Britain’s beloved stencil duo Snik struck Brick Lane last month with a triptych of stencils from Marc Laroche’s haunting photo-series, “hair”. The copper clad portraits can be caught on Hanbury Street in the beating heart of the London Shoreditch area.
So VNA’s Jodie got chatting with Nik, one half of the prolific double act, during a rare quiet moment nestled in a packed schedule of exhibitions, printmaking and painting, to try to find out a bit about what the past, present and future holds for the hardworking pair.
JS: How long have you both been working on the scene?
Snik: I myself (Nik) have been cutting and spraying for 12 years, and the other side of Snik (Laura) has been cutting and spraying for 10 years. We both still have full time jobs, which some people find hard to believe, but it gives us a slight advantage that time can be taken out sometimes to re-group and not be worried about bills by selling art.
JS: Between you both that’s a huge collective of experience, so let’s build up a bit of a timeline here. What first interested and inspired you to enter the street art scene?
Snik: We both studied art at school, and college. Once there you get disillusioned very quickly, constant portfolio after portfolio of writing and annotation, but no really hands on painting. Final pieces were always produced first, and then comes the 3 sketchbooks explaining how you get there. It always felt wrong. For us art is a spontaneous thing, which believe it or not, we find in stencils. There is a freedom that you can really push new things, and not have a fear because it’s very easy to touch a piece up with a stencil. Street art caught my eye because it removed all the pretentiousness of high end galleries. It makes art accessible to everyone. Some people get very intimidated by galleries, for one reason or the other, and street art removes that. It shows that people can view art anywhere, even in a dingy little alleyway, and that it can still connect. That’s the real power of street art.
JS: Your style is obviously also very distinctive, what lead you to the medium of stencilling and also your signature high level of realism through hand cut layers?
Snik: Stencilling was something we both looked into at college, creating pieces from our imagination to inspiration. Back then the internet was nothing like it is now, and living in the midlands, in a small town there was no scene and no one to learn or develop with, so it was a long process trying to figure out what to do. The layering thing is a natural progression. Simple one layer stencils were visually aesthetic but never appealed to our work ethic. We wanted to show stencils can also be used to get a high level of realism and detail.
JS: It is probably quite difficult to choose, but what is your favourite creation of your own?
Snik: As strange as it sounds, as soon as one piece is done and finished, there is maybe a period of a week until we start to take it apart, finding slight faults and issues with it. It makes it really hard to have a ‘favourite’. The ‘Flowing away’ Collaboration with Morten Andersen in Berlin in 2010 is probably up there though. Mainly to do with the memories from the whole trip too. Painting is always enhanced by having a good time with old friends and meeting new ones.
JS: Ok so we’ve covered the birth of Snik, but what about the growth that followed? How have you felt your style progress, adapt and change?
Snik: Progression has always been hugely important to me. The biggest change was meeting my partner 4 years ago. We both grew up with a love of art, especially street art. It started with gradual things. A few more layers on pieces then building up to bigger pieces like the 7 metre 5 layer stencil we did in London last year. Working as a duo, we are able to work pieces more effectively, and this helps us to progress.
Another is the constant motivation to push stencil art as a medium. It gets a very strange rep because of the hype around certain artists, and because it’s easier for anyone to create and spray a stencil than it is to get a good level of can control. Because of this it has always been a challenge when you tell people you’re a stencil artist – the first thing most people say straight away is ‘oh yeah, like Banksy’. There is so many great stencil artists pushing the medium right now, and I would really like to see stencil art come into its own and get the recognition it deserves.
JS: What sort of studio space are you working in currently?
Snik: We have a tiny little studio to paint in, it leaks and you can’t swing a cat in there, but it’s perfect for what we do. Obviously down the line we would love a full size space, but for now it works. Some stencils don’t last very long anyway, so half of our studio is actually taken up with spray paint and colour scales, which is always a collection to be added to.
JS: What is the best opportunity you’ve been given in regards to your work? I saw the wall you painted in the Ibiza hotel which looked great.
Snik: At the start opportunities were not handed out, all our luck has been earned through hard graft. We are currently in Germany at the Colab Gallery and for us, watching the development of this space over the years and being included in this line up, is a great honour.
JS: Which are your favourite areas or cities to paint in and why?
Snik: Love the vibe of Berlin, all the walls are tagged to hell, the people are friendly, and the beer is great! We are always keen for travel and to experience new place and new atmospheres.
JS: What sort of effect or reaction do you want people have when they see your work?
Snik: We like to add beautiful pieces to degraded spaces. This gives great balance and an aesthetic feel. We strive to show that even the most unexpected places can have beauty in them. We also like to do this by using less sterile material such as cardboard, rusted metal and wood for our exhibition pieces.
JS: And finally what does the future hold? Where do you see Snik headed?
Snik: We have our first ever US show this year, which is great. At the same time of that we are going to be painting some big walls out in LA, which is a real dream come true – coming from a background of growing up in a little sleepy town in the countryside. Painting in as many different countries is always a great aim for us, travelling and meeting new artists really helps us to develop in so many ways. You see things so differently the more you travel, and different cultures you experience.