Kevin Cyr interview


By Anissa |  Published on Monday, January 28, 2013.

They are dirty, rusty, worn by time and are one of the favourite support for writers. Kevin Cyr love it. Vans !

FatCap : Where do you come from Kevin ?

Kevin Cyr : I grew up in Madawaska, Maine and now live in New York.

FC : How was your beginnings in painting and your discovery of graffiti ?

K : I've been painting vehicles for about fifteen years. It's been a way for me to document where I lived and traveled to. Documenting a place through its vehicles says a lot about a place. When I moved to Brooklyn, about 8 years ago, I became very interested in vans covered in graffiti and how they are emblematic of New York. Painting graffiti-covered, working-class vehicles captures the grit and vibrancy of the city. 

FC : How do you organize your paintings ?

K : I photograph vehicles that I find interesting. The majority of my paintings are of older vehicles. There's much more character in an older vehicle—its scratches, dents, and marks all tell a story.

FC : Do you have a special way to choose your color ?

K : The background color is the last thing I paint. I generally have a pretty good idea of what color will work with the vehicle color, but I'll test a few swatches until the pairing is right. Color selections are more complicated when I'm working on a show, because all colors have to work together, but still be strong individually.

FC : You're focused on vehicles, vans especially, can you explain this choice ?

K : My hometown is a small, working-class town where the economy centers around the town's paper mill. Working-class and industrial environments have been reoccurring themes in my work. I've always found industrial parts of cities and towns more interesting. The vans I paint are working vans—carpenter's van, moving company, delivery truck or even a band van. 

FC : In this series of paintings, how do you work tags, lettering ? These are real freestyles ?

K : They're all real. I paint them exactly as they were on a vehicle when it was photographed. I've been able to paint the tags with traditional methods—thin paint in some parts, more opaque paint in others. I paint using many layers, so I'm able to work-in transparencies to replicate the tag very similar to how it looked on the van.

FC : These are vehicles which are all part of the scenery of the city of New York, what is your relationship with the street ?

K : Streets are my source for inspiration and they're the titles of my paintings. Each piece is titled after the street where I found the vehicle. 

FC : What do you think about the graffiti in New York ? Did you notice any changes ?

K : I don't, at all, consider myself an expert on graffiti—I have only lived here for a fraction of the time that graffiti has been on the streets of New York. But, I have seen pretty dramatic changes in many areas of Brooklyn. Industrial landscapes along the east river marked with graffiti have been replaced with sterile and manicured developments. 

FC : How would you define the artistic community there ?

K : New York is one of the most culturally and artistically inspiring places. There are so many people creating amazing work. So many galleries showing the best artist. It's a city that's inspiring and challenging all at the same time.

FC : In 2010, you received the West Prize for your creation that combines shopping carts and recycling elements into a street housing. Can you tell us about the prize and explain this work ?

K : Around 2008, I traveled to Beijing for work. It's there that I started to think about a separate body of work—creating semi-functional vehicles instead of documenting them. The Camper Bike was the first piece that I created in the series and a few years later I created the Camper Kart as a reaction to the economic downturn. It was selected for the West Prize and purchased by the West Collection, who selects 10 artists for the prize each year.  

FC : Have you ever make graffiti ?

K : No, never written graffiti. I'm documenting working-class vehicles through paintings. The graffiti are marks that add to the story of the van—who tagged it, what time period, and the van's location. I've tracked vehicles over the course of a few weeks to a year. The graffiti appears and disappears and the painting becomes a preserved moment. 

FC : According to you, the graffiti in a few words is... ?

K : The grit and vibrancy of a city. Graffiti is audacious, urban, and anthropological. 

FC : Can you describe a typical day of Kevin Cyr ?

K : I keep a pretty regular studio day—usually in the studio by 9 and paint until 7 at night. Some days I'm exploring for new vehicles, working on drawings, or answering emails. 

FC : Future projects ?

K : I just finished an art residency at The Wassaic Project. I worked out a couple sculpture pieces that I plan to build for their Summer Festival. I also have a bunch of vehicle paintings I'm working on for upcoming shows. 

FC : Any last word... ?

K : Thanks for the interview !

FC : Thank you Kevin Cyr !

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