Many leagues from murky subway tunnels and transport yards of New York, Bond Street’s Opera Gallery has been playing host to the work of SEEN, aka Richard Mirando. In the 70s, you’d have found him squeezing through gaps in wire fences to gain access to his canvas: the sides of subways trains or similar ‘found’ space, as well as hanging out with similarly pioneering street artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Despite a recent show in ‘proper’ surroundings, he is no less passionate about graffiti art. For SEEN, graffiti writing is an essential outlet for his creative juices. Anything and anywhere can be an art-space for SEEN, and the Opera Gallery isn’t “selling out” as long as people are seeing his work. The show focused on the superheroes and cartoon characters he grew up with, and many pieces are still on sale. And there will be more to come. Tirelessly enthusiastic, despite having been on the scene for longer than most, we haven’t seen the last of SEEN.
I read that you call yourself SEEN because you think it’s important for graffiti to be ‘seen’. Are you happy with the exposure your work currently has? Do you want it seen by as wide an audience as possible?
As a graffiti artist, wanted to be seen and known, I’ve worked my whole life for others to recognize the name SEEN so of course I’m happy with the exposure, but as a graffiti writer, it’s never enough. I expect much more before I die.
Is there an ideal location or set of circumstances for a graffiti writers work to be seen in?
Years ago, walls and subway cars were the places where it all grew from but now, today, there’s no special location or circumstances – anything goes.
Do you think the rise in security cameras and increased surveillance is a bad thing and likely to mean less graffiti writers getting their work out there?
Years ago, before cameras, there were barbwires and razor ribbons, and it never stopped anyone then. Why should a camera stop anybody today? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What do the superheroes you have used in recent work mean to you?
The characters I’ve used in my recent work are the same characters I used in my old work. I’m still a kid, I didn’t grow up.
Are you a fan of any comic artists and their approach to movement and character design?
As are a lot of people, I am a big fan of R. Crumb, Ed Roth of course and Jack Kirby.
How important do you think having constraints are, such as the law, and being in danger of personal risk when producing art?
I do not feel like I have any constraints, I have no problem defying the law. Although there’s always a risk but the risk is what fuels the machine, it gives you energy.
Do you collaborate with other artists, and if so how does that work?
No I don’t really collaborate with other artists. I’ve tried in the past but always felt my work clashed with others. It’s hard to work with somebody.
How do you prepare yourself before starting work on a piece of graffiti and do they often finish up as you intended them to?
There’s no plan, no idea, whatever happens in the end, happens in the end. God only knows. Whatever is my head…
Do you think great graffiti includes elements of either humour or political messages?
Talking for myself, my work has no political message, it’s just about what I feel at the moment.
For more information and available pieces, visit the Opera Gallery website.