Mau Mau

For the last couple of weeks Londoners have been afforded the privilege of seeing Mau Mau’s work displayed in the Westbank Gallery. We caught up with the elusive man for a brief yet insightful Q&A. Here’s what he had to say.

A lot of your work carries political or social undertones, do you feel this is crucial when creating a new piece?
Yeah, I see that the Babylon system wants complete control of the people, corruption is everywhere; in their governments, police, media, environmental destruction, super rich and super poor.
I see certain art and music as the conscious voice of the people that they cant control.

Does this have any relation to the foxes, monkeys and other animals you chose to portray?
I see animal behaviour in humans and human behaviour in animals. We are closer than alot of people think. I like the fox. It’s resourceful, it can adapt and hustle, tresspassing from country to city.

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You started out over 20 years ago; how did the 90’s specifically influence your art?
I did a lot of travelling in the 90s and spent time in Jamaica and Ghana which were massive influences for me and that’s when I learnt about Rastafari.
Back home (UK), the free party scene was kicking off all over the West Country. All these huge free parties were great as was the vibrancy and DIY ethics of the scene. Although I was never fully into the rave scene, never liked the music and wasn’t into the drugs- we used to just set up a sound system that played hip hop and reggae music. By the late 90s, I was running a skate’n’surf label with friends. We had a portable mini ramp which meant I was around skateboarding a lot, so that influenced my artwork.

It must be great to have your designs on clothing, are you still making clothes?
No, but I still do t-shirt designs for THTC, an ethical label that sources environmentally friendly fabrics such as hemp.

How do you feel about the crossover from painting illegally on the street to showing your work in galleries?
I enjoy both. I have 4 children so I am very happy that I can paint everyday, which is what I love to do, and make a living. Painting outside is definitely the best buzz though.

For those who didn’t make it can you give us a little run down of your recent show ‘Pigs Might Fly’?
It’s about having a bit of fun with the art. The loose theme was pigs, from flying pig canvases to a brass piggy bank edition, but other animals including foxes and characters like the mermaids (I love to paint beautiful women) also featured. As well as the paintings there were a few installations which hopefully made people smile. The Westbank gallery was the perfect choice to do a show like this because it’s such a great space to manipulate. And fair play to the gallery too. We told them what we wanted to do and they just let us get on with it!

How do you think it was received?
Well, I hope!

What’s next for you?
A trip to Jamaica, and then I’m working on a book project and talking with a couple of galleries overseas about doing a show!

For more on Mau Mau visit his website – www.mau-mau.co.uk