Valise X Riot Art presents Stuart Semple at AKQA London

Stuart Semple was born in Dorset, England and dedicated himself to art at just 19 years old. Now, he is an internationally acclaimed visual artist and curator.  Recent projects include collaboration with Amnesty, and Bulgari and Moncler.  He is arguably best known for his public artwork ‘HappyCloud’ in which he flooded the London skyline with thousands of pink happy-faced clouds from Tate Modern.  He is a leading figure of contemporary painting and has had exhibitions all over the world.

On May 17th, in collaboration with Riot Art, members of the Valise Society & friends attended a salon with Stuart at AKQA in London to view his selected works and learn about his creative process.


Q & A with Stuart Semple

As an artist, who or what gives you inspiration at the moment and where is a place you like to go to improve it?

It's a difficult question because it fluctuates all the time. Sometimes music will kick it off or a really long hot bath. Really I just show up in the studio, stay ready and pray that it lands.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I love yoga and I love meditation. I love playing with my son and building things with him. I love the beach and I love cooking for all my friends and family. I'm also into exercising and walking, big long walks.

What did the Happy Cloud project teach you?

Actually I'd say at least 90% of the way that project came together was complete fluke and not what I expected at all. What I learned? Basically that you can't control everything and sometimes, something entirely unexpected can happen that's a million times better than you could have ever imagined. Sometimes you need to give things room just to be how they need to be.  

Describe your process of creating new work.

There's lots of different aspects to it and I suppose I don’t really have a fixed system, so some works come about by different means than others. Generally speaking though there's a process that tends to happen more often than not. Basically it starts with collecting, so that could be bits of inspiration I see out and about, screengrabs of things I see on social media, fleeting thoughts that I email myself, images from magazines and song lyrics. I have books and books full of song lyrics and a big blackboard full of them.  I sort of let that stuff settle and try not to dwell on it then somehow there start to be similarities between those disparate elements, they start to be a kind of language and I go into a process very much like collaging or a kind of cut-up technique where I start combining things, normally this happens digitally. It's weird but there gets to be a point where those things almost become too heavy to stay as ideas and they need to start being made real so I'll get in the studio and start making them, but they'll change a million times during that stage because I never know what will happen emotionally, or in the world, or whatever random influences will float in.

If you were not an artist, what would be your professional aspirations?

Quite honestly, if I wasn't an artist I'd be so unbelievably unhappy I'd probably be dead.  If I were really pushed to choose something else probably something to do with human rights law but with a slant to do with victims of torture probably.

Photographer credit: Jacqui Sze