Visual appreciation for my art is wanted I suppose, but not totally necessary…Ideally, I want my audience to react in some way either positively or negatively to my art and either a smile or smirk will keep me happy as either way I have gotten an audience response to my art. I suppose the artivist (art activist) inside me would simply like some sort of audience response as opposed to none at all.
FiNK is a Dublin based Irish street artist. He is mainly involved in graffiti and murals, but also works in photography and graphic design. Coming from a family of political activists, FiNK chooses to demonstrate his activism through his art. His personal motto is ‘we shape the things we build, thereafter they shape us’. He received an Honors Degree in Visual Communication as well as a Certificate in Art, Graphics, and Printmaking. His work has been featured both in Ireland and around the globe.
Rachael Young: Can you tell me a little bit about your practice and how you came into it?
FiNK: I was drawn to art at a very young age and in my secondary school final exams (called a leaving certificate in Ireland) I received an ‘A’ in art which was my best result in all my subjects. With this result and my enjoyment of art I proceeded to go to art college. That was twenty five years ago and before that, whilst in my teens, I experimented with spray paint and graffiti culture/hip hop culture and I studied graphic design/visual communication. I did not use much spray paint until after I received my degree in university in England and I returned to Ireland. This was timed with the advent of street art on a global scale and it was, and still is, an art form that really appeals to me. Since the beginning I have had the artistic urge and appetite to express myself with spray paint art and social psychology. These days, I paint street art with purpose (to entertain, inform, and sometimes shock) and I also create unlicensed and private commissions for commercial and non-commercial purpose.
RY: Can you describe a piece of work you’ve done that you thought was particularly successful, or that you’re particularly proud of?
F: That’s a tough question as it is hard to pick just one piece, but my ‘Stop Wars’ piece was, and still is, successful. Painted towards the end of last year, I timed it with the upcoming release of ‘Star Wars: Episode 7’ and being an avid Star Wars fan since an early age, I really wanted to create something special with Yoda on one side and Captain Phasma on the other side (good vs. evil) with the phrase ‘stop wars’ in the middle. The piece received over 80 thousand ‘likes’ on globalstreetart.com. But more importantly, the message is ultimately what it’s all about, in this ever increasing war laden modern era. So for me personally speaking, it has been a personal and intimate success.
Also my ‘Marriage Equality’ piece was very successful in terms of modern day Irish social change. As we know now, the marriage equality referendum voted in favor of same sex marriages here in Ireland and with that I felt, and still do feel, extremely proud of creating my artwork and promoting/influencing social change through my art work. Not only was my marriage equality artwork featured on the front page of the Irish Times here in Ireland but also had internet features across the globe in Los Angeles, India, Australia, and more. I think this soundly proves the social change power that is undeniably present with street art.
RY: Why did you think it was successful? Were there particular markers of its success?
F: I think the simplicity of the design for my marriage equality piece contributed to its overall social success. It came to me instantly; two people in a relationship translate to two L.G.B.T. rainbow hearts with an ‘equal’ sign in between symbolizing the social desire for marriage equality in Ireland. It was also interesting to see after the Yes vote was declared a member of the public sprayed over the upper and lower bar of the equal sign the words ‘Game’ and ‘Over’. I strongly admired this addiction to my street art piece. Usually when a street artist’s art is tagged the effect is ruined, but with my ‘Marriage Equality’ piece I felt confirmation at a social level that my art had made a difference and in a way it was edited in a complementary way for the public. Also as the artist, it was like a billboard/notice board effect with my art and at the very least social change had been exacted through my art, thus proving the possibility and determination of social change though street art.
RY: What are you trying to achieve with your work?
F: I am trying to bring my street art to life and to translate my psychology and thought there in my art and to inject my art with enough life and energy to clearly visually communicate my graphic intent. Obviously every piece of art I create is different and so too is the message, content and purpose. Saying that much of my art is for art’s sake, i.e. to create beauty through my creativity, is probably what I try most to achieve, yet a piece of my art that has another purpose, like social commentary or change, isn’t about beauty but the visual transaction that I set out to achieve. For example, my marriage equality piece contains both beauty and also a call for social change (or at least these are the main objectives I had in mind or wanted to achieve with this particular piece of street art). Ultimately, what I want to achieve with my art is visual stimulation that is successful in its translation to the public and that it puts a smile on their face.
RY: How do you know when what you have done has “worked”?
F: I suppose a good sign of when my art has worked is when the piece of art in question goes viral or achieve a widespread media response and coverage but this does not necessarily mean the art has ‘worked’. Personally speaking, the intimate and often heartfelt response of just one person will often mean more to me as an artist than a global viral reaction. This proves to be more of a verification that the art has worked. This duality sums up the personality of street art, the capabilities, the power and influence that it possesses in moving an onlooker in the street or a mass of people online.
