You know those ‘inclusive’ murals cleverly disguising the solid and handsome houses currently in-discussion with the wrecking ball on Edge Lane? They were, if you think about it, the most successful pieces of public art commissioned for our Capital of Culture year. They were seen by more people than the Spider, that’s for sure. And they’ve hung around for 30 months or so.
But, just so you know, there is another way to brighten up the city’s ripped backsides – one that doesn’t have to involve the ‘community’. And Chimp Creative might well be our best hope. Their work has been spotted enlivening up spaces from waiting rooms in Aintree University Hospital (and, boy, that place needs all the help it can get), to Creamfields, Smithdown Road to the windows at Resurrection on Bold Street.
How’d you get started?
We’ve been working together since 2006, when we we were part of a new gallery launch called ‘Site’ down at the Albert Dock (Richard and Judy’s old hangout), this was our first official collaborative piece. From there we applied and won a business start up award for creative enterprise from the Liverpool Design Academy.
What’s the Chimp’s DNA?
A Bonobo chimp’s DNA is 99.8% the same as a humans, so we are almost indistinguishable from most regular folks. I’d say the remaining .2% is our excuse for looking at things the way we do.
We are kind of bi-polar. On the one side you’ll find us engaged in commercial work, branding, stuff like that, and on the other, things get a whole lot darker and far less commercial. So it’s a bit of a battle as to who will win out. Our guess? The dark side.
Our motivation comes from a desire for us to get across our art in a way that doesn’t necessarily conform but works. Like most artists, I guess we just want to see our work in places that you can be proud of and make people ask questions.
What do you think about the state of public art in Liverpool right now?
It all seems very detached to us, there is so much going on under the surface but we feel you have to dig deep and know the city to truly uncover it – which does have its advantages and charm, but it’s a shame that all the talent isn’t truly displayed and represented. We’d say the Biennial is a great example of this, we usually prefer the independent and anti-Biennial exhibits personally. The Biennial is great and produces some fantastic international art, but we think it would benefit if they found some new local artists to exhibit now and again.
Who or what inspires you?
We are both inspired by a vast amount of people and situations. Each project takes on different forms of inspiration. For some projects it might be something quite literal like organic forms, and for others it may be a situation or comment we’ve heard.
Our style stems from street art, both international and European, there are a lot of big names that we love Os Gemeos (twin brother graf artists from Brazil), Hello Monsters (an artists’ collective from Brussels), and the Pictoplazma Animation Festival in Berlin is a great event.
Berlin in general is a great place for inspiration, there’s something so free and accepting about the Berlin culture towards this style of work which makes it so accessible… it’s a great place. Barcelona, too, that’s a sound place.
Liverpool: a good environment to work in?
Not particularly, we do love the city’s subculture, it has great creativity and talent but that’s were it ends. If you really want to express yourself, gain commissions and progress it seems like Liverpool somehow stunts that growth. Maybe it really needs a place were artists can come together and thrive… and serious local investment in local artists Mello Mello (Slater Street) is definitely a good place to start, and to meet and see some great local talent.
We’ve worked with a few excellent local people, Ali Burr (sticking with you) is a great designer, same goes for Claire Heart. ‘Tommo’, the graph-artist has some great work around the city. Also the guys down at the Big Draw are doing some cool stuff.
As far as gallery spaces go, the Site art gallery was a great place, now sadly lost to a burger bar, and the View Two Gallery (Mathew Street) has had some really interesting exhibitions on.
Do you ever wish you’d taken an office job instead?
Ha… no, I think we’d go a bit insane in an office – try and re-structure the wall or something. You get the highs and lows being an artist but one thing is consistent, the love for the work will always be there. Working on large-scale projects outdoor you have so much freedom. Freedom to decide what you want to do, how big, what colours… working outdoors is great, and Liverpool has just the right weather to let you. Not too hot, and plenty of breezes to dry the paint!