Maser is an Irish street artist, whose work is renowned around the world. He recently collaborated with The Lab for #REGENERATE14 in Berlin.
DARYA KOSILOVA—Maser! Hello! How has life been without The Lab’s team breathing down your neck?
MASER—Much better, thanks! Berlin was great, though; with the exception of me being wiped out for three days with a bug. The fear expressed on your face, Darya, with the possibility of the project not being finished was well worth the ailment.
DK—Ha! That’s so mean! But yeah, I was pretty alarmed when I saw you curled into a ball in the corner of the room. Tell me about the super wicked Maser Motel you just built in Vegas.
M—Another fun project in a new city where I got to hang with a great group of artists and creatives. A crew of artists were invited to Vegas to paint murals as part of a large festival in the downtown area. I was one of them. They showed me this location and I instantly jumped at it for a few reasons. The association with motels and downtown Vegas, giving life to a disused undesirable space again, and it was an ideal space that allowed me to create a painting that the public was able to interact with.
DK—Would you rather have the best house in a shitty neighborhood or the worst house in a fancy neighborhood?
M—From experience the shitty neighborhoods usually have the best neighbors so I’d have to go for that.
DK—Imagine color didn’t exist and people only saw in grayscale. What do you think your work would look like?
M—I’d be monochromatic man! Majority of the work I’m concentrating on at the moment is focused on the experience. I think I could still communicate what I want without color, in some instances it would hinder but could also benefit. Color is taste for the eyes. By not having color it would probably encourage me to play with the other senses like touch and smell. Smelling color could be wild.
DK—You were our headlining artist at #REGENERATE14 in Berlin. Tell us about “Hyper Reality”, the piece you created. What was the experience like for you? What was the biggest highlight?
M—Being back in Berlin was a highlight. Getting to create another experiential piece was a highlight. Meeting you guys, of course! And I think I can speak for Lou (my partner and assistant) and I when I say we fell in love with Magic Island. Seeing her perform in my installation was the highest of highlights.
DK—I love hearing that because part of our whole concept was to have the artists share their artwork in a way that emphasized the concept of a hostel, which is all about shared spaces with people you don’t know. What was your biggest frustration? While you think about that I’ll tell you mine. And that was finding all that damned furniture for you.
M—I thought you loved that!? Biggest frustration was being ill, it was after two months of constant travel and painting so by the time I arrived to you guys I was wiped out for a few days. Morale was high though and I had a great crew so we got it done for opening night.
DK—What pisses you off the most about the art world?
M—You know what, I don’t know much about it. Well, the more I learn the more I realize how much more there is to know. I was exhibiting works at an art fair and really saw the unattractive “money” side to it. Usually we see art where it belongs, but at art fairs you see the hustle, the behind the scenes. It was educational but I think I’ll stay on this side.
DK—I know what you mean. I get really frustrated when it comes to putting a monetary worth on my own work. It’s pretty depressing actually. If you could pick two historically famous artists to be your parents who would they be?
M—Bridget Riley and Ellsworth Kelly. Looking at my work I probably was their love child.
DK—In high school what were you voted to “most likely” be or do?
M—We didn’t have that sort of thing in schools in Ireland. They didn’t like to encourage success. I always knew I was going to work outdoors, I just didn’t know in what capacity.
DK—Where did the name Maser come from?
M—It was an alias that I created around the age of 14 or 15 so I could tag it everywhere without getting caught. I also liked how the letters sat next to one another.
DK—You are an anonymous artist. You’ve never been photographed, your name is unknown and most people wouldn’t recognize you as the artist responsible for all the striped happiness you’ve sprinkled around the world. I think the benefits to anonymity are pretty obvious. However, what are the downfalls to choosing not to publicly associate with your own work?
M—I can’t think of one. Unless someone else proclaimed to be me. I’d actually love if that happened.
DK—Consider it your Christmas present from me then. Kidding! What song best describes your work ethic?
M—Try this… Vehicle by The Ides of March.
DK—If you could look at only one work of art for the rest of your life, what would it be?
M—Any Keith Haring piece; full of playful energy that can also address a social issue. The man was powerful.
DK—Talk to me about love. Why does Maser love us?
M—I want to encourage self wealth. From painting graffiti for years on the street I realized painting in the public realm makes a mark on society. We hear and see so much shit in the media, our governments love to pull us down, make us conform. To dumb down a society gives them control; they do that by breaking our morale. I’ve seen lots of “street artists” addressing this topic and attacking multinational corporations, all for them to do that, but it’s us on ground level that had to see that every day as we walked around the city.
I chose to address the issue in a more positive light. I started by spray painting Maser Loves You around Dublin, and made stickers and paste-ups saying the slogan, which lead me to writing more type-based social conscious and uplifting messages. The interaction I received from the public was very rewarding. I realized the importance of that so I wanted to continue with the narrative. It has now led me on to create pieces like “Hyper Reality” where I want the viewer to take ownership of the art, to encourage them to be a part of it and show their importance. Without them it’s just an empty space. I get great joy, escapism and encouragement when I look at and make art; I hope to share that experience with others.
DK—Would you rather live forever or die in the next five minutes?
M—Horrible question. Well, since I definitely do not want to die in the next five minutes I’ll have to live with the burden of eternity.
DK—What is your dream project?
M—Probably to design and paint a fully functional town that encapsulates all my ideals of a utopia. More than likely it would be totally unsustainable, but we’d have fun while it lasted.
DK—You’re a pretty serious dude, Maser. Got any good jokes?