Andrew J. Steel's name may not be familiar to you, but if you've walked the streets of Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, his work will be. Formally one half of the street art duo BMD, Andrew has now gone solo and is currently putting the finishing touches on his takeover of the Allpress Studio in Auckland.
We had a chat with him prior to the gallery opening this Thursday night...
Firstly, why the split?
People change. Can a band that doesn’t practice or perform together still call itself a band? What about if they’re singing completely different songs? Most ideas or ventures don’t survive 10 years, so I see it as a victory BMD made the decade milestone. We had our fun but over time we grew apart, we’re interested in different things, so how we rolled had to change.
Now that you’re doing your own thing and can decide exactly what you want to do with your brand, what has become your main focus?
I’m about engaging people & making art for people. When you’re collaborating you can lose sight of why you do what you do & it can water things down. I think the goal is to wake up, go to bed, and do what you love in between. My main focus is to do that, as well as build up my own aesthetic & continue to create good work for people.
How did you first get into street art? Were you an artist at school?
I wasn’t a bad kid – like, I didn’t sell drugs or bully – I just didn’t like listening. I skateboarded for a few years and then I sort of traded my board in for paint at high school. I painted on and off the street for a few years in New Plymouth and was just having fun being a vandal & sneaking around. It wasn’t until I moved to Wellington that things became more of a full time affair and was painting 7 days a week between study.
Do you see yourself heading over to take on the walls of graffiti laden places, like Berlin, any time soon?
I’ve travelled a lot and paint everywhere I go. There’s crazy shit happening all over the world, but I like the idea of growing the culture here at home. I love painting through Asia’s emerging cities, they’re going through a huge culture transformation. Long term game, I have my sights on New York to join the conversation over there.
How did the AJS x Allpress Studio Takeover come about and what can people expect?
This opportunity came up like a week ago so it’s been crazy to piece it all together. I’ve done the best I can with the time I have had. I was given the keys to the kingdom to use the space how I liked. I’ve painted a series of wall installations, plus showing a limited edition letterpress prints & my latest silent auction. It’s a showcase of more of my recent interior work & I just want people to come engage with what I’ve done with the space.
I know that doing art on transferrable material is a very new thing for you, how many pieces will people be able to actually buy and take home from the gallery?
I’ve never sold a single piece of collectable artwork as myself until very recently as I went solo. I’m only releasing 12 original works per year, one new work per month, on silent auction. I’m showing my latest release at the Allpress studio takeover and people will be able to place silent bids on the night. I’ve also worked with a letterpress artisan to produce a limited run of impression prints, which has been a cool process. It’s my first print ever. I’ll be taking orders this week & will be available online.
How long will the gallery be open for?
The main evening this Thursday 11th 5-7pm, but the show will be running daily until Monday 15th and then I will destroy everything.
Who is your favourite street (or otherwise) artist currently and of all time?
Cleon Peterson & Steven Powers. Both very honest in the work they create.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever created?
I’ve done a lot of body painting for different projects. That’s about the most fun someone can have.
Where or what would you love to cover in paint?
The Sky Tower.
What’s the end goal?
Create good work, have fun, inspire others, provide some escapism for those seeking it, fall in love, make a book, sex.