Bortusk Leer is known to some as a street artist, to others a sculptural artist and a gallery artist - wherever you find his work, his bold, bright, childlike imagery makes him undeniably recognisable. His signature Monsters can be found inspiring smiles on streets all over the world and his larger work has been exhibited in; Norway, Italy, France, New York & Argentina to name just a few.
Bortusk himself is a work of art, an alter ego, an abstract character with Slovenian/19th century origins who represents this British artist now based in Amsterdam. Bortusk Leer starts 2017 with a new solo show 'Fuck Off Winter' at the Dampkring Gallery, Amsterdam (opening Saturday 18th February). I visited him in his studio last week to see the new work he is creating for it and to chat about his curiosity & creativity.
The Curious Interview with Bortusk Leer
What are you most curious about?
I am curious about so many things but I'm most curious about the concept of Play and how to use it within my art. Everything I make has a strong element of Play - I don't really plan anything and my process initially comes from this place of play and freedom.
I can remember as a kid, being 11/12 years old and older kids telling me I wasn't allowed to play with toys anymore, at a certain age it had become socially taboo to play with your toys in public. I was fascinated by that, who makes that decision for society? From there I became curious about the different ways we play as an adult and how it varies from the way a kid does.
How does your curiosity serve your creativity?
Well everything I do is playful, I very rarely plan what I am going to do, it's usually very spontaneous. I make in the moment and then it comes together later so I use my curiosity about Play and achieving a state of Play everyday in my studio.
I paint to entertain myself, it's a form of self entertainment, I always think if my art has that effect on me maybe it'll have that effect on someone else.
What inspires you?
Things that are fun and uplifting inspire me as an artist. I can appreciate dark art but I always thought it was easier to make things that are dark, things that are about being pissed off and how negative things are. Even when I was an art student, when I look back on my notes from those days, I was always trying to make positive art. To make people smile with my art, to create a positive emotion, because that's what art should do really, cause some form of emotion in the viewer, negative or positive.
I always find it more challenging to make positive work and certainly to maintain it.
I am inspired by found materials, pieces of wood, toys, things I spot in skips, by rubbish bins. This goes back to the element of play for me - there are no rules to make art, the only rules that are there have been made by the art establishment. I'm sure I'm inspired by artists like Rauschenberg who used to find things on the street. I'll find things and maybe have them knocking around my studio for ages and suddenly have an idea for it, something that makes me laugh. I also like sticking a painting onto another painting, making it more sculptural...it's all very spontaneous. I just see there's no rules for making art, for what I do anyway. I just want to throw out a positive emotion.
When it comes to my bigger pieces I purposefully want them to be hard to look at, we live in such a time of disposable imagery that I don't want to you look at my art and be able to work it out immediately. You can find something new a hundred different times when you look at my new pieces.
How would you describe your style?
It's a little like my art, I dress how I feel that morning. I like to think of myself as scruffy casual, I have smartened up as I get older though.
I enjoy dressing up, for special occasions. I like putting on a bit of an outfit and becoming a character, like my alter ego, Bortusk Leer, he is definitely better dressed than me.
I like the fun of dressing up, I like the process of trying things on and seeing if they work. It's a good time to focus on yourself, me time.
Dressing up makes me feel more glamorous, it doesn't change my personality but it helps with the alter ego. Standing out a little makes it easier to be Bortusk.
I like creative details even in an everyday outfit, like my jewellery, and I think that's about expressing my individuality, even when I was younger I couldn't stand conforming to a uniform look. I used to get in trouble at school for doing things to my uniform.
What do you particularly like about Wool & Water?
I really love the passion you have for it. I think what I like the most is that it's unique and playful, it's just cool. It's something different.
" When I wear my Wool & Water Skinny Tie I...
feel like a Rockstar!"
Bortusk Leer's Wool & Water piece of choice is the Black/Grey Marl Contrast Skinny Tie.