Will St. Leger – Interview
I’m at the IFI café and Will St Leger, the acclaimed street artist, is off buying a pot of tea and a coffee. There’s a black-framed photo lying face down on his table and the intrigue is killing me. Will’s just finished painting a new mural at the North end of St. George Street, and he has green paint on his hands and face. The piece is an ode to the classic Guinness adverts and includes the requisite blue-collar worker, loosely based on his old mentor. Stretching across the western wall of the Mercantile it covers a prime piece of street art real estate, complete with a Thin Lizzy poster. When he sits down and starts rolling a cigarette I ask him if I can look at the photo. It’s a black and white head shot of Grace Kelly, the stunning 50s actress, with a tattoo of a swallow superimposed on her neck. Part of a series of which show altered or touched-up versions of classic icons like James Dean and Elvis, it’s a wonderful subversion of an iconic image. And, it’s that subversion, and a borderline seditious take on politics, which drives a lot of his work, including the recent small Dáil project, which saw him serving an eviction notice on the country’s finest. For Will street art acts as a kind of thermometer of the will or anger of the people, and right now the talent is red hot. What do you think of Dublin’s street art scene? Ireland’s street art scene is in its teenage years, it’s found its own identity; we have our own sense of self. For the last five or six years it’s really consolidated, there’s been more of a New York graffiti style, stickers, stencils, a real visual feast. Things like Flickr and blogs have introduced people to a lot more art, people have been travelling a lot too, and all that has had a huge effect in pushing the scene forward. In the 80s they weren’t given the kind of kudos we are given now and they’re the people I admire. There were no bloggers to champion their work, they used crappy paint. People like Jor and Maser. What do you think of the wall on George St? I looked at that wall like a business man looks at a stripper. Before I got the commission I’d asked about the space four times, I think every street artist in Dublin has. A lot of my stuff is subversive, but this one has more of a comedy element. Is this your first commercial job? Yes. But, it doesn’t feel like it in a corporate sense. If a multi-national had asked me to do it I wouldn’t, on principle, but this is different, it’s a venue. What do you think about your artwork being removed or altered? Once you put something out there the public takes ownership. They can affect it in a complementary or subversive way and they are going to make that decision based on how they feel about the piece. People open up a dialogue with it as soon as they make a mark on it, to try and manage that is like trying to stop the tide coming in. It’s out of my hands. How do you find the media related to your work? Very well. I don’t know why. I don’t try and manipulate what they think about it. People will know that I have strong beliefs, if the street art’s illegal or illicit. I’ll never hide from it. It’s got to do with accountability. I do get called a street artist, but I’m quite wary of that. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’ so many other things I’m working on right now; I’ve just made my first film, I have the Mother night, there’s lots of stuff I do, it’s more of a portfolio career. And, I think other artists are finding themselves going into other disciplines, too. I call myself a mindful vandal now. You can see Will St Leger’s latest piece on the corner of Dame Lane and St. George’s Street, under the red and yellow lights of the ‘Why Go Bold?’ sign. Words: Christopher Goodfellow Photos: Ian Keegan You are free to print out my work and put on your wall or display non commercial websites, but please don’t reproduce it for profit or to fund oppressive dictators.