What is black and white and seems to never stop? Well aside from a zebra running from a white tiger on a mobius strip, it is the art of the Peruvian artist who goes by the moniker Freegums. His real name is Alvaro Ilizarbe and he is based out of Miami, Fl. Although he has very little formal education in the arts (less than a year at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale) he has managed to really get his name out there. He has had his work represented all over the United States, in Canada, and Thailand. Many of his projects have been collaborative efforts with other “street” artists who share some of his sensibilities. His reputation even caught the attention of Nike Shoes, so they let him design a pair of sneakers.
The work of Freegums is sort of one part op-art, one part street art, one part tribal art, and one part pop-art. He works almost entirely in stark black and white. He is probably most well known for his anamorphic line patterns. With these he has done several different things. At times he will take a random piece of scrap wood and fill it with these designs. Other times he will fit these patterns into an infinite design and create wallpaper, which he will use to cover an entire room. Then he likes to use this room to display his wooden pieces so it becomes difficult to tell where the room starts and the pieces of art begin. In other pieces he seems to be very inspired by indigenous art styles including Native-American and his own Peruvian background. These works often include various kinds of mythical creatures that weave in and out of each other, again often creating an infinite pattern. Although he sometimes works on a smaller scale with individual pieces, it is safe to say that his work is best represented when it is all encompassing and huge.
Judging by his website, he is also very inspired by and interested in music, specifically that of house dance music. He has several videos featuring very intense beat patterns that could be seen as an audio version of his own painting style. These videos also feature footage of him dancing with seemingly random backgrounds. If nothing else it proves that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and likes to have a good time.
Sometimes things in life make a full-circle, other times things can make anamorphic loops that cover some familiar ground. I met this chick, Bethany Brown as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. She is on my list of people that get these “Artist of the Day” posts because she is cool. She has recommended that I check out several artists that I have found very interesting. Recently, she recommended I check out a particular blog at http://thetouristzine.tumblr.com/ . On this blog there was a recent artist discussed who goes by the name Freegums. When checking out this guy I came across a collaborative project he did in guess where, Thailand. And one of the artists he works with is someone whose work I have seen 100 times in Thailand, but could never get more info on because he doesn’t take credit for most of his work, but now I know him as P7. So today I will talk about P7, because it is long over due that I dig up more info on this guy, and tomorrow I hope to get to Mr. Freegums.
I will start off by saying I might have some biased feelings towards this artist because I have had a glimpse at the culture he comes from, and I have learned to really appreciate a mind like his coming from a place like Thailand. As much as I have learned to appreciate my time in Thailand, it is a place where an artist is very much pushed to be more of a professional crafts(wo)man. So in a place like Brooklyn where I am at now, where it seems like everyone and their cousin is some sort of a graffiti artist, but in Thailand, it’s a bit more rare. To put it into proper analogies, it would be like seeing a Buddhist monk walking down your street here in the US and asking for donations of food. And to be clear, when I say graffiti artist, I mean artist, not someone who scribbles a name on the back of a stop sign, I mean someone who forces thoughts into your head because of the brilliance and talent of their publicly created piece of art.
P7 is based in Bangkok but works all over Thailand and beyond. Almost as important as what he does is where he does it. He likes to pick places not normally found fit for contemporary art. He feels that the older the wall he paints on, the better. He seems to have a dark sense of humor with thematic influences ranging from cartoons to classic novels. His work is often playful and disturbing at the same time. In some works he is replicating reality at an intimidating level but in most he is playing with the childlike nature of cartoon like shapes, colors, and figures. Through gaining a reputation of beautifying some of the less attractive walls in Thailand, he has gained the right to illustrate some of the most sought after. He has become almost an in-house artist at the best place in the country to see contemporary art, the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center. He has participated in several of the collaborative murals in the building and he designed the playful Tiger-head sculptures out front (I think they’re still there?).
One thing that I really like about him is his ability to collaborate. Perhaps it comes from the more community minded culture of Thailand, or maybe it is just him, but it really seems like P7 has found ways to work with lots of different kinds of people from all over the planet. Born and bred in Bangkok, he has shown his work internationally as well. He is a part of an important slice of the next generation in Thailand, he questions what is being taught to him, and is not about to follow tradition blindly. If you are in Thailand and have an open mind or a blank wall, he will probably fill one of them if not both.