Stylus is an adventure between modern mural painter Pete Barber and digital artist, Rebecca Smith. It explores progressive forms of combining projection mapping with hand crafted image. In a live performance, both elements evolve and interact, to create a canvas of movement, light and paint. Dubbed the ‘Living Mural’, the pairs unconventional approach has led to critical acclaim from both the street and digital art communities.
Our Festival Reporter, Lana Elway, interviewed Pete and Rebecca during their live performance at Frequency Out of Hours.
Can you just tell me a bit about yourselves and the piece you’re doing this evening?
We’re Stylus. Becky is a digital artist, a VJ and a moving image specialist and I’m (Pete) a spray paint artist, graffiti artists and muralist. We hooked up about a year and a half ago to create Stylus which is a combination of the two things so it’s a digitally projected, living mural so whilst I’m painting, the painting is coming alive and vice versa and so far it’s taken us to the Saatchi Gallery and Budapest and people seem to be getting a kick out of it. As far as we can tell it’s a new innovation, not many people are doing this kind of thing. We’re loving it, it’s keeping us awake at night. It’s making the most out of what we do separately and putting it together to make something pretty unique.
Where did the ideas for Stylus come from?
It’s something that we have both been thinking about. We’ve both been working independently and one day we literally just drew some triangles on a wall and said ‘what if I kind of map those now’ and ‘ what if I make a shadow that goes behind them to make it look like it’s becoming 3D’ and then it just progressed from that to a bigger and larger scale. The one we did for the Formula 1 party in Budapest was big, about ten times bigger of what we’re doing here in Lincoln, in a huge industrial building which was great because this really suits the night event culture, and with Becky’s VJ skills, it makes it interactive and responsive. It’s really at home in a lively club-type space. So this is very different to what we’re used to. It’s the first time it’s really properly out on the streets as a live performance. It’s an evolving thing over hours, if not days, so at times it can be really slow and just revealing bits and then at other times it can be crazy and really pick up pace and become fluid. Pete’s painting skills really come out and intertwine with the piece where as other times it’s the projection that’s really popping. Music definitely helps it along.
This is the first Stylus piece we have done that has film footage within it. Obviously it all has animated moving imagery but we’ve actually bought, as part of this, some old film footage and clips within it, so that’s a next development for us.
Why did you choose Frequency as a platform to show your work on?
Frequency chose us and we are really excited to be part of it as we are conscious of the innovation we’re doing and so we’re aware of its place in terms of how people are coming to hear about new creative journeys. For us it’s what we really like, we like bringing people together and out in the street so it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to come out and legally spray a big board in the middle of the town centre!
The theme of the piece is developed from the theme of the festival so the whole piece over three nights is basically like a journey, a very overt media sales imagery through to very ubiquitous revolutionary imagery the kinds of propaganda imagery you see a lot, especially in press at the moment. So, we’re playing around with archetypal advertising and generating revolutionary imagery.
How do you feel the people of Lincoln have reacted to it?
Generally people have said nice things, had a few ‘wows’ and ‘oohs’ and it’s been a good learning curve for us because this type of projections quite slow-paced so it usually suits a place where people can sit and chill for a while so it’s a bit different out on the streets, with the context of the piece in that way.
(Pete) I do a lot of big commercial murals so one of the reasons that I ventured into this journey with Becky is that we’re really aware that when we do paintings in public, people just generally appreciate seeing us create things anyway. That’s a slow process, although people are usually quite impressed with how fast it is, it’s not your all singing all dancing performance but people do appreciate the handmade side of it and the skill and craft involved and what’s really nice about this is that it can emphasize that and see it in a condensed journey.