The Tony’s Gallery write up on your talk this Saturday says, “Listen to the logic behind the madness and understand why Bortusk Leer creates the work he does”. So for those that can’t make it, give us some insight?
Cor, that’s an interesting one to come out with. I didn’t write that. The reason I got into outsider style, naïve art is... when I was doing my foundation years at college, I used to help my old ceramics teacher teach special needs kids. And I just loved the way they worked. The freedom. I like that instant, child-like way of making things. I try to paint like a five year old. I think that’s the best way to describe it.
Your work’s been described as naïve, psychedelic and childish. How would you describe it?
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Do interviewers ever bring up Noel Fielding and The Mighty Boosh?
No, you’re the first. My missus loves it. I’ve got more into it now that I’ve been made to watch it a few times. Some of it’s quite funny.
So you started off studying ceramics, now you paint nu-rave creatures around the world?
I just used to like getting stoned and playing with mud. I think the reason I got into painting is it’s too expensive to do ceramics. You need a big studio. But it's something I’d like to go back to, ceramics. I think I’d try to sculpt some of the monsters.
Your work’s also been described as satirical, who are you some of your targets?
I suppose the target’s us, humans. It’s all a bit tongue in cheek. I think the stuff I do under the guise of Rots Rulebek’s more satirical. The comedy products… I made them to make myself laugh. I mean, you’ve gotta crack a smile if you see something like Beef Curtain Sandwich Paste, or something like that on the street. Amuses me anyway…
Are you a fan of eccentric characters like Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter?
Oh definitely. Bortusk always has a top hat and a cane. I don’t know why.
Who do you think made a better Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp?
I didn’t hate Johnny Depp’s Wonka but the classic one’s gotta be Gene Wilder. Roald Dahl actually hated that film. That’s why it’s called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He didn’t give it his blessing.
Interesting. Are there any haters out there criticising your work from a technical aspect or does everyone embrace the silliness?
There are some comments online. Like there’s no skill involved. But they’re missing the point. I think gallery shows are different. There’s more technical skill to a painting like ‘Harry, Charles and Wills’. That takes me months to paint. Building up layer and layer.
Harry, Charles & Willis
A lot of street artists say that once a piece goes up it doesn’t belong to them anymore. So who does it belong to?
The street. Whoever wants to look at it. Once you put something up you can’t be like, “That’s mine, don’t touch it”. I put some work up one night. Then I went and had a beer. When I was leaving the pub these two guys came running past with one of my paste-ups dripping wet, that I’d literally put up twenty minutes before. The guy holding the piece ran off and his mate was like, “I’m really sorry. Do you want me to put it back up?” I was like, “No… you don’t have to put it back up. It just would have been nice if it had dried and someone else had seen it”. But it’s a compliment really.
Bortusk Took a Trip’s your first solo show, how did it all come together?
I went travelling about a year ago. I was in India. It’s pretty psychedelic out there. It’s bonkers. There’s just crazy colours everywhere. So that’s the whole Bortusk Took a Trip reference. And of course, there’s the whole acid thing as well. Also, one of the first boutique shops in London was called Granny Takes a Trip. And I just thought that was the funniest name for a shop ever.
What about TV?
Well I did the Street Monsters show a few years back, for Children’s BBC. Unfortunately they didn’t commission a second series. That’s what I went travelling on. I could have done with another one of them. I could of pissed off again for a while. One of the main things I was working on when I was travelling was an idea for a new show. But I’d had enough of it. It’s on the shelf. It’s taken a back burner to the actual painting.
Okay, who’s Rots Rulebek?
I always say he’s a distant cousin of Bortusk. Bortusk Leer is an anagram of my real name. And Rots Rulebek is an anagram of Bortusk Leer. So it was coming up with these silly characters, because the work’s changed. Most people knew though. Because it’s on newspaper and it’s the same colour and style. Rots Rulebek made me laugh when I came up with it. Sounds like some old punk. Like Rat Scabies.
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