Kerb • Artist Spotlight

What got you in to Crypto art?

When I read about bitcoin back in 2013, I loved the idea of people being able to wrestle back control of their lives from the banks and was passionate into the possibility of being part of some kind of non-violent revolution. It seemed to me that mass adoption of Bitcoin could be a catalyst and so I attempted to do my part by creating an ethically sound clothing range where the entire supply chain only utilised bitcoin. I had pals who were printers that were happy to print for BTC but couldn’t get a legit manufacturer onboard so I had to cheat a little and found someone that would go out and ‘acquire’ the actual garments from local sports goods stores and I’d pay her in crypto. The idea was kind of a disaster cos I mainly had M and L sizes and it turned out that the target market for my already niche concept were definitely more in the XXXL range. You can probably still find some of my stock in charity shops on the Holloway Rd. 

I stumbled into Cryptoart after reading an article about Superrare and KnownOrigin back in early 2019. On first reading the idea sounded insane as the conventional understanding of digital content is that it is a race to zero where you end up giving away your work in order to attempt to open up some other ancillary revenue stream. But once I thought it through and recognised that the real monetary value of any art is in the proof of ownership rather than whether or not I can look at it without paying, it all made perfect sense. This technological evolution is incredibly empowering for artists. I have spent most of my adult life working on creating digital experiences that always needed to be benign enough to be wrapped around a brand. I’ve been lucky enough that the brands I worked with were largely entertainment or fashion brands like PlayStation, Disney or Adidas but any concept I worked still had to have a clear brand message and often some kind of notional revenue target. That there is now a clear path that allows an artist the freedom to create whatever they want and immediately sell it to collectors all over the world (without it needing to work as a t-shirt print or a mug) is an incredibly powerful evolution.

Where do you find your inspiration?

The common theme to all my work is that it’s usually a comment on stuff that is going on around me. I’m a walking nightmare with opinions on everything, especially politics. Commercially incorporating your political opinions into your art is probably a terrible idea because, given how polarised things are these days, you are already alienating yourself from 50% of potential collectors. But it’s just the way I am. At least as a piece of art if it irritates you you can just ignore it. Getting stuck in a pub with me or being my Facebook friend is probably much harder work. 

Visually I like to play with different styles. I’m a terrible illustrator and so tend to stick to what I know. At art collage back in the 90’s I was obsessed with political stencil art and photomontage, specifically John Heartfield who was absolutely hardcore and literally ended up on the Gestapo’s top 5 most wanted list because the pisstaking contained in his work was so brutal.

The most recent pieces I’m making reference stencil art but I’m trying to push things forward a but and re-imagine how to expand the aesthetic digitally. For me an important part of stencil art is where the artist chose to place it. Look at the recent Banksy stuff where you have a prisoner escaping Bristol Prison using a typewriter or the old lady sneezing so that it looks like she blew over some houses. A lot of that is lost when it’s sprayed on to a sheet of paper and mounted on a frame. But by expanding on an idea using animation it’s possible to wrap a world around a piece and give it some kind of context.

Do you think your art is fulfilling a purpose?

For the greater good? That's something that is probably something thats best left for others decide. If a piece I did made someone think differently about something or even just crack a smile or nod approvingly - i'll take that. For me personally it's a kind of release. I'm one of the most sardonic people you could ever hope to meet and i've managed to offset the impact of that on the people around me by putting it into my art rather than continually dragging them into my pit of cynicism.

How did you start out as an artist?

I’ve been creating digital art for fun since the 1980’s. I used make art on the C64 and bought a modem for it so that I could use Compunet which was like a precursor to the internet where digital artists and musicians would create demos and then upload them for other users to download. The C64 demo scene had a remarkably similar vibe to the Cryptoart scene a couple of years ago when most people were just exploring what could be done and doing for the love of it rather than thinking about whether it could be some kind of big money earner.

I joined KnownOrigin back in May 2019 where I minted a series of mildly sarcastic collectable cards that I’d made with my kid when we moved to China. There was no Pokemon Go over here and so instead, whilst walking to school, we’d ‘collect’ pics of the locals, make trading cards out of them for fun and sell them for $1 each on KO. Thankfully I used the pocket change I made from these to buy artwork created by other artists on KO at the time like Gary Cartlidge and Xcopy.

Which other artist(s) do you admire?

In the traditional art world I’d have to say Jamie Hewlett, John Heartfield, Gee Vaucher, WeFail, Ian Anderson (The Designers Republic) and Pablo Fiasco who did a bunch of pieces, including his typewriter, in the workshop downstairs from our studio in Brighton back in the day (circa 2001) and totally rekindled my appreciation for stencil art. It was mind blowing and after learning that he used OHP acetate rather than cardboard to get all that detail into the stencil it encouraged me to mess around with it again. 

In the Cryptoart world there are loads - and not just because I love their art but because so many of them who exhibit an inclusive, positive and experimental attitude that I have experienced on a few occasions in my life and always got a massive buzz from it. It reminds me of the C64 demo scene, the early Macromedia Flash development scene, the 90’s rave scene and also has parallels with the skateboard/snowboarding scene. These were all moments when it felt exciting just to get up of a morning and know that you were going to see something new, inspirational and exciting - and get to share that experience with other likeminded folk. I can’t name names cos there are too many but I handpicked the artists that I’m working with on my project so it’s fair to say that there are 15 artists whose work I love right there.

We would like to thank Kerb for giving up their time to collaborate on this with us. Article by @Kerb.