Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Ryan Goldade and Amie Nguyen
Photography by Jenkin Au
Location: Toronto[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
Please tell our readers more about yourself
Elicser Elloitt. That’s what I write under. Usually everyone leaves it out but I think it’s good to add the last name on there. I just think of my dad and he might be a little pissed off if I didn’t take the name along with me.
How were you introduced to graffiti writing?
There is a lot of hip-hop represented in your artwork. What is your connection to hip-hop and how does it play a role in your art?
I don’t know. It was just growing up … The group of friends I was with had this competitive nature to get up in every spot. I sort of wanted to play along as well. It started like that but then it turned into an artistic endeavour.
I don’t think it does really. The only way it sort of reflects that is because I’m a black guy. Anything I paint is sort of seen that way but at the same time, I really don’t think it has a lot to do with hip-hop.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that graffiti stemmed from caveman paintings that were meant as communication to the rest of the tribe. How is graffiti used as a method of communication today?
It’s like advertising. You know how Nike would get a billboard and put it up there? In LA now, they’re painting a lot of movie signs. So a Spiderman movie poster would come out and the graffiti artists will do a sick version with their own style under it and it would totally fit into the poster. It’s like that now: graf is like a big advertisement for your fine art.
Where do you see the future of graffiti?
It’s going to be that everyone who comes out is going to be good because they’re going to make the tips for the cans better and better. It’s going to get to the point where the material (the cans) are going to get better, where you pick up a can and it would turn into the best piece ever right off the bat. At the same time, I don’t really want to see it that way. Even in rap, for example, I saw a McDonald’s commercial the other day with a kid rapping in the back of the car. I hate to see how desperate young people can get. You know what I mean? Mickie D’s probably shot him a lot of money. Hip-hop is saturated completely and I think the same thing will happen to graf.
The element of distortion is consistently seen in your work. What’s the origin of this style and what’s the concept behind it?
I don’t know. I just try to push and pull and create new things with my work. It’s kind of like there’s an idea in your head and you’re trying to get it on paper but it’s not exactly what is in your head. Difference between your brain and your head is going to change it in some way. I just kind of go with that and it gets on the page; I embellish it more.
With all the cleaning in the city, pieces get washed away. Can you tell us about your longest lasting piece and why it’s important for an artist to have this kind of lifespan?
The reason people still give Ren props in Toronto is because Ren still rocks hard. Even still, his pieces have residence and it’s easy to read. It doesn’t say stuff like, “Fuck your mother.” It can stay, you know? At the same time, he keeps putting more. Cats that are coming up today still have respect for Ren but he started 20 years ago. The residence has the respect factor so that’s the only reason I really want it to stay up. Eventually, cats are not going to know who we were. It’s good to see things stay up and for cats to see where it came from but at the same time, if it’s not there then they have nothing to branch off of and they have to come up with a new style.
I did this piece on a blockbuster; it was a parody of Indiana Jones. We went to go see Crystal Skull and I heard they were bringing back everything from part one part two. They didn’t have Short Round and I was like, “They need to bring Short Round back.” So I did this mural but it kind of looked like he was dead. That ran with the fact that it was like a memorial piece. Cats didn’t really know that it was a spoof. I really loved that one. It ran for like six or seven years.
Throughout your years, you’ve put out very highly recognized pieces on the street as well as in galleries. Tell us your views on your art being displayed through these various outlets and how it affects the experience people get from your work.
It’s sad to say that a place with white walls and lighting legitimizes art. Just because there are cars bustling by or you have to go into an alley to see it doesn’t mean it’s not art. You have to take a piece for what it is, not where it is. At the same time, I was happy to get my work into the gallery, to prove it to my mom that I can. For years, my mom and my dad would say, “It’s not going to get you anywhere. You’re not going to be able to do anything with this.” They didn’t actually say that to me but I feel that underneath, they think this really won’t get me anywhere. So it was a good thing to prove it to them that I could get into a white gallery–a white wall gallery situation. Those are my happy parts and my sad parts about the whole thing. I was rockin’ that same stuff three years ago but it wasn’t in the gallery. My mom wasn’t too proud about it then, but now it’s it in the gallery and she’s calling her friends. People I don’t know were calling me up asking if they could see the pieces.
What is down the line for you as an artist?
I don’t know, man. I have a problem with predicting stuff. I don’t like saying, “I’m going to paint a dog with wings on it,” ‘cause then it’s out in the air and I don’t know if I’m actually going to paint a dog with wings on it. I don’t know if I can tell you guys what I’m doing next.
What is HYPE?
Something that blows your mind. I usually use that word when I’m looking at piece that’s cut really well. I’ll come around a corner and see it and say, “Oh snap, that’s HYPE!”