It’s always wonderful to reconnect with artists and individuals who we cover with U.G. Digital Magazine. Many will remember that we first connected with A5kem nearly two years back for one of our many issues. Arguably, he’s one of the most artistic people you’ll find , titling his brand an legacy ‘Art You Can Hear”. Over the years, he’s created amazing artwork of some of urban music’s largest figures, and that work as been recognized all around the world by many of those artists.
We’ve reconnected with him to get a much-needed update on his journey, and where his work has taken him since we last spoke.
U.G. Digital Mag: First of all, I have to really thank you for this opportunity. You were so instrumental in our early success as a publication. I've always wanted to give light and shine to individuals like yourself, and your willingness to participate in one of our early issues was so appreciated. Thank you for this time around as well. I have so much respect for you and what you're doing. I understand how big this is for you, and at the same time, it's just your everyday life. I love how your artwork really depicts the artists in the way we know then, but i sort of feel like it also defines them in a totally new way. Talk to me about what's in your mind when you create?
A5kem: I love to create images that resonate with the target audience. Like a song, I aim to allow each image to speak to the individual and invoke memories and emotions. Through this imagery that I entitle 'Art You Can Hear' I aim to have each image take you on a journey, to relive that first moment when you heard a particular song or artist. I think this is important as I create a relationship between the individual viewer and each image. Art is really about the experience and what it gives to you both visually and mentally, but without the pretentious 'art speak' that so much art has as an almost ball and chain around it. I think that if art is presented in that way it can very intimidating for the audience and potential buyers.
U.G. Digital Mag: What gives you the passion to create? Do you go through periods where you've kind of had it and you put it down for a while? If so, what brings you back to that mood of creativity?
A5kem: Well, I began my artistic career as a surrealist, painting dark images that came from deep within my soul. This form of art caused me to pack up tools and walk away for a year or so. I just felt as though the work had become almost like a form of therapy and each canvas was a record of my poor mental state. I returned to art with a completely different perspective and mission and that was to chronicle my lifelong love of Hip Hop. Hip Hop really is my inspiration, from the unique and powerful story telling and socially conscious lyrics of the golden era to today's interpretation. Hip Hop always enables me to find inspiration and opens the door for creativity.
U.G. Digital Mag: What's happening in your mind while you're creating? What thoughts are flowing in reference to that particular artist?
A5kem: Typically I try to find a hook that associates the artist with something that relates to their character, for an example I did a Kanye West piece where I had many hidden faces within the main portrait and references to Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. I think this reflects the spectrum of Kanye's personality and creativity. My thoughts are to always challenge the audience with what I create, to create something that is truly iconic and unique from any other artist’s work, again 'Art You Can Hear'.
U.G. Digital Mag: You've gained so much more acclaim in the past year and I think it's amazing. Speaking from the mind of creativity, I absolutely love the entertainment industry, and it excites me when I interview someone and they love it. There so much bad media, and people who are vindictive when writing about pop and urban culture, so I love when people see my true intentions. How do you feel to see people like Chuck D on a plane posting about you, or any other artist for that matter who has given you praise?
A5kem: For me having artists such as Chuck D provide validation and interest in my work is what makes it all worthwhile, these are artists which inspire me and through they’re craft have allowed me to grow not only as an artist but as an individual. It is something that really gels well with my ethos and vision for the work as ultimately I am recording their craft so the relationship is essential to be a two way thing built on mutual respect and love for each other’s work.
U.G. Digital Mag: How has business been for you now that more people know of you?
A5kem: Art is always a challenge and there are so many preconceived ideas of what or how art should be presented and defined and with the presence of social media it is an even bigger challenge for artists, however I have been fortunate to cultivate a good following and have built many contacts within Hip-Hop itself that it has allowed me to have art as my day job.
U.G. Digital Mag: Where do you see things heading in the future in terms of artistry, and the subjects you want to depict moving forward?
A5kem: Currently I am working on a book with Chuck D and some fellow artists. This should appear at some point in the summer. I also plan to move stateside and bring ‘Art You Can Hear’ to America as it will allow greater opportunities to grow and diversify my work. I visualize creating an art foundation at some point where I can facilitate teaching art to young people and bringing art to urban America.
U.G. Digital Mag: Without me going into heavy detail, I know you've experiences some of life's most tragic moments throughout your time doing this. I can only imagine how it has affected your creativity and will to move in at times. How have you gotten inspired to move forward?
A5kem: Well, I would say that the beginning of this year has been without doubt the most difficult period in my life and I have really struggled to find the inspiration and motivation to move forward. Ultimately, I provide a service and there is an expectation for me to deliver consistently to an audience that has been loyal to me. So really, I draw inspiration from those who like my work. If I can keep them interested and enjoying my work that is the greatest reward and allows one to heal as well.
U.G. Digital Mag: What things can we look out for in the near future?
A5kem: As I mentioned a move to the USA where I will then be more accessible to my audience and Indeed providing access to the birthplace of Hip-Hop itself. I am looking at creating a full service art agency providing ‘Art You Can Hear’ to the industry and beyond.
U.G. Digital Mag: Any final thoughts at all?
A5kem: Thank you to a woman that gave me everything in life and always encouraged me to pursue and succeed with a career in art. A woman who is irreplaceable. My mother. The journey continues.