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SPUD1, one of Toronto's most notorious graffiti writers, discusses his views on art ahead of his Pride Week show Lust, which opens Thursday June 26 at Studio Bar (824 Dundas West). The opening features live burlesque performances by Trixi Jones, Obskyura and Percy Katt.
What is the origin of the name SPUD?
SPUD is a nickname I got years ago when I was skateboarding. But did I tell you that I'm an urban gardener as well? You should see the little gardens I've grown. I love farming, taking potatoes out of the ground.
How has spending time on a farm affected your view of living in a city?
I was raised to work man, that's one thing my parents taught me. There's nothing free in this life. So even if I'm doing graffiti illegally, I'm still gonna put 500 per cent into that graff.
Why have you switched to writing SPUD1 instead of SPUD?
Because I'm the original. There's a couple of other people who write SPUD around the world now, but I'm the first one, so people need to know that.
Tell me about the first time you ever painted graffiti.
Oh wow. I dropped a pressurized aerosol can on a rock and it helicoptered, spraying paint over everyone, cars, everything. I went home that day fucking covered in paint. That's when I knew graffiti was for me.
When you paint a name on a bridge or a rooftop, what does that add to the space?
In Canada, you look around and all you see is grey concrete. It's depressing. I'd rather see a colourful fucking wall with yellows and oranges and pistachio greens.
On Toronto being behind the curve on graffiti and street art.
I've been to other cities where they might not have the development this city has, maybe they've been left behind a bit, but these cities are flourishing with art and embracing their artists. They're putting their artists on the map on the world stage. Whereas, here in Toronto up until now they've been putting down the artist, putting down the people like me who create free street art for people.
What kind of sacrifices have you had to make?
You give and give and give. For years I paid for your own supplies. People don't realize you put a lot of money into this sport, into this game. I don't ask anyone who walks by to put a penny in the hat next to the art. Do they ever sit down and think that it takes people money to do art? No. They have their opinions. They might like it or they might hate it. But at the end of the day I'm putting it out there for all you people to look at.
Any major accidents?
One time I was painting a roof with this buddy and I stepped into one of my letters that I had just painted, and start sliding 30 feet down on my back, trying to grab the roof, trying to stop myself and coming to the edge and thinking "Oh fuck, I'm gonna fall off this roof." My belt got caught on a pipe and that's what saved my ass, otherwise whoosh. That's some scary shit.
Which among the pieces you've painted is your favourite?
Probably at 5 Pointz [an abandoned factory in Long Island City]. 5 Pointz is basically a get-together for likeminded artists, people who choose to use the aerosol can as their medium to produce art. They gave me an opportunity to paint one of the biggest blockbusters on their building - let me do this huge roller on the rooftop that's like 2-3 stories.
What do you want Torontonians to know about your art?
That I don't just do graff. Also, I'm not gonna stop.