ADW has taken a stanley blade to our post-boom wreckage in more ways than one. carving numerous stencils and hurling well-aimed barrages of humour at the myopic fools that landed us here.
We were more than a little peeved to see him getting his knuckles rapped at the Kings of Concrete. Redmonk caught up with him and found out what happened.
Just to get a bit more context on the piece, was it inspired by policing in Ireland or abroad? Is it a reflection on the Gardai or another police force?
I originally created the piece to reflect all ‘policing’ forces and the increasing militarisation of these forces employed to uphold the law. I guess the piece was born during the worldwide Occupy movements and the savage handling of the protesters. But the motivations dates back further for me and I often think about the unjust killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was mistaken by British police to be a terrorist and shot 8-times in the head at point blank range. The title ‘There is no justice, there’s just us’, was given to me by a friend fit perfectly. So, armed with a history of excessive police force, violence, cover-ups and corruption I set about creating the piece.
Did you get to finish it or were you asked to cover it up before completion?
Unfortunately I didn’t get to finish the piece. From the moment the first layer of spray-paint hit the wall the heat began to build until it boiled over about two hours later, with a very angry Tall Ships Organiser demanding the image be removed, backed up by about 6 Gardai and a paddy wagon.
On what grounds did the Gardai ask you to cover it up? Did they quote any Act or piece of legislation?
The Gardai didn’t speak to me. Firstly, I was approached by two Kings of Concrete organisers who informed me there had been complaints about the piece of artwork, the main complaint being the exposed bum. We agreed that I would cover the offending rear-end with some sticky tape and they were happy for me to complete the picture. A little while later I was informed by two more bemused Kings of Concrete organisers that the Gardai were unhappy with the image and were looking to get the piece completely removed. All the while I was being watched closely by two embarrassed Gardai as passers-by could be heard jeering them with comments like ‘’are you going to let him paint that?’’. It all came to a head soon after when a Tall Ship organiser flanked by Gardai demanded the piece removed. Not wanting my partner and son (who were helping me out for the day) see me being hauled away I crumbled under the pressure.
Reading the feedback online suggests some people feel the piece might have been unsuitable considering the age demographic at the festival. Considering it was a legal piece, what would be your response to this?
It was interesting to see the public reaction to the piece and the subsequent story, although there was a lot of support in my corner there was also a lot of criticism regarding the piece and its content. I honestly arrived on the opening day of the festival, looking forward to painting a new piece of artwork, blinkers on, not thinking that the image would be as controversial as it became. I have two sons and if either of them asked me what the artwork meant I would try my best to honestly answer them. In fact I answer any of their questions as honestly as I can.
The female depicted in the image is the Lady of Justice. The blindfold represents her decisions to be objective and impartial and not to be influenced by wealth, power, status or politics. In one hand she holds the scales of justice which represents her careful weighing the claims of each side. Her sword which represents her willingness to defend her decisions lies broken beside the riot shield. It’s interesting to note that her portrayal of goddess by both the Greek and Romans of ancient time through the Renaissance has been bare or barely draped which was a sign of virtue, or good or justice. The piece of artwork was not in any way glorifying violence against women Nor was it any way condoning sexual violence. Nor was it solely aimed at the Irish police force. I think it’s a shame that the point of the piece was lost on some people.
Your pieces over the years tend to be politically charged. Has this been a constant feature in your work?
Political and social themes can be found running through some of my art although it is not always the main motivation. I do like to add some humour to issues that tend to be serious, hoping to raise a smile and engage the public. Creating and painting is a way for me to try figure out this crazy world we live in.
Do you feel there’s a certain obligation on artists to make political statements and raise questions this way?
No obligations are needed by anybody in any role or profession. I think we need the Bob Dylans in this world as much we need the Jedwards, otherwise the world would be a pretty dull place. Although street-art is a great tool to make a powerful statement and over the last few years there have been some iconic, politically-charged images created from a host of amazing artists from around the world.
Despite the piece getting covered up, this seems like something of a victory. Do you think the rash judgement of the Gardai on the day has backfired on them somewhat?
It didn’t feel victorious, and up until now the finished image had yet to be seen in all it’s glory. I wasn’t anticipating such a heavy Gardai presence at the event and I guess it hit a nerve, their overreaction and eventual shit-storm proved this.
What’s in the pipeline? How will you feed this experience back into your future plans?
I have a few projects I’m working on at the moment and plan to keep busy doing what I love. I’m constantly learning and growing and these sort of experiences I believe can only benefit me as an artist. In future though I will be more aware of the pitfalls of painting at a legal event.
Make sure you grab a print copy for this whopper pull out poster…