Articles and Interviews / A Spectacular Zero

A Spectacular Zero
Written by Chris Ong
October 2010

Graffiti in Singapore is increasingly recognised as a legitimate, creditable and valuable genre of art, and one of the local vanguard responsible for this change in mainstream opinion is Mohammed Zulkarnaen Bin Othman aka ZERO. As a member of the urban arts collective ARTVSTS, ZERO’s work has constantly revolved around the themes of street culture, the urban landscape, current affairs, and the conceptual idea of graffiti and the graffiti artist presented as a marketable “brand”. With his first solo exhibition at The Substation, ZERO continues to explore the use of graffiti in advertising and marketing campaigns. Chris Ong attempts to stencil the thoughts of ZERO about the state of graffiti art today.

CO: What do you think of the current mainstream acceptance about graffiti art? Do you think that its popularity is trend-based, or that it is here to stay?

Z: I think that the mainstream acceptance of graffiti and urban art is a paradox in itself. Being more accepted by the mainstream creates opportunities for artists to showcase their work on different platforms. On the other hand, its “over popularity” can lead to an over saturation of graffiti urban art inspired visuals. We see more graffiti inspired visuals and street art tactics used in advertisements and campaigns all over the world. While actual guerilla tactics employed by real graffiti and street artists are frowned upon and labelled as anti-social vandalism, advertising done by government agencies and brands is considered to be creative marketing. The popularity of any thing in a well connected country like ours always boils down to trends and about what’s in. A few years after my collective ARTVSTS started doing art on the street, we began to see more people doing it; leaving stickers, tags and stuff on the streets. We began to notice more character based art as well. But most of these guys are gone now, just like the changing trends they followed. Graffiti and street art will still be around as it is pretty much relatable to youths and as an expression of their disenfranchisement. But its the artists who practise it which will come and go.

CO:  What kind of urban art and traditional art forms are you personally interested in? Do you have any artists whose work you like or whom you look up to?

Z: I enjoy looking at satirical artworks. I enjoy looking at art which amuses you while trying to propagate a serious issue. I have a lot of artists whom I like or I am inspired by. Too many to name. Artists like blu, Banksy, Ron English, Jeff Koons and Yoshitomo Nara are some of my references. I also enjoy looking at propaganda art and socio- realistic paintings. Locally, I look up to artists like Rizman Putra, TraseOne, ARTVSTS, ANTZ, Vertical Submarine and many more like them. Most of these artists are also friends of mine and I enjoy collaborating with them.

CO: Seeing how graffiti art has been evolving, how far do you think that you can push the limits of urban art? And what are your future plans with regards to your own take on urban art?

Z: Personally as an artist, I find the need to evolve. I find that need to translate my work beyond a two-dimensional and aerosol painted surface to other media and forms  such as installations and sculptures. I want to be able to translate my ideas through many different media while still retaining my style and identity. Recently, I have started a new collective with a few friends. We call ourselves RSCLS and our aim is to go explore different areas of collaboration. We intend to go back to the streets to do more “un-commissioned” street works; our RSCLS manifesto is “Propagating acts of artistic nonsense through open uninhibited random collaborations and discourse”.

Zero’s exhibition, The Spectacular Spectacular, runs from 29 October to 21 November 2010 at The Substation Gallery. The exhibition is presented as part of The Substation’s Associate Artist Showcase. Please click here for more details about this exhibition.

This interview originally appeared in the November issue of the Singapore Art Gallery Guide. Please click here to visit the SAGG website.

Title: JOE. 
Medium: Acrylic and Aerosol on canvas
Size: 760mm(w) x 1010mm(h)
Year: 2007

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  1. […] To read A Spectacular Zero an interview with ZERO by Chris Ong click here […]

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