Interview with Anthea Missy, Graffiti & Street Artist
Contemporary street artists are not concerned with impressing members of the Academy or approved authorities. Rather, they are interested in revoking many social conventions about art. Contemporary street artists produce their works with the belief that art does not only belong in museums but also on the streets with the people. That is why many of them, such as Banksy, operate under pseudonyms, because vandalizing public property is a crime.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Anthea Missy. I am a visual artist and I do graffiti, murals, paintings on canvases, prints, graphic design objects, movies of my work, and social and private projects in Europe and in Asia. I started working in 2014. My work is about legal and illegal acts.
Tell us more about your work.
AM: My art starts from abstraction, with a certain purity of colours that I keep to black, red, turquoise, and white, in addition to patterns that are organic and flow out in an irregular manner. It is mostly a form of instinctive art, which I do in a freehand style. Recently, I added characters to my compositions – these were influenced by my immersion in Asian culture for the whole of 2015.
What is your goal?
AM: As an artist, my goal is to make art wherever possible on Earth, in any possible form of display. My goals also include sharing and influencing creativity, using new media and extending the power of art with digital technologies whether in its process or display. My goal as a human being is to foster creativity and change by acting as an example in the freedom of personal expression.
What is your dream project?
AM: My dream project is to have projects all the time that inspire me and inspire others. To answer in detail, it could be something like painting a massive wall by myself, bigger than anything I have painted so far. It could be a social project where children or people interested in developing their personal expression are guided in their work, in a sort of co-creation in space. Let’s say, on the one hand I love doing my own thing, producing something that I’ve mastered from inception to creation, while on the other hand, I love detachment and teaming up with people to make something happen for a good cause.
Why do you do what you do?
AM: I paint just like I write, just like I talk. As a kid I was very shy and introverted but was already keen on doing creative activities and reinventing the wheel, so to speak. From a vital point of view, expression is just something I need for my health. My head is always full of many things and ideas and images, and I feel things heavily.
For me, creation is a way to purify my mind and heart. I also love the physical aspect of the work. Sometimes it can feel like a challenge with yourself, something close to an athletic performance, having to paint a wall very fast.
From a social perspective, this is how I like to interact with others. I love reactions, all of them, and to meet people in the flesh is a blessing. In this sense, street art is a big adventure, with dangers and great surprises, it is a very intense activity in which your consciousness of space, people and yourself are elevated to a hyper level. Art is also one of the rare fields where there are no rules!
What role does the artist have in society?
AM: The artist is both of a black sheep and a progressive thinker. By expressing himself, an artist projects his perception of life, society, and beauty in a free manner that is, at its origins, totally pure and detached from any material needs or social duties, or any of the sort of frameworks that most people are bound to. The artist is there to show another way of looking at life, and by the things he does and the way he does them, the artist also shows that anyone can become an artist by being honest with yourself and doing what you feel. Art gives soul to the world.
What themes do you pursue?
AM: My themes can be abstract: freedom, motion, infinity, embracing the moment. They can also be more tangible or figurative: love, sharing, team spirit, friendship. My themes tend to be positive or conflictive in a yin-yang manner.
What’s your favourite art work?
AM: My favourite artwork is a sticker tag that says ‘NO ONE IS ILLIGAL’. It’s something I saw many times in Brussels, and it’s a simple message that says everything to me – a sort of universalism that resonates within myself when I see it.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
AM: Generally speaking, I’ve heard “your work has so much positive energy”, said with a smiling open face and shiny eyes.
What do you dislike about the art world?
AM: What I dislike about it is that it confines what is essentially an open field in which all creativity is valuable. Meaning that too often there is a certain frame where you must fit in. How can we foster change if we have to get into that frame? Somehow, it means our creative expression is not so free. On the other hand, everyone has specific tastes and expectations and this is just the simple rule of adaptation, something that has always existed and is a part of human nature.
What role does art funding play?
AM: Art funding helps to realize ideas, and makes it possible for them to be shared with the public. Thanks to the many people who gave money for my Kanal Karma mural in Brussels, and to all our sponsors who helped, we were able to bring this idea to life. Even if I am the single artist in for this project, it is a sort of co-creation where people participate through other means, and it also means that they like the idea of having an artwork in their neighbourhood.
What research do you do?
AM: My research is on different things. Visualart: patterns and characters, story telling, colours and shapes. Murals: how to make my pieces better in terms of quality (so, mostly searching for products that are innovative and can assist in this). Communication: how to tell a story that triggers interest and gives positive feelings to the audience. Projects: find or create new public projects.
So, the job is about three things: creating, organizing the work, and hunting for new spots and projects.
AD: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
AM: To try to paint in black and white. Keep it simple and see what it happens.
AD: What, if anything, would you have done differently?
