Lucas Price was the upstart street artist whose A-Level work sold to collectors before he got clean of heroin and headed for the RCA. Before his show T.E.A.M Atlas opens at Rove Gallery, we talk to the man about his shift from the streets to the gallery and preview some shots of his work from his studio.
You seem to have a lot of hip-hop and rap influences – can you talk us through some of them?
I don’t think there are that many, but I listen to music a lot, and certain lyrics tend to stick with me. I think by breaking them into chunks they lose their original meaning and so someone confronted by a fragment or a line, especially when it’s alongside an image, it can take on a different meaning.
You studied at the RCA – why did you decide to apply there even though you didn’t have any prior training?
I was a little lost I think. I’d gotten out of rehab and almost as soon as I started making paintings they began to sell, and I got caught on this treadmill without having a chance to define or get to grips with what I wanted to say or make. All my A Level work was selling. I remember finding an old roller shutter on the street in Bristol where I was living and I carried it with me to London and a couple of friends and I painted on it. The day after we sold it for something like £3,000. So I think I wanted a chance to find out about what it was I was involved in. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to art school but I wasn’t getting asked certain questions or being pushed, so I applied.
You’re the founder of the BC crew – can you tell us more about the group?
That was a crew I started with a couple of friends a few years ago…it was short and sweet. The other people in the crew were kind of autistic art inside/outsiders in that they’d for the most part been to big art educational institutions and been collected by big art collectors and so on. It was an eduction in different approaches to making and so on. And I think we went really big really fast, making painting that were larger scale and in the best spots for a while. And it grew to include around 9 people, all of whom were incredible. It’s still alive I think, but I haven’t painted on the street for a couple of years.
Why the name T E A M Atlas for the exhibition?
The Earth As My Atlas. It’s an acronym. I was thinking about a copy of the earth, a replica, or a map the same size and shape as the thing it represents, except with maybe different ways of understanding information, like the Borges story, “Tlon, Uqbar, Urbis Tertius…”
We hear you’re also launching a menswear collection, what can you tell us about it?
It’s a collaboration with Kazuki Kuraishi, who’s based in Tokyo. We met a couple of years ago and I mentioned that I’d always been interested in making clothes, and one thing led to another. We’re showing at Capsule in Paris in January and we have a collaboration coming up with Ryan Gander which I think is going to be good. I think the project has at it’s centre the idea that I’m an artist and Kazuki is a designer and we want to keep that alive in the clothes we make.
How do you go from doing street art to oil paintings – were there any challenges you didn’t expect?
Not really. I’ve always been up for a challenge. I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in prison, addicted to heroin.. But having said that, making art, making something that really works is probably more challenging than all of those things.
What made you take the jump from street art to fine art – or is there no difference between the two?
I always just wanted to make art, I think. And I had one opportunity to do that by painting outside, and then I made a decision to see what it was like on the inside. Street art had this opportunity to include people who might otherwise have felt too intimidated by that whole thing, museums and galleries and so on, which has to be a good thing… But I think there’s a lot more to be said than painting superheroes or skulls or whatever. And that’s where street art missed its chance to come into its own. It didn’t give the people it spoke to anything to think about other than pretty pictures.
Words: Zing Tsjeng