Estum is a graffiti artist with Scottish blood running through his veins. He’s been colouring walls for about 10 years and is definitely motivated to continue making his mark on society with his unusual “3D fantasy style.” However, this isn’t always an easy job. “A lot of areas in the city need regeneration, but for any level of decent graffiti to survive, we need some areas too,” says the 23 year-old Glaswegian.
Laurens Van Hove: Seeing that you’ve lived your whole life in Glasgow, how did the city influence your work?
Estum: Firstly, the city influences my work in different ways. The beauty of the Victorian architecture is quite inspiring, and Glasgow has a lot of art around the city and famous museums and galleries that are usually free to explore. At the same time there are a lot of run-down grey housing schemes and abandoned sites, particularly around areas that used to be successful industrial sites. So these factors combined give me inspiration to paint colourful murals and brighten up the site a bit, although usually the majority of people don’t get to see the walls I paint. We don’t have any legal spaces in Glasgow so we usually paint in abandoned, old motorway areas. It’s a shame that a lot of people can’t enjoy the good quality graffiti that gets painted in these places, but at the same it’s nice to have a secret space where you can relax and interact with the environment.
LVH: With the whole Glasgow regeneration a lot of these secret spaces will probably disappear. Does the urban renewal have a big impact on (your) graffiti?
E: The regeneration has almost been a bad thing for graffiti in a way. A lot of money is put into the buffing of pieces, tags and paintings along the train line and other places. Abandoned sites that we are used to painting can be built upon and then it’s one less place to go, and there’s not many. Also, with the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow in 2014, the councils are embarking upon a mass cleanup of the city. They’re even employing a friend of mine to paint photorealistic murals around spots that have been a problem for graffiti for a long time. A lot of areas in the city need regeneration, but for any level of decent graffiti to survive, we need some areas too.
LVH: There used to be more legal Halls Of Fame in Glasgow. Did they inspire you to start doing graffiti in the first place?
E: I used to stay near an old graffiti legal hall of fame and so from a young age I would see new murals appearing without really knowing what they were about. Also, one of my friend’s older brothers was into graff, he did a lot of tags and throw-ups around my area in Glasgow. It seemed to fit in well with our habits of hanging around the streets at night, sneaking around and climbing scaffolding onto rooftops. We would usually sneak out at night from our houses to go painting, returning in the morning before our parents got up. I suppose it’s a mixture of the excitement, adrenaline and the idea that you’re getting involved in something subversive that spans a whole bunch of people around the world. I used to draw a lot when I was younger so the artistic elements of it appealed too. As soon as you start reading tags and noticing pieces, you suddenly are able to ”read“ entire streets, and I guess you almost start interacting with your city and its surfaces in a different way and see things from a different perspective.
“The particular style I do was actually the result of an accident”
LVH: Let’s talk about style. Your work doesn’t look like the typical old school New York graffiti that most graffiti artists do.
E: Well, I’m from the generation of graffiti artists where New York isn’t the only influence anymore, and there’s a lot of really interesting things coming from Europe and further afield. I don’t feel I have too much in common with NY graffiti, I’ve never been there and America doesn’t really hold too much appeal for me. One of the most important elements emphasised about graffiti and painting was originality and making your work stand out from the thousands of graffiti pieces that come into existence every day. So in that respect, I’ve been quite lucky to find a style that is quite unique to me. I was getting a bit bored of writing my name again and again, too many rules following letter after letter. So I decided to free it up a bit, paint shapes and letters that I like, where I like. Graffiti should be about breaking all forms of rules, including those that people try to impose upon the scene. I feel imposing rules is something quite characteristic of the people that emphasise the tradition of New York-style graffiti, and those of them that get angered or threatened by people doing their own thing. Graffiti is about freedom though, and painting what you want to paint regardless of anyone else.
LVH: Some say you have a “3D fantasy style.” Where does it come from?
E: I really like psychedelic art and surrealist art that messes with your mind, so I thought that incorporating that kind of angle into my graffiti would help to refine my own style. The particular style I do was actually a result of an accident in a way when painting onto a big black wall at a graffiti jam. I was doing a 3D style piece, but in the more traditional way that people approach them. I noticed the paint was having a mad effect on the black and just went with it. I was a bit of a happy accident, and it came to characterize my painting ever since. That happened around 2006, and it’s still one of the best pieces I’ve done in that style, which slightly irritates me all the same. (*laughs)