Mark Stevenson is a local stencil artist who grew up in the UK punk scene of the late 70s. His work embraces the spirit of rebellion that is threaded throughout popular culture – embodied in the icons of music, film and counter-culture whose influence echoes to this day. From Lydon, Siouxsie, Debbie and De Niro, to Scratch and The Selecter; these anti-heroes have transcended their own body of work, and Stevenson has consistently stayed true to the spirit of these icons, through vibrant stencil art that is itself a symbol of rebellion, well-known throughout the punk scene.
Stevenson’s work will be on display at his debut exhibition: REBELLION at Convenients this Saturday, November 27, fittingly paired with a lineup of some of his favourite Perth punk bands, including MSOL, The Shakeys, Chickspit and Pretty Skints. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Mark Stevenson to find out how and why he came to capture the spirit of rebellion through his art.
How did you originally start out in this craft and what do you feel is the biggest difference between your art now and your first ever creations?
I originally learned to stencil back in art class in high School, I had some great teachers who were young enough to understand and incorporate some of the punk and DIY ethics into the curriculum. I was encouraged to do all sorts – crass style collages, anti-war posters, CND, RAR…I even did an anti-Thatcher poster which the Headmaster deemed too subversive to be hanging in the corridor. I was never great at drawing, so the realisation that there was more to art than still-life was liberating.
Unfortunately unemployment was at record numbers in the UK in 1983, so art school was never really an option for me and I managed to get an apprenticeship in Carpentry & Joinery. I joined a band in 85 and started doing some basic screen printed posters for gigs and T-shirts for the band members and mates – nothing serious or artistic. I never bothered with art, or the guitar, for years until my kids were toddlers – bringing out the kid in me.
My first up-to-date stencil was around three years ago – Bukowski, a gift for a friend. It came together very quickly – from cutting to realizing I had some MDF panels and four cans of spray paint – I was off. Now, I normally plan them during the week, cut on Saturday, spray on Sunday, averaging four every weekend. There’s a lot more attention to detail and experimenting with the paint than before.
What artist has been the hardest to capture visually and why?
It’s all about the image for me. Of course the artist or subject is important to the work and me, if I see a cool photo – I’m stencilling it in my head no matter who it is. I do have a penchant for portraits. They’re easier – try cutting out the strings of a guitar from card.
As someone who was around during one of the most important musical movements in history, does the term “punk” mean the same thing to you now as it did in the beginning? What do you think is its most defining element and how is it still important today?
Yes, as it was all about rebellion and challenging the status quo which for me is still relevant today. I didn’t grow up in California – so my punk is more old school political and angsty than skate punk. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy some fun with my rebellion.
This is going to be much more than an exhibition as well! Why were the bands playing on the night a great fit for the occasion?
Diversity really, it shows that “punk” music can be whatever it is.
What’s next? Any other projects in the pipeline we can keep an eye out for?
(Laughs) Ask me in a couple of weeks, I should take a break…but I’m on a roll, if I get off – I might not get back on and I’ve got a pile of images ready to cut, so who knows. Thanks, hope to see you, behind the fridge door.