With their bright, 'look-at-me' colour palette and disquieting upheavals of traditional portraiture, Cain Caser's paintings refuse to hang quietly on a wall. As he put the final touches to the new artworks that he'll be showing at Scream this month, Caser talked us through his influences, style, and working process.
You’ve got an incredibly distinctive style, how would you describe it in your own words?
Vivid, garish, hallucinatory, crudely realised, hypnagogic.
'Hackney Gentleman', 2011
It’s clear that graffiti art has had quite a strong influence on your work (especially its explicit influence on pieces such as Joseph Kyselak). Can you tell us a bit more about what influences and inspires you?
Graffiti is an influence, the vanity aspect of it - as in the ‘I woz ere’ tag - was the biggest attraction for me. Style-wise though it's Bacon, Basquiat and Bast that have informed the look of what I'm doing now more than traditional NY graffiti, as it were. The portrait format, the 'is-ness' of a figure is what interests me at the moment. The what, the where, and the when we are being wide open for interpretation. I like the way that a character starts to form from a few scraps of cut up paper and the feeling of not knowing how it's going to turn out.
You’ve created artworks based on iconic figures in the past (such as Agatha Christie and Coco Chanel). If you were going to portray anyone, who would it be?
The titles usually suggest themselves in the process, but maybe a London graffiti series. Kast, Fuel, Drax; there are some iconic names there. That said, whenever I've started with an idea in mind it has always ended up as something else entirely.
Agatha Christie, 2010
There’s a freshness and visually arresting quality to your work that looks very intuitive. Do you spend a long time planning each piece or do you just see where it takes you?
I want something unexpected so I try to keep it fresh in the drawing stage by collaging and changing elements. The planning can take five minutes or it can take hours, as I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it. When that's in place I can relax into the painting.
The level of detail in your work is incredible, how long does it normally take to finish an a piece?
At first it would take a few days, now it's more like three weeks as my artworks have become more complicated. Once I get the collaged outline together I blow it up on to acetate then transfer it to canvas, which is the quick part. The time is swallowed up by colour mixing, layering and working out the texture.
Wasp Waist, 2010
There are lots of really exciting things happening on the London art scene at the moment. Do you have any hot tips for our readers to watch, or exciting openings?
It’s a little further afield but if you get a chance this month I'd recommend Wonderland by Alaric Hammond at The Outsiders in Newcastle. Also a show called 'Nostalgia' which is opening on the 26th at Rook & Raven here in London.
Speaking of which, you’ve got a new show opening at the end of January. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect?
The title is Unweave The Rainbow, inspired by the John Keats poem Lamia [also the inspiration for a book by Richard Dawkins]. The focus is the tension between dreams and reality. It’s a group show so I've painted a large double portrait and a couple of smaller pieces for it.
Gin Lane, 2011
Catch 'Unweave the Rainbow' at Scream London (34 Bruton Street) from January 25th to March 10th. To see more from Cain check out his website.