I have been following IMPREINT for more than a year and am quite fascinated by his approach to work. You will find him executing projects, mostly in London, that use simple, everyday objects like cardboards and balloons, and frequently involve the participation of ordinary people.
IMPREINT strongly believes that art should have a social impact but that this ought to be achieved through “proposition” rather than “protestation”. When you are merely reacting to some existing issue, are loud and forceful, chances are you will be met with resistance. On the other hand, a gentler, more proactive, suggestive approach can yield greater opportunity. It could be easier to generate conversation and, thus, facilitate the exchange of ideas. The artist, in a way, sees his role more as a thermostat than a thermometer.
IMPREINT encourages people to interact with his work, to become part of the message. He expects them to not just remain recipients, but to help evolve the work and make it reach its true potential.
In this interview, I discuss with him his identity, some of his projects and views on life and living…
We exist in a time wherein there are plenty of tools available to amplify the human personality. We have the freedom to curate our best expressions, our finest moments and can give the world a particular impression of ourselves. You have resisted this culture and decided to remain anonymous, or rather pseudonymous.
You want to be known by your work alone and not so much your face or identity. Very few artists can actually pull this off successfully and you are doing a great job. By diminishing your own self you end up magnifying your mission. When you look back at your artistic journey, was there a moment when you made a conscious choice regarding anonymity/pseudonymity? Why did you take up such an approach?
I never targeted anonymity or pseudonymity and wouldn’t begrudge losing it providing there was some relevance or worth in doing so. Personally, I find that the time it would take to make a show of myself would be wasted, serving little to no purpose. My interest in creativity lies in the fact that it makes us enter into a dialogue, leads to the sharing of ideas. Unnecessary focus on me would disturb the equation in this exchange of value. My goal is for people to feel as part of the work, rather than as outsiders viewing it. Until this aim is satisfied, I don’t think I would be significant enough to warrant focus. To be perfectly clear, if I related all my work back to me I’d likely grow bored and tired of it and stop entirely. I feel as well the need, periodically, to detach myself from the identity of the artist entirely and not be identified as anything.
I like your view on art—that it should have a social impact, that it should be proactive (about “proposition”) rather than merely reactive (about “protestation”). Who are some of the artists (historical or contemporary) with an attitude similar to yours that you like?
It’s perhaps a clichéd response, but I tend not to compare myself with others so I honestly wouldn’t know. I’m more interested in observing and collaborating with others; anyone that surrounds me and catches my attention. Drawing from the collective experiences of people from all walks of life informs my views, as indeed it should for most. Everyone brings with them a wealth of knowledge. It seems wasteful not to at least attempt to take it on board.
You tend to use very ordinary materials—cardboards, balloons, coffee. Is this because you want to make it easier for people to identify with or participate in your projects?
I think creativity can be expressed through anything and the more it comes from “the ordinary”, the more challenging and rewarding it feels to me. There is a tendency for people to automatically elevate something ostentatious or grandiose to a level of heightened significance, when similarly valuable expressions of feeling can be found in what might often be considered “the mundane”. Given that there is no predetermined medium to best express oneself, in using such materials I aim to transmit that creativity to everyone, from conception to implementation. In my visionary process, I look for possibilities, absorbing stuff without preclusions, and let everything become mine.
You have two very interesting worldwide projects—“Save Me” and “Portraits”. Both build a kind of community. Tell us more about these. Do you have ideas for more international initiatives?
I have to concede that neither of these were dreamt up to be as far-reaching as they turned out to be. I’m of course immensely happy that so many people were willing to take the time to participate, but this is more a matter of fortuitous consequence than design. I hope to continue to reach as many people as possible. It brings with it a wealth of joy…when something you create stretches to so many people. But I don’t have a template or plan that I intend to follow. I’ll aim to just continue doing my work and look forward to what can happen with each creation, as this is the real stimulus for doing so in the first place.
Homelessness is a cause you care about immensely. What are your thoughts on the housing crisis in the UK? There’s no end to the media coverage. One of the richest countries in the world can sell off its skyscrapers for literally billions to Chinese or Arab tycoons and still has people sleeping rough on its streets. This is pretty ridiculous. In your view, what could the average citizen do to alleviate the problem?
Engage. People are paralysed by overthinking how best to help and underestimate the value of a simple act of kindness, devaluing it to the point that they just don’t bother doing anything. Inability to solve the homeless issue in one fell swoop does not mean that all remaining interactions are valueless. The fact of the matter is that we are humanised by how people treat us. Courtesy and civility mean a lot to individuals who so rarely see it. What little you can spare in terms of effort is amplified tenfold to those who live on the street.
You describe your very intriguing “En plein air” project as “a metaphorical dialogue with other souls that I run in an open-air project. I share what my eyes see and I leave the artworks to their own life. This gesture gives me an essential separation and brief from the fact that I’m an artist.” Artworks taking their own life sounds like a very interesting phenomenon. How did you execute this?
By removing any protective control and leaving the work free to the mercy of those that see it. Even the execution is focussed on ‘imperfections’, I always feel like a dreamer child living in the streets when I make them, spontaneous and not bound by any rules. By placing pieces of every multiple series in varying locations their meaning changes contextually, and as such, so does the range of interpretations and responses based on those environments. More importantly, however, is the fact that I don’t deny them the chance to physically interact with the piece based on those feelings. Potentially, it can be destroyed, left alone, collected, or sold and that’s fascinating to me.
I liked the collage “Don’t take things too seriously”. We are generally told not to take negative comments personally and move on. You have the opposite here. What triggered this piece?
An underlying feeling that we shouldn’t give too much credit to external views, good or bad. The purported quality of something is often measured by a yardstick that we did not create ourselves. There is little consensus amongst people on most things, and there is no universal curriculum that we can refer to to gauge ourselves against. Thus, how can anyone claim to have a legitimate opinion for you to base your decision-making on if your goals and aspirations, and what you see as valuable, do not match theirs. Any opinion shared has an influential quality, and sometimes people find it hard to delineate between opinion and fact and ultimately, between one’s own opinions and those of others. People begin expressing them as their own. You’re better off pursuing what drives you innately, and basing your estimations on your own feelings.
“Don’t buy this. It is nothing!”—your brutal honesty is admirable! Anyway, I read that this piece was inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream. What is the story behind “Save me”?
It wasn’t inspired consciously by The Scream, but the painting came to me retrospectively in the sense that I was thinking about a voice that was wanting to be heard, yet being lost…silenced by a world that would largely ignore it. Despite this parallel, I’m not trying to convey a voice exerted in desperation but rather one that makes a demand of itself towards self-betterment.
It is “the present” that matters to you the most, you have mentioned, not the past or the future. We are in a world that lays a lot of emphasis on what’s happened before a particular moment (example, the educational institutions we attended, the organisations where we gained experience) and is also obsessed with what will come after (for instance, the home that will have to buy for ourselves and our children, our investments, savings). We are held down by both the weight of the past (as in regrets) and the future (as in worries). And we forget to live in the present. If could offer any mental tools or suggest any physical activities to those who are struggling to be more mindful of their present—what would they be?
I don’t have any recipes for how to accomplish such mindfulness. I believe in experiences—and not in advice—that’s the condition that enables me to become more conscious and acquire knowledge. Broadly speaking, there is little value in concerning yourself with matters that our beyond reach. What has happened cannot be amended, and debating internally what might happen is always mere speculation and at the mercy of so many variables that it too is uncontrollable. Thus, it’s best not to get marred with misplaced efforts. The meaning lies in the daily journey for me, so I search for something positive in every experience, accepting life for what it is, being grateful that I’ve another day to live.