Here in Ireland I gauge my own art as successful by its features in the newspaper the Irish Times, Ireland’s leading newspaper. To me, the front page of that newspaper is the most significant. I have been featured twice with my art on the front page over the years, so it is my personal test as to whether my art has worked. My first front page appearance featured my canvas art ‘Inner Visions’ with stencil art. It was such a delight for me to see and it was definitely the first time I had seen such street art or urban art style on the front page of the Irish Times. My second front page Fink Art feature came a year after the first with a photo of my ‘Marriage Equality’ piece. The success of the features in India, LA, Australia combined with the Yes vote victory, I can truly say with my original intentions that this piece most defiantly worked.
RY: Who is your audience? Do you think about your audience when you create a piece?
F: My audience is everybody and anybody passing my art on the street. I am obviously not selective of my audience and it is one of the most appealing aspect and philosophies of street art. My street art can reach most of Irish society as opposed to a gallery or exhibition setting. Those settings are far more limited than the street. On the street you have an artistic portal to a much wider audience and a higher possibility of entertaining and informing the masses. All ages, religions, and facets of society are catered for on the street and this is why I paint on the street. Of course I think about my audience and the public when I create a piece, but also depending on the subject matter of the art I think of my own personal ambition and intent. I think with all artists and their creations it comes from the heart and soul of that artist and foremost it needs to excite and please myself as an artist before my audience. If the piece has much social content of course the objective is to ‘turn on’ the public, and to educate, enlighten and inform. Of course sometimes I don’t really have the public in mind but these pieces still turn out being very popular with the public.
RY: When you put a piece of creative activism out there, what do you want your audience to do upon seeing it? How do you know if they did it or not?
F: I want the audience to absorb and understand my creative and to react, either positively or negatively (or both), to my visual communication. Visual appreciation for my art is wanted I suppose, but not totally necessary. For example, if an onlooker or viewer points out even a small detail or understanding (which I might not have noticed myself) that can be all I want or need as a visual artist as far as feedback goes. Ideally, I want my audience to react in some way either positively or negatively to my art and either a smile or smirk will keep me happy as either way I have gotten an audience response to my art. I suppose the artivist (art activist) inside me would simply like some sort of audience response as opposed to none at all. Any redone proves the artistic communication between the audience and the art. It seems that 95% of the responses I get are positive.
RY: What change would you like to bring about most in the world? How do you see you practice helping to bring this out?
F: Obviously to cease global poverty and bring about world peace, but unfortunately this is too colossal a change that I don’t see happening in my lifetime, if indeed ever, but the language of worldwide street art can help and has helped to change people’s views and opinions, and that is evident in Ireland. The change I would most like to bring about here in Ireland is a further appreciation and acceptance of street art, but on a much more widespread level.
To give you an idea and comparison let’s take a European city such as Lisbon, Portugal compared to Dublin, Ireland. I have always thought and known we are behind the times here in Ireland in many aspects of society and culture and a perfect example is the execution of street art. Take the Main Street of Lisbon and surrounding areas and suburbs; there are multiple high rise street art murals throughout the city as opposed to the zero large ale pieces of art here in Dublin and indeed the whole of Ireland. This is what I want to change! It’s embarrassing really when we consider the backward thinking from organization like the Dublin Council. There is so much red tape and conditions that is a very tough prospect to put into action.
My aim is to challenge and change and color this beautiful city of the benefit of all. There simply is not enough to quality large scale street art here and my practice of street art will make the change. I don’t even want to be paid for my art and I will provide most of the paint for large scale pieces executed. There isn’t a proper acceptance yet of street art institutionally or artistically yet here in Ireland but we are getting there. The audience in most other countries is definitely more open or artistically aware.
RY: People interested in social change often have a theory about how it happens. Do you have a theory of social change?
F: I communicate social change through my art and the psychology of my art. Personally the ‘shock’ factor of my art can at times ‘light the match’ for social change. Of course this theory can backfire though it’s controversial nature although too the controversial factor is often most suited to bring about social change or to communicate a direct message.
RY: Do you think of your actions as complete in themselves or as part of a larger project?
F: Of course with my art there are always artistic tactics and, personally speaking, tactics are employed to entertain the people of city streets, to put a smile on people’s faces, but also to educate in a way of the beauty of street art. I referred earlier to my dreams, wishes, and spiritual desire to paint pieces and murals on large scale buildings here in Dublin; this is my larger project and my dream. With every smaller scale piece of art that I paint I see a single brick there in the large wall.