Interview with Ant Carver as he puts on his latest show in the Truman Brewery

Keen observers of the East End street art scene may well have noticed Ant Carver’s work. Portraiture with a graffiti inspired twist, he is as happy putting his work up on the streets as he is exhibiting in a gallery.

It was this time last year that we first noticed his work here on Inspiring City. We spotted him at the annual Other Art Fair hosted inside the Truman Brewery and included him in our top 10 artists to see from that particular show.

Portrait on the Shoreditch Art Wall

Portrait on the Shoreditch Art Wall

Now, he’s back at the Truman, but not at the fair, which co-incidentally takes place at the same time. Now he has his own show which is just outside on Dray Walk. Called ‘Nothings Wrong, Somethings Right’, it’s his biggest to date and features 22 different portraits of people from all different cultures and backgrounds. “I wanted to produce a body of work where people’s immediate reaction to the painting was the most important thing” he told me.

Starting out doing graffiti when he was just thirteen, Carver soon realised that letter weren’t really his thing and so the experiments started with painting and “using wheat-pastes to get my work up”. Outside of the graffiti world he was influenced by the likes of Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon, started to use canvas and then honed his style over the years. “When it got to the time of leaving school it was the only thing I wanted to do” he says.

Ant Carver

His work now has developed from that period of experimentation. He tries to combine the use of tags and bright colours created with spray paint with more traditional painting techniques using oil paint and brushwork. “I enjoy being able to use both while working” he says. “The bright coloured backgrounds are looser and more abstract, whereas the painted details take a lot more time and concentration.”

Many of his images have historically been of famous people, but this is something that is changing. It gave access to a wide variety of images but for Carver it was what he describes as 50/50 with some people liking the work more because they can recognise the person but others disregarding it on account of it being a famous person. Recently making a decision to move away from the recognisable he’s started to take images himself and working with photographers to capture the original portrait of real people.

Street work in Camden

Street work in Camden

Painting on the street though is something he still enjoys, “originally it was pretty much the enjoyment of putting your name or work up illegally. Getting the buzz of putting something up, then seeing it as you go by the next day and seeing how long it lasts.” After spending the majority of his time in the studio he tells me that it’s a nice change, but “after hearing another joke about Banksy, it’s nice to know I can go back to my studio!”.

“The other thing it comes down to is ego” says Carver, “I think a lot of graffiti is ego based. The idea of putting your name or work in as many places as possible and as big as possible and so that as many people as possible see it has to be egocentric in some way. I want as many people to see my work as possible, and where better to put it than on the street.”

‘Nothing’s right, something’s wrong’ by Ant Carver is on show in Shop 7, Dray Walk at the Old Truman Brewery from Wednesday 14 October 2015 to Tuesday 20 October 2015. Ant was interviewed over email on 12 October 2015 and he also has supplied all pictures used within this post unless otherwise noted.

Ant Carver Gallery

This recent work can be seen on Brick Lane

This recent work can be seen on Brick Lane, photo by Inspiring City

Image from the show by Inspiring City

Image from the show by Inspiring City

Jeff Bridges street work

Jeff Bridges street work

Portrait from the show

Portrait from the show

eye close up

eye close up

Bob marley musing

Musing away

more detail

more detail

Portrait with a graffit influence

Portrait with a graffit influence

Portrait by Ant Carver at the Other Art Fair taken in 2014 by Inspiring City

Portrait by Ant Carver at the Other Art Fair taken in 2014 by Inspiring City

For more of Ant Carvers work check out this interview with him on the London Calling Blog which also features a lot more pictures.