The quarrel surrounding spray painting on public spaces, no matter how artistic it may be, makes it difficult for this form of art to gain the respected notoriety it deserves. Some view graffiti art as a sign of urban decay of the city. Jet setters and urban dwellers, along with much of the general public, would agree that graffti art adds character and vibrancy to the environment in which they live, while also making it apparent that local talent is ventilating throughout the community. The graffiti culture in Toronto is steadily flourishing and impossible not to notice. Jabari Elliot, AKA Elicser, has been flashing his talent and continues to dispurse his artistic graffiti designs around the GTA.
â€œBefore graffiti stemmed from hip-hop and hip-hop culture, it also stemmed from cave paintings–cavemen trying to communicate with the rest of their tribe on important issues in their day-to-day lives.â€
Format: Is hip-hop a big influence in your life?
Elicser: Not recently, because I donâ€™t really like the hip-hop thatâ€™s out now. If anything Iâ€™m influenced by the older hip-hop, like â€˜94, â€™95; Iâ€™m never going to get out of â€˜94, â€˜95. Iâ€™m stuck there, musically. Thatâ€™s the only thing that really influences me. Iâ€™m a big quotes guy from hip-hop–that affects me and Ralph Bakshi too, [laughs].
Format: Originally it is said that socio-economic barriers were the prime motive for expressing oneâ€™s self in the form of graffiti. How valid do you think this statement fairs today in terms of modern-day graffiti?
Elicser: Yeah, it was a prime motive back in the day because before graffiti stemmed from hip-hop and hip-hop culture, it also stemmed from cave paintings–cavemen trying to communicate with the rest of their tribe on important issues in their day-to-day lives. Thatâ€™s kind of lost in graffiti now because people donâ€™t really worry about the issues anymore; they worry more about painting their name on their work. Nowadays, we have the computer, the Internet, and we all have a voice on the Internet, whereas back then their subway car was their blogging system.
Format: What truly motivates/influences you to write on a public wall?
Elicser: Just so everyone can see it. Public walls are public walls: you canâ€™t walk by it and not look at it–you either like it or you donâ€™t like it, but itâ€™s still going to affect you somehow.
Format: Where can we see your work?
Elicser: All over Toronto. Specific spots are Queen and Spadina. I did something there recently. I think I should explain this piece because people might wonder. Itâ€™s basically my homage to Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and short round–that guy who drove the getaway taxi in the beginning. Itâ€™s paying homage to that guy because heâ€™s not around anymore. The piece looks like heâ€™s dead, but heâ€™s really not.
Format: Are you working on any particular projects at the moment that we should look out for?
Elicser: Graffiti wiseâ€¦The Indiana Jones piece is the latest. I do a lot of pieces on peopleâ€™s garages in the summer time. So if you go into back alleys, on garages you can see my work. I have an assignment coming up for a company. I donâ€™t want to say the company name and jinx the opportunity, so weâ€™ll leave it at that, haha.
Iâ€™m also having a show at the Bobby Five Gallery in Toronto on July 12th.
Format: Do you prefer creating portraits of people, skylines, or tags? Or do you opt for creating something a little more unconventional?
Elicser: Something more unconventional, but a lot of my pieces are figurative. I try to say something with my work, so characters are the easiest way to say it. Combinations of skylines and landscapes can say a bit more.
Format: On your official website, you display an array of photographs; is photography something you are experimenting with or were you a photographer all along?
Elicser: I think weâ€™re all photographers; we can all pull it off. It depends on how professional we are with lighting and stuff. I use to go out with a photographer so I know the stressfulness and craziness of getting the right lighting, the perfect balance of lighting and composition. Iâ€™m not a photographer, but I can pull it off.
Format: Your work exhibits heaps of distorted images–why is that?
Elicser: Thatâ€™s because I canâ€™t draw, [laughs], so I donâ€™t know. Thatâ€™s just how I draw and paint. Two shows ago for this project called â€œTree House,â€ the concept basically sent the message that youâ€™re carrying the weight of all your problems on your back: all the people that bug you, all the people you hate you carry that weight, so there was lots of distortion. If Iâ€™m doing characters explaining what their problems are then it would likely show the element of distortion. So it depends on the concept that Iâ€™m working on to know how distorted itâ€™s going to get.
Format: Where would you ultimately like to see your work displayed: along open city walls or on a canvas in an art gallery?
Elicser: I donâ€™t really care that much. In terms of longevity, displayed in a gallery makes sense.
Format: Do you think the world of art will ever accept graffiti as a legitimate form of art?
Elicser: Soon enough, not right now.
More Info: http://www.elicser.com/
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