Interview – Face the Strange

There are times, I feel that I have been born in the wrong era. I have almost a Victorian style fascination,(although I don’t want to kill animals just for fun and I don’t want to revive, what was lovingly known as freak shows) and anything that strays from the beaten track will capture my interest instantly. What I really love is the weird images that Victorians would use to celebrate events such as Christmas and Easter – a hybrid man/cockroach dancing by a tree, a vegetable with a man’s head dressed in a suit… perhaps this is why I am so drawn to this particular street artist.

I feel especially lucky to have bagged an interview with FTS as he can be quite an illusive being.

Your work is so fantastical, how did you start your journey into the face the strange universe?

Thanks! Basically I was blown away by what I saw during trips to a couple of UK cities – particularly Digbeth in Birmingham. They (at the time) had a huge sticker and paste scene that left me feeling both envious and inspired.

My designs were not too grand at first, with me initially creating nothing more than a bunch of fruit and vegetable character busts – they’d have their heads replaced and would all present on a plain white background. That was, at first, all I wanted to create and about all that I was capable of creating.

Your work is quite reminiscent of Victorian art – what is the most influential inspiration to you?

Well that’s certainly not a comparison that I’d ever heard before. At times I’ve worked in that vein but it’s not something which I ever thought much on. Hands down, the most influential inspiration to me? Reeves and Mortimer, with an old show of theirs which featured dream sequences that ended as (fake) fruit and vegetable ads.

Your attention to detail is fascinating, and clothing and architecture play a big role in your pieces, why is this?

Thanks! The attention to detail is something I do try to pride myself on. I always attempt to make my characters (and scenes) as well-rounded as possible and have, on occasion, put more/equal time into the typography on a piece than the characters or scene.

Brutalist architecture does feature quite heavily in a lot of my work but, equally, it could be a castle, a lighthouse or train station which become a focal point or feature in a piece. My characters get up to much the same sort of things as you and I so, naturally, they hang around in – and out of – artificial structures. As for the attire? Well, as the Romans used to say, “Vestis virum facit” – clothes maketh the man!

What is your favourite trope in your work, and why?

That shifts from time to time, I guess. Certainly, when I started out, I’d have said that fruit and veg were what I was all about – or food as a whole. I think that the anthropomorphic pigeons have since become my favourite. When Vauxhall ran an ad which featured pigeon-headed people in it I received so many messages asking if I was aware of or involved with the campaign!

Your work can mostly be seen as paste ups around the UK, what made you pick the medium of street art?

Great question! I had no formal training in that regard – and have never claimed to be an artist – so I wouldn’t have considered an initial approach to people’s consciousness via galleries and exhibitions. Graffiti and street art were mediums that I developed a keen interest in and so that route just seemed natural for me to follow. There’s just no aspect of “what you know or who you know” when it comes to the street. It’s a gallery that’s open to anyone, regardless of qualification.

What is coming up next in your pipeline? Do you have something that you really want to undertake in the future?

Oh dear. I mean I really don’t know what I’ll be doing next week, so it’s hard to say. Your use of the words “pipeline” and “undertake” give me a couple of ideas to riff with though!

I suppose I’d always like to get a bit more commission work under my belt. I mean I can put my stuff on the street all day long but I think it’s great fun to see it in other contexts too.

I love hearing from artists and their processes, I find it enthralling to know how they approach what they create.

I mentioned that FTS work reminded me of Victorian greetings cards – and perhaps this will show you why…

I have to say – I love the Christmas Turnip man – he is just so elegant and weird. Also there is nothing that relates to each other in the first image – the forget me nots which are on the heart that he is carrying are not in flower during the christmas season, there is no need for a turnip to have a square monical – yet the picture brings me joy. This is because the Victorians were keen to keep a childlike sense of humour with their art, where vegetables could talk and insects could be human sized. This was strongly opposed to the rigidity of their daily routine.

I guess you could see FTS work as doing much the same thing – a train head wearing a suit and carrying a bag – it is surreal, yet joyous.

So many times, I hear people taking art far too seriously and they miss the joy from what is in front of them. If FTS creations teach us anything, it is to remember the child inside you and the joy and wonder that you had as a kid watching random cartoons where carrots could talk.

If you want to see more of Face The Strange’s work you can find them on instagram by searching for FaCe_ThE_sTrAnGe_

Alternatively you could have a look around Shoreditch to see if you can spot any of his hybrid creations.

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