The MQ facade is getting a face lift and street artist Anthony Lister created a gigantic piece for the scaffold. He was invited by Sebastian Schager, curator of the Street Art Passage Vienna who met Lister for a chat.
You just painted a 100m long wall for the MuseumsQuartier Wien. Was that a normal size piece for you?
I don’t really know numbers and stuff. I just know when something is finished. I constantly bite off more than I can chew and then I find myself chewing quite quickly. How long is 1m? About one large step, so I took 100 steps in one go.
People in Vienna can see Schiele or „schielesque“ forms when they look at the wall. Were you inspired by Schiele?
For sure. I mean, this is the city that he lived in, this is the city that he studied in. I always have been inspired by him, and now I have the museum right there. It felt fitting to do this here, kind of like an ode to him.
Anthony, your art, your street art, your artistic work is free for everyone. You walk by, you see it and you can consume it without spending any money. But at the same time your gallery work is rising in profit. How does this ambiguity of selling art on the one hand, and giving art away for free on the other work for you?
As for what I make off my work, most of it I put back into my work. I don’t need a lot of fancy stuff, I just enjoy life.
Professionally, what is your goal?
Well, to echo into eternity, obviously.
What makes you angry?
Incompetence can drive me to levels. The immediate anger usually comes from frustration, from my lack of ability to control something.
What do you dislike about the art world?
That would be the word “art world”.
Is there any project, size wise or topic wise, that you would want to do?
I am going to fire up my computer, there is a folder for new projects that is filled with new ideas. Including Broadway musicals, starting charities, movie scripts, show ideas. But overall, big and very figurative is where I want to go. I just like making things. I have ideas about things, whether they are apps, or phones, or practical jokes. It is just a way to suffocate the boredom, you know. I have a problem with boredom, it plagues me. I don’t like it.
For how long have you been an artist now?
Well, I don’t know. I have always drawn on things. I have always had this about my character, you know, I was the child that could draw. So I guess I was interested in drawing from an early age. I started living on it when I was about 22.
Do you think street art/ graffiti should be funded more?
Sure, everyone should get more money for acts of creativity. There is way too much money in the military, there is way too much money in defense instead of proactive respect and love.
When we were talking about choosing questions for the interview, you told me to ask you questions like “When did you cry last?” So, when was the last time you cried?
Fairly recently. I was thinking about my kids. I think I had a dream about my baby girl and it just burst out of me. I just miss them, you know.
You made a sculpture for the exhibition at Jan Arnold Gallery as well as paintings and drawings. What are your thoughts about the „Paragone“ between sculptors and painters, which started during the Italian Renaissance. Is it still going on?
The sculptors think they are like god because they create something 3-dimensional and the painters only do tricks. So sculptures are like the evolution of paintings. You can even take that further to photos and movies. The photo can show you a girl in a park and then the movie can take it further and actually show you the girl in the park who is about to get raped. So a movie takes the story into real life just like the sculpture does.
Do you think nowadays movie/film art is more important than paintings?
Well, you would have to define “important”. If you ask me what has a greater impact on more people, definitely, movie image and film is more important. In the canon of our history, we have to say painting is more important. But in the context of culture, I’d say film is definitely the new painters’ brush. But you know, you can’t hold a website in your hands. Tactility is very important to me.
What do you think of abstract painting? I would say your work is figurative but in a way abstract…
Abstraction is a convenient by-product of movement and movement is good. I like to see movement and I specifically like to see bold movement. So I naturally have a strong appreciation for abstraction. I am very tuned to what I appreciate and it is usually bold acts of energy. Abstraction has been a great activator of this.
You used the phrase “happy little mistake”
I take the happy mistake or happy accident from Francis Bacon. That means challenging chance and accident and trying to develop a technique to approach the own style.
One could compare your work to the work of Francis Bacon.
I don’t look at his work before I paint and I don’t think of it that way. But I definitely appreciate his work. When I saw it I was very attracted to it and yes, I love his work.
I was with you when you painted the 100m wall. You started painting very loosely by walking along the wall and just holding the roller against it. A little bit here, a little bit there, it looked super abstract. And all of a sudden characters came out of this. Is this your usual approach to painting?
I try just to arrange the material right, make sure my arm is long enough.
What is your favorite tool?
The fire extinguisher, naturally. Because it’s the most fun, the most impact, the boldest application I’ve learned so far. And fire is really exciting.
Did you ever think of using the bigger fire extinguisher, I mean a whole truck filled with color?
I would love to. I’d want to fill a water tank with paint and then let it explode in a field. However, it is about control too. There is something beautiful about a firework as opposed to a bomb.
Anthony Lister was Artist-in-Residence at Q21/ MuseumsQuartier in July 2016
more about the artist: http://anthonylister.com/web/
Interview: Sebastian Schager, Artis.Love
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