As one member of German crew Ma’claim, Case has made his mark on fans of graffiti, but it is his Photorealism art that shows the true extent of his skills.
Creating something is a good way to use anger. It makes me feel better so it’s cool,” explains the artist, Case from a studio space in North London. “If I feel bad I paint, if I’m stressed I paint. I never write down how I’m feeling but maybe the anger is coming out of it.” Case began working in art restoration during his teens, which soon became an influential early career for the artist. But inevitably influenced by the Hip Hop and Graffiti scene of his hometown, Erkut, he was drawn towards street art. Once aware of graffiti, he spent his days sketching letters. When payday came around, Case bought some spray paints and began painting. “I didn’t have to choose, I saw it and thought this is what I want to do.”
Case is widely recognized as one of the best photorealistic spray paint artists in the world but he is very laid back in character. Currently in town for the opening of his first solo show, we meet in a warehouse building home to over 40 artists – and you can tell – the walls are covered in paintings, sculptures and wall hangings. Wooden stairs lead to mysterious cubbyholes hidden behind sarongs. The residents are welcoming, greeting me armed with fresh coffee and a giant bag of sugar. We sit down in front of the paintings Case is working on for his show ‘What Becomes Of Dreams.’ In his personal life, the artist can be chaotic and out of control, but his canvases must remain perfect.
As one quarter of the German graffiti group, Ma’claim, Case began painting with fellow members, Akut, Tasso and Rusk in 1999. Understandably, his former career in restoration had a great influence on his art, particularly in terms of the use of materials, “I prefer to use familiar materials that last for a long time.” Having such knowledge separates Case from armies of graffiti artists, as he is able to determine which materials to use for the best effect.
“People that stand in front of my pictures want to reflect it back on themselves. If a really angry person stands in front of my pictures, they will feel anger.”
Relations between the graffiti and Hip Hop scenes in America have chilled in recent years, but in Europe they are flourishing together. “In Germany, when they paint at night, the graffiti writers take the DJs out to act as a look out. The scene is really close like a family.” Case explains the reasons why the graffiti scenes in the US and Europe differ. “In America, it comes from an aggressive place and evolves into a creative endeavour, while in Europe it begins creative and becomes aggressive. In Europe, criminality is considered cool. If you get in trouble with the police, it’s always good; you’re always a better person.“
Despite producing a great deal of work as Case, he still paints regularly as part of Ma’claim. The artist uses an assortment of materials as a base for his work, including cardboard. On a canvas, the details can be seen, but on walls will be lost. “It’s kind of oppressive when you stand in front of a small piece. You have to be more careful and fragile and if you stand on a big wall you let your moves flow with you. You have to go really rough; use your whole body to put into the piece.”
Case is influenced by many artists, most notably the artist Robert Williams but many of his references are unique. “I’m influenced by day-to-day situations, for example pigs’ feet; it’s normal to buy some from the butcher but if you lay it in another situation, it’s totally different. It could be an anger thing – it looks really morbid. But it’s a normal thing you can buy in the shops.” Dreams and weird situations are also named as inspirations, Case admits to having some unusual dreams. Describing his work as twisted reality, it is no surprise that Alice in Wonderland inspires him, in particular the surreal scenes when Alice plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts. When discussing the interpretation of his art, Case is indifferent to the perceptions of others. “People that stand in front of my pictures want to reflect it back on themselves. If a really angry person stands in front of my pictures, they will feel anger.”
Case himself has left his anger in the past, “I think I was a really angry person. Then I had sad experiences and I was mostly angry, not violent, just angry with myself.” His anger improved his art to a certain extent, “When I’ve been sad or angry, it’s the best energy to use. You can use the anger to be creative and it’s a way to get something from it. But it’s not political anger, for political anger, you have to be invited into it. I’m not so interested in it. It’s more myself that makes me angry than society. Society doesn’t know me and I don’t know society.” The artist also has advice for people intent on changing the world for the better, “I don’t believe that you can change the world. People should change themselves.”
In November 2009, Case’s work was included in an exhibition at the Blackall Studios in London entitled, Represent. Profits raised from the sale of the pieces on the walls were donated to a charity for young homeless people. Such organisations, Case believes, are really important. “There are so many people that end up in an unlucky situation, maybe through an accident or illness. You have to be lucky with your situation and give something from this situation to others. Art is a positive way of helping others.”