Spray Cans And Sculpture


Written by Siobhan Morrin
07 Sunday 07th November 2010
The Orange Dot Gallery, inconspicuously positioned near Russell Square, plays host to an exhibition of street art. The work on display is that of the IFC Collective, formed by the elusive graffiti artist Wolfie ‘Satan’ Smith. The collection on display is a mix of canvases, furniture, and stolen signage covered in colourful comic-inspired graffiti. It’s clear that a lot of their influence comes from the comic book artists in their midst, writers of the legendary 2000 AD comic and creators of Deadline, the first home of Tank Girl.
Wolfie Smith though, was known only to have achieved a U in GCSE Art, no matter how much he was Googled. But not for much longer… We at Don’t Panic exclusively have the very first interview of the IFC Collective, containing discussion of censorship, Banksy and foxes with erections…
It’s good to meet a few of the IFC Collective for your first ever interview, including the elusive Wolfie. Tell me about yourselves.
Wolfie: I’m Wolfie ‘Satan’ Smith. I’m a graffiti writer, so Satan’s my tag. I got my name out of Tornado. That’s a comic.
Ah, so it wasn’t Citizen Smith then?
WS: No, but they nicked it from there and then I got it out the comic. There’s also Cemo and Aseb. (Wolfie checks my spelling).
Aseb: And there’s Charlie.
WS: Charlie Shazer. And Brett Ewins and Brendan MacCarthy, they’re comic book artists. They’re huge. And Deadline88.
So how did this collective come about?
WS: In summer 2008 I decided to form a collective, mixing graffiti and comics. I was inspired by what I looked at, I saw other collectives around and I thought I could do better. I approached Brett, he was the first person. I was always into comics, as a child really. And graffiti and comics, they’re the same really. Then there was mix of other people really, graffiti writers like Cemo and Aseb…mutual friends a lot.
A: Cemo and me were doing our stuff for ten years around Canada and Europe.
Cemo: Our crew, Eighties Conspiracy, it was a four member crew and we were working for around seven years before this.
WS: And Charlie Shazer was part of WD World Domination, a well-respected collective. So it’s like what do you get when you cross comics, graffiti and tattoos? The IFC Collective.
What’s the link for you between comics and graffiti?
WS: Comics are just a different scene. You know what, comics and graffiti are like the same sweets, but different wrappers. Comics are mass-marketed, they’ve got a huge audience. And they’re copyrighted, where what we do, it’s unlicensed.
What about you guys (Cemo and Aseb)? Are you into comics?
A: Well yes, we read them when we were young. Everybody in their youth has comics, though we didn’t have so many of the English ones. We’re from Marseille.
C: I think Wolfie gave us more interest in comics too. They are so popular.
WS: All graffiti’s like comics. Look at Judge Dredd. That’s another influence of mine actually, Action Comic. It was banned ‘cause it was subversive. It led to 2000AD in 1977 though.
How do you work? Did all of you work on the pieces in this exhibition?
WS: Yeah, we work as the collective. All the pieces are IFC Collective. It’s sort of together and individual. Some might be with four artists, some more solo pieces. And people have the things they’re into, like Brendan and Brett, obviously more comics. Then the others can be sculpture, graffiti…
C: We’ve done some sculpture, and we did our own stuff with Eighties Conspiracy.
WS: This is our first solo exhibition though. We sold a few before through Mutate Britain in 2008 and then in 2009 at One Foot In The Grove.
What do you think of the idea of trying to sell graffiti in public places, like some of Banksy’s work has been?
WS: We couldn’t care less. If they want to try and sell a wall, then good luck to them.
C: Graffiti belongs to the streets.
WS: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s not going to be there forever. So I couldn’t care less.
C: It’s all people ask when you talk about graffiti, Banksy…
Vikas: Yeah, but it’s just what people know.
C: Yeah, there just shouldn’t be some people getting a special preference though, you know?
(Conversation steered swiftly away from certain graffiti celebrities).
He’s controversial in his own way…
WS: Yeah, that’s it, he’s controversial.
You said graffiti belongs to the streets, so you don’t mind overpainting?
WS: No, I don’t mind it. I quite like it actually. There are rules obviously. Some of the first stuff I did was paste-ups though. But I don’t want to talk about myself, it’s all the IFC Collective.
How do you work when you’re in the streets, not for this exhibition?
WS: We do it all: paste-ups, marker pen, stencil, freehand graffiti…
A: The spraycan is our main weapon.
Against whom?
A: (Laughs).
C: Against…the walls of society. They’ll never be able to stop the movement. There’s always been anarchy in graffiti.
A: It’s subversive by nature.
WS: It’s still illegal to do it. Our work will always be uncensored. I mean, you’ve got to be sensitive to where you put them. Like we don’t put a fox with an erection on a school. Stuff that was banned before wouldn’t make a difference now though. Oz Magazine. Shouldn’t have been banned. One thing I’ll say, if I had to go to court, I wouldn’t sacrifice my art. If you look at it, graffiti, tattoos, comics were all frowned upon. They’re outsider art, that’s what we are.
Vikas: Well, not quite outsider art. (Explains outsider art as that of people in prisons and psychiatric hospitals).
WS: Ok, well we’re criminals and lunatics. We’re inspired by criminals and lunatics.
V: (Laughs).
WS: We’re working on a graphic novel now.
In a book or graffiti?
As a book. But we do snapshots of it with the characters as graffiti. We need around 40 or 50 characters for it, and we’ve got… 20, 25 so far.
(Shows DP some of the characters)
WS: There’s Foxman, he’s in a lot of the graffiti we’ve done. He’s like a Rupert Bear for adults. We’re not doing it digitally, it’ll be hand drawn. Like they used to be, where someone’d draw it, someone write it, and someone colour it all in.
What do you think of all the films that have been made of graphic novels recently?
WS: I don’t like them. The films deviate too much from the comics. It’s all Hollywood. They don’t know enough about the artists, don’t recognise them. Comic artists don’t get recognised as influencers.
You haven’t said it yet- so, what does IFC Collective stand for?
WS: Insurgent F-Cell. We’re all from different places.
A: We’ve got people in Toronto, Paris, Berlin…
WS: Charlie’s from London, and Brett…
And where are you from Wolfie?
WS: I’m from up north.
Where exactly?
WS: Just up north. Ok, north west.
Ok. Just one more question- you’ve referred to yourself as graffiti writers, not graffiti artists. Why is that?
WS: A graffiti writer is someone who writes their name on a wall. That’s what we do, write our names.
A: The word artist is too big…
WS: I don’t know if we’re artists. Brendan and Brett, I’ve got respect for them as comic artists…
V: Oh shut up, you’re an artist. You’re artists.

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