The Dust Diaries

NYAB talks with dust, the German/Swiss artist and toy designer whose current exhibition is up at My Plastic Heart on the LES.

poster for

"Surreal Minds" Exhibition

at myplasticheart
in the Lower East Side area
This event has ended - (2009-06-26 - 2009-07-26)

In Interviews by Amanda Scigaj 2009-07-07 print

With a style influenced by American graffiti, the German/Swiss artist and toy designer dust manipulates his spray-painted work into abstract, gesticulating forms that represent a natural world under attack. Growing up in the abandoned landscapes of post-industrial Europe, dust started in the streets as a tagger and grew to incorporate painting, illustration and, most recently, toy design. Beginning with RAS Troops (Radical Action Suit) in 2006, his miniature figures manage to be both dark and cute. NYAB caught up with him before the opening of his show, “Surreal Minds,” and the release of his new design toy Schergen, at My Plastic Heart on the LES.

Where did you get the name dust?

I call my website dirty dust, industrial dust. When we die we all become dust. That’s how life changes—through modifications, and that’s the main reason why I call myself dust.

You do canvas murals, designs, illustrations, and most recently, toys. Why toys?

It was funny, because when I was creating my first prototype, I didn’t know that there was a big scene like Kid Robot and Strange Echo because Germany is very virgin in that case. We don’t have galleries like My Plastic Heart or a Kid Robot concept store. Now there is a market for design toys, just sculptures, figures, and whatever.

Tell me about the limited edition pieces you brought for the “Surreal Minds” show here in NYC. What were your influences?

The figures are called Schergen, the English word I don’t have in my mind right now. They have a skull face, and they look really bad—or not, you don’t know. On one hand they are evil and dark, and one hand they look lovely, cute, small. It’s a combination of both. They come with a big robe and are they are hiding their faces because they are dead.

What is the reaction to your work here?

Reaction is very good. People come see my stuff and all canvas pieces I spray-painted, so it’s a new
expressive way to work with spray paint. I think others use it as it is, but I mix the colors, put them together, put some water in it, and then light it up again. Then I go ahead and put some oil in it. The process is very important for my work, and it is a completely new way of drawing.

Working with spray paint can be unpredictable. Do you have an exact idea how something will be before you start?

Anytime I start, I think about the wall. I think about placement. I complete the thought in my mind and then I go ahead and draw it.


How long does the whole process take?

[For my paintings,] two and a half days. When I spray it, it is fast, but the detail work takes a lot more time to bring it to life.

A lot of your work is industrial in theme with darker colors. It’s abstract, almost post-apocalyptic, but then you have a series called The Teddies. Where does that come from?. They are more cute, and colorful.

My paintings, the serial abstract forms, are an aggressive version when nature strikes back from the natural cosmos. The imagery is of these surreal things, a grotesque, dirty style of painting, and it shows the destruction of nature and how nature tries to fight back. The Teddies are like a symbol for the animals that live in nature. They don’t have a mouth, so they cannot speak, but it’s about how human beings think they are so cute but we destroy them when we are not careful with mother nature. It’s like this ancient Native American comment, “When the last tree is cut up, when the last fish is caught, and the last river is dried out, then you see what you need and what you don’t have any more.” The abstract works are more difficult to interpret, but with The Teddies, it’s easier.

Do you think that your work doing graffiti when you were younger—having worked in a lot of industrial places—has that affected your work now?

Maybe. I started as a young kid with graffiti, but then at the age of 17 or 18 I developed my style more into the fine art/street art genre, because my thoughts were too complex to combine into one tag, or to put it in simple style…I think I’m also influenced by my education and study time, all that fine art stuff, and painting so much. I think about what I want to paint and what I want to communicate through my paintings. Surreal abstract forms, and also nature, play a story behind all the funky dust work where little creatures run out like crazy guys, and battle on the streets.

Amanda Scigaj

Amanda Scigaj. Amanda Scigaj grew up in Buffalo, New York certain that football ruined her childhood. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2007 she helped build DIY venue Bodega, ran art shows, and became music editor for libertine publication Chief Magazine. She currently splits her time between the production department of a publishing company, and as a freelance writer. In her free time she likes to record hunt, learn random factual information, and is really trying to finish that Robert Moses biography. » See other writings

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