This exhibition by P413, ‘Tar Wars’ is the third of a series of debut solo shows that have taken place at SFG Colombo this year. P413 is in fact Sri Lanka’s first street artist, an artist we came across during our attempt at a street art project for Pecha Kucha (a public art presentation event we staged in 2011). What stood out was P413’s ability to draw so well on canvas with a marker pen. He was the only person who participated in the project who attempted to use his own materials.
Following this introduction P413 participated in our poster project, he painted a mural on our gallery wall and he presented his portfolio at Pecha Kucha. P413 continues today to work as an accountant, and if you’ve read our articles on him before you will know that he shows up for meetings in a shirt and tie, quite a shift for an artist who in this interview admits to being inspired by Nickelodeon. It is very much the contrast of his serious nature and creative spirit that makes him an original.
In the lead up to this exhibition there were many an experiment of how to transport the mural feel of a work onto canvas, hence the final resolution to work on metal. When observing these pieces one must keep in mind that photoshop was not used in the design or preliminary sketches of these pieces, it is outstanding how P413 manages to nevertheless to create his very own cartoon, ‘Tar Wars’.
When did you start drawing?
I took up drawing seriously when I left school in 2008 and I had some spare time,. Before that I was just designing occasionally. Drawing started more after I finished school. Designing was working more on photoshop etc. I taught myself how to use programs on the computer.
How did you get to know about street art and graffiti?
The Internet, I had heard about it but I never knew it what it was. Graffitti beyond spray-painting, Painted murals and poster graffiti, like what Shepard Fairey does. I watched a lot on youtube as well.
Would you say that Shepard Fairey is you biggest inspiration?
He is one of my biggest inspirations. He has his own distinctive style, when it comes to street art and that comes from a graphic design background so I can relate to him. Other than Shepered Fairey there is this one guy called Marko Djurdjević, he is a Germn self-taught comic book artist. He does covers for Marvel. He is probably one of the best cover artists I have seen and the reason why I find him influential or inspiring is because he is self taught. He didn’t go to art school. It shows that you don’t necessarily have to go to art school if you want to take up drawing. Marko is more sort of the ethos in terms of how you want to get about doing what you want to do.
Can you talk a little bit about this exhibition ‘Tar Wars’?
So I was thinking about an idea for this show and one of the things that I spent a lot of time doing is driving because my job gets me to drive to a lot places. I could be in Katunayake in the morning and then back somewhere in Boralesgamuwa in the evening. There is just a lot of driving involved and it’s often very frustrating. That got me thinking that it’s not just me who goes through this on a daily basis so I thought that would be a good place to start. I also thought the idea of describing the local road scene quite interesting and to place a less serious spin on it. To sort of describe how crazy and chaotic it is.
Your work has elements of cartoon, graffiti, and reoccurring characters. Are there new characters in this exhibition?
Yes there is a reoccurring bunny figure. That’s combining street art and twisted cartoon work. They come from my imagination and I am still influenced by cartoons, specifically childish cartoons. ‘Adventure time’, Nickelodeon cartoons, ideally what one would generally consider very baby-oriented cartoons.
You combine your experience of life with a naïve character and make it your own?
Yeah, and that’s what is essentially happening in the street art scene in Europe. That seems to be a trend. I tend to follow more of the European street art scene, minus Shepard Fairey. The European scene is less hip hop oriented than the US scene; they use a lot of character, posters, paint, wall paint; and the design and design influences are bigger because you have so many counties with varying culture all neighboring one another ad it combines in a really interesting way.
What are you planning to work on after this show?
Interesting question. I want to get with some street art projects. I am trying to find some walls and expand my ‘P413 Mob’. I am also working on an experimental project. I need my work to connect with people so I’m continuously looking for public spaces.
If anybody wanted to contact you about joining your group. the P413 Mob, how should they go about it?
Probably through facebook, or if they manage to get my phone number!