AM: Nothing. I have always embraced all the opportunities I have found on my way, and I am very much looking to enjoy the present moment to its fullest while proactively building my next adventures.
What is the role of the people, or ‘the crowd’, in your projects?
AM: The crowd are people like you and me and they are the audience. As an artist you have to share what you do and do your best to give the largest amount of people the opportunity to to see your art (and to choose if they like it or not). There is always someone who likes one artwork, and always someone who prefers another artwork. What is most important to me is that people contribute to my street art projects by giving me ideas,or that my endeavours give them other ideas for their own projects, or that this leads to a joint opportunity to create. In the end, this dynamic means much more than just doing it by myself, in possibly all selfishness. The crowd is an echo to the energy and dedication I give to my art, and I thank people for that.
How can they participate in your projects?
AM: I tend to look at people as the Humankind or as Individuals, with a unique and defined self-identity. People can participate in my projects by reaching out and proposing projects of any type, inviting me to take possession of space, share and talk about my work, and/or buy my work. I like doing my own projects by myself, but I am always open to teamwork.
How are you connected with the people or the crowd?
AM: I share most of what I do with people via social media, through pictures, videos, and sometimes write-ups. If I am not active on social media, some of my followers message me to know if I am alright. For most people who follow me on social media, I am that nice moment in the morning, a happiness-break in their routine. They seem to like my art and my personality equally. They are from everywhere on Earth, and sometimes they also take inspiration from my designs to get tattooed, which is a strong symbol for me, to have my art on their skin. I make time to answer messages and sometimes chat with my followers, just to say I am real and I appreciate the time they take to follow what I do.
The crowd economy creates meaningful experiences and shared value, how do you see this in the context of your work?
AM: This is relevant to me. My artwork at the canal was partly subsidized by a crowdfunding for a community project where many people of the same neighbourhood brought their skills to make the Au Bord de L’eau square a living place with many activities for a large audience.
CO-Creation and participation are emphasized in the crowd economy, and communities take an active stake in crafting positive futures.
AM: Yes, and I recently painted the Shoreditch Artwall in London, which is a commercial wall used for advertising. However, the London Artwall Company allows artists to paint this wall whenever it’s vacant, and they will put up the artwork made by artists on their website. This shows how a private company can be a crucial actor in promoting the presence of art in the public space for free, and in doing so also helping artists promote themselves.
How do you use the crowd?
AM: I interact with the crowd via social media and in real life. However, social media gives access to way more possibilities, since you only need a phone in order to be connected to thousands of people at the same time. Next to that, real contact matters a lot to me, so I always enjoy it whenever possible.
How do you handle feedback?
AM: There is always something interesting in the voice of others. It gives me new ideas, quite often. Even bad criticism is stimulating. It is another chance to show how good you can ben in what you do.
How do you create the interaction?
AM: I am a stimulator. I post pictures and videos of what I do. I share my impulse and enthusiasm about the things I do, and I suppose people can feel it. It does not have to be finished product. Communication is like seduction: I want people to travel with me. The path we share together matters more than the goal, when it comes to your relationships with people. They view, react, share and comment. I reply often but my ultimate answer is to bring more content to feed the audience’s curiosity and, in terms of communication, to show them I am here and I am carrying on!
What are the results?
AM: The result is I have a large crowd of people who have identified me as a sexy woman who does painting and travels a lot by herself. They ignore my background and origins and this mystery is also something they love. The unexpected style I have in the way I do my art is another key element capturing my follower’s attention. I am surprising and I love to surprise them, too. In their minds I am real, because I share my passion with them in a personal manner that becomes unique. My videos get anything from 1K up to 100k views. It is more the experience I give, that is interesting to them. Having something nice and well packaged is not always the priority because it has to look and feel real and honest. I am not interested in being like others and the way I do anything is in my most personal way of doing everything: art, communication, etc.
How do you measure results?
AM: I have key metrics available to see the penetration rate of my videos and pictures: how many people received my posts, and how many have seen them. For my art videos I have a good rate of 1/3 penetration, which means that 1 person in 3 who see my video will actually watch it. I look at figures on social media and my websites once a month and not more because I don’t want to be obsessed by that.
Even a picture that receives 40 likes was most likely seen by more people because they will come up to me and talk about it when I meet them in the flesh, sometimes weeks or months later, even if they did not react on the post. So, I tend to look at the quality and consistency of my content way more than the number of likes. I make an effort on quality rather than quantity. I am more interested in telling a story that people remember for a long time, rather than giving people junk posts that mean nothing and get lost in their memory. Put it this way: I prefer to be true and real for those people who will become loyal to my art. You cannot please everyone anyways.
How do you measure the effect?
AM: From the quality of new projects.
What Social Media do you use?
AM: All of them: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin. My videos perform way better on Facebook.
All images are copyright and courtesy of the artist. Source: https://www.facebook.com/myskyispink/