Internationally recognised Irish muralist Aches began to create work in his teens and has gone on to produce murals throughout Ireland and across the world, including Denmark, Spain, England and the USA. Following a two month long residency at Atelier Maser, Aches had put together his first solo exhibition Distorted Identity, exploring the concept of identity in the digital age. We caught up with him to talk about the show and his practice.
How did you get started?
I have always had an interest in art and drawing. I drew almost every day as a kid and as I got older I got more and more in to letter forms. Seeing my dads writing was inspiring, he sometimes did calligraphy which interested me a lot. When I got in to secondary school I met some guys that were in to graff and we would sit in school sketching all day. I did my first piece in 2007 and was hooked from there. I always liked to paint characters with my pieces and in later years started to focus on photorealism. I went on to do some walls with only characters and no letters, this lead me to start painting murals.
How did you come to paint in the pixelated style?
I'd been painting some handstyle based pieces with some colour overlays, mostly using additive colour theory. I looked further into additive and subtractive colour theory and started painting RGB colour overlays on my letters. If I am happy with an effect with my letters I will incorporate it into a portrait. I had been doing the RGB overlays for a while and wanted to change it up a bit but still using the same colour palette. I then read up about sub-pixel rendering, used commonly on computer screens. I found lots of examples of this with typefaces and thought that it would look good on a wall so I painted some letter pieces using the sub pixel effect. What I really like was how these 3 colours merged together when viewed from a distance, when they are at their brightest they look like white. After having painted two letter pieces with this style I tried out a portrait.
Can you take us through your art making process?
I usually take a photo of a friend or family. I then bring it in to PS and cut out the portrait, I then drop the saturation so it's B&W and then pixelate the image. I then bring it into Illustrator and live trace it, limiting the colours to 10, there are only 9 shades of red green and blue in the paint I use and then black. The image is now 10 different coloured grey pixel squares, I break these down into numbers between 1 and 10 from brightest to darkest. this corresponds with the paint. For instance, the number 1 square, I will paint with the number one lightest shade of red, green and blue and so on. I sketch a square grid on to the surface I'm painting and number the squares of the grid per shade. My sketches look nothing like what I am painting, they are more of a guide.
How do you challenge yourself artistically?
Whenever I'm coming up with something to paint, I like to look at it on a computer and think "that’s gonna be a f**king nightmare to paint". If I think that before painting it, it's usually a piece I'm happy with.
Having recently finished your first solo show Distorted Identity, can you take us through the experience of doing an artist residency at Atelier Maser and putting on a show?
Having a show was always at the back of my head but I probably wouldn't have had one for a couple of years if it wasn't for Maser asking me if I would want to have one in his newly opened Studio/Gallery, I couldn't turn that down.
As I've never had a studio, Maser let me use his for the month and a half running up to the show as an artist residency programme. The time I spent there was great, at first it was tough to adjust to a studio setting and working a lot smaller than I'm used to but it was really good to get out of my comfort zone. It's given me great appreciation for studio work, something I look forward to doing more of.
What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
I'd like everyone to have their own opinions about the pieces. The concept at the minute is recreating people I know with a strong digital influence, for me it’s a comment on how much everyone is attached to their phone, but also I like the aesthetics of sub pixelation. With the sub pixel portraits I enjoy people endlessly trying to guess who it is and getting it wrong (for some reason people assume it has to be someone famous, it never is.)
Plans for the Future?
Looking for a studio at the minute, then just have some fun in there. Hopefully get to do some more travelling this year and paint some murals in different cities.