Since 2013, the Austrian Street Artist TABBY made his mark from the USA to Japan, painting stencils on walls in need for some color and content. The pieces range from serious political criticism, messages of love and life, as well as the absurd and mundane, but are usually accompanied by a twist of humor. We met Vienna based artist TABBY for an interview.
Urbanshit Gallery: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into art.
I enjoy pizza and have a professional pizza oven in my kitchen. When Im not making pizza I tend to make art.
How would you describe your art?
Entertaining, sometimes beautiful and meant to be enjoyable at a quick glance or also stared at for long periods of time. You should be able to understand it almost instantly but also find more meaning the longer you look at it.
Can you tell us something about the process of creating your work? How has your art evolved over the years?
Any thought, phrase or word that might be interesting to explore as a new piece is written down. When a new idea for a piece is needed, Ill play around with the notes until something useful translates from text to image. At the moment there are about 60 pages worth of notes, 90% turns out useless but you only need a couple to work out.
I guess you often hear comparisons to Banksy like a lot of stencil artist do. Does that annoy you?
Banksy will always be the king of stencils, especially for street art. It can be seen as a compliment to be compared to him, but you also want to use it as motivation to slowly distance yourself and create your own path.
Obviously you like to play with it by implementing parts of the Banksy myth in your work such as your newest work “TABBY Cat vs BANKSY Umbrella Rat” …
A lot of art, pop art and especially stencil art likes to incorporate existing famous art and add their own spin to it. You’ll find an unlimited twists to the Mona Lisa, Damien Hirsts spot paintings or Warhols soup cans.
Playing with Banksys Rats was only a matter of time. For one because nobody else had really done anything and two, because as TABBY, I basically am the cat and the cat needs to catch the rat.
Have you always done street art or have you experimented in other areas of art before?
I had always done creative things, street art being one of the newer activities. I had started working on a magazine, played in bands, worked with film, sold art on the streets, built half the furniture in my old apartment… always something creative on the side to distract from what I should have been doing. Studying. Eventually one of those activities took up all my time and Ive been painting ever since.
What excites you about painting in the streets and exhibiting your work in a public space?
Its a fun way to share what you’re doing and very direct. Theres no painting in isolation and then trying to get the image to others in one way or another. You just paint it and then its there for everyone to see.
What do you want to accomplish with your art?
Make myself laugh or satisfied with the piece. If theres a deep meaning that comes out of it that others can relate to, then thats a double win.
What effects do you want your art to have on the viewers?
Either brighten up someones day or to get you to think about a topic that otherwise might not have come up.
Your works are strongly politically / socially critical motivated. How important is the political message for you personally in your works?
You can change the world by changing what people look at, by getting people to think. Obviously some of my pieces have a more serious message than others. One thing most pieces share is that they tell a story through humor. There is no better way to get someone engaged than by making them laugh.
Some time ago you organized a “TABBY Treasure Hunt”. What is the idea behind it and will there be another one soon?
Especially in the first years I did lots of treasure hunts. From vienna, Berlin, Venice, London… the idea was to let others take part in something, rather than just spectate. Original pieces were hidden in cities and everybody willing to get up and go outside could have something new to do and also take home a piece of their own. I’m sure there will be more pieces to find in the future.
Are there any future projects you might already tell us about?
There are always new areas being played with, testing untouched creative outlets and seeing what can be done in the future, besides more of what is already being done. We will all have to wait and see what comes out when it is ready.