London, July 2012: Pablo Delgado is a relative newcomer whose work has been quietly emerging on London’s streets, if you can spot it. His scattered miniature people paste-ups depicting all kinds of scenes from the everyday to the surreal, have become well-documented on the web. Reconfiguring images taken from the net, Delgado’s figures, only a few inches high, are something like Alice In Wonderland interloping with the Borrowers, living in a parallel world existing alongside our own. Not meant to shock or offend, Delgado’s creations work instead on the experience of childlike surprise.
Though he might not have grown up with street art, coming out of a more traditional artistic background in Mexico, Delgado’s style is nonetheless hugely popular with Londoners since it began to appear around the East End, and is featured regularly at London Street Art, Vandalog, Hooked and other blogs, creating a new audience for ‘street art’ who access it remotely. It’s a neat approach, which no doubt has an academic influence – Delgado sees the figures as part of a process of how we assimilate art in contemporary society. We talk to him about what, when, why and how.
Charlotte Jansen: You are originally from Mexico – when and why did you come to London, and what were you doing before?
Pablo Delgado: I came to London three years ago. In Mexico, I was more into traditional painting, using acrylic mainly, and doing some graphic design. I initially came here to study for an MA in Contemporary Art at UEL that was based more in installation art. Then I started doing work on the street too.
CJ: How and when did you decide to start putting work out on the streets?
PD: A year and a half ago I started doing my first paste-ups; the reasons were more accidental, but mainly because I live in an area that is spread with street art and it became natural to do it. It looked like something fun to experience.
CJ: What do you like about using paste-ups in particular?
PD: I like the way they describe a relation between humans, nature and materials (objects or tools) and they are wide open to various interpretations. I consider them kind of surreal. The elements in the scenes become symbolic more than the figurative. They don’t touch on any one theme in particular; each scene can go from social matters to environmental issues, or simple lonely figures, but the purpose is to create a fantastic miniature world living among us with exactly the same elements that we use in life.
The randomness is very important to me... from the people to the place where they are placed. By not recognizing them, it allows for freer interpretations of what they mean. All the images come from a public space that everyone can access (the internet) and they are placed in a public space also accessed by everyone (the street), and after [having] been photographed and uploaded to the web, they return to their source with a different meaning…
CJ: You're not a conventional 'writer' – the scene is notorious for the way in which artists interact with not only the built environment but with each other's work – do you find the street art scene welcoming, or hostile? Has anyone ever gone over your work on the streets? If so how do you feel about it?
PD: In my personal experience I haven't received a hostile response to it; I don't know many other street artists, but the ones that I do know were very welcoming. I've only collaborated with one, but I think my work has to be alone to have a meaning. Interacting with others’ work reduces the surprise element that they have and the power of the figures’ loneliness. My work on the walls is very small, so it doesn't go over anything usually – and neither have I been painted over by any other artists (at least not that I know…).
CJ: Social media, especially blogs, as you mention before, seem to play an increasingly important role in contemporary street art; do you appreciate your work spreading in this way?
PD: Yes they take an important part in this, and I appreciate it... People are looking for new pieces and spread the word about where they are, keeping the contemporaneity of what is going on.... Most street art is ephemera and they make it endure by posting it onto the web. In my work specifically, bloggers are very important because they complete the circle by returning the images to the web.
CJ: Do you like doing work for galleries?
PD: Yes. It’s so different. In a meticulous way you have to work for the walls inside it, and create a relation between them. Galleries give you time to be more personal. And on the street it is better to be universal.
CJ: Why do you think the 'putitas' were so popular?
PD: Things that are in a smaller or bigger size can easily capture the imagination, because people become the fantasy itself by being the giants or the miniatures... I think they were fun for people to spot them… The prostitutes are the size they are supposed to be. They also belong to many cultures; they are atemporal and it’s something people recognize. Prostitutes were embraced by the East End area in London in the past, but nowadays it’s looked on differently.
CJ: Who are your favourite street artists emerging now?
PD: I’m still relatively new in this and not so into the ‘scene’, so I’m not clued in on who is coming up right now, but I know Mobstr is one of them I love his work... I like Connor Harrington, but who doesn't... Also Will Barras and HIN.
CJ: What was the last exhibition you saw?
PD: I've seen some exhibitions these [past few] months, but I'll say that the most significant lately was the David Shrigley at the Hayward gallery. I felt driven by the fun, freedom and simplicity that meshes together in his pieces.
CJ: What's the most unusual place you've pasted?
PD: In a bathroom.
ArtSlant would like to thank Pablo Delgado for his assistance in making this interview possible.
(All images: Courtesy Pablo Delgado)