Interview: B. D. Graft

While we all quarantined, including the current exhibition “Planted Thoughts” at Launch F18 gallery, we (Sam Trioli and Roman Sviridov) decided to talk with B.D. Graft and learn more about his work and share with you!
Share with your friends and stay safe!

Sam Trioli:
How did you get your start making art?

B.D. Graft: As a child I drew a lot, but as a teenager I stopped because skateboarding, music and writing became my creative outlets. It wasn’t until I was studying film and literature at university that I rediscovered my love for making visual art. My friend Geoff J. Kim had started creating beautiful collages and inspired me to give it a try. I did and became hooked. This eventually led to what I’m doing now.

Roman Sviridov: It seems I’ve been following your instagram since 2016, then you did mostly abstract collages, tell us how you came to the plants and moved away from the collages?

BDG: Collage is a very accessible introduction to art making as the inspiration is right there in front of you, ready to be sampled and remixed until a new whole is created. This was great for getting quick, good looking results, and it taught me a lot about composition and the way colours work together. Since then I feel my art has evolved into something more my own; I now rely less on existing imagery and focus more on creating my own visual universe from raw materials. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy making collages!

ST: What brought you to the point of making art as a full-time job?

BDG: After university I got an office job writing articles for a company. On the side I was making and selling art on Instagram, and this eventually got to a point where I had to choose between my office job and my art career; I no longer had time for both. So in 2017 I decided to take the leap  and focus on my art full-time.

ST: Making that transition to full-time artist can be daunting to many, what advice do you have for those who are hoping to someday make that same career move?

BDG: Play it safe. I didn’t quit my dayjob until I knew I had a good chance of sustaining myself through art. I didn’t have kids or a mortgage, so the only real risk I ran was being able to pay my rent.

RS: A few years ago your studio was attacked, it looked awful, what happened then and how did it end?

BDG: My former studio was in the basement of a large office building; a huge space mainly used for storage, where my former employer allowed me to do my own thing. One morning I arrived to find it was unlocked, with the lights on. I looked inside and there was a man in there, painting something on the walls, surrounded by chaos. He had ransacked the whole place, destroying artworks and furniture, throwing paint over the walls and ceiling (the police later said the place looked like a Pollock), peeing in corners, etc. He seemed tired and confused, and because he now had a beard and looked unkempt, it took me a while to realise it was the building’s former caretaker, who had been fired a few weeks earlier. He fled the building as I called the police, but they later found him wandering the streets. Turns out he had been sleeping rough and snuck into the cellar to sleep there. He then got drunk and went on a rampage. It angers me, but I also feel bad for the guy. I lost a bunch of stuff that wasn’t insured, but it could have been worse, and luckily I’m not too attached to material things.

ST: When you were a kid, what did you dream of becoming?

BDG: At different stages in my childhood I wanted to become a builder, a rockstar, and a dentist (like my dad).

ST: Since then you’ve gone on to collaborate with fashion lines, musicians, bands and much more.  What aspects of these collaborations do you really enjoy?

BDG: It’s always great to marry my art with my other interests, which include music, fashion and design. This keeps things interesting and exposes my art to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise see my art.

ST: What aspect of your work is the most important to you?

BDG: I love the freedom it offers me. The freedom to express myself and to work from wherever, whenever I want.

ST: Do you think you’ve influenced other artists?

BDG: To a certain degree, yes. I sometimes get messaged by young artists who say I’ve inspired them. That’s a great honour. In addition, I sometimes come across art on Instagram that looks heavily influenced by mine –  whether it’s deliberate or a coincidence is hard to tell.

ST: What do you look for in a piece of artwork? What really catches your eye or makes you think?

I like it when there’s something clever embedded in an artwork; an unexpected reference, joke, or colour combination. When something is slightly off balance or irregular in a captivating way. David Shrigley is very good at that, for example. 

Yellow can be called the main color in your work, it is present in almost every series, what does this color symbolize for you?

BDG: I’m a man of habit; if I like something, I’ll keep returning to it. If I have a favourite meal at a restaurant, I’ll always take that. Yellow is one of those things I can trust in. For me, it symbolises a positive outlook; a reminder to look on the bright side, however hard that may be. Making art is therapeutic for me, and yellow feels like a secret weapon.

ST: What’s your definition of a good piece of artwork?

BDG: A good artwork stays with you long after you’ve viewed it.

ST: Your work has had the ability to reach people far and wide – is that something that’s important to you and your work? To reach as many people as possible culturally?

BDG: The most frequent feedback I get from people is that my art is uplifting. So I’d like to think that the more people it reaches, the more positive energy I spread around the world. That’s a nice thought.

ST: What’s your favorite era? 

BDG: Probably the mid-twentieth century. Artists like Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Cy Twombly are big inspirations of mine.

ST: Being based in Amsterdam, how do you feel the city has affected, or inspired your work?

BDG: There’s inspiration around every corner in Amsterdam. The people, the museums, the architecture; all you have to do is go for a walk, and you’ll come back home full of ideas.

ST: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but have never done?

I’m fascinated by marine life and have always wanted to go scuba diving, to experience it up close.

RS: It is strange why we have not yet seen your work on the marine theme, haha.

BDG: True, apart from some ocean-themed collages and a few crab and lobster pieces, I haven’t explored the theme much in my art. I’ve already collected a few ideas, though, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing it pop up in the future.

ST: What do you think lies ahead for you and your work?

BDG: That’s hard to predict, but I’ll do my best to improve my craft and carry on loving what I do. And I plan on exploring more three-dimensional practices: sculptures, ceramics, etc.

Personally, I would like to someday see your work in a really large size, do you think this is possible?

BDG: Yes! I’ve been increasing the size of my artworks, and the only reason I’m not creating enormous pieces is because my current studio space isn’t ideal for that. Hopefully I can do that at my next residency, or upgrade my studio soon.


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