Art & Culture / Art

Felipe Pantone on how he accidentally became an artist

Ballantine's True Music Series gives artists a global platform to express themselves unfiltered, and first up is the enigmatic street artist.

Music and art has always been intrinsically linked, with both musicians and artists turning to each other as sources of inspiration. And it’s exactly this ethos that Ballantine’s has captured in their new True Music Series, an ongoing worldwide project that gives artists a unique platform to share their art and work completely unfiltered. The latest innovator in this series is groundbreaking street artist Felipe Pantone whose signature geometric, holographic aesthetic has garnered him fans in every corner of the globe. For the True Music project Felipe will work on transforming a series of music venues around the world with his signature style, which started with Moscow last month and will move on to Johannesburg and Santiago in the future. Connected to sound reactive projectors, Felipe’s art will react to the music being played and performed within the space, creating an immersive and unique audio-visual experience for audience and musician alike.

Last month’s Moscow event saw Felipe’s iconic signature style merge with sound reactive projectors to create its own equailiser and featured sets from local artists, Burago Nii’s owner, Low808 (Gost Svuk head honcho) and drum’n’bass ambient noise producer KP Transmission, member of Fanny Kaplan, a techno-punk trio.

Fresh back from the launch event in Moscow, Hunger sat down with Felipe to discuss the series, his work and what the future holds.

How did it all begin, what was your introduction to art and what started the process to where you are now?

I started creating art because of graffiti, I had in some sense always been doing it, I was always writing my name on every surface possible whenever I could. That was my obsession for 20 years. And then I learned about art history and realised I could be an artist as well and say something with what I was creating. I think after that I accidentally became an artist.

Who introduced you to graffiti?

The neighbourhood, every kid was writing their names. Kids were doing it everywhere. It all happened very organically, I didn’t plan any of this.

You have a very clear and recognisable aesthetic, how did it come about and what helped define it?

Again everything came about because of graffiti, I had been doing that for a few years and I was trying to think a little more about what was next. You had to write as many times as possible, as big as possible, and hopefully an entire country would see, and then the world and that way you win. In order to do that I was thinking how could I compete if I paint next to someone else, how do I make my piece the more powerful one? So I increased the contrast pictorially which I did by working in black and white so that is was very graphic, then using really vivid colours next to it. That way my pieces were always shinier and more ‘wow’. If I had something like a McDonalds add next to my work, then mine would be even more striking, and that adventure became my entire discourse. I think graffiti is a response to art, what graffiti is to art, Twitter is to newspapers – everyone can write it and it’s free. Because of graffiti I ended up finding my way in art.

How much graffiti do you still do? How much of your art content is graffiti?

Nowadays, it depends and it changes by month. Last year probably 20%, the year previous 40%, previous 70% and now it’s probably only 2%.

I guess now you have newer platforms….

Or I’m a quitter (laughs).

So how did you get involved with Ballantine’s True Music series?

I have always been involved in the music scene and with musicians and when Ballantines came to me with this idea – a project called the true music series – that was appealing to me. I always like to collaborate and the idea of doing installations around the world sounded amazing. We are tying to give a platform to different musicians around the world, and connect them by doing that.

When you collaborate, how do you decide who align with?

They have to have interesting proposals, like the opportunity to do installations around the world is really interesting. It has to be collaborative and they have to give me a platform and I give designs in return.

People say that adversity breeds great art, how are you inspired by the tumultuous climate of the world today?

We are living in the most exciting changing times in history right now. If you look at technology we had Walkman’s 15 years ago and now we have all the information in the world in our pockets. My work is abstract but I’m always trying to bring this kind of examination to it by using certain elements or modern day technology to raise awareness of the world right now.

Do you feel the term street art or street artist is necessary anymore? Street artists are now common place in major auctions and exhibitions around the world and street art lives on the internet. Should it now just be art and artist?    

That’s a complex questions because contemporary art is a movement created after the second world war, meaning it’s any art made after 1945, and it sort of means nothing. Art is so eclectic, there’s so many styles and it’s not all connected. Where as street art, even though we have different styles, we all come from the streets, so there’s a really strong connection, and I think it’s a way stronger movement than contemporary art which, in my opinion, is not a movement but is a based on a time period.

A lot of art is seen through the screen of a phone these days versus in real life, in a gallery or on the street. How do you feel social media has changed perception of what art is and how we can connect with it?

Social media and the Internet is just like any other way of disclosing art or any sort of information in general. It’s like when printing was invented. There was a guy that made an etching and then someone could reproduce that any number of times. It could be shared and people in a different continent could see it. So now it’s the same thing but through the media for free and in your pocket. It’s great, with social media I can paint a mural and I can be seen all around the world in real time, immediately. To me that is a good thing. The downside is that people don’t pay as much attention because they are exposed to so much of it. Everything becomes disposable, which is why I try for my work to be super loud. But then the good part is that if we can make so much art, then the culture can evolve way quicker. I always use Picasso as an example as he was such a prolific artist and he achieved in one lifetime what many achieve in four or five. Why? Because he was painting everyday, three four pieces everyday. That’s what I feel is happening nowadays with the internet – we are all creating so much and getting so much inspiration that art is moving faster which is a great thing for the evolution of culture.

Do you think art has to be disruptive to be noticed these days? Like Banksy shredding his work at auction?

Art is kind of like science. You need to know what has been discovered before and then go for the next thing. So you need to produce unexpected reactions all the time. If you as an artist are producing things that have already been discovered before, then they are not going to unexpected or as impactful. So in that sense you need to be disruptive. C’mon Banksy is great, never before had anyone shred a priceless print!

Omnipresence is a word that is regularly featured when discussing you and your work. In the physical sense where is somewhere you are yet to go that’s on your list?

I don’t have an end or an ultimate goal, the most beautiful thing about what I do is that I’m finding things out on the way. I don’t expect anything, I just wait and see what happens. I obviously want to do bigger, better things but I don’t know, hopefully I am going to find something unexpected and will be amazing. The ultimate goal is to keep discovering all along my journey.

What would be your dream project/installation – if there were no limits?

I would wrap the planet! I would go into the atmosphere with a massive piece of fabric that covers the entire earth, but that you could still see the sun through so you could see my art all over the entire world. Go big or go home

Felipe’s striking artwork forms this year’s Ballantine’s True Music Series limited edition gift packaging for Ballantine’s Finest and Ballantine’s 12 Year Old, which are available globally now. To find out more about the Ballantine’s True Music Series click here.

13 November 2018