London-born artist Lord K2 has made waves of late with his publication Street Art Santiago. But behind his fascinating exploration of the Chilean graffiti scene, lies an artist who understands how to capture the essence of visual excitement. Known for his photography and stencil graffiti, he began his professional career at the London College Printing before moving on to study business. Although he has always been an artist at heart, Lord K2 spent a large part of his working life trading stocks and travelling extensively – which in turn showed him first-hand what the world’s economy is truly like.
Soon after, he made his leap into the art world, spray paint and stencils in hand. After learning his skills in sunny Buenos Aires and spending a two-year stint in Latin America, he now resides in New York, planting seeds of change. Perhaps the most curious thing about Lord K2 is that he rarely signs his work on the streets. Added to this is its sheer variety in style, making it difficult to trace.
His documentation of the urban art scene in Chile is raw and bold, showing how this underground movement originated in the ‘hood’ and remains popular there. Street Art Santiago explores the inner workings of this movement, how it is valued locally, the captivating contrasts between the old and new school. What rings true in this book is Lord K2’s exceptional ability to stretch beyond the creation of street art to document the process itself. He captures the essence of each piece, the elation and freedom in each artist’s face as he covers the wall in an intricate burst of colour. Through his raw images, Lord K2 brings us closer to the art by sharing intimate parts of the process – from conception on a piece of notepad to dangerous positions along high walls to the final magnificent masterpiece.
His works have been featured in galleries in New York and London, with his Muay Thai Kids collection on display at the Bazel Gallery in Tel Aviv this coming December. These days, he is working on a number of documentary photography projects, soon to be revealed. beautiful.bizarre caught up with Lord K2 to find out what his creative process is and how he fell into photographing the street art scene.
You really have a knack for capturing the action in a shot, for grabbing a viewer’s attention and getting their curiosity piqued. What are your techniques or methods for capturing the perfect moment to tell your story?
First of all, I will define what I want to capture from the shot, what emotion, what statement, what type of perspective, and whether I will print it in colour or black and white. I would usually also have a full picture of the story I’m looking to convey so each photo is an addition to the overall story. This way my photographs are deliberate and focused towards a well-balanced portfolio.
In Street Art Santiago, you manage to capture each graffiti artist’s soul for their work – both through quotes and vivid imagery. When do you realise that theirs is a story worth telling? How do you elicit the right answers that match your visual story?
I realise their story is worth telling by the meaning and passion in which they convey their story. I’ll know soon enough whether it’s stemming from the ego and shallow, or whether it’s something deeper, then I can decipher how or if to document them. Regarding eliciting the right answers that match my visual story, I’d make sure I know what I want from the person I am documenting. Whether I take a photograph or conduct an interview, it makes no difference to the story – it is just expressed in a different form. I prefer by far to capture a story in a visual form as opposed to interviews. When I do conduct interviews, it is usually to provide me with ammunition to take more relevant photos.
What was one of your favourite experiences in putting this book together?
Definitely taking photos of the artists in action, especially when they act without permission, and move about at a frenetic pace. It means that I must stay present, focused and constantly evaluate my positioning at a pace that is just as frenetic.
Full cover view of Street Art Santiago
People don’t know too much about your background except that you went from trading stocks to underground art. When did you make the shift, and what was it like settling into the creative world after working in the world of business? Also why did you make the shift in careers?
I made the shift about four years ago as I wanted a new challenge. Even though for the most part I really enjoyed trading stocks, it is tough mentally. I also found it difficult to switch off from the stock market, especially when trading Foreign Exchange as the market trades 24 hours per day. I honestly thought that the art world would be a permanent vacation. I think I work just as hard as an artist as I did on my stocks – I guess it’s in my nature to work so much. What I like in the art world is that it’s very much feeling-orientated and I am allowed to make mistakes and experiment as opposed to the stock market; also I have no major goals apart from discovering how to enjoy the process of my work, and continual learning and evolving as an artist. The end result is definitely secondary in relevance.
Aside from documenting the street art scene, you’re also involved in it. What were some of your most recent works? What is your creative process?
The last time I worked on a wall was around two years ago. My style is to use stencils with spray paint. I was working on a Victim series where my characters were bar coded and QR coded, as they were not only consumers but also the consumed. It’s a long story, but I still buy mass-produced chemical ridden foods knowing that I’m poisoning my body, so I’m also a victim.
What goes into making street art, especially in a world that is still torn between accepting its value as an art form and crying vandalism? What kind of dangers do you face, what kind of equipment do you like using?
I don’t face many dangers as the act of spraying graffiti illegally doesn’t do anything for me, nor do I involve myself in political graffiti. I was spraying in South America without permission as I knew it was tolerated, I was painting fine art pieces that even the police were admiring. Re: the equipment, I use spray cans, it’s quick and I like the feel of the spray can.
Where did the name Lord K2 come from, what is its significance?
I never really gave too much thought to my name! I initially decided on K2 whilst watching K1 Kick Boxing, and after a while, I realized that I may need a slightly more unique name. Within a few minutes, I came up with the name Lord K2, I guess partly because I’m English and partly because it gives me a title to live up to.
Tell us a bit about Muay Thai Kids, set for an upcoming exhibit in Tel Aviv. What was your inspiration for this collection?
I was mainly documenting the kids pre-fight; it is their fragility and tenderness that strikes me. At the same time, these kids are tough and have a lot of inner strength to be able to subject themselves to the dangers of fighting in a ring. I guess I admire them a lot and want to showcase these kids.
You’re currently working on a number of documentary photography projects, what can we expect in 2016?
I will be releasing a book on the Buenos Aires street art scene with Schiffer Publishing. I have another project, which I hope to release next year, but that is under wraps for now.
What is your favorite thing about the urban art scene, what draws you in every time?
Without a doubt, it’s having my attention caught by a quality piece of artwork, which are either a clever concept and/or a well-developed work of art that integrates well into its urban environment.