Akse – Fantastic realism artworks
At the beginning of this year I visited Manchester and wrote about it on Street Art Europe. Manchester has quite a few nice spots where you can find some good street art. I was amazed by some many talented artists, and also the variety in street art created with stencils, stickers, artificial grass, mosaics and different materials. One artist made me very curious. His name is Akse P19, a French artist who does freehand photo-realistic graffiti portraits. It was during one of my walks in Manchester when I bumped into his artworks.
Akse is based in Manchester since 1997 and has a graffiti career for over 20 years. He started with writing letters, and then specialized himself in characters. This was his first step to starting with realistic portraits. For Street Art Europe I did an interview with him, which you can read below.
SAE: How has your style changed during the years?
Akse: I’ve been drawing since I’m a child, which is long before I got involved with graffiti. Although I started graffiti as a traditional writer, I have always liked painting characters like B-boys. With time my style of characters developed with influences from comic books and Manga, and progressed naturally as my skills improved. However, I started painting realistic portraits as early as 1993 with a few other attempts in 1996 and 1998. But it’s really from 2004 that I’ve started focusing seriously on photorealism and since 2007 I’ve only painted in this style.
SAE: What inspires you?
Akse: People inspire me. This is probably the main reason why I paint portraits.
SAE: Are there any artists who you admire?
Akse: There are many who I admire and have inspired me at different stages of my life. For example PEST was a big influence when I started being involved with graffiti in the early 90s. He was already very active in the area; at the time there was no internet, only a few books and underground magazines around. The only way to keep up with what was going on was to go out and check out fresh pieces yourself and it was easier for me to follow local writers. MODE 2 was also a big inspiration, as he could paint both great letters and great characters. The dynamic/energy of his letters and characters were phenomenal. Another graffiti artist who influenced me when I started painting in the early 90s was ALEX (MAC crew). His level in realistic portraiture was already amazing. In the mid-90s DECAY and No. 6 from the PCP crew blew me away with their characters full of texture. Traditional painters like Sebastian Kruger and Derren Brown have inspired me greatly with their realistic caricatures; this is probably why I had a go at distorting faces when I started with my Psychopath Project (hence the large forehead for my early portraits of John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken). BELIN and SMUG are among the best photorealistic portrait artists out there these days. I’m also a big fan of EL MAC, ADNATE, SAINER (ETAM Cru), WES21, HOMBRE (SUK) and ANUSONE.
SAE: I saw a few paintings of your son. Has being a father changed something for you?
Akse: Yes, being a father changes your priorities in life. It is all about your child. Since he was born painting became secondary. On the other side, painting portraits of my son became a natural urge. That’s why I decided to paint him at least once a year, a way to see him grow with time through my paintings. I hope he will appreciate it when he is older.
SAE: Can you tell me about your P19 crew?
Akse: The P19 crew is a famous graffiti crew in France, which was founded by PEST in the South suburbs of Paris in the early 90s. Original members included PEST, CHISY, PENER, MAKE B, DOVER, TOSH, POSE, SEYT, VINO, TCHO, DJ ESHEK. I joined the crew in 1993. I’d say I was part of the second generation. I started painting large murals with PEST, CHISY, TCHO, LEGZ and in collaboration of PENER, MAKE B, DOVER and SPYR on some occasions. I then left to Manchester in 1997 and that’s when I started to paint solo and moved little by little towards street art. In the late 90s LOOP, JONBUZZ, DUME, BAB2 and SKRED joined and the crew started painting very large murals. With time many members moved towards different directions and nowadays the most active members are PEST, PENER, DUME, TCHO and myself.
SAE: What is the biggest change in the street art in Manchester in your opinion?
Akse: One of the main street art events that took place in Manchester was the Eurocultured Festival organized by Spearfish. I got involved with them for their first event in 2004 and was present every year except the last event in 2012. They brought amazing artists from all over Europe including DOES & NASH (Love Letters), BELIN, ARYZ, MR DHEO, MAC1, TASSO, STOHEAD, ECB, BESOK, SAN, TANK PETROL, PES. Since then, there hasn’t been any major street art event of this caliber in Manchester. However there are a lot of smaller events and the regular Outhouse project. So the scene is still very active.
SAE: How come Northern Square became an important spot for street art in Manchester?
Akse: Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter became an important spot for street art in Manchester thanks to the Outhouse Project, which bring different artists every 3-4 months to paint new pieces with the support of the Art shop Fred Aldous and the Council.
SAE: What do you think about projects like Antwerp Mansion?
Akse: I got involved with people of the Antwerp Project a couple of years ago. They liked what I was doing so they gave me spots to paint over there. But most of them have gone now. I don’t have any connection over there. However I did a commission for Redbull Music Academy UK for a night they did over there last April, where I painted a portrait of music producer/DJ Zed Bias. It’s great that the venue is still active in supporting Music and Art events.
SAE: If you could choose, what you would like to do with your art?
Akse: Ideally I’d like to travel the World to paint, but it is difficult to do this when you have young children. All I can afford is 1 or 2 trips abroad per year. I’d also like to paint more canvases to exhibit at some point, but with a full time job it is quite difficult. There is no real rush, so these things will take time and as long as I enjoy the process it’s all good.
SAE: Is there any place you would like to paint?
Akse: New York, as it’s the birthplace of graffiti.
SAE: What else is up and coming?
Akse: I’ve just been commissioned by the FA to paint a portrait of Wayne Rooney to commemorate his goal scoring record for England. That was a great honor for me. The canvas is on permanent display at Wembley Stadium. I’ve been contacted by various people for different types of projects, but things usually take time to get off the ground. Let’s see which ones will actually happen. However, I’m about to release some limited edition prints of one of my artworks. They should be ready for early December, so stay tuned.
Interview by Milenka Salinas – thanks.