Recycling plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper is a crucial aspect to our society, but what about recycling art? Taking apart a piece of art and creating something new is recycling, and I think it gives a new perspective to the audience about the work that has been altered. “One person’s trash is another one’s treasure,” my mother used to say, and I feel that Cain Caser, a graffiti artist in London, really takes this adage to heart. He believes that you can take an amazing piece of art, and create something even more amazing through reconstruction. It’s something that he has practiced since childhood.
As a child, Caser had the privilege of living at the end of the Metropolitan line in London, England where artists and their styles were vividly presented at every street corner and every train station. It was the adventure and the mystery of the art that intrigued him the most, and with this fascination, he began to write graffiti at the early age of twelve. When he hit sixteen, most of his daily activities revolved around the art of graffiti. However, shortly after becoming immersed in the art, he strayed paths and became interested in rave culture, like many other Euro-teens. It probably wouldn’t be untrue to say that Caser’s interest in wild parties influenced his artistic style with “hypnagogic portraits.”
”Hypnagogic portraits” are works of Caser’s that are “brutally abused” until he gets the image that he wants. In other words, Caser cuts, ruins, photocopies and paints over the already drawn pictures to create a different look and a different meaning. When describing his work to Trippe, a writer at Fecal Face, he said, “I mix paint on paper whilst working rather than a palette, cut that up, collage, draw over it, photocopy it, cut it up again and so on until I arrive at a draft which I then translate to canvas.” This style of his is very abstract, using vibrant colors alongside spray paint to create a masterpiece. With the images that he uses from graffiti music culture and the uncanny approach that is used when creating his art, he is a graffiti artist that incorporates an unconventional style that births a different look on the arts.
Instead of using words and letters to send a message to his audience, Caser would rather destroy a great work of art and create a piece that is unforgettable. I saw this style in one of paintings that was named Jug Head. At first glance, the picture looked as if an eight year old had cut up various colors of construction paper and glued them to a sheet of paper. But when looking closer at the painting and analyzing the color distortions, you are able to see brilliant colors that are ideally placed to give the piece a sense of meaning and form.
Please do not think that this painting is something that he just threw together in his spare time with some scissors and a spray paint can. No, being a graffiti artist isn’t something that just anyone can do because it takes a person that can give style and meaning to their art in a way that every viewer can perceive differently. One of the reasons that Caser became interested in graffiti is because of the mystery behind the art. He wanted to translate the value in the art into his own terms, and with no formal education, he was able to do all of that through blood, sweat and tears (figuratively, of course). Now, as a professional graffiti artist, he is able to create beautiful pictures that present us with clandestine factors, and like he was as a boy, we are determined to find out what the image means to us.
Everyone’s view of art is different, and Caser understood that from the time to he was a small child, and even now he still knows that it’s true. During a studio visit to Sick of the Radio, Caser told their host, Contributor, “The paintings have been conceived as portraits. Occupying the gap between figuration and abstraction they exploit the tendency to see faces where none exist and in turn be interpreted according to an [individual’s] own unique visual hierarchy.” I absolutely believe that he wants his viewers to be engrossed in the mystery of his art. I also think that he enjoys to see his audience come up with different perspectives on the same painting. It’s one of his passions- to see people enjoy to decipher the meanings behind art.
When I stare at other works by the thirty-seven year old graffiti artist like Blonde, I find that his work is sometimes more difficult to understand that the work of someone like Leonardo da Vinci or Pablo Picasso. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that Caser is a very talented artist; however, saying that he is on the same level as an artist legend like Vincent van Gogh is probably an exaggeration. I do think that Caser’s images are dissimilar to those renowned artists because his images are sometimes so bizarre that it is very difficult to grasp the meaning behind the picture, whereas with someone like Michelangelo, whose paintings have deep, biblical meanings, but they aren’t “abused” or misrepresented in any way.
For his art style, he was deeply influenced by Tudor Sumptuary Laws, which were laws in England that were present decades ago that told people what to wear depending on the rank of status. I actually find this quite interesting because I believe that Caser’s art, overall, has a meaning of “diversity, yet togetherness,” so I think that these laws that separated individuals years ago opened his eyes to a sense of unity and allowed him to create art that portrayed his knowledge of the subject.
Style Wars, a documentary on hip-hop, was something else that inspired him towards his style of art. Style Wars is a film that was created in 1983 that depicts the art of graffiti and break dance. This film that shows various individuals living life during the early stages of hip-hop is recognized as a film prodigy, and it’s not complicated as to the reason Caser was motivated by this movie. I think that when he watched this movie years ago, he saw a slight resemblance between the characters and himself, and it motivated him even more to create a graffiti art that was different from the rest.
I strongly believe that the reason Caser’s artwork is different from other graffiti artists, and even other artists in general, is because he has various vantage points that he can work from. Caser understands the fact that there are limitless possibilities when analyzing art, and he takes that into consideration. Yes, other artists also understand that there are different meanings behind the same painting, but I feel that Caser pushes the envelop by taking previously made art and transforming it into something new.
-Te Ron Adams