If you’ve been anywhere in east London, you’ll have seen Sweet Toof. Ghoulish and gleeful, his Day of the Dead-style street art has adorned walls from Hackney to Hoxton. On the eve of his solo show Sweet Revenge, Wonderland treads the thin line between life and death with the mysterious artist…
So what is your show Sweet Revenge about? Who are you getting revenge on?
Sweet Revenge is a selection of paintings, prints and sculptures made over the past four years. The revenge is on the recent Olympic buff.
You’ve been a graffiti artist since 1986 – what compelled you to pick up a spraycan?
Ramo from the film Beat Street made me do it.
How’s the scene changed since then?
When I started the paint was like water. Now the quality of paint has changed. Before it was all about catching tags and pieces, today anything goes.
How did you come up with the teeth/mouth signature? What’s the idea behind it?
I wanted to paint something quick with a limited pallet. I started incorporating teeth into my letter forms in the mid 90s, and they also they popped up in my studio practice. Every day we see teeth.
Has London as a city influenced your work at all?
London is magnetic. The East End has had an effect on me and my work. I have always responded to my surroundings.
Did you ever have any hairy escapes with law enforcement or angry shopowners when you were doing work on the streets?
All I can say is the word “chopper squad”. No comment.
It seems you’re very much based in East London – how do you feel about the area now the Olympics are here?
It’s a clean slate. Mmm, I’m lovin’ it.
Death plays a pretty big role in your work, but in a really joyful, macabre way. Why’s death such a big thing for you?
I lost a lot of friends when I was young, it’s my way of dealing with it.
How much consideration goes into how your street work relates to its surrounding environment?
It’s always good to consider the shape of the surface and its relationship to the surroundings.
What’s the difference between painting indoors and outdoors? Does one offer something the other doesn’t?
Indoor painting is a way to develop my visual ideas. Outdoors keeps me young at heart.
Do you still go out tagging late at night? Do you see yourself doing that for the rest of your life?
I don’t tag anymore. I would like to work for London Underground…
Sweet Revenge is on from 11 August to 19 August at The Colour Works, 117 Wallis Road, E9 5LN. www.sweettoof.com
Words: Zing Tsjeng