the internet….this isn’t always crime or violence, it might just be the bizarre. The internet has opened up alot of strange worlds which are now accessible at the press of a button. I think people are becoming de-sensitised to images and actions that would once of been deemed as unacceptable. Is this right or wrong? That’s another question.
I was in a large office space lately where a group of employees of all ages and sexes where standing round a computer laughing or rather beginning entertained while watching images of happy slapping, people involved in serious accidents and just bizarre pics in general. People in general have been de-sensitised by the accessibility of these images, its almost acceptable. I’m playing with these ideas.
What’s next for Hush?
Just finished the HUSH (Travellers sketch book) with King Adz and Thames & Hudson which is out in conjunction with their 60th anniversary in May next year.
Upperplayground ‘Fifty24 SF Gallery’ invited me to do a show in San Fansisco in April next year (which is a bit of a dream as all the artists i respect / legends have been through that place.
Got some great things happening next year, you’ll have to see…
Thanks guys and great site.