hometown: philadelphia, pa
Albus Cavus: When did you start doing art?
Eric Kennedy: Around 1998 I started learning how to paint and by 2001-2002 I was taking it seriously by exploring new approaches. At that time I played with paper and wax paper and I incorporated a lot of that into my canvases. Gradually it grew into collages, and found material art.
AC: Thatís when you had the first show with Albus Cavus.
EK: Yeah, it was still in the basement, tiny brick room, but itís still one of my favorite shows. You guys cooked for me too...
AC: At that time you showed mostly the elaborate abstracts, but thatís not the only type of work you do.
EK: From time to time I get into portraits. Large scale portraits of my friends, family, people I notice outside. Perhaps I have close connection to the people I paint but I donít really think about it like that. I just let it flow and I paint portraits of faces who I feel should be painted. I paint everybody. Some of the years I just do huge series of portraits. These canvases are about 6x6 feet. I have no place to store them.
AC: So you put them outside?
EK: Not the painted canvases. Those are just too elaborate and I canít get rid of them like that. The paste-ups that go on the street are drawings on paper. They are not mass-produced or photocopied. They are all originals. They still take a long time to make, but not as long as the canvas work. In any case, I like to place a lot of my work outside, so people can see it. I just wonder what they think when they see a face of my friend somewhere on a wall. Do they notice it? They do even if itís just subconscious.
AC: How many have you done and where?
EK: The whole bunch. I donít keep the count. They can be found on walls, freights, rooftop billboards, mostly in Philly and Jersey but also Paris in France. I like how they fit areas that are either dirty industrial places or old abandoned neighborhoods. There is just something about the feeling of the place and the texture of the environment that invites my work to be placed in the middle of it.
AC: Many people also wear your art.
EK: I made so many shirts, so many different designs that they started showing up in completely random places. One day my girlfriendís brother came back from Goodwill or some kind of thrift store and he bought my shirt that somebody donated to the store. I guess thatís what happens when you give away hundreds and hundreds of t-shirts.
AC: Recently you moved to Philadelphia?
EK: When I started being involved with Albus Cavus in New Jersey I still lived in Trenton area. Three years ago I moved to Philadelphia. That city and its richness of arts just pulled me over there. I felt like I had to go there and be closer to all that art.
AC: How would you describe your art? What is it about?
EK: Itís hard to explain. Very contradictory in my own approach. On one hand I like producing ďpaintings of nothingĒ that are produced through relaxation. Itís very similar to stream of consciousness writing as a literary technique. I donít have any specific idea. I only concentrate on the process. And thatís what becomes so confusing, because on the other hand itís everything around me influencing the process and the final painting. I go outside, itís nice sunny day and I get inspired just by that. And then I add the buildings, dirt on the street, people I pass on the way to work and eventually it all rolls out on my canvas. So they are paintings of nothing about everything in my perception.
AC: Your daily experience of the place where you are and the people in that place.
EK: Lately Iíve been collecting a lot of peeling old paint from building. Everywhere I go I notice there is old paint peeling of. And with the multiple layers itís like a history of the building. You can read it as a book and see how many different colors it was painted with in past. Something that is brown today used to be bright yellow and the whole block looked completely different. So I take these paint chips and I incorporate them into my paintings. Working with all objects in general is very interesting, because they have this interesting energy coming out of them. I enjoy drawing in old books thinking how many people have read and touched the pages before me.
AC: Is that daily experience your inspiration?
EK: Everything is my inspiration: my girlfriend, my good friends, places I visit and all positive things. Everything we perceive forms our personalities and how we interact with our surroundings.
AC: You are going to incorporate that into your piece that you will produce as part of the Concrete Alchemy?
EK: I am definitely bringing a garbage bag full of old paint chips with me and somehow they will find their way into the new murals we will be painting. Itíll add texture to the wall, more dimensions.
AC: What do you want to get out of the Concrete Alchemy?
EK: I have no idea what to expect. Already now Iím thinking how Iím going to work with everyone. I have no clue. Iím little nervous about that, but Iím sure it will al fall into place when we all arrive to our warehouse and start working together. Iím excited to meet everyone, though Iíve worked with some of the other artists in past.
AC: Whatís next after that?
EK: In July I will have a gallery show at the Mew Gallery in Philadelphia.