Mad C: C-ing is believing
Mad C is fierce- in both senses of the word. The thirty one year old graffiti artist and writer, also known as Claudia Walde, was born and raised in Germany, before living for several years in Ethiopia. She cut her artistic teeth studying design and communication at the Burg Giebichstein University, before branching out into animation at the celebrated Central St. Martin’s College, London. Her work is an explosion of colours and ideas, with a distinctly pan- global sensibility – sure, the hip-hop/urban elements are there, but you can also detect film noir, African design, Expressionism and the work of the late Louise Bourgeois, in her spiky graphics of volcanic lava reds and midnight blues. The sheer scale of her work is vertiginous- massive concrete walls have been given her unique treatment…going through thousands of aerosol cans in the process (1,489 cans, to be precise!) An incendiary talent…stand well back and watch her ignite!
First question may be obvious, but let’s do it- who is your favourite artist of all time?
Vincent Van Gogh! I love the energy of his lines and compositions and his vivid colour combinations. I’m convinced he had loved the graffiti culture had he lived to see it. Also I have a lot of respect for artists who didn’t give up when no one understood their art and who dared to be different.
One for all the Banksy sceptics- Banksy, or Blek Le Rat?
Both! As far as I know I never met Banksy but I had the pleasure of spending quite some time with Blek. He is a very down to earth person, which I admire a lot. Obviously Blek is the godfather of stencil graffiti and was copied by Banksy a lot – willingly or unwillingly. I see Blek more as an artist while I see Banksy as an entertainer. Both ways are a nice approach. Banksy’s work is very smart and I think his documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop” was a fantastic exposure of the art world.
Where do you stand on the “using stencils in graffiti art is cheating” debate?
I’m quite open to everything. So discussions like that just make me smile. I think it’s two different approaches and each one has its justification. Of course I respect can control a lot, but diversity is what’s most important to me. So bring all the tools possible!
What would you say to the critics of graffiti art who claim there is no real artistic merit?
I believe the art world simply didn’t understand graffiti writing fully till today. Most critics have difficulties seeing the variety and the artistic skill of painting letters. The illegality of graffiti writing is also counter-productive for this art form to be taken seriously by those people. In the end there’s not much difference between a portrait with eyes, nose and mouth and a letter with serifs and lines and curves. A letter can be as much a portrait with personality and meaning as a face can be. And that’s just one example of many. But I am sure we will reach the point when critics and collectors breach those barriers and finally open their eyes a little wider to see that. In the end the graffiti writing movement is the most exciting art that has arisen in a long time.
I see a lot of cinematic influences in your work- would I be right in saying film noir is a big interest of yours?
Yes, all sorts of film and animation influenced me. I haven’t found much inspiration in the graffiti art world for quite a while now and therefore have been influenced by other media and also contemporary art.
Are there any buildings you would like to make over?
Absolutely! I think I’d find at least one building in every street I’d like to fill with life by painting it, no matter where in the world. I love to integrate architecture in my work. Painting walls like a frame or sticker became quite boring over the years. I always try to find more interesting options.
How is Europe different from the United States in terms of getting your work recognised?
I think it is not so different in general. You always have those who don’t understand and respect my kind of art and then you have those that are more open-minded and support you widely. I think the only real difference is in the laws. The US and UK for example totally exaggerate it and put young adults and artists in jail for years instead of giving them a chance to evolve. Luckily it’s not as bad in Germany for example. You have to pay heavy fines when caught doing illegal graffiti stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin your life.
What is next for you?
I’m not really planning much, I have tons of ideas in my head and just go with the flow and see where they’re taking me. What I know by now is that I have a big group show coming up in December in Germany and a solo show in Switzerland at the La Grille gallery in February 2012. In March and April 2012 I’ll be in Oslo, Norway for a commission and I’ll be painting in South America again next year. This time I’ll be going to Peru. I’m curious what else 2012 will bring.
Text: Lorna Irvine
Photography: Marco Prosch