Peter Meets, Will St Leger
I first met Will in one of my favourite haunts that is, sadly, now gone, The Sycamore Club. It was a bank holiday Sunday night in 2009, we were in the VIP area, an open-air bar at the top of the building. I had my boyfriend and set of friends by my side, he had his. I was standing by one of the tables soaking in the atmosphere when one of my friends introduced me to him. I had heard so much about him and always wanted to meet as I love his work, but also dreaded the day as I was slightly intimidated by him, his passion for his art is something to behold, he speaks his truth with images that are far more abstract and captivating then words. His passion for what he does is almost contagious, he is the truest embodiment of an artist.
Will St leger is an Irish based artist, activist, radio DJ, and musician. (The man knows no bounds.) When I asked Will to take part in ‘Peter Meets’, he was airing on the side of cautious as his activist streak would come out. I wanted it to though, I want people to speak their truth with ‘Peter Meets’, however, fun the questions might be. Will is at heart a true activist and everything else comes second. He started off with the global non-governmental environmental organisation GreenPeace. This is also when Will began his relationship with ‘Streetart’. In order to get GreenPeace messages across, Will would stencil their images about the street, which for Will was like an extension of his work as a designer. In 2009 Will co-founded the LGBT direct action group Equals. On June 25th, 2009, Will was arrested for his passion by staging a protest outside the Dáil, along with the group Equals, for his discontent in what they saw as inequality in the Civil Partnership Bill.
Will began his journey in the creative sector as a designer and found himself leaving for London in the 90’s. Wills mind was blown by the artistic world in London at the time, ‘Bitpop’ was coming alive and the Brit artists where inspiring a new generation of art. Will expresses his vision for a better world through his art, and what beautiful thought-provoking art he creates, whether through his social and politically charged street art or printed expressions. One of his most recent projects, ‘Out Of The Shadows’, an installation supported by Amnesty International and Abortion Rights Campaign. Will placed silhouettes of life-size women in 6 counties, to highlight the harrowing experiences of the 4,000 women who annually travel abroad for abortions. For ‘The Unexploded Missile’ on King’s Street, Dublin, in 2016, marking 5 years of trouble in Syria for the global charity Goal, Will planted a fake missile in a cracked pavement. Beside the device was a chilling sight, a child's bloodied shoe resting on the ground. ‘Landmine Trail’ In 2007 will placed 100 fake landmines stenciled out of enamel plates in 5 parks around Dublin. When asked why Will did this- "The reason for doing this was to get people asking themselves, 'what if the world I walked in was littered with landmines?'". Will created Michael Collins prints in 2016. He printed Collins holding a Dior and Coco Channel bag, a tongue in cheek ode to one of the heroes who sacrificed so much for our republic. (http://www.damnfineprint.com/prints-1/collins-rising-by-will-st-leger) check out his website for more (https://willstleger.wordpress.com/about/) In 2012-14 Will presented a radio program on Phantom FM entitled the ‘Weekender’ - a four-hour weekly installment. Will's life has always been intertwined with music since childhood, in school he played bass and now has his own electric band called Faune who released their first single in 2014
It turned out I had nothing to fear by meeting Will, as soon as I was telling him how much I loved his work and have always wanted to meet him, however intimidated I may have been, he was saying the same about me. We had the same mutual admiration for each other and our work. He had made my night, even my year, (I was dusting myself off after a tiny breakdown I had after ‘Saints and Sinners’, so to hear admiration and praise was like the warmest hug I needed to receive). It was however all too short, the lights of the club came on and the music died, my boyfriend was grabbing my hand and pulling me to the next party. However short the encounter was, the impact was lasting. My admiration for Will grows with each piece he creates and message he gets across. You are a rock star St Leger, thank you.
1. Do you have a favourite artist and what’s your favourite piece by them?
Of course, you know it’s tough to pick a favourite but I’ll try - Since I was a teenager I’ve consistently loved the work of illustrator and stained-glass artist, Harry Clarke. There’s something magical about his characters and the compositions of his work. I was drawn into his work initially by the frozen-like by Byzantine figures with angular gothic faces and cheekbones to die for. Photos of his stained-glass work can never replicate the richness of the jewel-like vibrancy of his colours. Especially the deep Prussian blue.
2. What was the last exhibition you went to?
'Signs of Power', an extremely talented typographic painter and sign-writer from Dublin. I’ve always admired those that can perfectly sculpt letters my hand. 'Signs of Power' is singlehandedly restoring the craft of handmade signage back to Dublin, one shop at a time.
3. What’s your favourite book?
‘Nineteen-Eighty Four’ by George Orwell. I know it may be predictable to say it, but it’s prophetic narrative still rings true this day.
4. Who’s your icon?
Every icon I look up to has the same values. Relentless courage and resilience in the face of adversity and repression. So, whether it’s Emily Pankhurst, Harvey Milk or Emma González they all fit my idea of iconic.
5. I know you are accomplished in your felid of expertise, but do you like to dabble in a bit a bit of painting every now and then?
Not a lot, to be honest, I’m a control freak and painting is a dark art to me. I know that the more I paint the more liberated I would be. I have in the past few years felt more comfortable hand painting using spray cans.
6. What influences you on a daily basis?
The news. The first thing I do in the morning is read my Google Newsstand app. It’s got a good variety of news articles for different outlets and that’s what gets me thinking and feeling engaged with the world.
7. What’s your favourite sound?
Any low frequency - especially the juddering warble of bass in dance music.
8. What has been the single most important event in your career so far?
In real terms, ‘Bank of Secrets’. A typographic mural painted with the ashes of others people’s secrets. It saved me from 2 years of depression and allowed me to express buried troubles in a cathartic manner.
9. What do you hope your contribution will bring to your community?
Truth. I want that the ideas and expressions that I share with others to be grounded in truth. I want them to be tangible and accessible.
10. What is the hope for your audience when they encounter your work?
Dialogue. Whether it’s an internal dialogue, whether it creates cognitive dissonance or overt speech. I want to have a conversation with others and I want them to take ownership of the work.
11. Who has been the most influential person to you and your work?
It would be my life-long friend Adam Crane. Since we were in college together as teenagers, he pushed me to think bigger and work harder. Years later he gave me studio space at his warehouse space to present exhibitions and gave me space to work and build all sorts of crazy shit.
12. If you could have dinner or a drink with someone, alive or dead who would it be?
Photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe. There’s a depth to his work and life that appeals to me. I would want to try to understand the motivation and origins of his work and how his attraction to subcultures and private life became intertwined.
13. Do you think an artist needs to be tortured to create?
Not at all. Everyone is tortured in their own way, that’s why we can relate to the works of despair in art.
14. What was the first piece of art you bought?
A painting of the joker in Batman, which a friend created at college. He was a very talented graphic artist. His work would match anything you’d see in DC comics.
15. Where’s your favourite space to get creative in?
Anywhere quiet. I get distracted easily and when I get in my own head space, ideas flood in.
16. What’s next for you?
At the moment activism is a big part of my work. Although I am working on some prints and a planning a residency in the US and Germany later this year.
Thanks Will. x