“I only spray people I admire” – Interview with urban street artist Pegasus

November 28, 2013 2:11 pm

Pegasus is an American urban street artist based in London. His stencilled pieces display an ironic and sometimes controversial portrayal of popular culture’s most recognizable icons. He has worked in the north, south and east London areas, most notably in Islington, Camden, Hackney, Shoreditch and Lambeth. He paints unauthorised art as well as pieces that are authorised. In April 2013 it was confirmed that Pegasus will be featured in two upcoming books titled “Happy Graffiti” and “Planet Banksy” both set to be released in the autumn of 2013. I spoke with him about London, his art, Amy Winehouse, Kate Middleton controversy and people’s reaction to his art.

Amy Winehouse, Art by Pegasus

Piotr Balkus: You are American artist based in London. Was London your personal choice?

Pegasus: I was a typical American tourist in London 11 years ago. Met someone, fell in Love and within 3 months I had packed my bags and moved over. The rest is history. London is such an infectious city so I would have ended up here eventually.

I’d like to ask you about one of your most famous work, winged effigy of Amy Winehouse outside Camden’s Hawley Arms pub in London. It made you famous around the world. Has Amy and her music special meaning for you?

Amy’s Music got me through a very difficult point in my life, when I felt there was no hope. I related to the emotions in her lyrics as millions did and still do. I was shopping on Oxford Street when I heard Amy had passed away and I just dropped to my knees, while getting very weird looks from fellow shoppers. I ran to the art store in Soho and I was at the till point with a canvas and brushes ready to pay, when I looked up at the spray cans behind the till. I had never done a stencil or graffiti piece in my life but I wanted to express my feelings for her in a big way. Who knew so many people would love it! I was so shocked and touched seeing it featured in so many news stories about Amy.

Painting the pictures of people who passed away, you make them alive. And sometimes it looks like they still amongst us, walking down the street. Is that one of the purpose of your art? Turning the past into presence?

It is very sad when people’s lives come to an end prematurely, famous or not. I create images of famous people because we can all relate to them in our own way, and when they leave us we can sometimes feel a part of us have gone with them. I know that sounds shallow and superficial but it is fact based on the society we live in. It makes me smile when I walk passing one of my pieces and I see people posing next to their favourite icons with big smiles on their faces.

Duchess Kate Middleton and Prince George, Art by Pegasus

Do all the artists/people you paint have a special meaning to you?

Absolutely. Every person I stencil has meaning to me. I only spray people I admire and I create art that I would like to see myself. I am kind of in my own little world, when it comes to the people I paint. If I spray someone who is in the news, it is only because I have admiration for them.

Some of your pieces are controversial, for example Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton painted as a Virgin Mary. Do you think Art should be controversial?

There is nothing wrong with being controversial, because it makes people think. I like to speak the truth. I try not to be controversial all the time, because I like to keep it light and happy, but sometimes I feel I need to make a point.

I think a lot of people misunderstood the point I was trying to make with Kate Middleton. I was only trying to express the amount of world media attention the birth [of her child Prince George] got. I remember nearly every channel suspending normal programming to give minute by minute updates to inform people Prince George has not yet arrived. For me it felt as if the world was expecting the next Messiah to arrive. I am not saying that the birth did not deserve the attention it got. I am only saying how intense it was.

When you go down the streets in London and see your art, what kind of thoughts comes to your mind?

I love seeing people’s reactions to it. When I see people happy and laugh and take photos next to my work, it makes me smile. The best moment for me was when I was sat in the café Cucina 327 where my Queen is painted, and I saw 6 police officers heading my way. I started sweating, thinking that’s it! They are coming for me! They only stopped outside to take pictures! It made me giggle so much to see six grown men taking turns each posing like Betty Grable next to the Queen.

Marylin Monroe. Art by PegasusYou feature in the book called “Planet Banksy”. Is Banksy your main inspiration as a graffiti artist?

Banksy is a genius! I have heard other graffiti artist complain because their work gets mistaken for his all the time, but I take that as a compliment. Before Banksy, Graffiti was just considered unsightly vandalism. Banksy made it acceptable as an art form and we all owe him a lot for that. I do sometimes look to Banksy for inspiration but my main inspiration comes from artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Haring and Eelus, just to name a few. I also get inspirations from dreams, films, songs, magazines, random old photographs… It just depends what kind of mood I am in.

Are there any other things you like to do in your life, apart from graffiti art? I mean is painting the most important part of your life?

Of course painting is a huge part of my life but I am not only a painter. I love all sorts! I am in an amazing relationship and love travelling with my spouse. I have amazing friends who always keep things interesting, when we are out on the town! I am a horror film junkie! I can bum around all day watching classic horror films! I love challenging activities! You will find me paint balling, running through obstacle courses, climbing trees, and zip wiring at any opportunity! So yeah, all sorts!

Visit Pegasus’ website for more info http://www.pegasusartist.com/

Check out artist’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/pegasusstreetart

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