Phlegms large scale and intricate street art has taken many forms over the years. From full colour wall murals to black and white illustrations, with his current pieces looking like they’ve jumped straight from the pages of his sketchbooks on to the walls of South Yorkshire.
But aside from being one of the most talked about street artists of this year, with work featuring on the Wooster Collective, Concrete Hermit and Vandalog to name a few, Phlegm holds a true passion for comic book publication and one could argue that he’s an illustrator, first and foremost.
Having recently declared that he’ll be turning his back on the exhibition circuit for good in order to focus on new projects, Pejhy decided to catch up with the artist for a rare interview in order to gain an insight into some of the themes behind his work, his current methods and his views on the art industry.
When speaking to artists and galleries in Sheffield I found that you had a reputation for being quite a private artist. Gaining the respect of the local artists by exhibiting only when it feels right to you and then only on your terms. What are your thoughts behind exhibiting? Are you against your art being used a source of entertainment?
I’ve done a few small shows in the past but last year I decided to I stop exhibiting altogether, even in group shows. I have a love hate relationship with what I do.
Working on walls instead of canvass and making books instead of doing shows cuts out all the crap. It puts my work in the world for people to take it or leave it, with no brands or gallery reputations attached. Too many artists these days just don’t seem driven by ideas and a burning desire to follow a body of work. It’s just constant spamming, networking and hype. For me the work is way more important than getting somewhere with it.
One aspect of your work I really admire is your mock advertisements, highlighting the naivety of consumers and the way businesses manipulate us into believing we need there products to be happy. How do you feel as a consumer yourself?
I try and just keep away from it all; apart from buying paint and ink I really don’t need anything. Most of the time I find it funny like I’m walking around in a Douglas Adams novel.
I love the fact that you can advertise a shoe with a special heel that tones your arse and that people will buy that rather than exercise properly. That you can buy face creams that cost huge sums of money because they have some extract from a herb that flowers once a year on a full moon or some shit…like we can force back the ageing process with this 0.00001% extract.
Your recent time lapse video has been well received around the web, featuring on many blogs (including this one). Why do you think more and more artists, street artists in particular, are using the medium of film to show their work?
I think for artists that work in an ephemeral and spontaneous way video has become a great outlet these days. It shows the speed and freedom that makes this kind of art what it is.
You regularly blog you work in progress and keep your site updated with recent work and show previews of up and coming comics. As an artist working today do you think it’s important to have an online presence?
My blog is for me really, I see it as a diary. I update every week and it keeps me on my toes, helping keep lulls and burnouts at bay…helps me keep my pace. I’m not sure if I can say it’s important for all artists, I can only speak for myself really. It seems that having an online presence is important whether you’re an artist or not these days so I guess it must be important.I don’t mind updating one thing every week for anyone out there interested.
Some people have Myspace, Facebook, twitter, a blog, a website, a flickr account… I think at some point you must have to take a day off to do some artwork… so yeah it’s important but I think it can easily be detrimental as an artist or just as a person too.
Your last comic publication, issue 9: the sketchbook issue was unique in that it showed the reader how one of your works would evolve over time. It seemed like quite a personal issue. What made you want to publish a comic of your work in progress?
To honest it was just knocked together because I didn’t really have time to do another issue at the time. I was working on a bigger long term book project.
I produce huge amounts of sketchbooks; I have shelves full of them. I think I’m always looking for ways to use them in some way. The old issues of my comic from one to five had sections of sketchy Shrigley style drawings all of which I used to scan from my notebooks.
I recently purchased a comic on your recommendation, “Funeral” by Barnaby Richards which was absolutely beautiful. What other comics can you recommend?
I love Chris ware and Tom Gauld. Lesser known artists like Mark Beyer too. I like a lot of outsider art like Henry Dargers mad journals or the books of insane flying machines drawn by Charles Dellschau.
I don’t read a great deal of stuff because I don’t like being influenced. Every now and then I’ll treat myself though.
Is it true you’re currently working on your first book? What other projects do you have lined up for the future?
Yes I figured that if I’m rejecting gallery work I need to look at taking my self publishing to another level. I’m working on a long story set at sea called ‘in brine’ Its going to be a few hundred pages long, a4 and with a hard spine.
I’m currently about half way through drawing it. The next issue of phlegm will be out mid to late November and then I’m going to take a long break from the comic while I get in brine wrapped up.
Unfortunately I’m unable to post all of my favorite images from Phlegm’s huge portfolio of sketches and street art, so to see more from the artist please visit his website HERE