A quick word with ... Ron English

For years, artist Ron English has bombed the global landscape with unforgettable images, on the street, in museums, in movies, books and television.

He coined the term POPaganda to describe his signature mashup of high and low cultural touchstones, populated with a vast and constantly growing arsenal of original characters including MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in Supersize Me and Abraham Obama, the fusion of America’s 16th and 44th Presidents.

Other characters carousing through English’s art, in paintings, billboards, and sculpture include three-eyed rabbits, udderly delicious cowgirls and grinning skulls.

And he'll be gracing Semi-Permanent with his presence, at Auckland's Aotea Centre from 18-19 May.

What's your first artistic memory?

I made a bird sculpture out of coloured construction paper and proudly showed it to my sister who promptly ate it. I learned right away art does not always receive the intended response.

Ron English - MC SupersizedHow did growing up in the 70s influence your work?

Probably accounts for my questionable taste.

How political are you, really?

Really political.

If I wasn't doing this, I'd be...?

Happy. Kidding. I actually like music a lot. I'm hoping my new album will be out before I go to New Zealand. It's being mastered now. The Electric Illuminati, Songs in English. It's a project with Jack Medicine. Very pop.

Ron English - Abraham ObamaCan you talk us through the process of a typical project?

If you promise you won't steal my techniques.

How has your technique/style evolved over the years?

I think my visual vocabulary has been constantly expanding over the years. I have my own way of expressing almost anything I dream up. I think the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to have an idea they can't realise.

What was the last thing you were inspired by?

Everything inspires me. This morning it was the rising sun lighting the river by my studio. The water was a deep blue and the foliage was orange. I'll find some way to use those colours in my art in the future.

As for process, a question I may have seemed to dodge, first there is an idea. Dreams are great for ideas. Lots of ideas come in the shower too. I've heard a lot of people have ideas in the shower. Seems to be a thing. Scientists might want to look into that.

Next I like to create sculptural models and sets to work from. A lot of smaller, detail ideas emerge during this stage of the process. After I have my studies I stretch a canvas. Part of the time I am painting. I am a photorealist dutifully coping my photographic studies, the rest of the time I am following twists and turns revealed in the actual painting process. I think you have to keep an open mind during every step of the process.

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