I spoke with Bee Gifford, a third year fine artist at Norwich University of the Arts about her process of working, the messages behind her pieces and why she thinks Street Art is a key component within today’s art world. To see more of her work follow her on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bee-Gifford-Artist-Page/446734835468548.
What kind of work is it that you do?
A lot of my work is centred on the representation of the human body. I will take photographs of the subject, honing in on particular insecurities that they may have. I will then blow the image up, paste it to a wall and paint over them.
I will leave the work in places I know people are going to see it. Often the work is painted over or torn down, but I don’t mind. It’s important to me that I don’t have the option to hide behind a perfect image, which is often a lot of the visual culture that we are exposed to today in adverts, and in the media.
What messages do you want to put across in your work?
I hone in on people’s insecurities to highlight the uncomfortable attitude we as a society have when looking at an imperfect reduplication of the human anatomy. The reason people find it hard to look at is that the body is real, untouched and not edited. We are not used to seeing that any more, if anything we find the real body offensive to look at now, which is ridiculous!
What techniques and materials do you often use when creating your pieces? And where are the best places to display your work?
The highest , loudest and most obvious place I can find, where I think the most people will see it, and where I think it will last the longest! There is an old building back home with an old sports hall inside. I love painting there. It’s where I practice the most.
It’s where everyone goes to Graff, the walls are just layers of paint upon paint. It’s nice to be a part of something like that.
I hate the idea of doing a crap job of a piece, especially if it’s in an obvious place!
Who are two inspirational people/ artists that have informed your work and why?
Probably the guys I used to spray paint with at home, I am not going to say their names, they probably wouldn’t appreciate that! I have a lot of respect for them. Though our work is very different they taught me how to be brave when it comes to getting my work seen and how to get it seen by the right people.
Often this meant climbing through holes in fences, jumping over walls and taking a few risks that would be worth taking in the end, they are always so passionate about their work, and so determined for it to be seen. They will go to extremes to do so, and its usually only there for a few days before its gets taken down or the council paint over it, but for them the few people that did see it makes it worth-while.
Street Art has a bad reputation, both in the public eye and that of traditional methods of art and its institutions. Why do you think this is?
Because it’s not in a gallery for people to nod their heads at and mutter or tut to each other about. It has no price tag on it because it’s not there for money-making reasons. It is usually there to gain recognition or to make a statement and often it is about the claiming of territory and hierarchy among the competing artists of that particular area.
Do you think more attempts should be made to unite gallery and exhibition work with street Art, or do you think it already has been?
I don’t think there will ever be a meeting ground for the gallery and the Street Artist, and I don’t think that there should be. When the work is put in a gallery it is no longer Street Art. It loses all aspects of being Street Art, the only thing left is that the people who go and look at it and conclude that it should be outside or on a train track. Street Art isn’t about being given a space or a boundary to work within.
Do you believe Street Art can be considered a tool of political and social communication?
Most people see street art as vandalism, not because it is, but because they have been told by an authority of some sort that it is.
Many artists are trying to make a point when they create pieces on the street. Graff was really started as a way of informing people of a group or gang being in an area by tagging the trains that would pass through the city. It wasn’t originally meant to be pretty.
I think that it can be used to make statements and comment on different sociological issues however due to its history and coverage many people have a negative view of artwork on the street.
Why do you think it is an effective way of communicating and raising awareness of such issues?
It gives people, who would normally wouldn’t be heard, the chance to create a platform or a position for themselves. By putting their work up in as many places as possible they demand to be noticed and heard.
Is it something you use your work to do?
Yeah, I feel that my work has to say something if not I wouldn’t have done my job as an artist right. As much as I like work that just looks pretty, I think if you are creating something that represents you, it needs to represent how you feel about something as well.
In a few sentences describe why Street Art is a valid form and expression within the art world, and why it is so important?
I don’t think it needs to be justified, that’s kind of the beauty of it. Any form of expression is valid and because it is something personal it can be anything; whether its music, dancing or spray painting or something else. Everybody has a different view on what expression is. Some of the work I see on the streets I think is terrible but I’m sure people think that of some of my work too!
I think if people feel the need to pay attention to the work and what it’s trying to say then great but I also appreciate that it’s not to everybody’s taste but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a valid expression!