I first discovered Will Coles' work on my debut exploration of the iconic May Lane.
It was a rainy public holiday, not many people out and me trying to balance an umbrella under my chin and resting on one shoulder, whilst trying to keep my camera dry yet obtain that first photo.
From that moment I learned one must suffer with whiplash of the eyes and the neck in order to find some of his elusive installations.
Here are my 5 questions with Will Coles
Sadly we live in a world that is determined by categories (which I know you are a tad ambivalent about!). You have been labelled a sculptor, artist, street artist, urban artist and more.
If you had to, how would you define yourself (as a person) and your art?
I'm a sculptor, just to sum up that I am an artist that works in 3D. Everything else is labels, often fashionable ones that become obsolete or out of fashion quickly (how much time does "street art" have left?). My stuff is urban because it just loses relevance in the countryside. My works is a mix of Conceptual & Pop, and falls in to a group of "art for the people" that goes back beyond graff, beyond Social Realism, beyond Hogarth.
The category "street art" has become a dumping ground by people for stuff that doesn't fit in other categories. For example: it's not graffiti, but it's outside; it could be 2D or 3D, permanent or temporary; mural, installation, intellectual or dumb-arse.
Occasionally it's a category used by pop artists that don't want to be known as "Pop Artists" or by galleries to spruik their latest supposed bright young thing (whose work looks a bit too much like someone else's). Graffiti could exist with or without street art, but "street art" as a movement of genre wouldn't exist without graff.
Can you give me a little bit of your background: how did your style evolve?
I've always sculpted. My grandfather was a sculptor of incredible skill, so he's been the biggest artistic influence in my life.
I grew up in a countryside outside a small village in England: very green & very quiet. I hated sport and liked reading: wrong choices if you don't want to get picked on, so I spent a lot of time in books.
My "style" evolves constantly. When I was 16 I thought "well, I'll have a style by the time I'm old, like 25 or something"! An artist or a movement can change things: like Rodin or the "Subway Art" book; more recently Chinese sculpture is shitting all over the Western world's art, which is why the Western art institutions are largely trying to ignore that elephant in the room!
Artists I loved when I was 16 now seem basic or even borrowing of others (like Henry Moore of Barbara Hepworth) & artists I thought were weak now seem incredibly strong, like Ian Hamilton Finlay.
What inspires your creativity?
Art! I go to White Rabbit Gallery & spend ages in their library. Melbourne, grimy dirty stone paved lane ways full of graff & stencils. European museums are an overload, I can spend a day in somewhere like the Louvre, pass out for the night then go back again, thousands of years of art in one building, that’s beautiful. So many art blogs & sculpture tumblrs, only those that lived before internetz can understand the awesomeness of it.
Non-art? Everything! Whisky, E’s, cigars, my girlfriend, talking shit with mates, clay, plastercine, picture books, birds, beetles, French & Chinese films, drum’n’bass/jungle, perfumes, documentaries, old poetry, porn, trees, you know, the usual.
I love the fact that for people like myself, it's a treasure hunt and on occasion I have walked past many your pieces on return journeys to the point of exclaiming audibly "oh my GOD! I've only walked past it about a million times! how did i NOT see it!"
Do you deliberately place your pieces in "known" areas and then extend your boundaries to the "let's see who will find it first": almost like a cat and mouse game?
Usually I do both. I'll place some in really obvious places, they'll get seen by loads of people, but also risk being taken the quickest. I hide some hoping they will last the longest.
I found that sometimes they (my pieces) get used as a treasure hunt. If people know there are 10 remote control sculptures and they've seen 9, they will keep looking and others will give them clues. People often love the hunt rather than being told where to find (which is 2095's preferred method to the point where she will deliberately not even look at fellow photographer's pieces posted online at times!)
They have to be found as they are meant to be seen. The whole point is to create a thought. Some people can't be made to think: they are often happy not thinking about it & that's fine, that's their life, as long as they don't whinge about being powerless easily led sheep.
Evolve or die!
I love that your works are permanent, until some dude or dudette deems it necessary to deface or remove them. Can you describe how long each piece takes from start to finish, and I know they say "you're only as good as your last piece of work", but which (if any) do you feel is a true reflection of Will Coles?
It's usually a boring process which each piece. I find the right object by: stumbling upon it, searching for it or occasionally I seem to will it in to existence (ie. it turns up in the road outside my studio and it's just what I was looking for).
I then make a rubber mould then a plaster cast, carve in letters, then make a second rubber mould from that, then cast it in cement. Those are the small ones which I've done thousands of by now.
Whichever piece is my favourite depends upon how happy or down I am at the time. There are too many: big, small, concrete, resin, indoor, outdoor, in-your-face, subtle.....I couldn't choose.
All are like little children but also orphans, once they are done and then glued down or sold. But I have to move on
With a pictorial final flourish, that is my 5 questions with Will Coles.
Will has also kindly allowed me to use (a minuscule amount I must add!) photographs of his pieces. And as noted above, no locations are indicated: get on the treasure hunt yourselves!