(Nazi bunker in Frankfurt, – ECB, Mickey and Shok, 2011)
For years, Shok-1 has been an iconic name in the global graffiti community, with a penchant for individualism. His style is one of a kind, recognizable for it’s organic, 3-dimensional and alien-esque qualities. Often playing with light sources, realism and x-ray-like glows in greyscales, in many cases Shok utilises his surroundings and surfaces to the advantage of and for the interaction of his creations. ILG caught up with this king of organic-rock to see what makes him metamorphose
ILG: When did you start being a graffiti writer?
I don’t like the word graffiti. It’s too vague. But you can’t avoid it. These days I just feel like I’m an artist. Fuck labels.
ILG: What got you into writing graffiti?
SHOK: I was fascinated by a punk writer Baz who was up in my area around 1981. Then in 1984 I was inspired by the usual books and films.
ILG: What are you first memories of seeing graffiti?
SHOK: The first pieces that really impressed me in real life were the Chrome Angelz works at Covent Garden in London.
ILG: What were your influences back then? what are your influences?
SHOK: Back in the 80’s it was mainly the early European style, so mostly Dondi and Futura.
Since then I’ve become more and more open to other genres of art. These days I have a million small influences, anything in my day could spark off an idea. People, the world, life. But everthing I paint, I can trace back to earlier Writing I did, it’s never disconnected.
Conflict is usually a part of it in some way.
I’m interested in other ways of seeing, ways to look inside. Xrays, microscopes. I think a lot about meaning, I haven’t used my name as the content of a piece in a long time. I do still have letters in it but there isn’t a boundary between them and everything else, it’s all one thing to me. That’s part of what my organic thing is about. I like to say : a letter IS a character.
ILG: What/who directly influences your style, flow and ideology?
SHOK: I think you have to be the master of your own destiny.
ILG: Being that your work is quite synonymous with being unique and distinctive, to advance your work further, can it be somewhat intimidating, stifling or difficult to keep on the cutting edge?
SHOK: That’s a good one.
I always have a ton of new ideas I want to experiment with, far more than I’m going to live long enough to deal with. New concepts every day. I haven’t painted 10% of what I’ve already worked out, the stuff I think might be good.
I’ll die frustrated.
The challenge is to work out which ones are most worthwhile … I try to research what else is going on in all the art worldwide, try to explore the paths less trodden. I think about what our art has to do with the rest of it. Is it good? What is the point of it?
Originality is a distance not a place. It’s an ideal to strive for.
I think I spend too much time on that at the moment though, I want to get back to painting more and thinking less. The trouble is, you can’t go back to not-knowing things.
The other big dilemma for me is to do with consistency. This information saturated age seems to favour a logo mentality but I hate to repeat myself. It just feels like I’m wasting my time if I don’t move forward in some way each time. So I try to strike some kind of balance but I don’t think I do a very good job of that.
I think I make my life far more difficult that it needs to be. I could just take one bit of it, rinse and repeat.
ILG: Trackside, panels, bombing or a chill wall?
SHOK: I’ve done all of the above during my career. These days I’d choose a high profile wall and try to put something interesting and worthwhile on it. Something that fucks with stereotypes, makes people think. Chill? I wish.
We just did a whole Nazi bunker in Frankfurt. Massive. 4m thick concrete walls. Big budget, open brief, painting whatever we like. Big responsibility … turn something like that into something positive.
I’m ok with a mystery … sometimes I’ll illustrate an idea, sometimes I’m ok to do something that’s not so easily gettable.
ILG: Any major projects in the pipeline?
SHOK: Lots going on as always. We’ve been trailblazing out in China. I’m working directly with an architect’s company who have designed a lot of really insane buildings in Shenzhen and other cities. Lot of sparks flying in the recent project; culture clashes, freedom vs censorship etc. Groundbreaking public art projects, big things. That’s an ongoing project.
I just did a nice custom arcade cabinet that will be auctioned off to raise money to help out with the disaster in Japan. I’m an oldschool gamer so I really enjoyed that, I’m thinking of doing a series of them.
I have a street gallery project I’ve been developing in Central London. I’m trying to take over the whole street. High profile.
Ton of other things going on. Just a lot of painting and fighting to create space for new ideas basically.
ILG: What is the best piece of advice you have been given along your journey?
SHOK: I can’t think of anything specific. Oh, how about this : „All these late nights are making you too thinky“ – Aroe.
ILG: What is the best piece of advice you can give to up and coming writers,
still trying to find their feet and direction?
SHOK: Don’t give in to fashion and be one of a crowd – how many Writers are there in the world already? Why does it need another?
Journey to make it yours and yours alone. Make it more than a name. You can do or say anything you want … and Writers have a louder voice than most people. We all have the power to cause change.
Interview by Nexus