‎Insomniac Events
Price: Free

He’s Leeds coolest wall illusionist, a brigand of the back alleys, and a musician on the side. Using cellophane wrap, he creates hanging paintings that seem to float like ghosts in the streets. We got a hold of Replete in the midst of his latest work to talk about how he got started making his fantastic, otherworldly pieces, his side career scratching records, and the way music fuels the flow of his paintings.

“Everyone should try to get a better feel for the x, y, z environment in which you find yourself. Learn its ways and plays. Brush your hand over its face, and feel the fractal funk amongst the surface noise crackle across the ridges of your digits.”

You are both an artist and a musician, right? What’s your origin story?
Yeah, I’m a bit of both, and they sort of happened together. It all started around age 11 with a hand-me-down Saisho Walkman. The tape it came with was one of those contemporary compilations, like Now Music or Smash Hits. I constantly looped the one decent track on the tape through my childish cranium, which was Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky,” and that inducted me into the world of hip-hop.

After amassing enough hip-hop tapes that one friend noted I had “enough hardcore rap to make a bed out of,” another friend gave me his unwanted collection of Hip-Hop Connection magazines. Sandwiched in the well-thumbed pages, I stumbled across the graffiti sections, and my eyes were instantly hooked on the wild styles jumping off the pages.

Those images inspired you?
They completely inspired me. The pieces perched on the pages spoke to me in cryptic and sly tones, inviting me to come and join in, like when a shady older boy with a box of matches and a can of petrol asks you to come along for a spot of friendly carnage.

Sketches gave way to sessions of furtive slinking down the paint racks of the local car parts store—under the cast-iron cover story that “I needed some car paint to paint my BMX.” With a payload of paint in my Puma Sport school bag, I ventured forth into the all-embracing, forgiving and forgetting cloak of the night.

When you walk out into the night, what types of spaces inspire you?
Derelict spaces speak to me the most; while I create within them, I can sense the ghost of heavy industry all around, which really helps breathe some afterlife into the murals and installations.

How about your 3D pieces—how do you make those crazy things?
It’s all about the tonal shading. The graduation of the tones from light to dark is key, as are the shadows and their placement to really pop the piece out and over the confines of the 2D clutches of the wall’s surface.

You also produce a lot of true 3D illusions. They are almost like wall sculptures. How do you achieve those effects?
Most take some form of what I call “anamorphisms,” where the image is incrementally stretched and distorted to give the effect of height and depth. Coupled with using light and shadow within the piece, this mind-mangling is further enhanced.

Another common way of wrangling the eye is with my cling filming. Using cellophane film, I’m able to break apart the image and spread it across several surfaces, with different parts of the image being staggered across the cellophane. So, in that plane piece, the wing will be 10 meters back from a layer that has the nose cone, thus giving a great depth effect.

What sort of aesthetic do you try for with those pieces?
I’m aiming for a faceted, 3D origami look that’s technical but not a slave to technique; there’s usually not the time for that, since the pieces are so fragile. Anything from a mere breeze to an amped-up tramp stumbling through will shred the sculptures apart.

There is also a bomb theme in your 3D work and a few pieces that nod to Dr. Strangelove. Why that movie?
Kubrick’s films expanded my horizons like no other. I just like to return what he did for me with a nod of my head now and again.

What else inspires your work?
Various artists have inspired me throughout my three decades, but I don’t get stuck on any one in particular, as my mind gets bored in a rapid manner and thirsts to see something new. So for every part of my life, there’s a different artist to denote that period.

Chronologically, the list would begin with Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and H.R. Giger. When I was seven, I got my hands on a second-hand book of the artwork from Alien. That burned itself indelibly into my mind. This kick started my major passion for concept and fantasy art. Foss and especially Cobb’s approach to creating believable spacecraft with fully thought-out functionality clicked with me and my penchant for creating my own world with my Lego blocks. Cobb would include every little detail, down to engine tolerances and plausible layout of the ship systems.

Giger appealed to the darker side of my nature with his biomechanical ethos, as I’ve always identified with binding flesh with technology to form a seamless merger of man and machine. In my teenage years, a hallucinogen-fueled period, I focused on the melting imagery of Dalí and the seedy, warped world of Francis Bacon.

Your pieces have a sort of digital look as well. Why that choice?
That partly stems from my video game makery and my love of the triangular. Plus, I wanted a break from the realistic portraits I’d been doing before. I wanted to bring in movement to the pieces, but in a more immediate way, without having to spend a week rendering each frame of the motion in the laborious processes involved with achieving realism.

Making video games really helped with those forms?
My days placing pixels have helped me massively, as most of my concepts start as CGI 3D models. Once constructed, with the slip of a slider I can change the lighting, textures and shadows to match it to a pre-scouted location; so the final piece just falls right into place with some on-the-spot tweakery.

Let’s turn back to your music. Tell us a bit about your DJ career.
I used to create content for Coldcut’s AV performances utilizing their innovative visual manipulation software, VJamm. That software gripped me firmly by the eyeballs. If you’ve ever witnessed their live reworking of the Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You” (featuring my ninja visuals) you’ll fully understand what I’m banging on about.

They got you into it?
Yeah, following their shining example, I cobbled together a makeshift collection of equipment and software. One item included a set of midi turntables. With the aid of a little fancy computer coding, I turned them into a fully functioning AV midi controller that allowed me to scratch my 3D animation and audio live onstage. To add further to my onstage performance presence, I attached a strap to the midi decks and slung them round my neck. Now I could throw myself about the place like a cross between a cock-rock guitarist and the DJ from Tone-Lōc’s “Wild Thing” video.

My own music has taken a back seat, for the time being, to give my art the time and attention it needs in order to push my boundaries. But recently, I’ve got my stacks of wax out and have been dusting off their neglected, paint-spattered grooves with a few scratch sessions. There are a few mini mashup mixes to be found on my YouTube channel:

How does your music influence your art, and vice versa?
Music is entirely essential to my painting process and me. I’ll prescribe different doses of sound into my ear canals to get the desired result. Let’s say I’m working on something intricate. In order to engender the right mood, I’ll select something chilled and similar in structure to what I want to project onto the wall.

Conversely, if I feel I need to paint faster or more expressively, I’ll dial up something with a high beat count, loaded with energy. Music of this type has the most dramatic effect on a piece, as it makes me highly animated, causing me to freestyle, splatting, flicking and boldly applying paint in rapid, unrehearsed movements. I get so involved and lost within the track, it takes control of me. What I paint is a visual representation of the music flooding my head.

What’s next for you—any new projects in the works?
I’ve been experimenting as of late with another household staple, like the 3D cellophane thing, but that’s currently under wraps.

We are excited to see it when you unveil it. What would you like to say to readers and any aspiring graffiti artists out there?
Everyone should try to get a better feel for the x, y, z environment in which you find yourself. Learn its ways and plays. Brush your hand over its face, and feel the fractal funk amongst the surface noise crackle across the ridges of your digits.


Insomniac Radio
  • 1 Sounds of our festival stages streaming 24/7. INSOMNIAC RADIO