Hastings Online Times Original interview here
St. Leonards based street artist Drew Copus’ first solo show, Metamorphosis is showing now at The Dragon Bar, 71 George Street TN34 3EE Hastings. HOT’s Rebecca Snotflower and Andy Tompkins ask him 12 very important questions.
You may well recognise the butterfly motif stencil drawings on display within the exhibition from the walls along your daily routes around the town. The pieces look like they have been stolen from the landscape of Hastings, as they sit on their reclaimed wooden surfaces, collectively displayed in the bar by some kind of crazy graff-loving entomologist. Some pieces include a symmetry of lines and shapes, which make me think of the mathematical arrangements behind seemingly chaotic natural structures… obviously I don’t think about it too hard, it makes my brain ache. The exhibition as a whole has an unmistakable DIY glamour – and a heap of punk attitude.
1. Drew, what’s with all the butterflies?
There are a couple of reasons why I ended up choosing to use butterflies in my work. When I was younger, I would party pretty much constantly and ended up leaving town (Hastings). After a couple of years living with my grandparents and then a year after moving up to Hackney Wick to work with a prolific street artist, Teddy Baden, I started to miss the seaside. When I left town, I also left behind a pretty bad reputation for myself, so I’ve really tried to buckle down and start producing some work that I can be proud of. So basically the butterfly is a symbol of transformation, plus they look pretty. The second reason is because my grandmother loves them, she has them all over her house and I think in a way, I’m painting them for her.
2. What was the first piece of street art you ever made?
I went to a school fair when I was about 9 or 10 and there was two mums in their 40′s running a ‘stencil/graffiti’ stand. I knew about graffiti before, but I had never tried it. I think it was a pound to spray a pre-cut stencil up – and I instantly fell in love with stencils. After that, I begged my Mum to buy me some car spray paint and I found some ready-made designs on the internet and got cutting. They didn’t know I also went around Bexhill spraying them up. They were really crappy, like pictures of Bob Marley and the R.H.C.P logo.
3. What has been your biggest ‘reach’?
That’s a tough one. I think the thing about street art is you can instantly reach out to everyone who lives in a town by going out and finding a wall you believe needs a bit of T.L.C. by putting some of your art on it. I view it like a public service. I suppose the thing that I am most proud of is the wall in Crystal Square car park in St. Leonards that I painted with the kids from Gizmo. It was a really really nice sunny day and the wall looks much better than bare brick. I think what I’m trying to say is the biggest reach is when you help to inspire a younger audience.
4. Have you, by any chance, studied Non-Euclidian geometry?
I just Googled it and it’s blowing my mind. I’m actually really bad at math and understanding anything above basic equations, but I like symmetry and the geometric pieces I created were an extension of it. I’m going to have to study Non-Euclidian geometry now.
5. What’s your favourite brand of spray paint?
Hands down Molotow! Belton is the best paint I’ve ever used, you get a ridiculous amount of control and the colours are amazing. You get a full range of vibrant and pastel, and they shade into each other perfectly. I love using their graphic markers too in my work. Sorry Montana!
6. Have you got any of your own artwork tattooed on you…?
I actually do! I have an elephant that I designed on my right forearm. It’s got 3 flowers around it that are meant to represent my Mum, Dad and sister. The elephant is meant to be a reflection of me, in the sense that they are naturally strong and kind. A constant reminder to myself to try and be like that, even if I have bad days. Sometimes I accomplish it.. haha.
7. …has anyone else?
Yeah! I’ve done a couple of tattoo designs for people, but I also got into a habit of bringing Indian ink and pins taped onto chopsticks when I was 19-20. I used to go to parties with my friends and tattoo people (badly). I did this really bad tattoo on my friends wrist which is an anarchy symbol made to look like a wrist watch. It’s really bad, I love it.
8. What is the best thing you have ever found in a skip?
Ha ha, yeah skips are amazing. They are like big treasure chests. I think the best thing I can expect from skips is sheet wood. Why do people chuck it?! It has so many uses. It takes 20 minutes to scrape the crap off them and sand them down. The whole reason I like to paint on reclaimed materials rather than canvas is because to me it’s still the ethics of street art and D.I.Y culture. Why buy something when you can recycle?
9. How much are you prepared to suffer for your art?
Everything. I risk getting caught and potential injury when I go out spraying. I think in a general view, if you’re going to choose to become an artist you need to be 100% all or nothing. If you don’t mind having a pretty rough life style and not knowing when you’re next going to make money, then the life of a street artist is for you!
10. Which other street artist do you most rate?
There are a few that I really love. I think the one that I rate above any others is C215. Check him out, he’s a French stencil genius. I have to mention TankPetrol up in Manchester, an amazing artist… I absolutely love his work. Also Penny from London, he creates these tiny multi layered stencils. I’m going to give a shout out to SJEL from Ireland and Mowgli from Las Vegas, a couple of brothers that I stay in contact with, they keep creating these brilliant pieces and with that I get pumped up to keep going.
11. Would you rather live with no paint, or no money?
No money! Of course… But the thing about spray paint is it’s pretty expensive, so I have to always have a bit of money I suppose.
12. What’s next for Drew Copus?
Well, I currently have my first exhibition, ‘Metamorphosis’, in the Dragon Bar. But I have a lot of things coming up that I am excited about. The one I am looking most forward to is ‘Urban Paradise’. It’s going to be a collective show of different local artists in the Union Bar that I am hosting. I’m super excited to see how it turns out, I know it’s going to be great. Keep an eye out for more street pieces too, I guess.
‘Metamorphosis’: The work of Drew Copus
The Dragon Bar, 71 George Street, Hastings Old Town