Upfest 2017 – Will Coles a sculptor who loves his wife, carbohydrates and strong adhesives

Will Coles takes ordinary objects mixes dark humour into his concrete casts along with a dose of social commentary with rich flavours of consumerism and environmental destruction – a delicious recipe.  You will find his work all over Upfest this year.

 

Born in Warwickshire, Will grew up in the Suffolk countryside.  I asked him how he got into art My grandfather  (Norman Sillman) was an old school sculptor, expert in stone & wood carving, made little toy soldiers for toy companies & designed coin designs for something like 30 countries (the old £1 coins were his designs.) I always loved sculpting, always wanted to be a sculptor but I always knew I wanted to make work that connected with people, not just obscure art for the contemporary art scene.’

Over a decade ago he found his way of bypassing art galleries by mass producing concrete sculptures & installing them in public places. ‘Only a small percentage of the public regularly go to galleries so if you want a broad range of people to see your work you have to find a way of taking it to the people.’

Influences for him were political sculptors like Bill Woodrow & painters like William Hogarth. 

About these he says that they ‘knew enough to deliver their ideas with a sense of humour rather than boring people with a dry sermon.’  

He adds  ‘Street artists like Banksy, who was influenced by Peter Kennard.  Kennard & Martha Rosler are great collage artists who dragged that medium out of the 1920’s & made it modern & relevant. Ian Hamilton Finlay, a poet/sculptor used text a lot in his work but I also love Michelangelo, a genius in any era.’

Will spent several years at Ravensbourne, Wimbledon & Glasgow Schools of Art before moving to Sydney, Australia in the early 90s and moved to Spain a couple of years ago to ‘get in amongst it in Europe.’  and has ‘been bombing France, Italy, Spain & Germany, there are some great cities for street art like Valencia, Barcelona, Lyon & Hamburg (every city has good graff, it’s just a matter of finding it!)’

Over the last couple of years he has had shows in Spain,  Hamburg last year,  and group shows in the UK & Oz.  He ads ‘All good, & I had a son, Harry, about 9 months ago.’

I asked him what he has coming up this year ‘I’ve got my ‘Fuck Sydney’ show in Melbourne at the same time as Upfest, I couldn’t afford to do both. Then later in the year I’ve got a show with Oberfett Galerie in Hamburg. All sorts of work but I love Hamburg, some of the best street art & graff in the world. I miss Melbourne, in Australia Sydney’s where the money is but the culture’s in Melbourne, the street art & graff is insane there & gets the respect it deserves.’

About his now iconic ‘Laissez-faire’ (or Balaclava Man)  he said it is ‘a sculpture about how certain criminals are the real capitalists whilst most self-proclaimed capitalists are just upper class thieves. Bank robbers see opportunities & take them, they take risks & are aware of the consequences, they more closely resemble capitalists than the bankers that break laws then buy their way out of doing time. I made about 200 of that balaclava’d head & glued it around several countries, he ended up being one of my most popular pieces (BTW, it’s me inside the mask!).’

Whilst a lot of his work falls into this street art movement, many of his pieces can also be found in private and public collections. Most of his work though, is unaccounted for, as – despite the strength of the glue used – his public sculptures are highly desired and regularly stolen.  ‘I did a lot of concrete TVs & glued them around towns, solid concrete usually & industrial glue & yet they still got nicked (each was about 80 kg!) They still turn up on auction sites. It’s funny how obsolete TV is becoming & how fast. Internet is killing old media, we just need to make sure the internet keeps its freedom. The problem with Sydney was people stole my stuff so quickly I ended up using the most hardcore construction glue I could find (an Oz one called Megapoxy!) They’d steal them taking bits of the pavement or walls they were glued to with them!’

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I am always fascinated by what is important to an artist about their work  To be honest to myself, & live up to my own standards. Commissions are great but don’t sell your soul, credibility & a decent reputation are hard to get back.’

At Upfest this year Will will be doing various works based on Bristol’s history & its importance, its place in the world.  I asked him what he is most looking forward to Bristol! Catching up with old mates, drinking & installing loads of works therefore raising the resale value of Bristol city.

Website                Instagram               Facebook              Flickr          Upfest profile

See his work everywhere at

Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017

Upfest Festival Map

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